Technically it’s the 6th, it’s 1:40AM. Actually, I did go to the Limelight yesterday. London After Midnight were excellent. And Voltaire and Sunshine Blind were good too. I can’t put all this down. Yes, London After Midnight. Their song “Spider and the Fly” has been haunting me since the show…
I don’t remember how I ended up at the London After Midnight show after Mom was “dead set against it” but it probably involved staying over Claudia’s house and neglecting to tell my parents where I would really be that night (most likely, since they didn’t want me out so late on a Thursday night).
I probably used a similar excuse to see Morgan a day or two before that. Of course, I couldn’t write about that in my journal in case my parents discovered the truth, but the song I mentioned was probably intentional. I searched the lyrics for a clue and wouldn’t you know it, I found one. Here’s an excerpt:
Come over here and let me tell you something
nothing ever comes of nothing
we pay a price for all our choices made
come along now and take my hand
I’ll lead you to a promised land
the morning after it may never come again
never be the same…
Morgan’s friend lived way out in Queens and it took several subway and buses to get me there (if you’re not familiar with NYC, there’s a lot of sprawl and it can take 90 minutes or longer to get from one borough to another). There was a lot of snow on the ground and I was nervous about traveling so far out to see a boy I hardly knew, but I made it there without incident. Besides, it wasn’t the first time I traveled a long distance to see a boy and it sure wouldn’t be the last (heavy-handed foreshadowing much?).
The friend he was staying with was a petite goth girl with a short black bob and disturbed eyes. I don’t even remember her real name, so let’s just call her Kathy. The three of us spent some time in Kathy’s attic room, listening to CDs. We listened to more the more ethereal/darkwave/coldwave side of the goth music spectrum. I remember it was the first time I heard This Mortal Coil and Lycia. Very slow, beautifully dreary, atmospheric.
Morgan looked different without the make-up but still attractive. Pale, light eyes, pointy nose and chin.
The three of us didn’t talk much. Kathy closed her eyes while the music played and Morgan and I got a bit, um, handsy. After a little while, Kathy went downstairs, leaving the two of us alone for a while.
Morgan and I fooled around for a little while and I swear at one point he told me he was “immune to human stimulus.” It was odd to hear at the time, but deliciously hilarious to remember now. It also provided a lot of fodder for my subsequent poetry and prose (I might’ve incorporated Morgan into a serial killer character in one of my stories).
Kathy must’ve come back up and seen us… partially clothed. Morgan went downstairs to talk to her and when he came back up, he said that she was upset. I took that as my cue to leave. I don’t know what the story was between them, I could only guess.
I do know that at the London After Midnight show, when I saw the two of them inside the club, Kathy stared daggers at me and pulled Morgan away in the opposite direction. I didn’t speak to him at all that night and didn’t know anyone else at the concert. I tried to focus on the music and did enjoy a lot of the show, but I was uncomfortable. I couldn’t entirely shake off the rejection of being shunned like that by the two of them.
Kind of appropriate that one of the albums we listened to that day in Kathy’s room was called A Day in the Stark Corner.
Ever since the summer I’ve been very interested in Nathan. I talk about him so much to my friends that I was really surprised he wasn’t mentioned more in my journal. From everything I’ve seen (and heard), so far he seems like a lovely person. According to him (and this wasn’t even bragging) he has the best Cure collection in the world (700+ records at one time. Now down to 500+ records).
His new obsession was (is?) Belly, but he got to know the band pretty well (backstage, all-access) and the challenge wore off. I visit him at Record Rabbit every week or two. The nice part is I’ve actually made some progress with the man. He gave me his number a while back (in case I got any ideas for his Belly ‘zine “Dusted,” though Anita believes that was just an excuse) and we’ve spoken once. I enjoyed talking to him and always look forward to my visits to the store.
Last time I was there was Wednesday. It was the first time he asked me personal questions (about school and such). By now, he must know I like him and if he does, he appears not to mind. Every couple of weeks I feel stuck and wonder how to take things further and what should be my next step. But then I’ll go back to Record Rabbit, have another pleasant chat with Nathan and I’ll be just fine with taking things slow. I do want to be friends with him at least, so I’m going to try hard not to f@$k things up.
