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Speak Easy at Wild Goose Creative

Good Day, Roamers! Been a productive week, didn’t want to neglect my dear readers, so I’ve copied the transcript from my talk at the Speak Easy last night. The good folks at Wild Goose Creative pick a topic each month, and you get up on stage and tell a story about said topic (I’m not honed into the whole improv thing, so I got to write mine before hand). Anyways, special thanks to fellow writer/blogger Molly for introducing me to such a great event – sorry I haven’t proofread this – and if there’s a Podcast, I’ll update the post for everyone –  hope you enjoy! 

Spring 1991: I was 10, and had just won the Stop ‘n’ Shop Easter Bunny coloring contest. I sort-of cheated my way to victory, slightly bending the rules, coloring ONLY the background scene depicting the Easter Bunny happily hopping through a meadow with a basket of eggs – slathering Elmer’s glue on the actual bunny, and dousing the sexually ambiguous, culturally abstruse hare in silver glitter.

The judges at Stop ‘n’ Shop appreciated my shimmery artistic vision, declaring me the victor of the heated Easter Bunny color-off. Grand Prize: A $15 Gift Card from Coconut Records next door. Yes!

I had yet to own a cd player, still jammin’ out on a dual-cassette boom box. Most of my tapes, borrowed or freebies: Weird Al’s Yankovic’s discography, hand me down polka tapes from Grandparents, neighbor’s New Kids on the Block, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles album from Pizza Hut. But I had never won nor bought my very own cassettes.

finally, my beloved Weird Al makes it in a post.

Oh the infinite selections at Coconut Records!

I remember spending an exorbitant amount of time perusing the aisles, avoiding the scary placards in the ‘heavy metal’ section, finalizing tough decisions. My mom, waiting patiently by the counter with an extra dollar or two to cover to taxes above the $15 limit.

My first choice

Phil Collins’ ‘No Jacket Required’.‘Sussudio’ was one of my favorite songs at the time, more so than pleading track ‘Don’t Lose My Number’. But, my favorite song from Mr. Collins’ third solo attempt was ‘Take me home’.

I won’t get all Patrick Bateman/American Psycho on Phil Collins here; but this was where I was to make a nicely placed quip about ‘Take Me Home’, a diss in colloquial 90’s, but in researching this piece, turns out, I really like this song. It’s nostalgic, comforting, and dark. Wikipedia, ne’er the liar, says ‘Take me Home’ is a reference to Ken Kesey’s novel ‘One flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’!

Phil Collins? literary references? Who knew?!

2nd cassette bought with my $15 gift certificate

embarrassing still: Mariah Carey’s self-titled debut album. Why? I don’t know. It’s a stain on my music collecting oeuvre.

People talk about time travel, going back to meet Jesus, Hitler, or Ben Franklin. Not me. I would travel back to that sunny day in 1991 at Coconut’s Record Store, shake 10-year-old me, a light slap – not the face – and tell young me to take guitar lessons, keep playing football, and buy Talking Heads’ ‘Stop Making Sense’. Then again 10-year-old me would probably piss our pants because, as dad taught us, anyone with a beard and tattoos must be a derelict…

My dad was mid-thirties in 1991, and would have been totally supportive if I were gay, I’m not, sorry boys, BUT, the day of my coloring contest victory he came home, to his wide-eyed horror, to find me, mom, and my little sister dancing to an emasculating mix of Enya, ABBA, and Neil Diamond with my fabulously bedazzled Easter contest win on the table next to unopened Mariah Carey and Phil Collins cassettes.

Dad starting taking me to more sporting events, car shows, swap meets, and Monster Truck Rallies whilst guiding the reins on my musical development – regimenting a steady Classic Rock diet of Pink Floyd, Michael Stanley Band, Joe Walsh, The Hollies, and Aerosmith before Steven Tyler’s self prophesied ‘Dude looks like a lady’.

Excuse me ma’am. Has anyone told you you look like that guy from Aerosmith?

Sadly, this progression stalled out as I began playing alto saxophone for school. Instead of learning the solo to Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’, Mom, the saboteur, bought me the Little Mermaid and Aladdin Soundtrack sheet music to practice. People ask why I drink so much…it’s to rid my brain of the goose-honking sound of me playing the fucking Little Mermaid soundtrack on saxophone.

