Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Roots Of My Music

So, it’s 3am on a Tuesday morning and, after sleeping soundly for three hours – here I am, wide awake. Hope is I’ll squeeze in a nap before having to get up at 5:30am and start my morning – but for now, I write.

In my last post I mentioned my love of disco – and how it was second only to my love for new wave. That got me thinking back to just when that wonderful genre first really infiltrated my world.

I remember in the late 70s, the music scene in my neighborhood was divided into two camps: those boys that listened to pop/disco and those boys that listened to rock music.

Those boys that listened to rock music were teenagers that wore Army jackets, complete with those small brown burn holes that are made when the ash from a joint that you’re smoking behind the strip mall blows back and lands on your coat. Those boys that listened to rock music usually found themselves surrounded by muscle cars of the day; Camaro, Trans-Am and Corvettes; they either drove or rode in one every Friday night.

Those boys that listened to rock music wore their hair long and parted in the middle; giving off the impression of a sad stoned dog with big floppy ears. Additionally, those boys that listened to rock music wore nothing but corduroy jeans – tight corduroy jeans.

Those boys that listened to rock music had a fixation for silver jewelry; a skull ring or necklace was the norm; and somewhere in their collection was at least ONE cloth patch of the famous Rolling Stones lips.

I wasn’t one of those boys that listened to rock music.

I was one of those boys that listened to pop and disco.

Generally speaking, those boys that listened to pop and disco embraced the denim jean phenomenon. I recall purchasing my first pair of Sergio Valente jeans – complete with the white stitching down the sides and obnoxiously all over the back pockets. Those boys that listened to pop and disco shopped at Just Shirts – embraced man-made fabrics and had a slew of poly-cotton button downs.

The problem was that I wasn’t really one of THOSE boys either – although I seemed more welcome into that fold, for reasons that – at the time – were mysterious. Of course, looking back it makes sense – THOSE boys did more than wear the same clothes – THOSE boys were entwined by the same rainbow-hued thread that made us stick together, even though we were so alone.

I remember how music was my salvation. As an only child – by the time I hit my teens, I was on my own. My parents had become immersed in their own survival and the arrival of a new baby boy. I took that as a cue to explore the world around me. By 1978, my junior year in high school (I was 15 then), I met a boy who dressed in the most unique fashion.

He wasn’t wearing refer-stank jackets, nor was he poured into tight jeans. He was dressed in a mixture of 1960s businessman topped with an amazing pile of hair, combed into a full DA. He was just 18 and I was intrigued.

We began a friendship that led me into Center City Philadelphia for the first time (without family supervision). We walked the dirty streets and he showed me the underbelly of the city. I met some far-out artists, musicians and other creatures of the night. He also fed me a steady supply of mixed tapes – that introduced me to a world of new sounds! I was experiencing an awakening courtesy of The Ramones, Patti Smith, Television and more.

From 1978 through 1980, I absorbed that new sound- I realized there were few peers around me that appreciated what I loved; so I would head into Center City Philly as often as possible; dressed in a mixture of skinny ties and 60s slacks. I loved NOT fitting into one of the groups – and I treasured my independence; both in musical tastes and in life.

That was the root of my passion and love for the New Wave genre. The music represented the key that unlocked my cell and allowed me to escape and be free and to grow into who I am today.

1 comment:

brandy101 said...

I love this entry.

Where exactly was Just Shirts (or was it a chain?)

There was a mall near my grandmoms house (Cottman & the blvd) that we used to walk to; I cannot for the life of me recall the name.

Once I had a job at 16 I used to go to Center City and did most of my shopping at Wanamakers which had just opened a funky boutique of *LOCAL* fashion designer, Willi Smith. I was the only kid in HS in non-mall attire!