Posts Tagged ‘mike rep’

Mike Rep.

April 30, 2017

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The back room of Used Kids was cramped, a musty claustrophobic din of shelves, boxes of records, large bundles of brown paper bags that were as thin as dust, that would tear if someone slid a record in even half crooked and Dan’s desk. His desk was shoved into a tower of peach crates, stacked sideways to form a make-shift shelf where all the receipts, tax paper, and unsold cassettes of Cordia’s Dad and the Wolverton Brothers held down the leaning tower of almost splintering wood. In the middle sat a furnace that had seen better days, whose piping was in fact rusting while in the far corner lay a darkness that only the High Street rats would venture too. Crammed in the rear of the room was the bathroom, itself a frightening hazard as one was not sure if one of the rodents the dodged around the clutter may suddenly appear behind the toilet while someone had dick in hand. There was a period when a series of Chinese restaurants were housed above us, the last one that somehow miraculously dodged the health department despite leaving uncovered tubs of slimy chicken meat by their backdoor and a grease trap that attracted all types of animal life, even in daylight hours. At one point, the rats were dying within our cinder block walls at an alarming rate, and the Chinaman who operated the restaurant would suddenly forget his English when I addressed him, scowling at me, “no rat here!” to which I usually replied, “yeah, cause they all fucking died in our walls!” Finally, one day, he was gone, his shop turned black but he had left all the food and soon enough after repeated calls to the landlord, some poor fuckers came and loaded out all the spoiled food. A heavy blanket of rotten stench coated the record shop for nearly a month before this happened, the heavy summer heat only poured gasoline on the problem. The rat problem slowed to a trickle after that.

Some of the boxes in the back where marked for our Goldmine auctions, Goldmine was a record collector magazine that ran nostalgia interviews with everybody from Mike Nesmith, Nancy Sinatra to Captian Beefheart’s guitarist, Gary Lucas. The back of the magazine was chock full of various record auctions, set sales that small shops across the country would advertise whatever collectable records that they came across. Many of these were of the “bootleg” variety or the always sought after radio shows. These radio shows were really a goldmine to independent shops, mostly put out by Westwood One these multiple LP sets were pristine recordings of FM radio bands. Some were much more famous than others, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, and Bob Seger but there were other, lesser known bands—fly by night artists that barely made a flicker on the charts or even rock radio, bands such as Frankie and the Knockouts, Greg Kihn, Quarterflash and John Cafferty. These smaller bands fetched very little, $5-$20 but the superstars, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles or even R.E.M. could fetch hundreds of dollars. A needed influx of easy cash for us, but a pain in the ass to assemble as all the auctions had to be done via mail or phone. Record keeping and knowledge of what was more collectable were essential, when CD’s came out the shows and programs expanded, In the Studio, Hot Wax and others came on the market and the CD’s were much easier for various DJ’s and radio station employees to smuggle out and sell to us. Besides the radio shows the auctions would also be made up of other collectables, garage singles from the 60’s, rare art and jazz LP’s would sell well. The task for keeping track of these sales fell to two of the most colorful characters on High Street during the past forty years.

Mike Hummel was one of the first people along High Street to record his own music, and then press it to vinyl, his “Rocket To Nowhere” (Moxie) came out in 1977 a blistering blow-out-speaker of a song that at once seemed to capture the sonic waves burping out of Cleveland but infused with Mike’s love of all things Alex Harvey. Mike was able to straddle a fine line of the freedom of punk rock but with a keen eye of the art-y flamboyant sounds of the aforementioned Alex Harvey, early Alice Cooper, and glam-era Lou Reed. Initially he was a shaggy haired figure who would drop by the store, carrying loads of white record boxes to the and from the furnace of the back room, to his car, and later that night it wasn’t uncommon to see him manning the pool table at Larry’s with large leather hat and long leather coat casting a shadow over the table, a large glass of whiskey nearby. He was usually with Jim Shepard or Ron House, frequently one would find them by the back door of Larry’s smoking a joint and talking in hushed tones, probably exactly like they did in high school.  Dan had a contentious relationship with Mike at that time, and if there were any mistakes in the auctions or record show sales, he would berate Ron, “Well, he’s YOUR best friend” as if Mike was responsible for every fuck-up that went on in a store full of fuck-ups.

