My entire life has been about zigging when much of my contemporary culture zagged. It’s not something I’ve always been aware of. It’s not even something I’ve always been happy about. For example, in high school, I was obsessed with fitting in yet was unable to do so no matter how desperately I tried. Turns out it wasn’t in my nature and to my great frustration, I just hadn’t yet realized this.
Over the years self-awareness and self-acceptance slowly grew from within. An unstoppable need to wander (mentally or physically) fills much of my time. My life has been spent learning to accept and embrace this revelation. I have no issue with it personally. However, professionally it’s a different story. It means that I’ve always been out of fashion. Never quite the perfect match for anything. It can still be a frustrating place to be at times. However, at this point in my life, I know who I am, The Zig Zag Wanderer.
“I Shot The Sherriff” by Eric Clapton was my first rock & roll record. The first record I ever owned. I was 5 or 6 years old. It happened when Mom let me pick out a record at the store. I don’t even think it was a record store. I was 5 or 6 years old. At the time I had no idea who Eric Clapton was and I certainly did not know who Bob Marley was either. This song was one that I was familiar with from the radio in Mom’s car. Clapton’s version of the Bob Marley song was a #1 hit in 1974 and still all over the radio a year or two later when I chose it to be my first rock & roll record.
This record ended up being quite a prolific choice. It is a rock legend covering the king of reggae. It’s a number one hit. Over time, this record turned out to be merely the first purchase of thousands made over the last 40 years. Even after all this time, I can say with confidence that my first was certainly not my worst.
What was your first rock & roll record?
I’ll typically write more about music on the Fuzz Factory blog (my internet radio program) when it is officially launched next month. In the meantime, I will occasionally share musings, memories and opinions here on my life as a music freak.
I am always listening to rock & roll, both old and new. This morning I started playing some great Godfathers tunes from the late 80’s. Eventually, I looked for videos on YouTube. I quickly ran across some live clips from their 1987-88 tour. I saw the Godfathers on that tour. It was my very first 18 & over show and my first show at the Metro, one of Chicago’s best venues. However, even more important was that it was my first concert at a small venue. That was an experience that forever changed my life. I remember it like it just happened yesterday. Since that night, I’ve seen hundreds of great concerts at small venues, where live performance is at its best.
Here is a clip from that very Godfathers tour taken I saw in Chicago that night over 25 years ago. This is from a stop in their home base of London. In it, they’re covering John Lennon’s Cold Turkey like their lives depended on it.
I am an artist that is influenced by music as much as anything else. I’ll listen to loud rock & roll as long as I can hear. I’ll attend rock concerts as long as I can walk. I listen to music as much as possible and use it as a method to focus and think. Within this obsession I inhabit a space that is mine alone. This is extremely difficult for me to do without music. Ideas flourish within my mind and become a visual work of art through the visual translation made while listening to or being influenced by music. Recently, I had an experience that resonated in a way that I’ll likely visually translate at some point in time. I’m referring to those moments when the soundtrack to life feels very real and the powerful feeling that overcomes when this happens to you.
Last week, this experience happened at a Built To Spill concert. The whole experience was spontaneous. I was invited by a friend from out of town that I had not seen in years. I made it to the concert very because I teach class until 7:30 and I needed to host my radio show, the Fuzz Factory for the next two hours. I love my radio gig and I make the quality a priority. I don’t have that many listeners, but most that listen are regulars and I especially never want to cancel on them at the last minute. All this means that I missed most of the show but made it in time for half of Broken Chairs, a great song. Unfortunately, that’s it. The end of the regular set. I saw barely anything, but I saw enough to know what everyone told me about Doug Martsch. So loose and tight at the same time. I am definitely going to see them in concert again. With two guitarists beside Martsch, their sound is more full and powerful live than on CD.
What I did experience was an encore full of unreal cover songs seemingly chosen just for me. I say chosen for me because they primarily covered songs that for reasons well known to me have been on my mind these days. They played Train In Vain by the Clash – an all-time favorite of mine. They also played How Soon Is Now? by the Smiths, a song I love so much almost in spite of the fact I never liked the Smiths much overall. This was a very memorable moment. Since it was completely unexpected I was able to enjoy it immensely while it hit me with an amazing amount of self-awareness. It was the soundtrack of my life.
If that wasn’t amazing enough. The other two songs they played in the encore were a cover of Don’t Fear The Reaper (perfect for minutes after my Fuzz Factory Halloween Special from earlier in the evening) and SludgeFeast by Dinosaur Jr., perfect for any evening.
Never underestimate the powers of rock & roll.