Rod Stewart is a rooster-haired wannabe roots singer who might be great, in the way Elvis or Wayne Newton are great. Time will tell. I try to ignore what the warbling woodpecker does now, in both his musical as well as social life, and remember the first time I heard Every Picture Tells a Story.

I was dead broke and in college, the same way some of you are now. We had not learned the blessing of the Ramen noodle; we had only the christening of the Campbell's chicken noodle soup. It was the same dilemma, however, as I'm sure you can plainly see.

I had successfully held down several part-time jobs, but (as part-time jobs will do), they had run their course and left me at Square One again. Being the cute little anarchist at the time, I had just finished attempting to sell the local hippie newspaper on the street. This had led to my arrest by the local constabulary establishment, and I was familiar enough with City Hall to understand that fighting them was only going to lead to even fewer dollars in my pocket.

This part may really interest those of you who are concerned about inflation and who know anything about American currency. A new shop opened up on the corner across from where I had been trying to sell the newspapers in the summer of 1971. It was what we'd have called back then a head shop. Now, you must understand that this was a new concept at the time. Hippies had not yet been marginalized, cannibalized, serialized, demonized and any other trite concepts that end with "ized." {This is, by no means, meant to be a racial or musical comment on the way Ernie Isley plays the guitar.} But, the point I wanted to make is what the lady who opened the shop offered to pay me per hour and what I was glad to accept:

One dollar. Yes, one little green piece of paper in the lowest common denomination for one hour's work was an offer which was satisfying to both employer and her new employee. Is it any wonder that I would find myself dealing narcotics in just a few short months? Not that this was not an average or a fair wage at the time; but, seriously. The irony is that running her little shop actually helped sweep me into the crime underground sooner than was probably forecast by my mom's astrologer. Both would have told you it was inevitable, regardless.

There were two rooms in the store. The outer room was for the glass case in which lay the accoutrements of smoking dope. We didn't have to call them by some ambiguous code name back then. You had your hash pipes, bongs, rolling papers, rolling devices, etc. On the floor of the front room were the record racks. Pure vinyl records. No alternative listening systems: It was the 33 LP or nothing. And, I might add, these sound better (still) than any CD I have ever heard. IF you can find a good system on which to play them. Convenience does not ensure quality.

You know how it is the first day on a new job? You're all set to do your best and, at the same time, try to be humble and please the boss. I walked in at noon on a Monday and she handed me the keys and said, "I'm out of here. Close up at 9:00. Lock the doors and hide the money between Hendrix and Humble Pie in the stacks." And that was the way it went that entire summer. I became the music guru and learned how to work stoned.

The back room was the black light room with the posters on the wall and the strobe light flashing. My normal day at work would be to pick out a new hash pipe, load it with the latest sample from the last customer to whom I gave the "narcotic discount" on store wares, fire it up in the black light room before opening the doors to the after lunch afternoon shopping crowd, and put on Every Picture Tells a Story.

There were hundreds of other great records from which to choose, but I always put this one on first. I didn't know Rod Stewart would grow up to be a whore and a humper of SuperModels. All I knew was that this croaking and smoking voice was giving me chillbumps ever time I heard this record.

Maggie May is the thing that has been done to death on the oldies' stations, and it's hard to love it now due to the overplay factor. But this song was magical (and still is, actually, if you can do enough drugs to forget you ever heard it before -- call me and we'll work something out). It was never my favorite on this album, however.

The title song was so damn hot. Understated rock music which actually rocked like hell without having to resort to a screaming stack of Marshalls was kinda new back then. Bob Dylan's Tomorrow is a Long Time was done much better (I would find out later) by Ian and Sylvia as well as Dylan himself, but this was the first time I ever heard it. Likewise, I did not know who Tim Hardin was, but I knew that Reason to Believe was a wonderful song. Mandolin Wind also managed to catch a mood most days.

Ron Wood, who became (finally, as I'm sure he would put it) a member of a really profitable rock band, had a lot to do with the way this whole record sounds.

Maybe it was the hashish. Maybe it was the dollar an hour. Maybe it was the black light poster of the Fugs. All I know is, I liked this record then and I like it now. I don't think he's so much "sold out" as he has "sold off." You gotta play the market to survive. Especially if you’re trying to keep a SuperModel in clothes.

As hard as it is to believe, there was a time many years before he became a crooner of ballads and singer of Christmas songs that Rod Stewart flat out rocked. For those of you who might not be old enough to recall those days, give a listen to Every Picture Tells A Story and see if that doesn’t change your mind. The stuff he did with The Faces was raw, hard and pure. There was little or no synthesizers or computer generated sounds. Instead, mandolins filled the gaps in the music and it sounded as if these guys hit the studio fresh off a hangover the size of a Greek tragedy.

Much like me back in those days….

Spent some time feelin’ inferior
Standing in front of my mirror
Combed my hair in a thousand ways
But I came out looking just the same

Man, those fuckin’ high school years…Tryin’ to fit in all the while while tryin’ to stand out. Puberty and the related hormones raging through my blood like some kinda runaway freight train. Combine that with what seemed like a never ending stream of beer, weed, hash and the occasional chemical enhancement and it’s no wonder that I could never find my identity.

