I fight authority, Authority always wins
Well, I fight authority, Authority always wins
Well, I've been doing it since I was a young kid
I come out grinnin'
Well, I fight authority, Authority always wins
Excerpt from the John Mellencamp song “When I Fight Authority”
Okay, I’m sure it wasn’t my first brush with authority and it certainly wouldn’t be my last but it is one of the the first ones I remember.
Man, trying to be “cool” in the late 60’s and early 70’s was pretty hard. All around me boys my age were growing their hair long, wearing peace signs, smoking dope and listening to all kinds of crazy music. Yes, the times were indeed a changin’.
Except in the borgo household.
My father came over to the United States from Germany sometime back in 1927 when he was nine or ten years old. He was a product of discipline, staunchly conservative, fearful of change and a strict authoritarian. My mom was subservient, quiet and administered to his every whim. In other words, they were the perfect couple. I wasn’t born until she was forty years old which was practically unheard of back in 1958. They never came right out and said I was a “mistake” but somehow deep inside, I just knew. Anyway, they were set in their ways and no amount of cajoling, reasoning, begging or throwing of temper tantrums would veer them from their course.
When I graduated 8th grade I got a few envelopes and cards that contained the one thing I wanted most. Forget the kind words and sentiments, Oh, those were nice but the cash inside was better. When I pooled that money with the amount I already had stashed away I had enough put aside to get me what I wanted most in life and that thing was a stereo set. Yup, a turntable, two speakers with an 8-track tape player built in and radio that got FM stations as an added bonus. I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal in today’s world but back then that was my ticket to nirvana.
It wasn’t long before I saved up some more money and began buying albums like they were going out of style. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Doors, Traffic, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Moody Blues, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple and a host of others all burst forth from the borgo bedroom at a decibel level you’d most likely find on an airport runway. I’d be in my room with the door closed playing air guitar or drums and imagining myself on stage in front of thousands and thousands of fans all screaming my name and wanting “more”, “more”, “more”.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, “borgo the Elder” was having none of it. I’d get through a couple of songs when the inevitable pounding on the door would come and the accompanying voice would boom:
”TURN THAT SHIT DOWN! I SWEAR TO GOD, IF YOU DON’T TURN THAT SHIT DOWN I’M GONNA THROW THAT THING OUT THE FUCKIN’ WINDOW.”
Of course, not wanting to risk that little bit of parental advice, I’d comply but it seemed as if I’d lost something. He got less and less tolerant of the volume level and I had to play my records so low that I could barely hear them.
Then, something really strange happened. I think I borrowed some Crosby, Stills, and Nash records from one of my friends and was listening to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes and some of their other stuff when the inevitable knock on the door came. I thought to myself “Jeezuz fuckin’ Christ, here we go again.”
Here’s the dialogue as best as I remember it.
borgo: “Yeah, I know, I know, I know , turn it down.”
borgo the Elder: “Open the door”
It’s at this time that I had a mental image of my turntable, two speakers with an 8-track tape player built in and a radio that got FM stations go flying out my bedroom window and finding its final resting place in a crumpled heap on the cement that qualified as our back yard.
borgo: (exasperated) “What?”
borgo the Elder: “That shit ain’t half bad, at least those assholes can harmonize.”
I think shortly afterwards my taste in music began to change towards the mellow. Now it was a steady diet of James Taylor, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel and other similar sounds emanating from the four walls of my bedroom. Don’t get me wrong, the knocks would still come every now and then but they sure didn’t come with the frequency or intensity as they once did.
As for me, I still wasn’t allowed to grow my hair long, wear bell bottoms (which in a way as I look back on it now, was probably a good thing) or flash peace signs around the house. I still wasn’t allowed to use the words “cool” or “man” around my father because he thought they were disrespectful. Maybe that was because English was his second language and he once told me to try to use words to express myself without sounding like a “god damn idiot”. Maybe it was because he was a typical stubborn German who thought his way was the only way.
But, if you want to change somebody, you have to start somewhere and I guess that little shift in my taste of music might have done just that.
Maybe, this time authority didn’t win. Maybe this time, at least I fought it to a draw.
As for that other “heavy music” that I started out with, I still managed to listen to it only now I did it through the wonder and the magic of headphones.