Saturday, February 18, 2017

George Martin's Fictitious Memos to The Beatles on 28 April 67 and 7 November 67


Date: 28 April 1967
From: George Martin
To: John, Paul, George and Ringo
cc: Brian
Re: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Before anything else, I would like to thank all of you for the past few months in the studio.  Past few months?  The past few years.  All our lives have changed irreversibly for the better.  But since you decided last year as a band to stop touring and dedicate your artistic energy solely to producing albums, the growth you’ve undergone as recording artists has been extraordinary.  I recognize this is a “once in a lifetime” experience that we will all look back on as the start of a new age: of recording, of listening to pop music, of what is possible to achieve through the humble act of making music.

That said, this memorandum is meant not so much as a request but as a plea.  I beseech you, please, do not release this album.  I know we’ve just finished recording, the cover artwork is already in the making, the machinery behind all this is already rolling.  Just as last year saw the release of only Revolver, I would ask that we put out only one album this year.  And that it not be Sgt. Pepper’s in its current form.

While I recognize I may no longer be employed as your producer after today, I find it much more important that I state my case against this collection of songs.  Don’t get me wrong.  I can see what will happen if we put out this album now.  You will be heralded as the most innovative, talented rock band that ever existed.  The album will sell millions of copies.  It will surely cement your legend for decades, if not centuries to come.  What started to grow with Revolver will reach full fruition with Sgt. Pepper’s.

But it’s just not good enough.  What I propose is that we keep the following tracks:  Sgt. Pepper’s, With a Little Help My Friends, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Mr. Kite and A Day in the Life.  The rest of the album, we should relegate to potential solo projects, b-sides and/or future album filler.  I will first offer my logic to keeping these tracks.

Simply stated, these tracks represent a new paradigm.  I should also add that we need to include Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane on this album.  Minus A Day in the Life, these tracks would make an excellent Side One in whatever order we would choose.  Gentlemen, we are on to something new here.  We’re taking that untraveled high road first referenced in Tomorrow Never Knows and expanding on it greatly.  I’m not quite sure what has gotten into you, particularly you, John.  The lyrics for your songs are astonishing.  The arrangements you and Paul have hummed to me for orchestration, horns and background vocals are wildly inventive, as are the backwards recordings, sound effects, varied tape speeds and creatively miked instruments.  We’ve explored the boundaries of the recording studio as no one has done before, and we’ve brought back results that are not just innovative but are also inspired.

This means we need to lose Getting Better, Fixing a Hole, She’s Leaving Home, Within You/Without You, When I’m Sixty Four, Lovely Rita, Good Morning, Good Morning and Sgt. Pepper’s Reprise.

Paul, I recognize the enormous risk I’m taking here as most of these are “your” songs.  While we’ve all worked on them and added our individual touches, you brought these songs to the studio and have the clearest vision of how they should sound.  I will give my reasons for each track not reaching the higher level we have been working on routinely the past few months.

Getting Better, Fixing a Hole and Lovely Rita are all good pop songs.  Just that.  Good.  Not incredible.  They hearken back to the sound you were creating on Rubber Soul and refining on Revolver.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but the line in Getting Better about spousal abuse is awkward.  It serves no purpose other than to embarrass you, whether it’s true or just a line you’ve placed in a song.  Fixing a Hole is passable and reasonably “trippy” in that higher context, but it’s just not exceptional.  Sgt. Pepper’s Reprise is superfluous and only serves as filler.  Lovely Rita, I would encourage you to save for a solo project.

She’s Leaving Home is Eleanor Rigby light.  Paul, I love this direction you’re taking.  I loved arranging the orchestra for this track.  But we’re repeating ourselves, to lesser effect.  I would encourage you to undertake a side project of solely orchestral tracks, which I would gladly produce and arrange.

When I’m Sixty-Four is interesting, but not a direction we should be taking.  Paul, I could easily see you doing two solo albums in the coming years, one the orchestral album I’ve already noted, and the other an album of music-hall tracks much like this.  I would encourage you to not perform this kind of music within the context of "The Beatles. " I can see the discomfort with the other band members when playing on these tracks, although they would be loath to admit it.  I apologize if I’m over-stepping my boundaries.

