Figures That Loom Large
I just got reminded of a video I found a while back, when I posted Jane’s Addiction’s ‘Mountain Song’ here. This video was a delightful find, and I shared it with my mom, who also loved it.
It’s Perry Farrell coming onstage to join the Foo Fighters at a show, and they throw off ‘Mountain Song’ in a casual but vicious way (a very sexy combo- one you’ve pulled off) after Perry and Dave have a quick chat.
My mother’s whole family is rife with musicians and singers and music appreciators going way, way back, and she enjoyed participating vicariously as I developed musical tastes. This is a sector of parenting in which she shone. I drank up music on the radio, on records, 8-Tracks in a certain mainstay-veteran Buick Electra station wagon, out of instruments, on cassettes, CDs, in movies, and on tv. I was 10 in 1983 when I started watching MTV when it was in its most elemental form- an uninterrupted stream of consciousness- and I watched a fuckton of it for the next 8 and a half years until I went to college. She would never censor or disapprove of music I saw and/or heard, whether I liked it or not; instead, she would kibitz. And she was always funny doing that- she still is, mostly.
In our corner of the Southeast at the time, it was much harder to access any underground/college/alternative music. I got occasional glimpses through some of my older cousins, such as the time my brother and I were given a ride home from a family gathering and Cindy was playing Burning Sensations’ ‘Pablo Picasso’ on a cassette of the Repo Man soundtrack.
Hearing that, I was absolutely exhilarated, so excited that such a kickass song existed- and what Repo Man was, I had no earthly idea. But the nascent Smartass in me was doing gymnastics routines in my chest at this song’s hilarious audacity existing under the radar. I had never heard anything like it before. I loved it.
Three years or so later, as a sophomore in high school, I noticed a quiet boy, a freshman, with dark hair and light eyes in my Spanish class. He sometimes brought his skateboard or his acoustic guitar to school and carried one or the other around with him. I also saw him sitting alone on the stairs between classes sometimes, strumming on his guitar, tuning it, or practicing something. Our small conservative suburban high school outside of Charleston had only about 100 kids per graduating class, so he stuck out; there was no art/weirdo crowd to hang with. If you were into anything different there, you were unusual and an anomaly and probably didn’t have many friends, consequently.
The next year, he was in the same Art class as me and I remembered him, of course. His name was Kevin. I’ll take Grace Slick’s phrase out of context and say that ‘your eyes may look like his’. They do, very much, and I love that. I love you.
Like you, he had artistic talent and interest as well as musical ability. He was aware of a lot of bands I’d never heard of- like Jane’s Addiction. He also really liked the Doors. And Jimi Hendrix. Kevin, like me, was shy and sensitive but also a secret smartass. He wanted to go to art school but his father, an accountant, was not allowing it.
Slowly becoming acquainted while working on our respective projects across the table from each other, we became very good friends. Our Art teacher let us listen to music while we worked, and my friend and I were deeply into choosing and listening to stuff on a little boombox in class and talking about music, songs, bands, and anything else. He brought tapes to lend me, including: Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction. He loved them and worshiped Perry Farrell’s singular artistic vision. Not surprisingly, I did too, before long. Kevin let me sneak in with him to catch the last 3 years or so of late 80s ‘alternative’ music, right under the wire. All that music kept me going for the next few years. Because of Kevin and love of the music, I managed to see that first Lollapalooza when Jane’s Addiction headlined and brought the touring rock festival into existence*. It’s too bad he didn’t get to go see it; I had to work hard to get that bill passed in my house because my dad didn’t like the idea of me going to a rock festival in Atlanta, unaccompanied. An arrangement was figured out where I drove with my brother to Atlanta, where I went to the show with a girl who was a friend of a friend. I didn’t know this redheaded girl, and I haven’t seen her since, but we had such a good time. I made up for having very little concert-going experience with that show at Lakewood, which was radically different from anything else I’d seen.
Whenever I am fascinated with someone or something that’s completely unlike anyone or anything else I’ve ever seen or heard of…that’s rich fertile earth, and sometimes love appears and grows vigorously there, spiraling up and reaching outward.
I never met anyone remotely like you, darling.
Outside of schoolwork, Kevin and I wrote and illustrated a silly satirical story together, just for ourselves, about a hippie couple in their VW van. That Val Kilmer Doors movie came out, and he was very excited. He took me to see it as soon as it opened. One time, he showed me that he’d learned the opening riff sequence of ‘Love Me Two Times’ on his electric guitar. We were both special fans of ‘Peace Frog’.
