- 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 three 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.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
My Aim's Not True: Portrait Of The Blogger As A Young Schmuck
By the spring of 1978, contemporary punk and power pop had joined '60s British Invasion and The Monkees as my pervasive rock 'n' roll passions. I had purchased my first two punk records--45s of "God Save The Queen" by The Sex Pistols and "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" by The Ramones--the previous fall, and then supplemented my nascent safety-pin soundtrack with the Pistols' Never Mind The Bollocks LP (a Christmas gift from my then-girlfriend) and The Ramones' "Rockaway Beach" single (an 18th birthday gift from me to me). I had fallen in love with two of The Runaways (Lita Ford and Joan Jett). And I had seen Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse The Flashcubes live for the first time in January; I still look back on that as a life-changing experience. The music in my head and (whenever possible) on my radio or stereo was a mix of all of the above, and more: The Jam, The Kinks, The Raspberries, KISS, The Rubinoos, The Adverts, Sweet, Elvis Costello, Badfinger, The Dave Clark Five, Eddie & the Hot Rods, The Romantics, The Pleasers, Paul Revere & the Raiders, and everything else that combined swagger, yearning, lust, love, guitars, drums, bass, bubblegum pop, and volume. I may not have been living large, but I was for damned sure living loud.
In this spring semester of my freshman year in college at Brockport, my roommate and I did not get along. At all. We'd been friends initially. At the beginning of the previous semester, Arthur and I both lived separately on the third floor of our dorm, and we'd hit it off okay at first. I was living in a triple, and my roommates hated each other. Before the fall semester was half done, they were at each other's throats, and we all needed to go our separate ways, fast. Steve left, Jeff stayed, and I switched places with Arthur's then-roommate, Kevin. And that, in theory, shoulda put us all on a path to serenity and peace.
Ha! I say HA!!
I don't remember how long it took for Arthur and I to start clashing, but I doubt it took very long. On the surface, we were very different: a white kid from the suburbs of Syracuse and a black kid from Jamaica, Queens. But there were similarities, too. We were both sensitive, we both thought of ourselves as witty, and we were both basically lonely, insecure individuals. Arthur didn't have a girlfriend at the time, and he wanted one; I had two girlfriends in rapid succession--with an unfortunate overlap of about a half hour, and a potential third on the periphery--but was still standing (barely) on shaky ground. And we were both really, really into music.
Alas, the music was also an area of contention.
You know what sounds I was into. Arthur favored far mellower fare, including Renaissance and his favorite group, America. Decades later, I finally recognize the appeal of these artists; at the time, it was wallpaper to a burgeoning punk such as I. Arthur thought my music was noise. There wasn't a lot of common ground there.
Conflicts commenced almost immediately. Or did they? My memory of events is adjusting itself. Conflicts really arose more after I'd switched girlfriends. Arthur got along all right with my first college girl Sharon, but more importantly, Sharon and I didn't spend all that much time in my room; we were usually in her room (and not necessarily doing what you might think we were doing; like one-hit Wonder drummer Guy Patterson in That Thing You Do!, it would be ungentlemanly of me to elaborate). But Theresa was in my room a lot, and she and Arthur did not get along at all. The problems were not her fault, but her presence exacerbated issues. Even after Theresa and I broke up, Arthur and I remained at odds, and the situation never improved.
It got worse, actually.
Sharon and Arthur started dating, which was okay with me; I really did wish Sharon well, especially given how poorly I'd treated her. It took me a while to appreciate how much of a dick I'd been. Story of my life. I always think I'm in the right at the time, and rarely realize until much later, in retrospect, how much I contributed to any random clusterhug. I like to think I've matured, a little bit, somewhere along the line.
But not when I was eighteen. Not yet. I was still a clueless schmuck at eighteen.
The stereo in our dorm room belonged to Arthur. I don't recall now whether I was forbidden from using it, or if I was allowed to use it occasionally provided I was more delicate and careful with it than I generally was with anything else. But either way, I was using Arthur's stereo one day, listening to my freshly-purchased new copy of My Aim Is True by Elvis Costello. This was either shortly before or shortly after Costello played in Brockport that February. Theresa was listening to the LP with me--although no longer really a couple, we were still spending (too much) time together--and I was perhaps a bit too clumsy with the stylus. Arthur claimed I'd damaged the cartridge, I denied it, and I left the room in a huff. When I returned, I discovered that Arthur's aim was also true; my Costello LP had been snapped in half.
I saw red.
Arthur was at the other end of the hall, talking to our Resident Assistant. I yelled, and charged down the hall full-steam, intent on doing to Arthur what he'd done to My Aim Is True. The RA grabbed me and pinned me against the wall, as Arthur scowled at me. It would not be our only physical confrontation, but I'll spare you the dreary details. He was right, and I was right; he was wrong, and I was wrong. It took me years to accept my own culpability in all of this.
I made plans to move out, preferably to another dorm entirely, but it was easier said than done. Frustrated, I gave up on the notion of new digs. That meant Arthur and I had to figure out a way to coexist. The funny thing is, we did manage to get through the rest of the semester somehow. We still bickered, but we both at least tried to keep the peace. When freshman year finally ended that May, we were delighted to be parting company, but we shook hands and bid each other good fortune.
I saw Arthur sporadically during the rest of my time in Brockport. Sophomore year, Arthur came to my dorm room, furious about something he thought I'd said about him; this time, I really was innocent, so I invited him in to talk about it, and we made a cautious peace. A couple of years later, after I'd graduated but still lived in Brockport with my girlfriend Brenda, Arthur visited our apartment once, and the exchange was friendly and basically good-natured.
It's been nearly forty years since I met Arthur, more than thirty-five years since we last had any contact. I look back on my behavior, and it makes me cringe, the time between notwithstanding. I suspect I learned some lessons in the process, though I wish I could have learned these lessons a bit more quickly and efficiently. If, in fact, I've learned them at all. My aim will improve with practice...someday.
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