After posting that ridiculously long post about my iPod the other night, I’ve been itching to do another video post (sorry, it’s like a drug to me), but I’ve kinda strayed away from that idea a little bit. I was thinking of doing one about songs that have helped shape my life, but then I thought “that could be ridiculously long” and decided that if I was to do something like that, it would have to be a series instead. With even more thought on the subject, I realized that there were very defined phases that I went through and immersed myself into certain styles of music. I guess I’ve always been a music lover and when I like a certain style, I like to find the band/group/MC that speaks to me the most. I’ve always liked things more towards the grittier side and have found alot of great stuff (and some real garbage) along the way because of it. I start with the entry-level stuff and keep consuming until I’m full. Anything that can get my adrenaline going or that can tweak my mood is always a win to me. Lyrics can reel me in even if the music that is attached doesn’t and vice versa.
So, now that I’ve probably lost you from that long introduction, I want to start with where I started and inevitably, where I have come back around: Punk music. Yes, I know I was listening to other shit before punk music, but it was mostly stuff that I only knew of through my parents and frankly, alot of it was mainstream country and easy listening bullshit like Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Spyro Gyra and Lionel Ritchie. Occasionally, my father would throw some Pink Floyd or something cool like that on the record player and rumble the sound of helicopters and Englishmen scolding children throughout the neighborhood, but usually it was the Willie Nelson stuff. Anyway, punk music was my first real “I really like this shit” kind of music. I had friends that liked hair metal and back then I kinda got into some of it – I think more from repeated exposure – , but it wasn’t ever anything I really felt like I had to own.
So, anyway, the house we lived in at the time was one my parents bought from my aunt & uncle and when we moved in, I had already known a few guys around the neighborhood through my cousin. One of which was this guy Greg that lived across the street. Greg was the guy that introduced me to punk rock. It was more than that, you see, Greg was an actual punk rocker – which was quite rare in Cleveland in the 80’s. Liberty spikes, overly-spiked jean jacket with safety pins and patches everywhere, real “where the H-E-double hockey sticks did you get those!?!” military issue combat boots. I was like 9 or 10 and I was enamored with the sight of someone who could piss off everyone by just being in the room. That was all it took – a pupil was born.
Well, it wasn’t until a few years later (13yrs old) when my parents decided that they actually liked Greg and would let me go hang out with him. He was 17 at the time and we would go all the way out to the other side of town where the Cleveland punk scene was the coolest – Coventry Ave in Cleveland Heights. **Side note -this always pissed my sister off because she was barely even allowed to leave the house (which is a whole different story that I will probably never get into on here) and I was going out to like East 200-something-street with a bunch of miscreants and we lived by West 150th – this was NOT just down the street.** Greg introduced me to alot of cool music and movies and we would sometimes even hit the midnight Saturday showing of the Rocky Horror Picture show at Cedar Lee once in awhile. I remember being fascinated with band names like the Circle Jerks, the Pink Holes and the Butthole Surfers, but the music itself was just so different and I loved everything that revolved around it.
Movies like Sid And Nancy, Repo Man and Suburbia (circa1982 – the one with Flea in it) were always on rotation in the apartments we would hang out at. Murphy’s Law, Fear, The Red Hot Chili Peppers (back when they were mostly a funk band), the Dead Milkmen, The Buzzcocks, The Misfits, The Sex Pistols and pretty much everything else from the time you can think of was always playing. We would take a big ass radio out with us like the white version of Radio Raheim as if we had our own theme music that needed to be with us everywhere we went. I remember Greg had made me a mix tape and one of my favorite songs on there was by a small band called the Naked Babes. The track was called Money and I still can’t find another copy of it to this day – I mean you can just imagine what I have to try to dig through when throwing the term ‘naked babes’ into the Googlesphere. The first cassette I bought was Plastic Surgery Disasters by the Dead Kennedys and I wore that thing out.
We would just hang out in the back room of the Arabica and I would eat empty waffle cones that I would buy for a quarter or we would panhandle for change to buy some Mad Dog, go get drunk and throw random shit at each other. We had 2 shaved headed punks in the group that would always get jumped by the black kids from being mistaken as Neo-Nazi’s, so whenever the skinheads would wander around our way, phone calls were made and we would all go out and kick the living shit out of them. There was this one guy that pulled out of a parking lot too fast while we were crossing the street and laid on his horn at us, so we all proceeded one by one to divert our route right up and over the hood & roof of his nice, clean, BMW. It was anything-goes-at-any-time-chaos and it was beautiful. We never meant anyone harm, but when someone would fuck with one of our own, it would shift to a gang mentality. Mind you, this didn’t apply to people that didn’t really pose a threat – we would just return the ridicule and walk away. We weren’t assholes, we just didn’t like people giving us shit for being different. Shit, the first girl I had a major crush on had a green mohawk and my ‘other friends’ didn’t understand why I thought she was so hot. They just couldn’t get past the hair and see her actual beauty and the artistic, sensitive person she really was.
Those were some amazing times.
Unfortunately, that all had to come to an end at some point. The older guys started getting into drugs pretty badly and they even started sending me on delivery runs for a few bucks. I didn’t know what the hell I was taking to people – I just knew they wanted me to take this little bag of stuff to someone over there and I would get some money for it. I dropped out of that scene not long after that. I would go to shows here and there, but after Flash Gordon’s at Kamm’s closed, alot of the good punk shows disappeared for awhile. The last great show I saw at Flash’s was Fugazi and the place was packed. I mean like squeeze between people to get to the bathroom before the fire marshall shows up kind of packed. My cousin & I caught a Hostile Omish show at a little club that was where the Great Lakes Brewing Company is now, but that was pretty much it on the punk scene for me for over a decade. The last I saw Greg, I was walking with a friend through the projects at West Boulevard and he pulled up in a car next to me. We recognized each other, caught up with some idle chit-chat and he asked me if I had some or knew where to get some crack. I told him nope, but just keep driving around and I’m sure he’ll find someone around here and they drove away. Fucking shame. That guy had real artistic talent, too. he could’ve made a legitimate life for himself, but got into all the wrong shit instead.
By then, our house had burned down, I had moved away and lived a completely different life, so I guess it was better that way anyway. I don’t know if we could’ve been friends still even if he hadn’t become a dope fiend. Oh well, I still have pretty good friends from back then -none from that scene, though. I was Greg’s little friend and they were all older, so of course they didn’t have any real interest to stay in contact with me. I do sometimes wonder what happened to the rest of that group, though. Coventry is a boutique-y hipster & yuppie area now. There’s still some cool stuff over there & Sara & I like to go check out a few of the shops and the Grog Shop is over there still putting on some cool shows, but it’s not the same as it was. I’m sure some of them are still living in the area with their families and jobs and Volvos and shit now and I really hope so because I don’t like the idea of being the only one from that group that turned out alright and still loves those memories.