For Jerry Wick and I, Mike was somewhat of a mysterious shadow, he would slip in on Friday’s picking up a few of the white cardboard LP boxes, huddle in the back with Dan and return the next Monday with a manila envelope holding the winners of that months auction. That night, we would spy him and Shepard at Larry’s poetry night, grumbling that we were constantly shooshed while various nervous types, wearing berets, scarves and inky mascara stood before a bar full of people and read poems and prose from tattered notebooks. “Jesus, I forgot it was poetry night, let’s to go BW’s at least we can drink in peace and play trivia”, Jerry would say as we slumbered to the still local BW-3, that hosted trivia amidst a juke-box the poisoned one’s ears with the latest Jock Jams. Peace indeed.

Soon enough, we discovered the genius of Mike as he was soon working part-time in the Used Kids Annex smiling a broad smile, with his ruffled hair and white teeth he was handsome enough to have been a model for a hybrid of Creem and Playgirl, if such a thing existed. It was easy for us to find fault with Mike, as in our curmungendy-wary twenties, we tended to dismiss a great deal with a thought that would leave our mouth before being properly matured, as Mike was prone to listen to the Doors with the same ease that one of us would put the Stooges or MC5 on. What we didn’t fully realize was Mike came of age when rock and roll turned suddenly more dangerous, when the infuse of psychedelics, marijuana and Quaaludes were stuffed into tight jean pockets to be consumed in Detroit made cars as long as speedboats while the click-click-click of eight-track players boomed out the sounds of “L.A. Woman”, the Bob Seger System and T. Rex. Ron House once remarked that he had felt as if one had to make a choice in high school between Alice Cooper or the New York Dolls, Mike Rep defying both sides would proudly choose both. We all realized that like Jim Shepard, Mike had been making a mix of punk-infused art rock since high school. For the first Datapanik single, label head Craig Regala asked the Boys from Nowhere (themselves a mishmash of punk and 70’s hard rock, that never achieved the success of east coast counter-parts such as the Lyres) to cover “Rocket to Nowhere” while the b-side featured future Greenhorn brothers, the Spurgeons blasting through Peter Laughner’s “Dear Richard.”

“Rocket from Nowhere” is now a highly sought after single, an almost sinister and gleeful three minute announcement of boastful destruction of which Columbus had not quite seen; the Datapanik single was our first introduction to the capabilities of Mike Rep and the Quotas. When the Used Kids Annex opened up, Dan Dow recruited Dave Diemer from Capital City Records down the block to run the shop, Mike came on board full time and usually worked in the afternoons and evenings. There was a large concrete supporting wall that separated the two stores, one tip off that Mike had arrived was the musky scent of marijuana that would seep through the back-room wall. Mike would flip the “Back in Five Minutes” sign up and go to the back of the Annex and fire up, when Lamont Thomas (Bim) worked for us, he would also slip next door for a five-minute escape. Almost like a high-school kid trying to cover up his tracks, Mike would gargle some Scope, and light some incense to cover the smell—it was comical but the fear of drug busts, even for marijuana was still a possibility twenty-five years ago.

One day as I brought over a stack of records to the Annex, Mike was busy pricing 45” records in his shaky chicken-scrawl and singing loudly along to Phil Ochs, in his smooth tenor Mike sang along “I’d like a one-way ticket home, ticket home….” Records can be used a silent code, opening the possibilities of connection almost like nothing else, and for many it is a bigger escape than alcohol, drugs or most anything else. My own fascination with folk music and singer-songwriters started early, an affinity for Richard Thompson whom I saw open for R.E.M. when I was 17, and I had been fed an endless supply for Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Leadbelly as a host of Folkways records as a very young child. Discovering used records stores along High Street when I was 18 was akin to getting into a doctorate program at an Ivy League school, swallowing the songs of Tim Hardin, Townes Van Zandt, Butch Hancock, Gene Clark and, of course, Phil Ochs had an incredible impact on me. To find others who held some of these songwriters as close to their hearts was inspiring, the songs and artists were small fireflies of light in a life drenched in darkness. In the eighties and early nineties most of these acts were still obscure, Ron, Dan, Captain, Mike and I had all seen Townes Van Zandt at a small nightclub/eatery called The Dell in the early 90’s there were only eleven people there and Townes got so drunk during his brief intermission he ended the second part of the show basically telling stories while strumming laconically on his guitar.


