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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Something's Really Wrong

 

On July 3rd, 2016, Dana and I had the great honor and privilege of hosting BRIGHT LIGHTS! The Syracuse New Wave Rock 'n' Roll Reunion, an incredible night of live rock 'n' roll celebrating the late '70s/early '80s Syracuse punk/new wave/power pop scene.  Within the next few days, I will be attempting to collect my thoughts for an afterword on my impressions of that wonderful, wonderful night.

The show itself was dedicated to the memory of Norm Mattice.  Norm was an amazing talent, whom I first saw when he was still playing with his first band, Dress Code.  Norm subsequently served as frontman for 1.4.5. and The Richards, and he should have become a household name.  Norm could sing--oh man, could he ever sing!--and play guitar, and he had magazine-cover good looks.  His friend and Dress Code bandmate Steve Martell called him a rock star; Gary Frenay of The Flashcubes remembered him as one of us.  Norm was a terrific guy with a problem:  booze.  Stardom never materialized.  His dreams of rock 'n' roll success faded away.  He lost his job.  He lost his house.  His marriage ended.  His parents passed away. Periods of sobriety gave way to the problem that never stopped being a problem.  


And there was nothing anyone could do.

Though an only child, Norm had friends and family who tried to help, tried desperately to help.  But accepting help is a choice; Norm did not accept that choice.  Homeless, penniless, he died of exposure earlier this year, sleeping unsheltered in Onondaga Lake Park.  And a community wept.

At the first BRIGHT LIGHTS! show in 2014, singer-songwriter Maura Kennedy formed a Central New York supergroup called Maura & the Bright Lights, featuring her husband Pete Kennedy, Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin of The Flashcubes, and the inimitable Cathy LaManna.  Maura & the Bright Light's raison d'etre was to open our live celebrations with a set of songs associated with bands from Syracuse's original new wave scene. Maura & the Bright Lights' 2014 set included a medley of two Dress Code tunes, "Never Let Me Go" and "Something's Really Wrong," both from that group's 1981 EP Alone In The Crowd.  For this year's show, Maura wanted to open BRIGHT LIGHTS! with "Something's Really Wrong" as a dedication to Norm; the original record included a climactic collage of bad news and horrors of the world as delivered by voices on the radio, particularly news accounts of the then-recent murder of John Lennon.  To make the song a more specific tribute to Norm, Maura asked me to write a new script for that section, focusing on the plight of the homeless, and asked Dana and I to recite the section during the Bright Lights' performance of the song.  The following are Elliott Mattice's original lyrics for "Something's Really Wrong" (copyright Elliott Mattice), with our new section added for posterity.  


People in today's world seem to want to fight

I just can't understand
It's not right
What's the use of heroes?
Try to play your own song
Show them who you are
(Who you are!)
Acceptance is a way of life
How can I fit in?
Just keep yourself in your place and you'll be loved by all
Television is a habit truly loved by all
It's the American Way
(The U.S.!)
I know it must be true
Because that's what was said by the TV today
(You don't say!)
Acceptance is a way of life
How can I fit in?
Just keep yourself in your place and you'll be loved by all
Something's really wrong with the way things are going
Something should be done, or we won't last too long
Something's really wrong
Something should be done
Something's really wrong
What's the use of heroes?
Try to play your own song
Show them who you are
(Who you are!)
Acceptance is a way of life
How can I fit in?
Just keep myself in my place and I'll be loved by all


DANA:  In the news tonight, Reuters reports there are over 500,000 homeless Americans in this land of opportunity. About a quarter of the homeless are children.
CARL:  The figure, taken from a November report by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, is described as a snapshot of the number of homeless on a single night. 
DANA:  The actual number is likely higher.
CARL:  You can't keep track of who is sleeping on sidewalks, under bridges.
DANA:  Out of sight.  Out of mind. Discarded.
CARL:  Who can measure the faceless and the nameless?
DANA:  But sometimes even a number has a face.
CARL:  Sometimes a number has a name we know.
DANA:  One of us.
CARL:  A bright light.
DANA:  A rock star. 
CARL:  One of us.  
DANA:  Alone in the crowd.  
CARL:  Something's really wrong.  
DANA:  And that's the news on this Independence Day weekend.  
CARL:  Good night, and good luck. 

People in today's world seem to want to fight 
I just can't understand 
It's not right  

No.  No, it ain't right at all.  Rest in peace, Norm.