It turned out that Kevin had a weathered late-60’s white Mercedes sedan (or maybe a hardtop coupe), which he’d gotten for cheap. I liked it so much- it was almost exactly the same as the insanely well preserved late-60s white Mercedes that my great-grandmother drove for 30 years (until Hurricane Hugo ruined it- it had a burgundy leather interior, and even the scent of the leather remained). You didn’t see cool and interesting old cars around much at that time where I was, and here were these two doppelgängers. Sometimes he would pick me up in his mother’s car (a nice but unmemorable long and squared-off 4-door of some sort) and the first time he did, he showed me its V-8 engine with the inimitable quiet excitement of a shy American teenage boy.
One night when I was a senior, as the Pixies’ ‘Bossanova’ tape played in my car, he concernedly asked our friend and previous classmate in the backseat, a troubled, self-destructive English boy back in town and spending Christmas at my family’s house, to basically not be a dick and not take advantage of my family’s hospitality and not take advantage of me while he was visiting. His request, which sort of surprised me, didn’t really land with our friend, who teased and placated Kevin in response. Late that night at my house, the visitor poured vodka and peppermint schnapps into me for a while, then during a commercial break, he suddenly turned to me, squeezed my breasts and tongue-kissed me. At 17, that was my absurdly late first kiss. Then, the next day, he acted like that hadn’t happened and he spent the rest of his visit drunk or tripping on acid and hunting down a selection of other girls from school he remembered. Christmas morning, he bitterly unwrapped a selection of socks and underwear his mysterious and remote parents had sent. 6 to 8 years later, he would materialize out of nowhere at that house to apologize to me before disappearing again (which was the last time I saw him).
I had such an intense crush on Kevin. I was unfortunately also attracted to that English kid until he treated me like that, but I absolutely adored Kevin. At the time, I was trying desperately to figure out if he was romantically interested in me and I hoped and hoped that if he did like me, he would make a move of some sort. Sparks flew everywhere all the time, but in hindsight, clearly neither of us ever had the balls to declare anything to the other. I went to SCAD and he finished high school- and also disappeared. He sent the funniest, artiest letter in the world to me at my freshman dorm address in September or October of 1991 and that’s the last I heard of him. He doesn’t seem to have an online presence, and never has, which is on brand for him- I don’t think Facebook and the rest of social media would appeal to him- one year he refused to have his school picture taken for the yearbook.
One day in Art class he mentioned something about that Spanish class we’d both been in. I told him I remembered what he was referring to- I was also in that class. He didn’t remember me. I told him where I sat: front row, all the way on the right. And I told him where he sat- also in the front row, but all the way on the left, opposite me. He looked at me, and said “You must have been soooooooooo quiet”.
>>>>Dave’s intro above starts around 7:10
To go with the other video of Dave and Perry, here they are doing ‘Been Caught Stealing’ this year in Chile. And that great and fascinating Perry Farrell makes another righteous guest appearance while holding a refreshing beverage.
What car was I driving in high school, you ask?
At that time, we lived next door to a family that had an auto/auto parts business, and my dad bought their wife’s 1985 Volvo 240 DL, white with tan leather interior, for my mother. When Mom got a new car a few years later, I was gifted with the Volvo and would drive it through the second half of high school, then college, and well into my Atlanta period before it was totaled in an accident in 1997. I was ok except for some burns, but that’s another story. The Volvo made the ultimate sacrifice for me, and I still miss that car, which I loved. It was the Amymobile- it was friendly and durable and had great steering and turning and mileage (both kinds). It was high quality but not ostentatious in any way. It had a cute manual sunroof with a little crank- it looked like a Richard Scarry car. And it had the best visibility of any car I’ve ever driven. Plus the neighbors had installed a great tape deck in there with the ability to automatically fast forward/rewind to the next/previous song on the tape.
Over the years, I keep spotting mid-80s Volvos like mine out on the roads every once in a while, and curiously many of them are also white. I was stunned when my car turned up in a great horror film not too long ago called House of the Devil- it belongs to Greta Gerwig’s character and it’s featured prominently.
(Loved the movie, although I did enjoy its deliciously suspenseful and suspicious buildup more than the actual payoff. Recommend.)
*Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie & the Banshees(!!!), Living Color, Nine Inch Nails(!!!), Ice T, Butthole Surfers, Rollins Band, plus the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow and a collection of tent booths. It was a show full of possibilities for an artistic, book-reading, would-be Riot Grrrrl like me.
It’s crazy to think of Nine Inch Nails and Siouxsie Sioux being in a lineup…and neither one being the headliner, jeez, they’re both so monumental. I hadn’t heard of NIN or Pretty Hate Machine yet, but I was deeply impressed and a fan from then on. That day, I was a little surprised that NIN T-shirts were the most commonly worn band T-shirts among that crowd in Atlanta. I still have my souvenir T-shirt from that show.