07 November 2008

Portrait Of Irish Gumbo As A Punk Rocker

You ever have one of those moments where you feel like you open a door into a room you weren't expecting, or you blinked and when you opened your eyes you were somewhere you hadn't been in a long, LONG time? That happened to me yesterday, sitting in front of my computer at work and wishing I could figure out how to make the work not suck so much. I have a borrowed pair of earbuds taped to my desktop (yeah, I know, ad hoc to the point of dweebiness) until I get a decent pair of speakers. I turn the volume up really loud, which amounts to the music sounding like an old AM radio playing across the room and under a blanket. Still, it is better than nothing. I stream my favorite local toons purveyor (all props to http://www.wtmd.org/ for the neato media player) to my computer. I love the variety and it gives me a soundtrack for the happenings outside my window. Yes, I do work, but we can all multi-task, yeah?

So I am scarfing down calories in a feeble attempt to eat "lunch" on my "lunch hour", listening to the midday show on 'TMD, and I was starting to zone out a bit. That is, until a bolt of lightning, a blast from the past, came blaring out of the speakers. I actually laughed out loud and started headbangin' in my chair (discreetly, of course). What should I hear but "Problems" by the Sex Pistols. HA! Awesome! That made my friggin' day! If anything was going to snap me out of my funk, it would have to be some old school punk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lQfyEeIIXU). Worked like a charm.

To give it some context, consider this: I first heard the Sex Pistols in the early '80's, back when I was starting to branch out from my classic-metal-southern-fried-rock roots. I was used to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd; all the usual suspects from a typical southeast Virginia rock-n-roll adolescence. I never could live that life truly hardcore, so when punk and New Wave finally made it to my home city of Portsmouth, I was all over it. I made the switch pretty quickly from denim jacket/long hair/bandanna to skinny tie/hair gel/zippered pants. And for whatever reason, I felt right at home.

The Sex Pistols and 'Never Mind The Bollocks' was revelatory for a reformed cracker such as myself. It fueled in part the need I felt to cast off the same narrow, unimaginative thinking of almost everyone around me (ah, the hubris of youth!) and fed my adolescent male urges to be loud, fast and disruptive. Especially if it gave me a chance to thumb my nose at the redneck lifestyle I felt was suffocating me. I listened to my cassette of NMTB so much, the tape began to flake and drop out. And me and some of my friends would drive around in whoever's car, blasting the godawful music and shouting the lyrics at the top of our lungs. Sometimes encouraged by a few illicit beers, I could work up a pretty good rendition of 'God Save The Queen' or 'Holidays In the Sun', all the while thinking I was quite the know-it-all punk. What a blast!

I gradually moved away from that genre when I graduated from high school, went to college, and broadened my horizons even further. The cassette I lost somewhere, but I don't recall being too upset about it. I was moving on to different things. I was beginning to "grow up", as the saying goes. I forgot about the Sex Pistols and my tiger striped sweatshirt and the black jeans (purchased in England in 1982, don't you know!) randomly sewn with zippers all over. Johnny Rotten stopped shouting in my head. Years later, the spark came briefly back to life in a moment of nostalgia, and I started trying to find 'Never Mind The Bollocks' on CD. I tracked it down in a small music store in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. My wife and I were staying in nearby South Egremont so we could attend the Falcon Ridge Folk (yes, 'folk' music) Festival (http://www.falconridgefolk.com/), and had strayed into town for a bit of food and shopping. Lo and behold, this little music store had a collection of oddball CDs which included one copy of NMTB. The latent punker in me snapped it up. I listened to it a few times, had a few laughs, and it quietly assumed a position on my CD shelf, untouched.

Untouched, that is, until yesterday morning, when WTMD surprised the hell out of me by playing 'Problems' on the midday show. It came on, my jaw dropped and I sat upright in my chair, shocked and delighted by this delightful breach of cubicle decorum. I even conjured up my old punk rock sneer during one passage:

"Eat your heart out on plastic tray
you don't do what you want
then you'll fade away
You won't find me working nine to five
it's too much fun a-being alive!"

Classic poetry, it ain't. But it certainly jolted me out of my funk, made me more awake than I had been in many moons. I shook hands with the energetic, angry (but in a good way) young man who flared back to life. We smiled at one another, pumped our fists in the air and reveled in just how good it felt to be alive, even if for just four or so minutes of radio ecstasy.

This morning on my way to work, I think my fellow commuters could hear me bellowing all the way to Baltimore, as the Sex Pistols melted my CD player.

"Problems! Problems!

(Special props to WTMD for reviving my inner punk rocker. I consider them a valuable community service! Do us a favor and give 'em a listen!)

1 comment:

  1. aw yeah! I remember discovering punk and finally realizing there were others out there like me - I had found my people!

    And was that bottom right photo taken in Switzerland? I recognize that bridge and tower. hey... whatcha holding there?


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...