Phil Ochs was an inspiration, not only because he grew up in Columbus and used to drink at Larry’s but because he was a man who appeared to hold his principals above all else, whose sensitivity to the world around him would eventually lead to his death by suicide. Looking back, it is easy to see that he as many other artists we admired suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder (Mark Eliot’s “Death of a Rebel” is essential reading on art, alcoholism and mental illness), but as young man who himself battled oppressive bouts of depression, including a suicide attempt, Phil was a revelation. When Mike sang along with “One Way Ticket Home”, I stopped in my tracks, and although we had known each other for several years we immediately connected  about Phil and records.

Later that year, a small band of excitable men from Dayton were coming up to the shop to hang out in the Annex, I knew one of them as Bob Pollard who would come up sporadically to go record shopping. Mike had helped mix one of the first New Bomb Turks and Gaunt singles as well as record some of the early Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartment singles, gutting the almost smooth farfisa college rock sounds of Ron House’s Great Plains for a big rock via muffled cardboard 4-track  recordings of the Slave Apartments.

At one point the valley of Ohio was the furthest west the country could have imagined, beyond the mountains of Western Pennsylvania and Kentucky, with the Ohio River holding an almost mythical hold that the Ohio Valley held on the forefathers of America were epic, a land of dangerous promises that appeared almost laughable 200 years later as mid-west promises collapsed under the girth of rust-belt nightmares. The fertile soil in Ohio was bathed in the blood of British, French, American and sadly, Native Americans who were massacred by degrees during the 17th and 18th centuries. Frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton, trudged through the swamps of Southeastern, Ohio marking claims with rifles, knives and gunpowder leaving a trail of destruction from Marietta to Toledo. The fables that grew out of the carving up of Ohio by these men were the tales that little boys would play throughout vacant fields and the patches of woods that dotted small town Ohio. Even today, supposedly, there is some buried treasure hidden by Simon Kenton somewhere near Springfield.

The ancient history of Ohio goes back thousands of years, the earthworks of Fort Ancient, specifically the curling 1,300 foot Serpent Mound dates anywhere to 400 BC to the 11th Century, other earthworks dot Southern and Central, Ohio and in a sad commentary on 20th Century capitalism, one in Newark has a private golf course sitting on top of it. One can imagine the ghosts of Native Americans dodging errant golf shots whilst crying paranormal tears. One wonders if the people who grow up in the proximity of the Grand Canyon or the white tipped waves peaking off the coast of Maine realize the beauty and wonderment of the world they live in, or does one just accept these everyday astonishments as melting into the background of their existence, to finally, with just the shadow of a shudder, turn into the mundane? Serpent Mound is one of the great American treasures, as mystical as Stonehenge but with nary a speck of explanation left the builders. Serpent Mound is hidden in the deep Southern portion of the state, at least 100 miles away from Columbus, 250 miles from Cleveland and 80 miles from Cincinnati, the region used to be filled with coal miners and poverty cuts a deep wound into this region of Ohio. Nonetheless, the fascination with Serpent Mound has been relegated to mostly outliers in Ohio, pagans, Native American groups and those who tend to lose themselves in dog eared books, long hikes and the passing of pipes.

Mike Rep was transfixed with Ohio lore and more specially the history of Native American spiritual sites, the importance of locale has been steadfast in Mike’s world, a walking internet of facts about the region, Mike was the first person who told me about the Mothman. It was easy to dismiss Mikes fascination with the buried myths of the past, not only with the historical aspects of the Native culture but, in a shock for Jerry and I the self-myth making of musicians such as Jim Morrison and Donovan, musicians we had dismissed as we climbed out of mid-adolescence to our late-DIY-infused teenage years.

It was somewhere around this time, 91 or 92 that we were introduced to Tom Lax, who runs the fantastically spot-on Siltbreeze records from Philiadelphia. Ron and Mike introduced Jerry and I to TJ (as we called him), most likely at Larry’s or at Ron’s House. I knew Siltbreeze as the label that put out a V-3, Gibson Brothers and Sebadoh singles; Jerry and I were a bit in awe of Tom and Mac Sutherland’s ability to put out quality music from around the world, all hinged on music that was unsurprisingly artistic but full of attitude.