I did want to develop a friendship with Nathan, but in the process I was of course developing a crush on him, too. I mean, he worked in a record store, was an obsessed fan with good music taste, wore lots of black clothes like me, and was reasonably cute. There was also the Sassy magazine connection, which felt like it might be some kind of hint from the universe (it wasn’t). Other than the (10 year?) age difference and the fact that he never expressed any romantic interest in me, there was no reason not to like him, right?
There were three tricky aspects to the Nathan situation:
1. Since I knew where he worked, it was necessary to space out my visits so as not to come across as stalker-y. I tried to limit them to no more than a couple of times a month and sometimes wasn’t there, which was always a buzzkill (you’d think I’d be resourceful enough to figure out his work schedule after a while, but I wouldn’t know if for a long time).
2. Record Rabbit was a store aimed at collectors, so most of its stock was rare and more expensive than the records and CDs I usually bought. In fact, the most I ever spent on a single piece of music was at that store ($40 for a 10″ promotional single of U2’s lemon printed on yellow vinyl; hopefully, it’s still in a box of leftover collectibles at Mom’s place). I could get away with not buying anything once in a while, but I didn’t want to be a deadbeat, so most of the time I made sure to get something small. Luckily, they did have odds and ends, so my collection of Cure postcards expanded exponentially during that time.
3. Nathan was an all around chatty and congenial guy and when he spoke with someone he gave them their full attention. It could be easy to mistake his sociable nature for flirtation, especially when getting him to talk about topics he was passionate about, like the Cure. And it was that level of passion that made him attractive to me, even if was aimed at collecting music memorabilia. As a teenager, few things were more important than music, so being around someone rooted so deeply in it intrigued me and maybe made me wonder if I was looking at a potential future version of myself (spoiler alert: I wasn’t).
I love that I write about “taking things slow” as if there was an actual courtship in progress or I could orchestrate one if I so chose. I think I truly believed that something could happen if I was careful and strategic. And my strategy was benign to start with, but would get a little more crazy down the line…
A crazy story that is the sum of its parts (two of them). Anita and I go to Record Rabbit frequently. There is this very nice guy who works there. His name is Nathan and he is obsessed with The Cure. He’s very nice and we sometimes chat. He recently came back from Belgium where he saw his 41st and 42nd Cure shows.
Then there is this article I read in Sassy years ago about a guy obsessed with (duh) The Cure. I remember this story so well because I kept thinking “wow, could I ever get like that?” and then when I went through my U2 phase I did get like that so I thought of the article more. Well tonight I dug out the magazine while on the phone with Anita and what do you know: Nathan Greenblatt is the name of the Cure fan. My mind was reeling. I was blown away.
It didn’t take much to blow my mind back then. A well-placed coincidence could do it. Before we get to the musical addiction side of things, let’s talk Sassy.
For those unfamiliar, Sassy was a magazine for young women helmed by Jane Pratt, an editor-in-chief who always gave off the vibe of being your smart older sister. She later went on to start Jane magazine and currently runs xoJane.com, both also great, but Sassy was where it all began.
Back in the 90s, I read a number of teen magazines, including YM and Seventeen, and there was always a cookie-cutter aspect to them, encouraging you to look and dress and be a certain way. Sassy did not have the homogeneity of these other publications, and not only showed more diversity in the types of models and content it featured, but dealt with teen issues in a no-nonsense way and promoted self-acceptance, instead of setting unattainable glossy standards. It’s the only magazine aimed at my demographic I read back then that didn’t make me feel bad about myself.
From time to time, I came across a story in the magazine that particularly resonated with me. The one about obsessed fans was such a piece.
There was always something about that kind of music fanaticism I found utterly fascinating. The idea of devoting your time and disposable income to dedicate yourself to a particular singer or band was insane, the stuff that restraining orders are made of. And yet, it’s the kind of madness I could buy into. There was something strangely admirable, like being a monk or disciple, except instead of Buddha or God, you had Bono or Trent Reznor or Robert Smith or another dubious object of worship. And I think that’s what it came down to, that level of infatuation, that passion that bordered on the mentally deranged stemmed from music being the closest thing many of us had to religion. Song lyrics were our scriptures and concert halls our churches.
