Friday, December 23, 2011

Certified Classics - The McFarren Edition

Over at the One Lucky Guitar site Matt and the likely lads got a little something going called the Certified Classics. It's fun reading and gets you thinking about your own classics. I love music and really love the music I love, so I got to thinking, then I got to writing.

Honorable Mentions
10. The Ramones – The Ramones
9. The Cure – Disintegration
8. The Clash – London Calling
7. Social Distortion – Social Distortion
6. Rancid – And Out Come the Wolves

5. Led Zeppelin - Houses Of The Holy

My parents were big into music, like a lot of people, and I remember most times in my house (through all the moves) some kind of music going on. My parents had records. I remember being about five when they taught me how to gently set the needle down and listen for the smooth, crackling of the right placement.

When I was in 7th grade I rediscovered my parent’s record collection as I, along with pubescent youth all over America got heavily into the 1960’s, realized the absolute GOLD MINE that was in the cabinet under the stereo. I couldn’t care less about trove of alcohol there, but the other side, snuggled up next to each other was record after record to make my friends jealous. Sly and the Stones and Jimi and, you got it, Zeppelin. Three classic records. Led Zeppelin III, IV and Houses Of The Holy. Of course my parents loved that I suddenly was ravenous for these vinyl gems and told me stories that went along with each record. My dad told about seeing them in Germany, and how they kinda limped along, not really doing much until four songs in when they got to Stairway To Heaven. “That,” he said, “Is when they REALLY kicked it in!” dropping down into an awkward I’ve-Never-Played-An-Actual-Guitar Air Guitar Solo.

I discovered the joy of music. Of sharing passion and love and the stories about and around music then, at that weird time when you shouldn’t be having such moments between your parents and your middle school self.

And though, my mother kind of dismissed HotH, saying it just wasn’t as good as IV, that’s the one I connected with. That’s one of the ones in my house now that I play, loud and rowdy in the summer while we grill and my own kids get down to it.

These have to be rated to together for me. A veritable trifecta of musical power, revealed to great effect and awe, as young sixth-grade McFarren rolls down a hill, falls on already skinned knees and decides to call it a day a read the new “magazine” he has at home on his new favorite past time. It was on newsprint, still black and white then, and named Thrasher and it’s pages revealed the true glory of the Southern Californian lifestyle of skateboarding and the underground culture that came with it: graffiti, indie art, and punk rock.

So when my Grandma took me out for my annual birthday shopping spree, I, for the first time, decided to forego the toy stores and instead drug her around the record stores until I found tapes of some of the bands I had read about and knew I needed to be truly like my heroes. I came home with those three tapes and, truly, they blew me away. I only knew radio pop and classic rock and this was so much different! This was another world. It was angry and political and raw. And, yeah, I didn’t understand much of it for a long time but it hit me in my core and never let me go. My parents were so cool about it, too. They didn’t try to keep it out of my hands, while obscenities screamed out of the speaker, they just told me to keep it in my room. It opened so many doors to great music and art and still does. It helped me to be who I was, who I needed to be and helped shape me into the man I am.

3. Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual

Probably not the Jane’s album that makes most people’s lists because it was so all over the place and out there, right at their most commercial friendly time. But, to me, it was art. Art with a capital A. It was rockin’ and raucous and rebellious. It was rebellious in the chances it took, the stories it told, the visions it cast. It blew me away. I brought it home, loaned to me by my art bud, Brian Frieburger and went to my room and turned it up until my parents came home. I emerged from my room, not quite knowing what had happened but that it was good. The rest of high school had this record as it’s soundtrack and “Classic Girl” is still one of my all time favorite love songs.

2. Jawbreaker – 24-Hour Revenge Therapy

So there was this girl. This girl was amazing. I mean, we “met” (we actually knew each before that) at a Tilt show at Club 13 when it was on Wells right before the bridge. She was up on stage, standing against the wall because her and her friend had gotten to know Cinder Block before hand. And, dang!, if she wasn’t the cutest thing. And, then, dang!, if she didn’t put the perfect disc into my hands. Raw, tortured, angry, and romantic. The love songs for everything unrequited; for extremely late art school nights; for passionate make out sessions behind the couch and stolen kisses in the Sci-Fi section; for screaming along to in your car while dreaming of the bigger world.

Matt wanted lyrics to break his heart, well, brother, give a listen.

1. Pearl Jam – 10

Stop me if heard this one: A Matt Kelley walks into an art room and yells across the room: “Hey, Jeremy! I got this new band who has a song about you!” Then he walks over to out art teacher and, in the way that Matt can, convinces him to put on the stereo so we can listen while we work. And, when, that song comes on, the one I share a name with, and the chorus rides in, I look and Matt and he gives me that nod and that smile. You know the one.

Matt’s probably moved on form Pearl Jam, chasing down Bob and Bruce, but I haven’t. I mean, I’ve had affairs along the way, dallying with punk and hardcore, short flirtings with early Emo and Krishna-core, and the live-in mistresses that are punk and reggae, but I always come back to PJ.

It was the sound of my first true heartbreak. It was the sound of the end of high school, gathered a fire with my best friends. It was sound of Freshman year art school and digging though bootleg bins to find the best of the discs. It was the sound of letting go of a hellacious semester of work, shared live with my wife. It’s powerful, anthemic rock-n roll for the ages. I mean, Alive, seriously, doesn’t have all the trappings of one of the greatest Rock songs of all time, you truly haven’t given in and listened to it live. It’s got it all: a hook, a chorus, a slow build with face melting guitars that keeps going until it all crashes to the end celebrating the fact that we’re all still alive.

I’m sure there’s a lot of great thinkers about rock-n-roll who will malign my ramblings, but they would be missing the point. Sometimes you just need to stop thinking and feel.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Every year I draw our Christmas card and we send it out as a postcard. When we were first married we were poor and postcard stamps and copy machines were the cheapest route. Then I started stumbling on to all these great cards from some of my cartooning heroes, so I decided to make it a tradition. I've had some bad ones along the way, but it's fun for me every year and I've been told some people actually look forward to getting them and adding them to their collection. That is always guaranteed to bring out the "Aw, shucks!" in me.