Even though, as a glance over the weighted shoulders of time, Tom, Ron, Mike and Bob Pollard were only a few years older than us, that space between someone who is 19, 20 or 21 to someone who is in their early thirties can appear vast, which turns the space horizontal, making an invisible pedestal in our minds. Siltbreeze mined Franklin County as if the sewers below High Street flowed with music instead of shit, and the avalanche of damaged esoteric music that Tom and Mac championed out of Columbus should have made them both honorary citizens of the city. The list is as long as a some of the tales that would bellow from Mike Rep’s drunken dialogues: Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Creeper: Ohio, Times New Viking, Sam Esh (whose warbling most resembled a washing machine playing a one stringed guitar), the Yips, the Gibson Brothers, Psychedelic Horseshit, V-3 and of course, Mike Rep and the Quotas. Tom, understood the musical acumen of Mike, whose taste in music has been unapologetic as well as trendsetting (see Guided By Voices, Times New Viking, Gaunt, New Bomb Turks, Strapping Field Hands…).


Mike walked through the main side of Used Kids one late afternoon to fetch a Black Label beer from the small and overworked dormitory refrigerator that kept us all sane during our salad days and he stopped at the side of the counter and sang along with me as I sang in my off-key quaver to Spirit’s “Animal Zoo.” It was shortly thereafter, that Siltbreeze put together a compilation of Mike’s hard to find and unreleased records stretching back into the 70’s. “Stuper Hiatus Vol. 2”. It’s a retrospective that runs the gamut of the punk-fueled deadism of  “Rocket to Nowhere” to the b-movie-whipit inspired “War of the Worlds” with a great dollop of Mike’s love of Roky Erickson smothering the homemade 4-track recordings. It also showcased Mike’s unusual taste in album cover art, utilizing the cover of a French-easy-listening record with Mike’s name on the cover.

Meanwhile, Mike was working hard on several projects, many of which he (kinda) cloaked in secrecy, per his intentional shrouded self-made persona, “I’m working on something that is pretty interesting, when you close up shop come over and give it as listen” he would tell us through his wide grin as he took a couple beers next door to the Used Kids Annex. After work, Jerry and I would stop in the Annex, with all the lights out except the dangling white Christmas lights that hung from the low ceiling, Mike would be blaring whatever he was working on. It could have been Guided by Voices “Propellor”, Prisonshake’s “Roaring Third” or the Strapping Field Hands “In the Piney’s”  or even a four-track recording of Donovan that Johan Kugelberg had asked him to remix (this is another story) but whatever it was it was always ear-splittingly loud. The smell of marijuana drenched the air like a green wave of humidity, a palpable smell that stuck in your nostrils like cat hair on a sweater. This night Mike was mixing something different, a bouncing effect laden song, it sounded as if the vocals were being channeled through a wading pool of water and ectoplasm, shimmering over fuzzy guitars and a small choir singing, “there’s aliens in our midst.” I stopped dead in my tracks, I had assumed it was a V-3 song although the lighthearted nature of the song, with a glint in the song’s eye suppling an aspect of care-free bizarreness that Jim Shepard would have been too self-conscious to lay down on tape. “Who is this?” I asked. Smiling broadly, Mike replied with wide eyes, “it’s the Quota’s but it’s a Twinkeyz cover.” Not knowing who the Twinkeyz were but assuming I should, I mumbled something like, “this is a great cover”.

The next time I worked with Mike he handed me a Maxell cassette  with his chicken-scratch pointy scrawl, “this is everything we’ve been recording.” The tape might as well have been stuck in the Pioneer tape deck in my 82 Ford Mustang for as much as I listened to it over the next month, the songs covered a gamut of sounds that spanned Mike’s fondness of music. From Roky Erickson to the Phil Ochs-cum-ragtime “America’s Newest Hero” and experimental Flying Saucer Attack inspired “One Thirty-Five.” Speaking with Mike over beers one night at Larry’s, “maybe I can put the tape out?” Soon enough, Gary Held from Revolver listened to it and loved it, he and Mike had spent some time together when Gary visited, perhaps they had even visited Serpent Mound together? After a few months of putting the cover, itself another in a long-line of bizarre record cover art from Mike, “A Tree Stump Named Desire” came out on CD. Mike wanted the record to come out on LP but due to the length of the record, a proper single LP pressing did not work, although it was cut to lacquer twice, Mike was never happy with how it sounded so there are only a handful of test pressings of the record.