Meeting someone like Nathan was like meeting a true disciple. As extreme as my own musical obsession(s) may have been, this guy was even more devoted and hardcore. So, coincidence or no, I felt an immediate connection to him and truly believed fate had crossed our paths for a reason.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was also pretty cute…
“But you were so different
You had to say no
When those empty fools
Tried to change you and claim you
for the lair of their ordinary world.” – Morrissey
Well this log isn’t the only thing I’ve been ignoring (try all of my writing, except for letters). I did start one story but we’ll see how it goes. But this just makes me feel guilty so I will talk about happier things. For example:
I SPOKE TO TRENT REZNOR.
The story will be told without exclamation points. His number was listed in a ‘zine so I dialed it on my Dad’s cellular phone. This woman picked up and I asked for Trent. She called out,
“Trent it’s for you.”
And he came on the phone saying something like “Trent here. Hello,” in this booming voice.
I began breathlessly talking about how I got his number from a ‘zine and that I didn’t call him to tell him how cool he was or how much I loved his music, but to talk about Clive Barker.
He said something like “can you call back tomorrow?” and the line was silent. He probably hung up but the battery on the cellular phone was running out so that could have been it too.
I called again tonight and (to my immense surprise) got the machine. Of course I did not leave a message.
Okay on to other things. Two words: OPERATION BLANKENSHIP. Silly name yes, but the gears are turning and it should proceed rather smoothly (oh let’s hope let’s hope). No exclamation points there either, I’m not in the mood for them and besides I’m writing in obscure terms.
So I called Tim last night. Very cool chat as usual.
Saw a free concert They Might Be Giants gave in Prospect Park. How fun was it. The conga we all did (at the band’s insistance) was a blast. Also saw Adrian there and we stood listening to the last part of the show occasionally talking or having strangers come up to him, commenting on his appearance.
Gotta go call Anita now.
It figures that my first dropped call on a “cellular phone” would also be during the one and only time I got to speak with Trent Reznor. Except that it’s more likely Trent hung up on me. Which is only slightly less embarrassing than the time I interrupted Conan O’Brian talking on a pay phone to get his autograph (also some time in the mid-90s; Anita said he was visibly annoyed).
So, wow. Where to even begin. I do remember the ‘zine that regularly posted phone numbers for celebrities. It was called Popsmear and I’m sure was responsible for pissing off quite a few stars (if I remember correctly, the ‘zine published angry letters from the celebs themselves occasionally). Usually it was just people like Lisa Loeb or Juliana Hatfield, so there was no urge for me to pick up the phone. Until I say Trent’s listed. Then I just couldn’t resist, especially when I saw it was a New Orleans area code, where he lived at the time.
I still didn’t think it would actually be Mr. Nine Inch Nails himself until I heard his voice on the line. It had an understated aggression to it, unless it was mere irritability at having a strange teenage girl from Brooklyn calling him up to randomly chat about an author we both liked. I can’t really blame him. What did I expect, that he’d drop everything to discuss the Books of Blood with me and then fall in love with me over the phone and eventually marry me? Um…
As for “Operation Blankenship”… I left out a few of the journal entries mentioning him, but I was still crushing on my broody penpal Tim Wunderlich and we were having more frequent phone chats. I was determined to visit him in the obscure town he lived in surrounded by closed-minded folks and finally meet him in person. I don’t know what kind of elaborate plot I was concocting to get parental permission to take a bus out to see him, but I would find a way to make it happen.
And I still remember doing the conga at that They Might Be Giants show, and was actually recounting that story to someone the other week. I was never a big TMBG fan, but they were a fun band to see live. I don’t remember Adrian being there, though. Undoubtedly I felt really cool hanging out with a punk, especially one that I had smooched. That actually may have been the last time I saw him.
(Years later, when I watched Spike Lee’s film Summer of Sam, Adrian Brody’s punk character reminded me so much of that cute punk boy I peripherally knew in high school. Which is why I call him Adrian in this blog. So you can stop losing sleep over that one.)
Wow, I almost felt like I was starting a letter (I must comment on how annoyed I am that I haven’t gotten any real letters in a while. I just know I’ll get about 8 in the same day). But now isn’t the time to be sarcastic because it was a beautiful day. Carnival was great even though all I did was sit there and talk and sign people’s yearbooks and sit there trying not to melt under the sun. It was great.
Then (w/Anita) on to Tower Records in the village to see a free concert by Catherine Wheel. Very good they were*, bought the album then & there (I love the single “Waydown” so much, I wouldn’t mind if it was that song over and over). Got yet another set list which was signed by all the band members this time (very nice people, a British band).