George, that brings me to Within You, Without You.  I admire and respect the path you’re taking with eastern mysticism.  Love You To was nice, but as with Sixty-Four, we’re repeating ourselves.  I encourage you to explore this direction more fully.  But not on a Beatles album.  I would suggest a joint album recorded with Ravi Shankar where you both trade songs back and forth, sharing and exchanging aspects of both your musical cultures.  I suspect this would be a massive success in its own rite, open your music to new cultures and possibly new parts of the world.  I will also forward you the number for Joe Boyd, an American producer in London I know who’s starting to work with British folk artists.  We had been discussing your use of sitar on Norwegian Wood and Love You to, and he sensed a connection between this instrument and centuries old Irish folk songs.  This would be an avenue well worth both of you exploring.

John, Good, Good Morning is simply an average song, despite those wonderful barnyard animal effects we created in the studio.  Again, gentlemen, all these tracks are good.  We can use them in the future to pad out albums if necessary or as b-sides.  A year ago, I would have thrown my arms around these songs and been over-joyed with your creative development.  But you set the bar much higher on Revolver, and we’re presented with the opportunity to place it even higher with this album.  In my professional opinion, and as an almost fatherly figure in your musical growth, we’re just over halfway there on an album that would stand as the greatest recording of all time.

Paul, a word on Brian Wilson and Pet Sounds.  I'm just not hearing it.  Yes, I am hearing it on Wouldn't It Be Nice, Sloop John B and God Only Knows.  To a lesser effect on Caroline No and I'm Waiting for the Day.  The rest of the album is average, at best.  The production sounds flat, in that way all current American pop sounds just a little off.  (Wilson has recorded what has to be the single worst harmonica sound in the history of recorded music; John, it makes your foray into this instrument on Love Me Do sound like Little Walter.)  Funny, they have better recording equipment than we do, yet we're blowing their doors off.  Hail, Brittania! 

But seriously, you're not competing with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys; they're inhaling our fumes.  Never mind that it takes a Spectorian assembly of studio musicians to achieve what we do with four men.  The Beach Boys were brilliant, and I'd suggest that Mike Love, callous as he may be, was right about "not f*cking with the formula."  They captured something pure and vital about America for a good four years, and they've moved on, but nowhere near as well as we have.  "Good Vibrations" was brilliant, too, and that song did have me worried.  But an insider at Capitol has forwarded an acetate of their sessions on a new album called Smile.  Mr. Wilson has either lost his mind or has done too many illicit substances, possibly both.  Sure, some are going to think it's a work of art, but it's a brilliant mess that probably won't even be released, or if they're smart, the best tracks will come out piece-meal over the next few years as the rest of the band, and the world, makes sense of what he's trying to do. 

So, I’m hoping my heartfelt criticisms are not too daunting.  Otherwise, the next production memorandum you receive may be from Shel Talmy or Kit Lambert.  You all know as well as I do these men are hustlers and hacks who simply inserted themselves in a thriving music scene with little to no understanding of properly producing, arranging or recording music.  You can hear the difference in their albums and ours.  I know what I’m doing, as do you, and we are light years ahead of the competition.  I would encourage you to maintain that pace.  Let’s take a few weeks off, maybe put out a single when we get back to stay in the public eye, release maybe one or two more as the year progresses, but all the while explore that higher ground we’ve moved towards.  Gentlemen, these are the days, and I thank you for letting me be part of this musical revolution.



Date: 7 November 1967
From: George Martin
To: John, Paul, George and Ringo
Re: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Gentlemen, we have arrived.  This has been quite a year.  I believe we’re all still suffering from the passing of Brian and the void left in our personal and professional lives.  But we’ve also paid him a wonderful tribute by forging ahead with the remainder of the best album ever recorded.

Surely you remember my previous memorandum from April where I encouraged you to reach higher.  Well, you most certainly have, as have I.  The past year has been the most wonderful journey from the familiar to the unknown, and finding the unknown a warm and welcoming place.  We are here.  The time is now to release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

Here are my recommendations from what we’ve recorded (and released as singles) over the past six months.  We should keep Blue Jay Way, I Am the Walrus, Hello Goodbye, Baby You’re a Rich Man and All You Need Is Love.  We should put aside Magical Mystery Tour, Flying, Fool on the Hill and Your Mother Should Know.