Some people live on an island, not to the extent that it is a conscious choice but in the end the pursuit of art and creation tosses the irons of mainstream life that can fetter and clog the desire some have to pout what is inside their minds and lives onto paper, canvas and at times, into small recording devices, these are the people many of us are attracted to in our lives. Some may create to achieve adulation, to live forever in a moment of song while many do for the moment of the moment, the ones who can capture a singular feeling that transcends all the seconds, hours and days that follow it. The repercussions of the creation are just a bi-product of what needed to be produced. Most likely these are people who may tend to their gardens in self-imposed isolation, write silently in coffee shops or paint alone in their garages or tiny studios. For many they are tethered to small machines that capture sounds to be digested later, fueled by experience, alcohol, drugs and yes even whip-its. Mike Rep Hummel is one of these people, a man who holds no pretenses and who has managed to help discover and guide an unlikely assortment of talent that has helped inspired and influence the lives of many people who find their greatest solace in music. Guided by Voices, Times New Viking, V-3 and the New Bomb Turks all are indebted to Mike, who continues to do what he has always done, which is to cram what is inside of his shaggy head and cut it into tape without a fear of what the outcome will be. Fearless.



Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae: Now

July 10, 2015


           Cleveland Avenue splits the ghetto in half, starting in downtown Columbus, traveling at a slight angle northeastward to the cotton white suburb of Westerville, it holds a squeamish history of poverty, classism and crushing desolation. Jenny has moved in and out of abject neighborhoods since getting plucked out of the homeless camp that was carved into the small wooded ravine that cuts North Campus from the liberal Ohio State infused neighborhood of Clintonville, nearly seven years ago. Her story of shuffling in and out of housing is a tale of how dysfunction is an everyday occurrence for people who fall on the wrong side of the money.

            After surviving living as one of only two women in a homeless camp, living for nearly two months in the Ohio State School of Music and finally, at another west side camp, she and her (now deceased boyfriend) were given Section Eight Housing through a program designed to provide Housing First options for people on the street. While at the same time, they were both linked to mental health services.

            For a number of years, Jenny complained of pain in her legs, her once sliver of a body–reed-thin underneath her flower patterned sun dresses had difficulty moving from the couch to the refrigerator and the months living outside in the elements didn’t help. She can be a living manifestation of the worst type of alcoholic, one who wakes up throughout the night, to take a pull off a plastic bottle of Smirnoff or Aristocrat Vodka just to make it to the morning without seizing up, at various times she would hide her booze throughout the house, at first to hide her shame and addiction from the men around her until finally it was more to ease the annoyance of carrying a bottle or having to travel to another room to fix a drink. Her life had turned into the troubled aspects of Bukowski without the poetry, a life lead by breathing from one drink to the next while trying to scrap the last vestiges of memories of happier times from a brain that had stuffed itself more with life than any brain should be allowed. Weeks were played out with multiple runs to the convenience store, which she had for a short time referred to as the package store, a term she picked up living in Miami, flying road side signs asking for money off the closest freeway ramp from their first Section Eight House, located on the far southeastern side of Columbus. The ramp they held their sign was roughly three miles from the depleted apartment. She had tried to get a job at the convenience store just on the other side of the parking lot that split the apartment complex from the store that plied its customers with lottery tickets, cheap liquor and dusty tins of canned meat but shortly after she applied she was taken via stretcher out of her apartment and the owner told her that he thought she would be a health risk. Jenny and Dale would arise early, walk the three miles to the ramp and “fly the sign” they worked as a team, with an older friend who also had lived in the homeless camp with them, one of the twins. She would pack a lunch of cheese sandwiches, chips and a tumbler of vodka and Hawaiian Punch and two of them would sit in the woods, passing the time telling stories, listening to music on a boombox they had found dumpster diving and trying not to drink too much. “The drivers don’t wanna give you any money if they smell alcohol, plus it’s so hot out there most days, you just get dehydrated that you kind of just have to hold out.” She said they would average about $11 a day and more when she could hold the sign, “they like me to hold the sign because I’m the white girl, people don’t expect to see that in the hood, but I’m always appreciative of what they give,” but her legs were increasingly failing her. Many had assumed that it had to do with her alcoholism, and during a period of a year and a half in around 2009 she was hospitalized countless times. She would be discharged, get herself together and cut down on her drinking. At one point she started playing music, the prospect of playing again terrified her but also provided much needed hope, and she was asked to play Comfest, an annual event held smack dab in the middle of Columbus where thousands attend.