For anyone joining the game late, I was a big penpal nerd in the ’90s and continued to be so in my later high school years (I’ll spare you additional gushing about how superior paper letters were to electronic correspondence—this time!—and direct you to this earlier blog post for more background). Inevitably, no matter how I tried to space out my letter-writing, I’d usually get responses in bulk, despite the letters coming from all over the world.
Carnival was an annual event that I imagine most schools have a version of (booths with games, food, etc.) so I’ll spare you details, but mostly because that particular year I didn’t do much more than “sit there” and call it “great” (can’t you tell I was an aspiring writer from that vivid description alone?).
Before delving into the show itself, a note for the younger readers: once upon a time there were these places called “record stores” where they sold music in physical form, on vinyl, cassette and these small plastic discs called CDs. Some of these larger shops, like Tower Records, hosted musical artists from time to time to do in-store signings, and sometimes the bands would also perform a 20-minute mini-concert to promote their latest album.
Anita and I had a previous adventure in New Jersey seeing Sponge at a different Tower Records, but it was nice to be able to attend another in-store closer to home.
To this day, Catherine Wheel is one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen. For those unfamiliar, their sound is a shoegaze/rock mix with a dash of dirty guitars (I initially wrote “grunge” but couldn’t live myself for labeling them that way). They also sounded better in person than they did on any of their albums (one of the few bands I could say the same for is Pearl Jam).
Catherine Wheel had some brief MTV success with the single for “Waydown” but never made it really big like—Radiohead big. (Fun fact: lead singer Rob Dickinson is the cousin of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.)
It’s a shame they weren’t able to find a wider audience, because I think they put out of lot of solid music and put on great concerts. And while it was nice to see them perform at smaller venues, they deserved more wide-spread attention and success than they ever received. The album I bought referenced in this entry, Happy Days, is pretty good, but Chrome and Adam and Eve are even better and some of the most underrated music to come out of the 1990s.
* No idea why I decided to sound like Yoda there.
Radiohead. Ah Radiohead.
Wearing the t-shirt as I write this. We got to Tramps fairly early (20-30 minutes). There were already people lined up against the partition (that metal thing between the stage and us with a gap to catch crowd surfers and such) so I was at least going to be in the second row. Then a guy in front of me left and there I was, holding on to the metal bar with an unblocked view of the stage.
David Gray (the opener) wasn’t too bad; played a little too long, though.
They made announcements of upcoming shows at Tramps and when they said Afghan Whigs I positively freaked out.
Radiohead came out later, started out w/”The Bends.” I was between [facing] Thom and gorgeous guitarist Jonny Greenwood. They were great. I didn’t even notice the absence of “Stop Whispering” until Anita mentioned it on the way home. “Anyone Can Play Guitar” was wonderful.
I asked a roadie walking around onstage if they gave out drumsticks and he said only if they’re broken. Then he went looking for one w/a flashlight around the drum kit. He came back, trying to hold the drumstick by his side so as to hide it and said, “sh…” as he handed it over to me. This guy next to me (not the set list guy) asked if he could touch it and I let him.
Then Anita and I just walked around Tramps a little until I spotted an Afghan Whigs poster. I ran over and started spazzing about how much I had to go. This really stoned blond guy who was standing there jumped up and took the poster down, handing it to me. I thanked him profusely for it and then he started saying how he wanted it. No matter, it’s mine, I’m going to hang it up along with my set list which was autographed but I’m getting to that.
As we kept walking (still inside) I spotted a roadie who had hit his head earlier while setting up for Radiohead. I started talking to him and he was really nice (had a very cool accent), pretty cute too. He let it slip that the band would be coming back here in about 8 weeks. Then Anita saw Jonny on stage and I rushed over calling his name.
He came down to the gap between the gate and the stage and shook our hands. He’s quite beautiful, amazing bone structure. He signed my set list. Then I spotted the bassist, his brother Colin, all the way on the other side. He signed my set list too.
It was a glorious night, a most amazing concert experience. Hope I have this much luck at the Whigs show (please oh please let Greg be very social and hang out afterwards).
I’m going to put the drumstick (not broken at all but sort of gnawed-at looking) near Trent’s guitar pick. The set list will be hung up near the autographed Sponge flat. I’ll be able to open up my own museum w/all this stuff soon!