Unlike the previous memo, I should state the “leftover” tracks here are just as good as the tracks I’m suggesting to keep, save Your Mother Should Know.  (Paul, please see me early next week regarding an American recording artist named Harry Nilsson who has been asking about meeting the band.  I believe both you and he could take tracks like this and When I’m Sixty-Four and come up with an interesting collaboration.)

Magical Mystery Tour is an excellent song, and I gather it will serve as the title track for the film you worked on this past September.  It will make a number-one single when we release it on Boxing Day to coincide with the television special.  As it is, Sgt. Pepper’s is a perfect lead-off track for an album, which is the only reason I can see for not having Magical Mystery Tour on the album.  Frankly, releasing it as a double-A side single with Fool on the Hill would be a good idea.  I would suggest remaindering the above-noted tracks for the next album, rather than pursuing the concept we discussed of one record side of orchestral arrangements.  (While I love doing this, it’s tremendously inappropriate for a Beatles album.)

George, you’re getting better.  Blue Jay Way captures a floating, surreal feeling that I would imagine perfectly suits the Hollywood Hills on a foggy night.  It’s in perfect sync with our higher path.  It was a hard choice between this and Flying, which I also love, but there’s only so much time on two sides of an album.

What more is there to say about I Am the Walrus.  John, this is your finest moment.  You brought out things in me I didn’t know I had a producer and arranger; never before, and I wager never again, will I create a rock-band arrangement suitable for electric piano, cello, bass and drums.  This song defines where England is now, in this crazy, brilliant time and place, that is both fearful and hopeful.  Never mind that it was the first thing we recorded after Brian departed.  This was such a cathartic, healing experience to create something so wondrous in the wake of such a traumatic event.

Of course, Hello, Goodbye was the a-side of that single, and entirely worthy.  Paul, I think you’re “getting the hang of it” in terms of crafting your more melodic inclinations to this more “psychedelic” style.  And I’m proud, as I also sensed you did not want to move too far in this direction.  I suspect you will lead us into the next phase, and that you will somehow lead the band going forward, however much friction that may cause.  Friction is a worthwhile side effect of any rock-and-roll band, so long as it doesn’t become destructive.

Baby You’re a Rich Man: John, you’ve done it again.  This track may not immediately reveal itself to listeners, but it will resonate over the years, they will “get it” on levels not obvious upon first listen.  I can’t put my finger on it, but all your tracks over the past year have this odd yearning quality that is perfectly suited to this more atmospheric production style we’ve embraced.

All You Need Is Love has already changed the world.  I can’t tell you how honored I’ve been to play such an important role in these songs with the orchestra and horn arrangements.  I feel as though you’re letting me provide the texture to your songs, the under-current that flows through all these tracks.

However we want to arrange these tracks, let me know.  We begin with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which obviously leads into With a Little Help My Friends.  Ringo, I’m sorry not to have mentioned you yet.  But I believe this song is so far ahead of your previous contributions, John and Paul grasped your true nature and captured it in a song.  You are Liverpool personified.  In the studio, you’re everyone’s friend, the connection between all of us, which will be crucial with Brian gone.  Never mind the world-class drumming.  The Beatles would be a vastly different band without you, as I’m sure the other three are well aware.

The only other thing I’m certain of is we end the album with A Day in the Life.  John, I might have erred calling I Am the Walrus your finest moment: this could be, too.  Again, we’ve created something here, a sound, a feeling, a way of listening to the world, that hasn’t previously existed.  I suspect it will define so much of what comes to pass in music in the coming years.  I believe this is your year.  I recall how you fretted upon hearing Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale and wondering how anyone could possibly top that.  You already had.

A word on The Rolling Stones and Satanic Majesties, which the Stones were kind enough to forward us and advance copy last week.  It's a travesty and a major step backwards for them.  Never mind that they lifted our cover concept from the Sgt. Pepper artwork leaked back in June when we nearly released the album then.  They look like imbeciles.  As they know, our album is coming out before the end of November, weeks before their album, as agreed upon.  They've been doing this every step of the way since 1964, copying everything we do with diminishing returns, save for flashes of brilliance like Satisfaction and Paint It Black.  I should warn you: sooner or later, they're going to find their voice, most likely after this public embarrassment.  Of all the British bands we compete with, I can see the birth of a new kind of rock incorporating a more acoustic blues feel and a darker, harder edge, and I'll give it to Mick Jagger, he's becoming a better lyric writer by leaps and bounds.  We'll catch a breather with Satanic Majesties, but I suspect within a year they will do something lasting and important that places them on our level.  To which I say, it's about time, we could use some real competition.  Ditto, Townshend and The Who.  I've heard an acetate of their new album, A Quick One: it's slight, but interesting.  They won't be slight forever.

