Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My R.E.M. Story

Here's a short excerpt from Chapter 8 of my "rock'n'roll book" which I have been writing for 82 years now. The writing is sophomoric, communicating very precisely the self-indulgence of adolescence:

___ had these hippie friends and I fucking hated them. The types who would wear strings tied around their wrists, not flush the toilet to save water, whose idea of a good time was to plan going to Alaska for the summer to make “a ton of easy cash,” and who believed that smoking pot and talking about Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick was the coolest thing that ever happened to them. One time, in November, we went to see Pink Floyd at the Summit in Houston with those kids, and once we got on the road, they cranked up the stereo with “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf. Yes, "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf. I just about jumped out of car and let it run over me. Please kill me right now. The concert was horrible. Pink Floyd was just patently horrible--if sucking itself could suck, a kind of a auto-sucking, that would describe the show.

The next day, my roommate and I went to see R.E.M. at G. Rollie White, our little basketball stadium on campus. R.E.M., touring in support of Document, were brilliant. This was the most stark display of the old vs. the new. The ‘60s were dead. Live and breathe now or die. R.E.M. played with scalpel-sharp precision, alternating between the heaviness of their Wire cover (“Strange”) and the implosive beauty of “So. Central Rain.” The singer came on wearing an oversize suit and a hat, all of which he gradually disrobed before ending the show bare above the waist, wearing baggy pants, huge combat boots, and a shaved head with a strand of long thick black ponytail hair sticking up from the top of his head. He also had thick black marks that underlined his eyes. He looked like a shaved raccoon. I thought that was cool as shit. In “Disturbance at the Heron House” from the new album, the singer repeatedly raised his arm in time and in salute to the beautiful, ascending notes of the intro:

Disturbance at the heron house
Stampede at the monument
To liberty and honor under the honor roll

And something about monkeys too:

They're numbering the monkeys
The monkeys and the monkeys
The followers of chaos out of control.

Lots of monkeys, I see. I had no idea what a heron was. Still don’t. To a mute audience, the singer described the band Suicide as one of his favorite defunct bands. “Go out and buy their record,” he said. I didn’t, but they sure sounded cool. For the show, my roommate and I put hairspray on our hairs, wore a bunch of earrings, piercings, and bangles, and got super-dressed up in black (pants, shirt, combat boots, chains). There was a small-scale intensity about the show, all things that I took for granted over the years: the fact that I was pretty much standing right in front of the band, that there was no laser show, no dry ice, just four misfits totally rocking out. It was the first concert I ever went to where I sensed I belonged. Fuck Pink Floyd.


Anonymous said...

Dude this is the funniest fucking entry. I think we were stoned too, and told we would have to leave every time we lit up a cigarette? I think I sensed at the time that G. Rollie White would be the next ground zero for a Texas Neo-Nazi movement. I remember having a moment of clarity about this....

spaceman said...

Yeah that's right. I think we were smoking and they asked us to leave. I forgot about that. Aggies = Nazis.