What can I possibly add to this thorough account?
I have to admit, I still hold it as a point of pride that I got to see Radiohead so early on in their career, at such a small venue. Total capacity for Tramps was around 1,000 people but it felt even smaller that that, like you were watching a show in somebody’s basement. But then to be in the first row of people, too, was just incredible. I don’t think I ever saw a band perform at a better venue in the ’90s, at least in terms of intimacy.
And it was definitely memorable show in terms of getting not only a great piece of memorabilia but having two members of the band sign it, too. And it’s awesome to be able to have an account of the songs they performed that night. The letters at the bottom stood for the four songs they performed as the encore: “You”, “Bulletproof..I Wish I Was”*, and “Street Spirit.”
I don’t think I ever could have predicted Radiohead would have become as big as they were. I would have guessed they’d go the way of Belly or Catherine Wheel, moderately successful for a time, a decent amount of MTV and radio play for a couple of years and then a fade into obscurity. I certainly wouldn’t have expected their music to take such an odd and esoteric turn after that concert and yet still continue to grow their fan base.
In any event, if I could have created a blueprint for the perfect concert when I was 17-years-old, seeing Radiohead at Tramps would be the closest thing to matching it.
* I only just noticed that the song title is missing an extra period in the ellipsis and I’m trying not to let that drive me crazy.
I got Marilyn Manson’s CD, which is great (listened to it twice in two days). The music isn’t half as scary as they are visually. In fact the song lyrics are very interesting. A sample:
“You want me to save the world
I’m just a little girl
pseudo-morals work real well
on the talk shows for the weak
but your selective judgements
and good guy badges
don’t mean a f$%# to me.”
That one is from “Get Your Gunn,” one of the best songs on Portrait of An American Family.
Right now I’m listening to the Cure (Head on the Door).
I have some random lines for poetry. Might as well put them down here… my thoughts collide with tomorrow, wait, I had more. It’s not as inspiring writing on ordinary paper. Plus I have the Cure blasting in my ear so that doesn’t help much.
Hey, today is Neil’s birthday. He turns the big 14. Haven’t been hanging out with Claudia that much lately. I don’t know if we’ve been actively ignoring each other or what. Oh well, I’m not all that upset, people drift away and sometimes it’s a good and natural thing (Geez, I sound like a shrink. What is my problem?).
I remember seeing Marilyn Manson open up for Nine Inch Nails to a hostile/indifferent crowd. Before the lead singer became the pseudo-subversive spokesman for disillusioned alterna-goth youth, he was still in Trent Reznor’s shadow, being booed at by teenagers waiting for the main event. In light of that, I felt like I was supporting an underdog when buying Portrait of an American Family. The shock value was obvious but some of the songs were catchy to me (and yes, I was a sucker for some of those lyrics; hey, I was the target audience to a degree). When I went to college and the second Marilyn Manson album was released, the band became huge, and I lost interest, casting them out of my musical canon. By that point, I was cultivating more obscure musical (let’s say, “organically goth”) interests and was quick to disdain a celebrity that was so obviously pandering to a certain type of demographic.
But since, at the time of this entry, I was still part of that demographic, let’s take a moment to cringe at the “random lines of poetry” bit. Just… oy. The “ordinary paper” refers to the fact that I used to draft a lot of poetry on top of photos in magazines; but yeah, let’s blame the “ordinary paper” and loud Cure music for not being able to craft a better line of poetry.
As for Claudia and Neil, I was pretty much over my inappropriate crush on the latter, and continuously uncomfortable with the former. Aside from my irritation at her becoming what I perceived as a phony punk, Claudia was getting more involved with drugs, which was a bigger problem for me. I realize a lot of teenagers experiment with drugs, but in high school, apart from alcohol, I was pretty much a goodie goodie. And it wasn’t just the fact that she was smoking weed more; I witnessed her becoming a different person as a result of it. She made foolish choices, her school work declined, and she behaved more like a spacey degenerate. The sharp, funny girl that I initially became friends with was evolving into someone I couldn’t relate to anymore and didn’t have an interest in knowing.
But who knows, maybe Claudia saw me as a square, evolving into a “spooky” girl who wrote cheesy poetry. Maybe she would view my buying that Marilyn Manson album as a foolish choice.