Now that we’ve climbed Everest, we must find another mountain.  Not necessarily higher, but a different climb, different terrain, different requirements.  We have done it, and the world will regard what we’ve done this year as some of the greatest music ever made.  There will be more to come.  I suspect without Brian, the going will be harder, we will have more disagreements, and we may even implode somewhere down the road.  That’s because we’ve raised ourselves to the highest level possible, and the only way to move is forward, not up.  We’ve thrown away all maps and are finding our way by talent, intuition and luck.  Life will no longer be as easy as it was just two years ago, much less five, when you played me Love Me Do at Abbey Road, and my only concern was tucking into a plate of bangers and mash at the local pub.  That world no longer exists.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The High-School Journal


Something cool happened while visiting Pennsylvania over the holidays.  Just before then, one of my high-school English teachers got in touch with me to let me know she still had my senior year high-school journal, and it was time she gave it back to me.  I recall back in 1982 thinking the journal was too “wild” to have around the house, that if my mother ever found it she’d read it, and, I don’t know, maybe spontaneously human combust?

We eventually met up for a good night at the Greystone in Pottsville: she, her husband, my old high-school friend whom I often meet there, various bar folks I’ve gotten to know on my visits.  I thought I “couldn’t wait” to read this thing, but it took me weeks to get around to it …

… and, man, when I did, what a slog!  If you think it would be a cool idea to revisit yourself at the age of 17, you need to think again.  My version of “wild” at the time appears to have been knocking out numerous half-assed William S. Burroughs vignettes that are just senseless to read now … and insulting the hell out of other kids, rarely by name, but occasionally so.  Usually employing terms like “jocks,” “brown nosers,” “druggies,” “rednecks” and such.  It wasn’t just my English teacher reading this at the time.  Other “hip” kids knew what I was doing, and I let them read along as I wrote, probably about a dozen classmates.  I was writing for an audience and trying to impress upon them how “wild” and “crazy” I was.

That’s the most irritating thing about reading these passages: the constant, heavy-handed qualifiers I injected to that effect.  Similar to Steve Martin sporting a fake arrow through his head.  While I claimed to loathe and disregard the teenage standards of my classmates, I was judging myself by those very standards.  And finding myself “wild” and “sick” and “insane” by their supposedly tame standards.  It wouldn’t occur to me to create my own standards until I got into college and then adulthood.

I read this stuff now, and a lot of it feels like a lie of omission.  I was constantly underlining my idiosyncratic rebellion without quite realizing, much less being able to admit to, just how conservative and plain I really was.  Still am!  I’m not William S. Burroughs or Hunter S. Thompson.  I don’t want to be. 

Back then … I wanted to be.  Lord knows, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas will always be my favorite book, but it seems to me like Thompson lost his way a few years after that and dove into sports and politics, both of which he thought he knew a lot about, but never truly grasped and fell into clich├ęs and bad writing.  (He seemed to be a bit of an asshole, too, in his personal life.)  Burroughs?  Had I known the sole reason he was able to go on these years-long international drug sprees was a healthy trust fund his parents left him, it might have dawned on my working-class mind that it just wasn’t in the cards for me to be a globetrotting heroin junky.  Let’s not even get into the episode in Mexico where he got high and, mimicking William Tell only with a shot glass and loaded hand gun, missed the glass and shot his wife in the head, killing her, and not seeming much worse for wear afterwards.  It's hard to tell when someone was a junky before, during and after something like this.

I was a pretty normal kid (who didn’t want to be normal).  I was a happy kid (who didn’t want to be happy).  It’s telling to me that not once in that whole year of writing did I mention my parents.  I mention my siblings once, noting when brother M moved out of the house to start his life in Harrisburg, PA, and how overjoyed I was.  (Actually, I was … M was being a bit of a prick at the time, not happy where he was at, pulling away from his touch-and-go “problem” years, and clearly desperate to get out on his own.  Whatever issues he may have had those first few years of his young adult life, I’m sure the sense of freedom he felt was infinitely larger.)

