Where I was 12 years ago, when “Kid A” was released

I remember where I was in 2000. I was pumping gas at main street sunoco in Leominster, MA. Mike G. had recently turned me on to the greatness that is Radiohead. He would burn me copies of CDs and talk passionately of how great a band they really were. Discussing song lyrics, certain musical changes, and just why they were such an important band for our time! He was a somewhat practicing vegetarian and most nights ordered spaghetti with sauce, “make sure its not the meat sauce!” he’d bark into the phone. He also had this kind of lingering, foul odor to him, but that’s not why I’m writing this dispatch.

It’s just that so much has happened in the last 12 years, from the age of 17 to 29, as this is such a pivotal period for anyone. Kid A was something so huge, so dense, so intense, that I was really only trying to grasp alternating programmed beats and general absurdity of the lyrics.

2001 was my first time seeing them live at Suffolk Downs and I really have to give Mike G. the credit for opening my mind up to them 2 years prior. A part-time job pumping gas, for the most part screwing around when our bosses left at 5. So from 5-10 we played CDs in the little store, while switching off who would get the next customer. Sunoco in Leominster being really only 1 of 2 Full serve stations, so later on at night you’d get stragglers, nothing too steady.

Even listening to “National Anthem” now I’m reminded of Athens Pizza, the distinct smell of their sauce, and the blue, greasy counter top I ate on. Leaning over, watching the gas meter which signaled when the car outside was done. Soon enough I plastered a Radiohead bumper sticker on my ’89 Honda Civic and to my friend Maki I was only ever known as “Raaaadioheadd!”

So 12 years removed from the release of “Kid A” and having seen them at least 4 times live, I understand the power of speaking passionately about a band you love to someone else. Especially to an already impressionable 17 year old.

Alice in Chains, a head cold, and time to spare.

I realize how cool it is that Jerry Cantrell signed my red fender stratocaster.  I bought the guitar used and I think I might have used my high school graduation party money to pay for it? I think most people think of sports memorabilia whenever autographs are involved, but “rock stars” or musicians that sign stuff is often less talked about. I mean fans generally get pictures with their favorites. In a small imaginative way it feels that by virtue of him signing my guitar, he was confirming to me that I should always pursue music in some form? Like if someone of his stature would spend time signing it, or if I would put myself in this position to get it signed, then playing music should be viewed as a strong priority in my life. And I believe it is. Although I don’t want to get too heavy into the fate of this that or the other thing.

This whole post came about while listening to a new song by Alice in Chains called “black gives way to blue”. It’s a song written about Layne Staley and his bleak ending. It makes me think about how we often elevate people that had or have horrible drug addictions, but created very powerful art, by way of having a drug problem. Not that anyone would set out to have a drug problem in order to write redemptive songs about their abuse; But I think Staley was so honest about his addiction, as you can hear on the album “Dirt”. It’s this honesty that originally got me into the band.

It’s likes an on-going documentary with a band when you’re aware of certain members struggling with addiction. This was true with Elliott Smith, although I got into him after he died. I believe the rawness of the message, in contrast with the beauty of the music is what hooks so many people. Then I consider how much effort each of us spends on a day to day basis, confirming that we’re alright to others, all in an attempt not to be viewed as vulnerable or weak willed. It’s as if the fandom or appreciation of these suffering or honest musicians, allows us to thank those that say what we are too afraid or timid to say to others.

It’s funny how people can quote on quote relate to a band or singer, but be a very square member of society. (college, job, or family) I don’t necessarily think it’s relating, as it is embracing another human being that would be so frank and willing to bare themselves nude to the world…or to do this as a career. We take so much from their art, yet in the back of our heads, we know that the pace their living is unsustainable, but we cheer them on to keep performing and making us feel triumphant in a way.

In the end addiction comes in varying forms. In a way too many people are addicted to keeping a facade that bares nothing of who they are privately and only what they imagine themselves to be in the eyes of others. I don’t believe myself to be some struggling, soul searching musician. I’m more so interested in why someone like Kurt Cobain or Michael Jackson becomes so adored and appreciated before and after their death. Why don’t people adore and appreciate the ones that constantly improve their own lives and those around them? The community orgaziners, the mothers against drunk drivers, teachers,  etc. Why do we just accept these people and move on from them so soon?

I suppose that as humans we are constantly trying to raise people up, it’s our soul’s purpose for the most part. For any situation you are in, if there is another hurting or in stress, you feel a pull to ease their pain. And I think that maybe these tortured or troubled musicians need all of this world’s energy sometimes, because their psychic pain is so unreal to them, or their too sensitive to it.

Or we’re just all here from different planets and thus are always at war with each other because of vast misunderstandings?

Or I have the flu and I’m doped up on Nyquil, so I’m feeling sentimental and too speculative?

“black gives way to blue.” by A.I.C.  You should check it out. Sir Elton John even makes an appearance on piano.