I Could Have Been A Brain Surgeon… But Sonic Youth Happened
Excerpt from Alex’s SFCC exclusive blog. Read the full version here
In memory of Glenn Branca, one of the most incredible musical geniuses of all time. His loss will be greatly felt forever
There are moments in your existence that you can easily point out as the beginning of what would become a succession of very bad life decisions. And trust me, it can start earlier than we think or would like to admit. With a little bit of perspective, you can identify those moments so clearly that it’s quite difficult to see anything else when you look back for answers or clues to explain what went wrong, what could have possibility derailed the course of your already so brilliant journey. Well, if I think as my 13-year-old self was thinking back in the days… So let’s go back down memory lane, which seems to have become the mantra for “Out For a Spin” – and somehow a cheaper kind of therapy for me…! Anyway, here’s the story:
I was 13 going on 14. I was already creating trouble (and troubled). I was dealing with high school life like my friends were dealing their time in juvenile facilities. For me, school was pretty boring on the good days and awfully depressing the rest of the time. But somehow, I have always managed to be a A-grade student, which is strange by all accounts considering that I’ve had to deal with a light form of dyslexia from as far as I can remember and that I have never attended the same school for 2 years in a row until high school, sometimes having to change schools 2 or 3 times within the same year due to my folks’ financial instability. Different cities, different schools, different bullies, different worlds… Tough times for a kid trying to fit in, to blend in.
Anyhow, I always found myself being integrated into those “special” classes supposedly assembled to offer a more advanced academic program to the students who had a little more learning abilities (or more time to do their homework!) than the others. This became utterly weird for me in high school, as I was not only the sole student in those groups who didn’t understand the concept of being dressed cool, of having European summer vacations, or even what it meant for a family to have 2 cars (every car my parents owned were as different as the clothes I was wearing compared to the others… trust me!). So that was my so-called life; elementary school was being beaten up every time the last bell rang, no matter which new school I was attending, and high school was… well, complicated to say the least 😉
So what do all those school details and information have to do with “Out For a Spin”, you may ask? Well, it’s a good question. You can already blame that strange blog on my dyslexia and the fact that music was pretty much the only way I had to feel emotions, to let go of the world I felt trapped in or to dream away from the reality I was in. Music always had a very fundamental place in my family, from Elvis to Black Sabbath, Credence Clearwater Revival to Sade, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, up to Hendrix, The Kinks, Hank Williams, Bowie and some old school rock n roll one-hit wonders. It played in the radio in our tiny little living room or it was blasted in the broken speakers of the beat-up family car we may have had. But as everything being part of your environment, I didn’t realize how important music was for me until it became essential to me.
I was already into punk rock, post-punk new wave, early straight edge hardcore… I was an avid reader of Trasher Mag. So from the already very hard time I had to connect with my other classmates socially speaking, my interests were pretty far from whatever people were into at the time. Until school decided to make an experience, which was to get the advanced students with regular students 2 years older for chemistry classes. Let’s say the experience has been an amazing success. Well, except for one particular student who connected greatly with the “regular” aspect of that class, especially with one guy who not only was 2 years older than us but who had to do that very same academic year AGAIN.
So, first day of chemistry. I sat at a table in the back. A guy arrived late, was most definitely out-of-his-mind high, sat right beside me, laid his head on the table and slept the whole class. That circus kept going for a couple of weeks. Until then, no real interaction except for the usual “hey man”, “sup dude”, and other eloquent dialect we were all into. But one day, the guy looked at me. “You’re into Minor Threat… Dope. I like those guys.” First time anyone acknowledged one of my “different” t-shirts in years (everyone was wearing whatever designer brand was cool – which wasn’t that cool, especially when you didn’t have the money to buy any of it… anyway!) So from that moment on, we became chemistry class buddies. He was lending me tapes (yeah I was really in advance on the current hype stuff!)… Bands I had never heard before, from Suicide, Swans, Skinny Puppy, Milton Babbitt’s weird musical theory, Harry Partch, Glenn Branca and so many more… Noise, no wave… What? He must have thought I was cute talking about The Cure, The Clash, The Ramones, The Velvet… He was so deeply into underground stuff, and he was even going to see gigs in New York City with one of his older brothers. WHAT?!? That guy was an answer to my prayers – well, if angels can be crazy stoned at times…