Why didn’t I mention them?  Part of that was kids at that age are burning to establish their own identity and don’t want to acknowledge something as trivial as family.  (A lot of artists of varying sorts never get over that phase, spend the rest of their lives either having or feigning non-interest in immediate family.  Something I’ve always considered strange and mildly repellant.)

But the larger reason was because to do so would have been to acknowledge how well-adjusted I was.  To read this journal, you would think the exact opposite.  Frankly, even following me around at the time with a camera crew, you might have thought otherwise.  But my family life was so squared away that I never once thought of it as a “problem.”  I had a small, steady, supportive group of friends.  I took a vague leadership role in that group that was far more benevolent than the petty bickering and in-fighting teenagers fall prey to.  For all the bitching I did in the journal, I was known for being a smart, responsible, studious kid.  I knew kids who weren’t as well-adjusted.  Some died along the way through misadventure.  Some spent years lost in drug and alcohol hazes and could still be there now.  Some just had relatively hard lives filled with varying levels of difficulty.

None of that was clear to me at the time.  And it should be recognized now, the home my parents gave me, the stable setting my siblings and friends provided, because I’ve seen what can happen without that sort of secure environment.  It would have pained me to admit as much at the time.  Then again … this is the way of teenagers, the blind narcissism, the faux empathy, the feigned compassion.  I’ve noted elsewhere on this site, most teenagers see themselves as this font of open-hearted goodwill, the only people who are really cool in the world and not out to screw everyone over.  But, as I noted, mercenary is a much better word to describe them.  We didn’t fully sense our power, what made us good, the things that made us who we really were, and thus felt a profound insecurity.  (Those kids who did fully sense their power … I suspect they had a whole different set of issues to blow out of proportion.  Even now, I envy them!)

It really is instructive to go back and get a clear view of who you were at seventeen, because what you mainly see is a veil, a slightly opaque curtain that you were trying to hide behind in vain.  And a lot of that simply comes down to not being a fully-formed being and trying out different sets of clothes to see what fit.  Not a crime, but awkward as hell to ponder decades down the road.  (I often feel the same way reading my college writings, although I was clearly further down the road and had a better sense of self.)

I’m going to outline a few passages that really struck me, some trivial, others less so, but understand most of my time spent with that journal, the actual contents?  I was more amazed at the amount of time I spent hand-writing in the notebook, pre-computer age, and we only used typewriters for formal school assignments.  At the very least, I can take away how dedicated I was to the act of writing, as this consumed so much of my time on those “wild” teenage nights that were not so wild!  Living in the city for so long, I’ve forgotten the abject boredom teenagers in small towns often feel.

9/16/81

I’ve been having the strangest daydream going around my head lately.  It goes like this.  I’m out driving around the parking lot, “behind the wheel” drivers ed, and Mr. D is by that little shack giving instructions on the C.B. radio.  The first time I drive by him he’s sweating profusely, moonie under arms.  The second time, he’s taking rapid, spasmodic seizures and making strange gurgling sounds in the back of his throat.  Halfway through the third time around, he screams, “Stop!” runs into the little shack and slams the door shut.  All the cars are now turned off.  Slowly, a small sound starts to build.  It sounds like an avalanche just beginning.  Steadily, it grows, louder and louder until it fills my ears.  Then, equally as loud, I hear “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix blasting from the shack.  The tension in the air has the hair on my arms standing straight up.  The walls of the shack start trembling, then KA-BOOM! The shack blows to pieces!  And there is Mr. D, straddling a huge Harley Davidson chopper with three wheels, his glasses replaced by mirror shades, stark naked except for the spike-top German army helmet he’s wearing.  He guns that bitch all the way and pops a wheelie the length of the parking lot.  He then goes ripping by at  a speed of at least 100 mph, whipping all of us the bird as he screams by.

Synopsis: Mr. D, the driver’s ed instructor, was known as a staunch Christian and strict disciplinarian.  His daughter was in our class, an extremely clean-cut, smart student.  I was clearly projecting this strange alter-ego onto him as I obviously had minor issues with his teaching style.  (Although I now can see, “strict disciplinarian” teachers aren’t necessarily bad, and kids in general are in no position to judge them.)  I think I pulled the imagery form Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell album cover.