            Comfest of 2010 was a disaster for Jenny, although she put on a brave effort is was difficult for her to get back into performing shape, she was recently off the streets and her apartment was smack dab in the middle of a rouges gallery of gang warfare and crack cocaine dealing, plus she was nearly two miles from the bus line. Her biggest supporter, Sean Woosley, who had made a small career of his own making prickly-pop in the vein of Bob Pollard and Elvis Costello. Sean, whom Jenny had bestowed the nickname “Robin” many years ago, had played with Jenny nearly from the outset dating all the way back to the late 80’s. Sean worked hard to get the band together, and the practices were difficult, as Jenny had not played piano since living in the music building and her drinking was nearly 24-7. The revolving door of hospitalizations had not yet started, partly due to the fact that for the poor and homeless, access to services has been historically limited. Prior to the Affordable Health Care Act, with the access to Medicaid, the homeless were at a loss to access services, most was done in emergency rooms where treatment consists of M.A.S.H. like services, where putting out fires and getting the person out of crises is the number one prerogative.

            Jenny played Comfest in the late afternoon, I wasn’t there but had heard that she fell down, no doubt because of heavy drinking and her once deeply emotional voice, rang hollow like a raggedy flag beaten into submission. This was her first time in front of a Columbus audience in nearly ten years, and afterwards a mean-spirited emcee poked more holes into her effort by cruelly and clumsily deriding her as she was carried off the back of the stage. The legs that once bounded across the fields of corn and soybeans in western Ohio, as she flourished on the high school cross country team, with the orange sun sucking beads of sweat out of her taunt legs, were crumbling around her feet. These legs that had walked through rain and baked parking lots on the Ohio State campus as she practiced hour after hour to get the routines of the Best Damn Band In The Land, and soon after across football fields around the United States had finally given up. Talking to her afterwards, she was crestfallen, not only for not being able to play well but for the embarrassment of falling, “Bela, I couldn’t feel my fucking legs—they just quit working, I was scared,” I heard take a pull from a bottle, wiping her mouth, “I fell in front of everybody, I’ve never been so embarrassed.” “Even more embarrassing than going out with me,” I joked. “No, you were the worst embarrassment, you nerd” she laughed. Growing serious,”Were you drunk?” I asked, as if alcohol was the root of every problem she had. “I had a little, but that had nothing to do without feeling my legs, god-damnit! Jesus Bela, is that all you care about, in all your drinking did you ever NOT FEEL YOUR LEGS!!! And then Paul, who used to be so nice to me made fun of me, that was really shitty. I’m not going to play again, I can’t go through the disappointment.”

            The call came from Dale, it was late, three a.m., in the background I heard the rain pelting down against him, small bombshells of water thumping-thumping-thumping against his large green withered Army coat. “Bela, it’s Dale, they just took Jenny away in the ambulance–they wouldn’t let me go with them because I’m drunk and I’m not her husband.” Yawning and clawing for my glasses, “where are they taking her?” “I’m guessing OSU East or Grant, she wasn’t doing good, she had a seizure and blacked out. She wasn’t making any sense, talking about these little silver men who were in the couch. Bela, I looked there were no little silver men in the couch.” “no, fucking shit” I thought. She was emaciated, except for her face and stomach which was starting to bulge out a little, the years of drink had started to hang deep in her face, while her arms grew thinner, her legs were dead weight at the end of the bed, tired eyes lined with red blinked at me, “Bela-baby, I can’t feel my legs anymore—I don’t know what’s wrong and then I had that seizure, Dale said I was hallucinating again. I don’t remember any of it, but I’m scared I’m gonna be in a wheelchair and I won’t be able to get down the stairs to my apartment. Then what?” She was in the ICU for nearly three weeks, and it was discovered that she had a heart condition, similar to her mother that went undetected through the years through neglect by Jenny and to a lesser degree by physicians who were too concerned with her drinking and seizures, they simply missed it as she would get stabilized and then discharged. Since she didn’t have insurance or Medicaid at the time the hospitals would to the minimum necessary and discharged, in hindsight, if they caught her heart condition earlier it may have saved hundreds if not millions in more lengthy hospital stays. It took nearly a month in ICU for the hospital to trace the loss of her legs on poor circulation due to a weak heart. She would eventually play two more shows over the next four years, both which were much more successful—but she arrived at both in a wheelchair.

