Jun 192014

Combat Zone.

Combat Zone.

I didn’t bother with local girls, as Graham Parker advised on Squeezing Out Sparks, at least those who weren’t already dating the new guy on my baseball team who also happened to take my primary position, first base. I was exiled to left field, about as far away as first base already felt to me in sexual terms. This guy, occupying both my bag and my local crush’s lips, was so kind and sweet I had to applaud him for both conquests.

“Don’t bother with them, they don’t bother me,” sang Parker of the local girls, but I desperately wanted to hear girls talk, as Dave Edmunds sang on another perfect record I picked up at that record store on Cottman Avenue. I did fine with adult women from all walks of life, easily harmonizing with female teachers; my Mom’s network of fun, bitter divorcees; and the women at the baby clothes manufacturer, where I worked summers. When it came to girls my own age, however, I was tone deaf. There was a trio of smart girls in my class whom I related to through student government activities. Sometimes they took pity on me in science classes and served as my lab partner. These girls inevitably carried the load on the completion of the lab report. They must have taken turns helping a few of us scientifically dense boys. Perhaps I could have gotten closer to one of these Ivory Soap girls, but as they looked me in the eye and spoke to me in a straightforward, intelligent manner, I would get distracted by the hint of nipple peeking through another girl’s shirt at the next lab counter.

As I slowly made inroads into our school’s music scene I found myself capable of having conversations with stoner girls and other malcontents of the fairer sex. Music was a bridge discussion topic to certain girls. They, too, had their favorite songs off Who and Beatles albums. They could talk about bands I didn’t quite get, like Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, without making that high-and-mighty “uh, heh-heh” sound that guys did. When girls loved a song they were more likely to express how the song made them feel, how the song related to something they were going through, rather than flex in the glow of the song’s empowering majesty. “This song kicks ass!” a boy was likely to shout over Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” insinuating a transference of rock superpowers that empowered him to kick ass.

Girls didn’t lean on an artist’s credentials, the way guys did when they felt compelled to point out that a certain musician was once lauded in a Rolling Stone interview by Pete Townshend (eg, Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh) or was “classically trained.” For instance, I might ask one of my stoner friends, “What am I missing in Frank Zappa? I don’t get him.”

The guys would fire back, “Oh, Zappa’s classically trained!”

As if either of us listened to classical music.

The rare girl who liked Zappa might, instead, get to the heart of the matter and remind me of the obvious: “Well, Zappa’s pretty funny!”

For the millions of teenage boys who didn’t actually listen to classical music, the fact that upstart moronic cock-rockers like Eddie and Alex Van Halen were classically trained carried a load of weight. Talking music with girls was all right, provided I could steer them away from gushing over Jackson Browne.


  14 Responses to “Garageland”

  1. diskojoe

    Very good piece, Mr. Mod. My memories w/music & high school from that period are probably not extensive as yours. There weren’t too many punks or mods in the Witch City in the late 70s. I wish I had some musical talent or @ least the gumption to start a band in high school w/my old friend John, who was a wiry, crazy guy who looked like a combination of Bowie & Jagger (lips) & who would have made an excellent front man. I think of this every time I see or hear the New York Dolls.

  2. BigSteve

    I’m digging the camo parka Look. Very few other bands were able to make that work for them.

    I also want to hear what songs you wrote about your longing for the softer, warmer Amy.

  3. I think my smirk (I am at 3:00) was related to being in the stupid parkas. I love Sethro’s brooding good looks!

    Mr Mod – be careful about talking about the songs about Amy. You don’t want to bring back to the surface old feelings resentment with Sethro 🙂

  4. 2000 Man

    That was great, thanks!

  5. I’m like John Forgarty: I don’t write love songs, didn’t then either. Tough Guys write ill-informed political songs at that age, and shit like that.

  6. All you care about is stirring up trouble Andyr. I made Sethro; I can break him.

  7. Well, Ramble On does indeed kick arse.

    Phil Daniels who plays Jimmy in Quadrophenia is a terrific actor. Check him out in The Long Firm.

  8. BigSteve

    Did I miss a glossary entry for Forearm Rock?

  9. Oh, if we don’t have that already I’ll need to write it up. That’s an extremely important skill, at least for members of my band.

  10. That series looks good; I’ll have to see if I can get it on Netflix or whatever.

    I just looked up a little bio on Phil Daniels and learned that he talk-sings a verse on Blur’s “Parklife.” I had no idea!

  11. diskojoe

    He was on the video & Blur drags him onstage to sing along on occasions such as their 2009 & 2012 reunion gigs

    The original video:


    From the 2012 reunion gig:


  12. Great stuff. Does anyone miss reel-to-reels? I wonder if my dad’s is still in my brother’s garage?

  13. I don’t recall ever seeing that video! I wonder if I would have recognized him without being informed of his involvement?

  14. misterioso

    Song Remains the Same isn’t Zeppelin at its best–one of the all-time classic understatements.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube