It was December of 2003 and I had forgotten who I was. You could easily say it wasn't my fault, but I can't. No public opinion or way of the world should have altered my divine-ish mission. I should have always had the strongest jaw. But there we were and Delaware hadn't a leader, someone beyond reproach, so I guess we were vulnerable, and I knew I had to thrust that greatness upon myself, as always.
Almost a decade before, I had started high school. My freshman year I was still feeling things out, but knew already what I was. I just felt, and rightly so, that dues of some sort had to be paid. That is, I knew you can't just say, "I'm a punk rocker" and then you are one (though that's the tract most took.) I knew you had to know something, and that you'd have to figure it out for yourself. Of course I didn't know that while I was cultivating my quasi-religion, others were participating in a fad! Regardless, that summer I bought some records (notably "BoogadaBoogadaBoogada" and "All the Stuff (and More) Vol. 2"), taught myself how to play them on guitar, learned who was playing on them, what they were saying/doing and why, wrote a bunch of my own numbers, and I came back to school my sophomore year with spikes, a sneer, and the knowledge and confidence to call myself a punk rocker, even if it just meant being a die-hard fan of the Ramones, I knew it was the truth.
And of course seeing the Crash play at the school talent show that year was the turning point in my life, probably the single most significant thing I have ever seen.
One thing I held as a tenant at the time was a vehement disregard of all things conflicting with my punk rockedness, be it aesthetically, socially, or especially musically. So a band like Led Zeppelin was anti-everything I liked: successful, popular prima-donnas, socially conflicted with a down and dirty, ballsy American suburban teen, though that was always Led Zep's fan base. And the music was lumbering and dark, no fun at all. But Zeppelin is just an example of how things went all wrong in rock and roll.
Someone who did as much home work as me could tell the difference between Zep and the MC5, but the common man could not! You see, pretty much since its inception, rock and roll has been perverted by neophytes and businessmen. When simply wiping it out didn't work, they went about ruining it. The astute punk rocker/rock and roller can differentiate that which has been perverted from the pure. And the pure isn't always better music, but it's better music, get it? Then one can always do music that isn't supposed to be rock and roll at all and that is ok, cause they aren't perverting anything, but that is off my radar.
The good stuff can be traced from the beginning with certain bands/songs/genres that serve as Platonic Forms from which the real deal is derived.
Black Soul, Rock-A-Billy, and Jump Blues lead to first wave Rock and Roll, which was perverted into teen idol music but spawned the British Invasion, Girl Groups, and Motown, which lead to American Garage and Bubblegum, which coincided with the folk-rock scene, and resulted in Heavy Metal (soon to be perverted into Stadium-Style Dinosaur Rock), Country Rock, and Punk Rock. When Sid Vicious died, Punk went back underground to birth a thousand bands and scenes, labels and zines, while metal pussed and popped it's way to U.S. mega-popularity by the 1980's. The mesh of pseudo-punk and hair metal that was Nirvana hallmarked the grunge scene of the early 1990's, and only when lead singer Kurt Cobain blew his brains out could American music be saved. Pop-punk, a Ramones derived style of melody-driven heavy hard music hit the mainstream airwaves. This was our chance, our door out of the mundane that defines pop music and maybe-life into a secret world set up twenty years prior that somehow, nobody had cared to mention to me in the mean time. What I started to understand, but would take me awhile to grasp, was that there is a wide, wide variety of acceptable ingredients, (when coupled with a punk rock surgeon's precision) if one were to want to build the Great American Band. Observing the nature of change, I should have been ready for it, but before it had hit it was already unpopular again. Emboldened by their so-called punk creds, would be Zeppelinites started "underground" style bands that reach out more to atonal metal and noise bands than any given harmonizer. Half-breeds like Hot Water Music and Braid made their ways onto popsters even my turntable. I guess I was just trying to be cool. Like, if this is what we got let's make the best of it. I was wrong.
One problem was that any outward showing of "punk fashion" was deemed uncool and indeed much of it had grown to parody itself. It was almost like it was bred out of us by 1999. But that kind of fashion, if you will, is just a metaphor for the music. 99.9% of people who got into punk rock at any point, be it 1974 or 1994 or 2004, and then stuck with it, got into it for the music, not for an excuse to dress "weird." It's because they are sentimentalists that at least one time got that secret message beamed through a.m., and then f.m., and then vinyl, and then disc, and then digital media and it hit so hard that it just stuck. Usually because of some combination of "The Ramones and..." Now, if you like what listening to this kind of music says about you, then frequently you look to express yourself through clothing as well, to continue spreading the message of who you are, such as, "I fucking love the Ramones so I will wear this leather jacket to express that!" Or, "I am rather aggressive and not to be meddled with, so I will wear this spike bracelet and these tough lookin' boots, and scowl at you!" Or, "I don't care for showers." And to me that is cool, but in that odd post 9-11 America, I was an aberration. So I kept it simple, a sweet brown suede coat and Vans shoes while my black leather and all-black Chucks sat in my room.
As I lay complacent, telling no one about themselves or why their taste in music sucked, music got worse. The bane of the underground, "emo" had creamed to the top and the lame inherited the earth. Their bland and whiny offerings became the new status-quo and their avatars stand as reps for "white" music, what most citizens then think is rock and roll. I had a vague inkling that that enraged me, the misrepresentation and underestimation, yet I did nothing. Like a comatose super-hero, waiting to hear the trigger word and resume my place in the Invisible College, I did nothing. Until with a little luck and some elbow grease and a whole lot of bravery, I triggered my own damn self.
Billy Frolic's parents had recently celebrated an anniversary, and Billy got to take the remainder of the booze home with him. Now, I was still a bit of a drunk at the time and was more than happy to help him drink all that hooch. Dee Dee must have been smiling down on me, because at the same time, Billy's then-fiance Betty had just gotten the "Freaks and Geeks" tv series on DVD, and we drink and watched and drank and watched, and finally "Noshing and Moshing."
I watched that, and like magic, I remembered, and said, "I ONLY LIKE PUNK ROCK."
Ari Wallach (TEAM HUMAN)
7 months ago