Daddy said, son, you better see the world
I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to leave
But remember one thing don’t lose your head
To a woman that’ll spend your bread
So I got out

Nineteen seventy fuckin’ six. Parris Island, South Carolina at the end of June through the middle of September is no place for young man to spend his first nights away from home. Between the heat, chiggers, mosquitoes and an never ending stream of DI’s screaming at the top of their lungs the most imaginative obscenities within in inch of your face about your heritage, sexuality, girlfriend and upbringing was enough to make a person cash in their chips and head back home.

Almost…

Paris was a place you could hide away
If you felt you didn’t fit in
French police wouldn’t give me no peace
They claimed I was a nasty person
Down along the left bank minding my own
Was knocked down by a human stampede
Got arrested for inciting a peaceful riot
When all I wanted was a cup of tea
I was accused
I moved on

I figured if I could stick out the thirteen weeks, spend a little time back at home on leave, get laid a couple of times then it would be off to see the world. Shit, when I signed on to the suck I did so with the promise of a signing bonus. I was what was known at the time as a “guaranteed grunt”. For the princely sum of $2,500 dollars I was about to commit the next four years of my life with the MOS of 0311. Ground pounder, bullet stopper, jarhead of the first degree, the pride, joy and backbone of the USMC.

Down in Rome I wasn’t getting enough
Of the things that keeps a young man alive
My body stunk but I kept my funk
At a time when I was right out of luck
Getting desperate indeed I was
Looking like a tourist attraction
Oh my dear I better get out of here
for the Vatican don’t give no sanction
I wasn’t ready for that, no no

Duty assignment, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Home to about forty or fifty thousand other Marines each of whom must have seen me coming from miles away. I was flush with cash and I swear to God those fuckers could smell it. I dutifully played the role of sucker like I was born for it and promptly turned it into other people’s profits by engaging in “friendly” games of poker.

Being the logical sort, I figured that I was better off blowing my money downtown than sharing it inside the barracks.

Too bad “downtown” was a place called Jacksonville, North Carolina. At the time a never ending stream of strip clubs, pool halls, dive bars, tattoo parlors and pawn shops. To top it off, it was crawling with young ladies of the evening willing to sacrifice their time in exchange for a piece of your paycheck. All the while, the MP”s, armed with forty five and nightsticks kept a watchful eye on the brethren lest they get out of hand

You want fine dining? Try the Howard Johnson’s. It’s at the end of the strip.

If the old saying that “A fool and his money are soon parted” is true, then I’m a living breathing testament to it.

I moved right out East yeah!
On the Peking ferry I was feeling merry
Sailing on my way back here
I fell in love with a slit eyed lady
By the light of an eastern moon
Shanghai Lil never used the pill
She claimed that it just ain’t natural
She took me up on deck and bit my neck
Oh people I was glad I found her
Oh yeah I was glad I found her

Wasn’t long before our unit caught a NATO float. Three or four month floating around the North Atlantic on a tin can inhabited mainly by squids with nothing to do but shine your boots, clean your rifle and try to keep from getting seasick from the twenty foot swells. After some exercises on terra firma where we played war games with other members of NATO, defended the homeland against those pesky Russians and guarded the perimeter from Baader-Meinhoff it was time to head stateside and get some much needed R & R.

Long story short, boy meets girl, boy knocks up girl, boy marries girl, boy knocks up girl two more times, boy gets scared, boy turns into asshole, boy turns back to booze and drugs, girl gets fed up, girl divorces boy, boy runs away, boy never turns into a man.

I firmly believed that I didn’t need anyone but me
I sincerely thought I was so complete
Look how wrong you can be

There have been times where, over the many ensuing years that I’ve tried to isolate myself from the world. Depending on my mood I either thought that nobody was good enough for me or I wasn’t good enough for anybody.

I’ve come to the realization, awakening, revelation, awareness or whatever it is you want to call it that that’s a terrible way to go through life.

The women I’ve known I wouldn’t let tie my shoe
They wouldn’t give you the time of day
But the slit eyed lady knocked me off my feet
God I was glad I found her
And if they had the words I could tell to you
To help you on the way down the road
I couldn’t quote you no Dickens, Shelley or Keats
Because its all been said before
Make the best out of the bad just laugh it off
You didn’t have to come here anyway
So remember, every picture tells a story don’t it

I don’t know what my motivation was in telling you any of this since most of it is private, personal and truth be told, damn embarrassing. I sure don’t like the person I once was and maybe this is some kind of atonement or attempt on my part to get things out in the open once and for all and clear the slate at least in my own head.

On the other hand, I got a couple of e-mails over the holidays that might’ve been the impetus for this stroll down memory lane. One was from a girl I hadn’t heard from or spoke to in at least twenty five years. We grew up in Brooklyn together and when we were kids we shared a smooch or two and for all I know, I might have gotten to second base with her. I e-mailed her back and I hope we stay in touch.

The other was much more important, it was from one of my older daughters and it contained pictures of her kid and my other older daughters kid, both of whom I’ve never seen in person. A boy and a girl and they’re both about eight or nine month’s old and as cute as cute can be.

Is it possible to shed tears over someone that you’ve never met or is it possible that after all these years I’m finally meeting me for the first time?

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