My little brother Mike and I were raised in a trailer park located in the teeming metropolis of Wrights Corners New York
- population 40. Not everyone can boast of singlehandedly increasing the population of their birthtown by 2.5%, but that was our accomplishment simply by being born.
Funny, living in a trailer we never
thought of ourselves as white trash
; unlike most of our farmer
neighbors (great folks, by the way), we
didn't have to use an outhouse
didn't have to pump our own water - we
had indoor plumbing!
Needless to say, with an alcoholic
mother and alcoholic step-father, bent each night on getting
and fucking each other up (and us if we got in the way) family life
wasn't that great.
Mike and I spent a lot of time running away from home.
Living in a rural environment
, we'd naturally head straight for the woods. And when The Asshole
came looking for us, we'd hide in our most secret hidden fort
. It would usually take the State Trooper
s three or four days to find us.
Even though we'd have to eat whatever we could find out there (not impossible for hicks
like us, by the way)
we'd get some peace until we were caught and they took us back to the trailer.
This all happened in the mid 1960
's, right when the consumer culture
was begining to take hold in the States.
Unlike the kids of today, we didn't have to wear the right
jeans or the right
sneakers to school - being clothed was enough.
But we did notice that lots of the other kids had Japanese transistor radio
s and naturally we wanted a radio ourselves.
Both parents preferred to piss away all their money on booze
and any cash Mike or I came across
was immediately spent on food. Clearly we couldn't afford to buy a transistor radio.
So I made our radio.
I took an oatmeal
box, some copper
wire, a geranium diode
a science teacher gave me, and with the help of my Boy Scout
book I created our own little AM
Located in Western New York State
, Wrights Corners was about ten miles from the Canadian border
, and Mike and I would lay out there in
the woods at night listening to this fantastic music from equally wonderful, Toronto
based Canadian DJ'
Its been too long to remember the names of the stations or the Disk Jockeys, and they aren't the subject of this write up, but when things got fucked at
home - which was most every night - and when we'd finally had enough of getting the shit kicked out of us, we'd drop out a bedroom window,
and head for our fort in the woods.
Lying there at night, almost always hungry and cold, we'd be at peace listening the most fantastic
music coming from such far off places;
and the Doors
, Jimi Hendrix
, Jethro Tull
, Frank Zappa
, the Filmore East
, the Paladdium
, the Filmore West
The King Biscuit Flower Hour
, New York
, Los Angeles
, San Francisco
, the list of artist
s, cities and
programmes could go on and on.
And most of these broadcasts were live, so we usually would hear the crowd in between songs; "Whoooo!", "Frank Zappa man",
"Keith is a fucking god" , "Louder, faster", and "more more more more more more".
We agreed with many of the comments, but never could understand why sometimes the crowd would complain about the pace or volume of the music;
there was nothing that my brother and I wanted more than to get away from that fucking trailer and Wrights Corners and to be at one of these wonderful live shows.
How could folks at these fantastic shows complain about anything?
They tell us the progress of music is measured in beats per minute
; 18th century classical
, twenty to eighty beats, 60's rock
, thirty to ninety beats,
and 70's punk
maybe eighty to one hundred fourty. And todays Rave
rs and Club DJ
's clock in at well over two hundred beats per minute at times.
When I was sixteen and Mike was fourteen my grandparent
s legally adopted us and we got the hell out of that fucking trailer and into a more normal home.
I soon left to attend University
, and later went to work for Bell Labs
in the early 80's, moving to Investment Banking
in New York (following the technology
) in the later 80's. Manhattan
was a remarkably fertile ground for bands during that time.
Clubs like Pyramid
s had live music seven nights a week, sometimes for as little as $5. I had a ball, at times seeing bands every night of the week. But I never failed to relate these experiences with my little brother. And he had some wonderful live shows to tell me
Three and one half years ago I moved to London
; another fantastic place for live music.
But no matter where Mike and I were, we would always talk about music, group
s and album
s; it was our shared connection, a reminder of the bad
Talking about music implicitly gave us relevance on how far we'd come since we were kids. Without saying so, we knew that no mattter how bad things seemed now, as long as we had food to eat, a roof over our heads and music it just couldn't be that bad. The radio and the fort were long past us.
But Mike can't listen to the music anymore, having passed away a few years ago after a long struggle with cancer
So I listen to the music for him.
Every year, on his birthday, I put CD
s on his grave. Hot fresh stuff that I know he'd love. And I still go to see bands.
Just last night I went to a free show held a local pub and featuring a young group of bloke
s, probably none of them older than twenty.
They gave it their best, doing covers of The Clash
, The Stones
and The Who
, pretty much any group with guitars. Sweating, smiling, exhausted, fingers raw from hitting the strings so fast, they were probably doing one hundred and ten beats per minute.
I had a few pints, and thought it was great!
But after every song the cries were remarkably like what we used to hear on the radio over thirty years ago: "Faster, louder, more, more, more, more".
The crowds are relentless Mike. And the music always gets faster.