What promise piqued by dad’s musical influence was fully supplanted by the plateau of puberty. I had become a nerd. In school, the cool kids talked about bands like the Beastie Boys, N.W.A., Guns ‘n’ Roses. I had no clue what they were talking about, sequestered in the study of the alto saxophonics, the foundation of classic rock eroded by a surging tide of smooth jazz, and mom’s fixation with annie lennox, The Righteous AND Everly brothers.

Roam About Nerd

After three years of lessons, and countless renditions of ‘A whole new world’ I tired of playing saxophone; tired of the screechy pitch of the gorgeous, mocha-skinned Mariah. Music wasn’t important to me; it was just there as an accompaniment, selected and talked about by other people.

Then, a special day in 1994:

Thirteen years old, I biked over to friend Ryan’s house to play the newly released Mickey Mouse Adventure II on Super Nintendo. Just to reiterate, I didn’t have a girlfriend at this time.

While tackling the magic of 16-bit Disney landscapes, Ryan played this song: 

‘Vaseline’ off album ‘Purple’ by Stone Temple Pilots.

“What is this?” I asked

“Stone Temple Pilots.” He said

“What does that mean?”

“Nothing. It’s just a name. They’re an alternative band.”

An alternative band. Al-tern-a-tive. AN Alternative. Flood gates.

I was hooked; buying up everything “alternative”, like so many Tom Cruise sci-fi religion-arranged marriage victims, listening to the likes of: Live, Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tool, and Rage Against the Machine. Alt rock led to Brit pop, led to electro, veered off to jam bands, down a dusty road to bluegrass, to delta blues, tangent to Eno, to Bowie, to Talking Heads, to David Byrne, and on and on, forever amen.

I jest at my 10-13 year old musical nascence and lagging technologies, but honestly, there’s sentimentality in my, and probably most of your, musical foundations.

Along with the aforementioned Phil Collins album, I revisited Stone Temple Pilots for this piece, specifically their critically panned ‘Tiny Music’ album. Turns out; I really, really like it; more-so than it’s release back in 1996 when I still shopped at Pacific SunWear and, can’t believe I’m admitting this, Hot Topic.

The words ‘Classic, Rock, or Block’ in any combination leave me physically unable to change the radio dial, paralysis broken only to crank that shit as loud as my 2008 Honda Civic factory speakers can handle. Can’t really say I get all nostalgic if I hear mom’s favorite ‘Dancing Queen’, but the influence is everlasting, and has opened avenues of discovery and a concrete structure of taste, or musical comfort zones.

For me, these comfort zones are floors of personal music evolutions under perpetual construction, each level/stage influencing the next; chalk-full of experiential support, sense memory prompts, and infinite play buttons.

Sure, we all have to trudge through the Mariah Carey phases, or worse (Limp Biscuit) to seek out our ever-changing musical tastes. Even if we end up despising a certain phase – negatively – it’s still an influence.

This, my friends, is the shimmering, silver-glittered, meadow-frolicking beauty of music – you change; you grow, the genres change, the genres bend, you discover, your tastes change, the music stays the same – it’s all a part of our musical evolutions. – Mike

(Photos by Marti)

25 Comments Post a comment
  1. I think you and I were the same person in 1991.

    September 7, 2012
    • Maybe we’re twins, like that movie, ‘Twins’.

      September 7, 2012
  2. excellent post – kept me reading all the way through – love your musical progression and regression –and you tell a darn good story to boot!

    September 7, 2012
  3. Fish Out of Water #

    Love this so much! I had No Jacket Required playing over and over and over again and then I discovered INXS. Whew!

    September 7, 2012
    • Thank goodness you found INXS! Upgrade!

      September 7, 2012
  4. you always write about nostalgic things so well… xo, sm

    September 7, 2012
    • Wait until I write about my early crush – elizabeth shue

      September 7, 2012
  5. Soooo, when does your book come out again? I seem to never tire of your story telling. Thank God for musical nerds and glittery rabbits! Or vice versa…

    September 7, 2012
    • Aww thanks, Laura. Us music nerds must unite!

      September 7, 2012
  6. mom #

    I loved that nerdy little boy and look at the amazing outcome. And, by the way, we had lots of fun dancing to Abba and Beach Boys and somehow you knew the words to those Beach Boy songs, which was kinda freaky haha

    September 7, 2012
    • A nerdy adult. Ha!
      I don’t remember the beach boys, makes sense why I like them so much.