9/28/81

I went out with the boys on Saturday night, and it was like taking a step back in time to the days of the old West, when anything went and nobody really gave a damn if you shot someone in the back.  It was outrageous.  For starters, T, the driver, tried to impress us all with his reckless “I don’t give a damn” form of driving.  I was really impressed.  I’ll be even more impressed when he totals his Mom's car and has to hawk his balls to pay her back.  Then there was Hickey Lips, but he wasn’t so bad.  He just sat there holding his quart in his hand with a kool-aid smile on his face.  Then there was S, who was king for the night.  He was blasted.  He smashed his quart bottle in front of W's house and then we peeled out, yelling obscenities all the way.  Me?  I just sat there laughing most of the way.  I don’t drink, so everyone else called me a redneck, and that’s just hunky dory by me.  After the football game, T drove up to Ashland just to park by L's house to try to “catch a glimpse of the fair maiden” in a window.  I felt like a dick.

Synopsis: this sounds like a fairly typical “night out with the boys," senior year of high school.  More of often than not, it involved copious amounts of time at Holiday Lanes, the bowling alley/pool hall just outside of Shenandoah, PA where we all honed our anemic pool-shark skills.  My first drunk makes for a good read – I’m guessing I was still smarting from that horrendous night when I wrote this.  “Hickey Lips” was our friend L.R., who would later check out of life in a haze at 19 years old.  T drove us around in his Volkswagen Rabbit, forever blasting Van Halen from his Big Brute sound system.  He, S and I would navigate through all of high school and a large chunk of our adult lives before various issues arose (in that strange way they sometimes do in long-term relationships that dissolve).  I remember this night, S smashing that bottle, laying rubber, baying out curses.  The few times we did this as teenagers, at the homes of kids or teachers we had issues with, it always struck us hilarious and incredibly exciting.  With W, just the week before this, I had some type of issue with him in the journal that had me angry with him.  But I recall him approaching me after this in a very hurt manner and asking what the hell happened that night.  And T pining over that girl!  It seemed awkward and creepy at the time … but now seems like just the sort of thing a guy with teenage blue balls would do.  I can still feel that sense of quiet desperation in that car, looking, waiting for something that just wasn’t going to happen.  That’s one of the binding emotions I still feel regarding my teenage years.

2/15/82

Thursday was Punk Rock Day in school, and I was out in full force.  Holey t-shirt with no sleeves, scummy-looking torn jeans, cat-eye bifocal shades and 50’s style hair.  I was one of three guys who rose to the occasion, and the other two couldn’t rub weenies with me.  I out-punked them by a mile.  You should have seen the reactions I got from people.  They’d stop talking and start laughing when I walked by.  Everyone looked at me (I could stare at them through my shade without them knowing it).  I felt like Lawrence Welk, Live at Budokan.  Then lunch came.  The guys at the table made a few comments that someone would probably tear the shirt off my back before the day was over.  I thought they were joking.  Walking to my locker after lunch, not expecting anything.  Suddenly, I feel someone grabbing the back of my shirt and then a tearing sound.  Those bastards from lunch had me surrounded in the hallway.  Trapped like a porcupine.  I started screaming “Rape!” but it was hard to do because I was laughing so hard.  It was a unique moment in history of North Schuylkill.  Something you will not read about in the yearbook.  Something which I, and many others, will remember when we are shitting in our checkered pants in some nursing home.

Synopsis: I have zero recollection of this happening.  As I recall that last half of my senior year, I was pissed because all my close friends had first-period lunch, so I had to make-do with a bunch of guys whom I knew, but weren’t really friends.  It was strange but got along better as time passed.  It somehow was a big deal that you spend that 45-minute lunch period conversing with people you genuinely liked.  (It didn't occur to most of us that the larger our circle of friends, the more people to converse with.)  Most people always had the same table staked out and knew where to sit.  High school was like that, as I recall, people marked their territories.  And it was a pecking order of sorts.  We got respect simply for being seniors, but within that bunch of guys there were a few jocks, a few brains, and some indiscriminate vo-tech kids sent back to the main campus to finish out their high-school careers, a motley crew.  I would guess that I instigated the whole shirt-ripping thing as I thought it would make me look even more punk … I can’t recall how I spent the rest of the day.  But much like the time I jumped off the swimming pool’s high dive in a kid’s lion Halloween costume (to win a $1.00 bet), I’m sure this went down as described.  Sprinkled throughout the shyness, good manners and studying were these berserk incidents.  I’m just wondering now who else dressed up like punks as I can’t even recall myself doing it!

