Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Needless to say, my mind was blown again." and I frequently like to play the "Can you imagine?" game.

It basically imagines what it must have been like to hear something amazing for the first time. Like "Like a Rolling Stone" or "Thunder Road." Or The Beatles in Hamburg in 1961. Or to be with Brian Wilson or Stevie Wonder in the studio when they were creating Pet Sounds or Innervisions. To be the proverbial fly on the wall. But also to be able to recall what the hell it must have been like to hear something so game-changing for the very first time.

I have just one of those memories with one of my pantheon-level bands, which I documented a few years ago here.

But thanks to an old buddy from my journalism days nearly 25 years ago, here's another one for you. Which I hope you'll enjoy.

When I first became a just-outta-college daily newspaper reporter in Connecticut in 1990, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the most seminal people of my life right off the bat. One was my (and is my) always and forever wife, whom I annoyed right from the start on my very first day. One was my first editor Ron Winter, an accomplished journalist and decorated Marine from the Vietnam War who taught me not only how to be concise but thorough, tough but fair, but also taught me about loyalty and how to treat people.

And another was my buddy Steve Starger, a brilliant arts writer who also had (and still has) one hell of a personal history as an author, musician, songwriter and recording artist. He played with a psychedelic band called NGC 4594 in the 60s. He played with a terrific horn band called Sunship in the 1970s. His review of Miles Davis' Jack Johnson is referenced on that album's Wikipedia page. His poems and writings have been published in myriad publications for the past 40+ years. He's written plays and a biography of comics giant Wally Wood. And, as he once proudly told me, he once lit Aretha Franklin's cigarette!

Steve's now semi-retired and living the good life with his good wife in Rhode Island. Harkening back to our "Can you imagine?" game, here is something Steve told me about his reaction to a certain rather important piece of music, while he was serving in the Army in Puerto Rico in the mid-60s, as the Vietnam War was ramping up.

“You asked about my coming home from Puerto Rico and freaking out (so to speak) at what was happening in the country. The story goes like this: My friend Chas Mirsky (NGC 4594's guitar player and a man of exquisite wit and mental acuity) and his then-wife, Arlene, came to visit me when I was in the Army in Puerto Rico in 1966. We of course had a great time, and Chas brought with him a copy of the just-released Revolver. Needless to say, my mind was blown again. I had heard Rubber Soul and Freak Out while on leave the previous year and said "What the fuck???" any number of times. Revolver deepened my curiosity and the feeling that I was at least a year out of the time-flow back on the mainland.”

I would say that is a rather perfect reaction to what this rather perfect rock-n-roll album meant to America's (and the world's) dramatically changing existence at the time. An example of just how crazily and indelibly we were changing culturally, politically and ever other way you could imagine. Mayhap you agree.

I mean, for the love of Mike (not to be confused with Mike Love, because fuck Mike Love), just listen. And imagine what it must have been like to hear this for the first time in 1966, after being away for the previous couple of years.

1 comment:

  1. There's a remarkable moment on the Led Zeppelin BBC Live discs. It comes when they've just finished playing Stairway to Heaven for the first time ever for an audience. Keep in mind that was unreleased at the time - it's hard to imagine having never heard that song, so much-played, ever before, isn't it? Or having never heard anything like it, ever, really? It formed so much of a blueprint for things that came after, and was like so little that came before (putting aside for the moment, the intro's resemblance to a Spirit song).

    They finish the song, and the crowd sits in silence for a couple of seconds....stunned or dumbfounded, and pretty much unsure how to respond. THAT has to be one of those moments...

    For myself, I also remember one of them. I was maybe ten or eleven, and for Christmas that year I received a Totally 70's avocado green AM/FM radio. We snuck downstairs to plunder the gifts in the early morning, and I took this back up, plugging in the batteries and turning it on. Tuned to a local FM rock station...."Heartbreaker" came tinnily out of the tiny speaker, sounding thunderous for all of that. Changed my life...

    This comment is unusually Led Zeppelin heavy. I'll do better in the future....