            Driving north on High Street as I leave the late 19th Century house my family and I live in, the streets are lined with flowering trees, even the white clouds lay as if plucked from a white pillow and pined into the sky for a prop of idyllic life. Azalea, Rhododendron, Vinurum bushes form a pathway of whites, reds and purples from my doorstep to the unending cups of coffee, poured into shell-white porcelain cups at the wooden designed coffee shop where I spend my Saturday mornings. Just two miles away on Cleveland Avenue, which runs parallel with High Street, the flowering bushes are disguised as bus benches, with black and red advertisements for check cashing and bankruptcy help, the green foliage that provides a canopy of shade for sparkly metallic fuel-efficient sport cars that makes High Street a destination spot sits in sharp contrast on Cleveland Avenue as the thick gray of concrete and gravel spill off the streets into the multitude of parking lots, semi-vacant strip malls and the uniform architecture of fast-food buildings. They are two of the longest roads in Columbus, just two miles apart in distance but seemingly countries apart in lifestyles and income. Cleveland Avenue is desolate, and the desperation in brought to life by the number of abandoned storefronts and empty building, even the McDonalds on the middle section of Cleveland Avenue is abandoned. It is just past a dilapidated strip club, whose rotting rood wavers with every boner in the club where Jenny now lives. After extensive looking, calling and asking for favors it was the only handicapped accessible Section Eight unit we could find her off the bus-line. Recently, Jenny was again in the ICU for a number of weeks. Hug those you love.

live in 2012:

she used to play these on the piano quite a bit:

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae: Part 52–The Ramones past II

February 19, 2013

Ramones, part two

Bruno, my blond-haired, blue-eyed, energy-at-11 boy but age at 4, loves punk rock. We get in the car and he asks, “Daddy, can we listen to punk rock?” His sister, who has a remarkable fondness for opera and classical music, is under his shrieking assault as to what is played on our morning drive to school. “No! Saskia, we have to listen to PUNK ROCK!” Something about guitars tends to move our joined hearts.

The other day I walked out of the courtroom where I work and noticed a young woman, sitting in the blue felt and partially stained chairs in the hallway as she casually tried to look cool with a tint of blue hair hanging like a dropped flower over heavily mascara eyes, her legs pulled tight under her with a snippet of torn fishnet stocking poking from under frazzled blue jeans. To top off her ensemble she was wearing a faded, black Ramones T-shirt, the one with the Ramones Presidential seal. As I took her back to my office to conduct her assessment, I wanted to tell her of my personal Ramones experience, as if this would help bridge the therapeutic relationship between a 19-year-old, mentally-ill heroin addict and a graying 44-year-old man wearing a wrinkled dress-shirt and a tie with a dollop of jelly. I decided not to.


After Keith and I drank our fill at Larry’s, we decided to head down to the Newport, the large concert hall on High Street. My own experiences at the Newport were tenuous, as I had had a difficult experience with several bouncers at a dynamic triple bill of Th’ Faith Healers, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and the Breeders. I had ended up losing my temper and clocking a man several times my weight, after which his coworkers dragged me out by my neck, my feet dangling under me like a chicken carried across the barnyard, with me clutching my dark-rimmed glasses that were not built for barroom skirmishes. Bob Pollard was in line while I was on my way to being flung out the front door. He said, “Hey Bela, do you need help?” and then, upon noticing the thick-necked, beefy men escorting me out, “Uh, never mind!”

I had also managed to criticize the Newport management in one of the weekly papers for their lack of support of local and underground music in their pursuit of money, which was not the wisest move. At times, my own sideline hobby of promoting music was hindered by this “Fuck you” attitude toward the local corporate rock scene, as many of the bands that I had booked into Columbus who had risen to the status of playing a room the size of the Newport left me out in the dark when I could have had a nice payday for my earlier efforts. I had explained a part of this to Johnny Ramone, and he instructed Keith and me to come to the rear of the Newport to pick up some backstage passes after I assured him that my name would be crossed off the guest list for my past behavior.

Keith was excited, repeating, “The fucking Ramones, wow, can you believe it? The fucking Ramones, they know my name.” I was excited, but more so because I was to meet a woman at Larry’s after the show. We were to meet around midnight, which meant we were really just meeting to have sex.