Later that week, I’d go to see The J. Geils Band, my first big concert, and a similarly wild experience.  In the journal, I had earlier mentioned a band called Freefare playing the high-school gym on 12/18/81 and having my doors blown off.  (I just did a web search and came across this strange story from 1973.  Apparently, this band had been playing the high-school gym circuit for quite awhile!)  I remember the excitement of that night, but virtually nothing about the band or its music, save they were a long-haired power trio playing pretty standard hard rock, and that a beautiful junior with blonde hair named Janine made a major play for the lead singer (which probably happened all the time).  I do recall they were Born Again Christians (their songs didn't seem to be, although we couldn't hear the lyrics), so I suspect the guy probably gave her a pamphlet to read.  Or who knows, might have gotten a nice blow job in the parking lot, an experience many of us wondrously imagined at the time!  No skin off my nose, nor God’s!  But I do recall driving around on that winter's night with my friend G afterwards, pumped, excited as hell, sensing the possibility of the world in front of us.

3/16/82

Mr. C keeps telling us to take aside a few moments every day, find some place where you can be alone, and just sit there and talk with yourself, about anything at all.  Religion, creation, wars, what you want from life, who you really are, so on and so forth.  Well I’ve been there.  Take my word for it: if you want to stay sane, don’t even think about doing it.  You are what you are, the world is what the world is, what you believe in is what you believe in.  Don’t get down into the heart of all those tangled thoughts, never ask why, or your mind is going to get so fucked up that you won’t know what is or isn’t real.  If C sits around thinking to himself like that all the time, he must be one crazy bastard.  I understand the concept of developing theories on life and yourself.  But only go so far.  Go too far, and you may never come back the way you went in.  Ask Merv Griffin.  He knows.

Synopsis: Mr. C, along with his sister, Mrs. G, were our class advisors, good people, friendly, smart, helpful.  C was a bit more of a hard-ass as he was also a football coach, but I recall him having a relatively open-minded and positive coaching and teaching style.  I wonder about him, and my favorite teachers, and the way their lives worked as teachers.  You age, but the kids you teach, for decades, stay the same age.  I imagine it gets boring.  It bends your mind.  It gives you insight to teenagers and how they see the world.  But you see the same shit, emotionally and mentally, over and over.  Which I would guess changes incrementally over time, but is essentially the same each passing year.  I would guess how the kids see the teachers slowly evolves over time.  I recall these people as being in their late 20’s and early 30’s.  In some kids’ memories, these same teachers will be in their 60’s, and thus they’ll more than likely have a completely different perception of them.  I'd wager we felt closer to our teachers, in age if nothing else, because most of them had graduated college in the early and mid 1970's and were just starting their teaching careers.

Those teachers would see us in a very different light now, as middle-aged adults who’ve passed through so many positive and negative things in life to get where we are.  When I saw my old teacher at the restaurant, I didn’t recognize her until I took a good look at her face, and there it was, the same person.  I could see her looking at me and that quizzical moment, “That’s Bill?!”  In my mind, my looks haven’t changed that drastically (after dropping serious weight a few years ago).  But my hair line’s pulled back from what it was as a teenager (not to mention combing it straight back as opposed to the shaggy 70's look I had), I no longer weigh 165 lbs. or possess that angular teenage gauntness.  And I don’t doubt, the hardness of living in a major city, burying both my parents, dealing with all the insane, unanticipated shit that goes along with being an adult … it surely registers physically.  I like the kid I was in the journal (with some minor reservations), but I had so much to learn.  I suspect the person I am now, the way I live, would make no sense to that kid in 1982.  A time when I couldn't imagine spending one night in New York, much less living there nigh on three decades!  It wasn't what I thought it would be, and I'm not who I thought I was.  How the world goes.