      September 7, 2012
  7. You know, it’s wonderful to grow up in a household which listens to music, and now I have children myself, it’s fascinating to watch how their music taste is developing. Mum loved Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Sally Oldfield and Enya. My father loved the Beatles, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Talking Heads etc…I still remember the first tape I bought – a soundtrack to a tv show on the ABC called sweet and sour. Speaking of embarrassing, the first ever cd I bought was George Benson from the bargain bin!!! Why? I still don’t know.

    September 8, 2012
    • Absolutely! I agree. I know some peeps who were completely shunned from music; I feel like they missed out on a portion of their childhood.
      Sounds like your dad had impeccable musical taste…
      George Benson?! Haha! Weird story, I accidentally bought his cassette once because I thought he sang UB40’s ‘Red, Red Wine.”
      I thought I was the only person to own it – kindred spirits!

      September 8, 2012
      • lol you too! Well, there’s two for George :)

        September 8, 2012
  8. Le Clown #

    Mike,
    The more I read you, the more I see there’s a great deal of resemblance between us… Although I obviously have better taste in music (which is the NEXT post I am working on…. damn you).
    Le Clown

    September 8, 2012
    • Obviously. Celine Dion does own the rights your national anthem….
      Looking forward to reading it, sorry I stole your idea. :)

      September 8, 2012
      • Le Clown #

        Mike,
        Apology accepted.
        Le Clown

        September 8, 2012
  9. Love it. Thank god everyone has a musical maturation. Otherwise I would be listening to Debbie Gibson (on a pink boom-box) rather than Neutral Milk Hotel.
    Band nerds of the world unite! At least you played saxophone. I played oboe and it sounded like a cat in heat killing a bag pipe. I think this may be why I have a sense of humor.

    September 8, 2012
    • I hear Debbie Gibson is coming back around – retrotrend alert!

      You win. Oboe is bad. Any double reed instrument is bad.

      September 8, 2012
  10. twl #

    First let me say, sorry to hear you are stright. Not that theres anything wrong with that.

    My first album? It was a compilation called Fantastic! and featured Crocodile Rock from Elton John, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia from Vicki Lawrence (from the Carol Burnett Show) and The Morning After (theme from The Poseidon Adventure) I seem to recall. Google them if you don’t know them for a good laugh. And my instrument of choice? The recorder. I could belt out Three Blind Mice like nobody’s business.I ended up with this because I couldnt handle the ukulele.

    It’s too bad you were born in 1980. Let me rephrase that,its too bad you don’t remember the music of that year. Of all my summers in the first 18 years of my life, that was the best. Same group of 12 friends, hung out at my girlfriends parents house (she now refers to me in pictures as “oh look there’s my gay boyfriend”) every weekend and all summer that year. Everytime we got together, the playlist was The Game from Queen, Glass Houses from Billy Joel, The Boomtown Rats self titled album, Candy-O from The Cars, Argy Bargy from Squeeze, The Wall from Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, KC and the Sunshine Band, Elton John, Kool and the Gang, Genesis. What a crazy mix of music it was. Oh and the highlight, my girl was a big Barry Manilow fan. This meant I was dragged to, not one but two live shows! The best was that we got to see Queen live and I will always remember that night.

    Keep up the great job Mike. Really enjoying your blog.

    September 10, 2012
    • I do love the ladies. Especially my special lady friend, Marti.

      Wow. The Poseidon Adventure theme has to be one of the most random references on the site yet. Congrats. You win!
      Man, you should have stuck with the Ukelele – would love to hear some crocodile rock on the uke!

      Amazing mix-tape. Not a huge Billy Joel fan, but everything else I would probably still listen to. Barry Manilow? Blech.
      AND I’m definitely jealous you saw Queen live. That must have been a hell of a show.

      Thanks so much, TWL!

      September 11, 2012
  11. It took me until 2003-2004ish to realize how amazing “Stop Making Sense” is. Do you hve the DVD? Fantastic. Glad I didn’t realize that in college when everyone was listening to it.

    This is really good. Are you in Massachusetts? When I lived in Boston we shopped at Stop N Shop right next to the Ho Day…..which would be a Holiday Inn if the neon letters worked.

    September 12, 2012
    • I love the DVD. We usually blast it while cleaning, which inevitably turns into a dance party. Woot!

      I grew up in Cleveland, but I think the stop n shop hq is in Mass. Ho Day is my favorite holiday!

      September 13, 2012

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