Written by Joey “Chicago” Walser (Devour The Day)
“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” – Hunter S. Thompson
Genesis (???) – Here are two stories about a beginning…
So, here we go…I am unsure what going back in time will actually bring up, what it will allow to swell and bubble to the surface. Slowly (turning the grinder like I was winding a clock back in time), I prepare myself to visit the history before my present reality. I’m like a blind man being asked to recant the years before he lost his sight. However accustomed I have become to the logistics of being an adult artist, it is bittersweet and difficult to transport myself to a time before innocence lost. Ignorance is bliss (Put me back in the Matrix. Blue pill please). That being said, I wouldn’t trade my journey with anyone else living or dead (well maybe, Phil Knight, “Just Do It”…billion dollars…boom…swoosh).
(Sorry, I’ll chill out with “side thought” parentheses)
I can still feel the carpet on my face — the coarse hairs of a living room floor, well-weathered by the traffic of a young, blue-collar family. I know that perfectly average beige color and its tiny curls as if there were Polaroids laid out before me now. I can feel the weight of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comforter over my head and the density of the air below it. The last collection of the night’s darkness still captured beneath in my blanket tent. I can still hear the muffled combination of my father’s voice belting out the Saturday chores (terrifying and amazing), and the mysterious floating melodies of a sound I was unsure of…
I woke up that morning physically and mentally, but also consciously. My young body strained not to let the light in, but my curiosity begged to decipher the noise coming through my father’s 1980’s home stereo. Yeah, I’m an ’80s kid. I lifted the blanket. Light and sound flooded in, and the muffled noise became clear. A voice, a lyric, and a perfect equation had drifted into my ears. I understood in a way I had never felt before. This was a story. This was a simple story about a boy falling for a girl. He saw her standing there. He was just 17. The feeling that came over me was warm, powerful, raw, and–complete. I had no idea I had just met my best friend around the age of 7.
This was my first beginning. Innocent…
Life pushes forward. In my head, I see a montage of a kid version of me moving from Florida to Chicago in the 5th grade. It’s really hard on the kid. He’s a fat kid. He’s a “get picked last” kind of kid. He’s a “hang out with his little brother” type of kid. He’s a “wet the bed” type of kid. It’s ok…laugh. I’d laugh, too.
The montage ends as the kid version of me walks up to his brand new middle school. 6th grade. Rebellion. Fire. Girls.
This is the second beginning…
The year is 1993 and I’m 11 years old. There is a “cool” table in the lunchroom, but I never sit there… ever. I’m awkward. My dad calls me a “tweenager.”
It’s fall in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. Have you seen Suburbia? It’s exactly like that, even though at that point, I’m obviously too young to realize that. Something perfectly ironic happens that changes my life forever.
My parents had decided that year to make a big deal about pumpkin-carving. It was our first real holiday since the family had gotten a full grip on being a “well-adjusted” Chicago-style family; we even had Blackhawks and Bulls STARTER jackets. We had gone out and each of the kids in the family and both parents had picked their own round orange canvas. We went home and each of us labored away on our carving. My sister was so little, and she was so proud of those pumpkins. To her, they were like trophies out in front of our house. A few nights later, somebody destroyed those pumpkins. They laid in pieces all over the front yard. I remember my little sister cried so hard; she was devastated. I tell you this because it ends up being that moment that leads me to my awakening, my musical enlightenment, and my salvation.
Tower Records record stores were so fucking awesome! They were huge, and had multiple floors — levels upon levels of dreams coming true. They had everything that had to do with every kind of music and it was all over the place. They had listening rooms and giant posters on the walls. They had rows and rows of music. Genres and genres, and on further into sub-genres, all out on display. Flashing lights and sounds coming from every direction. It was beautiful. I was Charlie in the chocolate factory every time I was in there.
I moved quickly through the aisles, mumbling each marker as I passed the corresponding section underneath. “Rock,” “Jazz,” “Rap.” I remember one of the sections had a hand drawn label above it. “Local Bands,” it said. If you were in a band at all, you were already living my dream. But I thought, ‘these guys, in these bands, were from around MY hometown!’ These bands were tangible. My eyes scanned the shelving, desperate for something to stand out. Four rows down, in the center, staring right back at me was a record that would change my life. I slowly picked it up. I felt wrong for holding it, after everything that had happened only nights before. Maybe it was destiny that something so bad could lead me to something so good. Maybe what had happened that Halloween was meant to be? I read the band name out loud as if I were the only kid in the store…
“The Smashing Pumpkins,” I said to myself, followed immediately by a thought that I would have many, many times afterwards…‘My mom is going to hate this!’
This was the beginning of “My Rock and Roll Journey.” Stay tuned for Chapter 2 to see how the story unfolds from here…
My Rock and Roll Journey: Tony Housh – Seasons After – Chapter 1
My Rock and Roll Journey: Sal Costa – Smashing Satellites – Chapter 1
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