The back of the Newport bordered Pearl Alley, and a large tour bus with a Western sunset motif painted along the side was parked next to the club. There was a small line of young women standing outside the back stage door that sat atop a small fire escape. With beer and whisky breath we stood on the crunchy gravel, keeping our distance from the chattering, nervous young punk rock women waiting to meet the elder statesmen of American punk rock. Suddenly, the Ramones tour manager, a dark-haired man wearing mandatory Ray-Ban sunglasses and chewing gum, appeared to be arguing with several staff members of the Newport. Another man in a brown suit appeared, clean-cut and holding a walkie-talkie, and yelled above the burgeoning din, “You guys have been selling your passes to all these girls all night. The show is sold out and none of your passes are good anymore!”

Mr. Ray-Ban yelled back, “That’s bullshit, you can’t do that! Show me the proof!” Keith and I looked at each other. How odd this all seemed.

Abruptly, Joey was on the scene, with his thin, angular frame and wearing a T-shirt. He pointed towards Keith and me, standing in the parking lot, giggling to ourselves. “Hey, I don’t know about all these girls, but those two guys get passes.”

Mr. Brown-Suit looked down at us, “I don’t care who it is, nobody else is getting in!”

Joey scoffed, “They don’t get in, we don’t play!”

I looked over at Keith, “This is fucking crazy.”

“Yup,” he said with a nod. It went back and forth for a few minutes.

Finally, Joey came down the stairs with Mr. Ray-Ban. “Hey, someone in our crew was selling our back-stage passes and they won’t let us. Why don’t you guys come up to Detroit tomorrow and we’ll get you in then?”

The next day was a Sunday. “I can’t, I have some family stuff going on,” in reality knowing a full-on hangover would impede driving the three hours to Detroit, getting drunk again, and driving back.

“How about Cincy, we’ll be there in two days?” This worked and we agreed to see them in Cincinnati.

Keith and I looked at each other as if we were being filmed for a sitcom. “Did Joey Ramone just say they wouldn’t play unless we were will allowed in?” I asked Keith.

Keith nodded, “Yeah, he said, if the two record store guys don’t get in, we don’t play.” I had a feeling it could have stemmed from my being banned from the venue for that idiotic move of slugging the bouncer. “Well, now what?” Keith asked.

“Well shit, we’re already on South Campus, so let’s go to Crazy Mama’s.”

Nodding, “Yup, sounds cool, might was well dance.”

As we started walking away, a bespectacled man with a beard right out of a King Crimson gatefold record cover, complete with pot seeds in the bent spine, yelled after us. “Hey guys, hold up. The fellas feel terrible and are embarrassed you couldn’t see the show, so I wanna help you out a little.” He explained that he was one of the roadies and drove their bus, the huge concert bus with a Western motif airbrushed on the side—a perfect cover for one of the most essential punk rock bands in history. He led us to the bus, telling us he was from Poland, Ohio, and had been with the Ramones for nearly ten years. “The best band you could hope to work for, even if they don’t talk to each other much. Total class guys. Salt of the earth.” As he was talking he pulled a baggie out of a worn, green satchel that was filled with marijuana. “Hey, this is for you guys, for your trouble,” and he tossed it to me.

I explained to him, “Man, we don’t need this, I don’t even smoke—I only drink.”

He smiled, “Hey, it’ll come in handy sometime.”

Keith grabbed it, “Shit, I know some girls who smoke,” and he tucked it into his pants. We thanked the bus driver from Poland, Ohio, assured him we would be in Cincinnati in a few days, and trudged off to get our dancing shoes on.

The night was strange, with an eerie energy that was fueled by our intake of Jim Beam and Black Label throughout the afternoon and evening. But South Campus in 1994 was much different than the sparkling new buildings and movie theater of the Ohio State University campus today. At the time, it was lined with bar after bar that made money selling an abundance of alcohol at a cut-rate, served in plastic pitchers and wash-buckets of beer, all with a fine film of grease floating on top. One could get shots of peach or peppermint  schnapps for a mere dollar, and before stumbling home at the end of the evening, clutching hard against the person who would quiet one’s loneliness for a few hours, a person could grab a gyro for only a dollar—a perfect mint to share kisses with at 3 am. The street would be lined with cops on the weekend, some on horseback trotting over to break up fights and to help guide the lines into the packed, smudgy bars, pulsating with sounds of Bananarama, The Cure, Ah-Ha, and if one were lucky enough, New Order or The Clash. One bar even made a Sunday evening of playing mostly AC/DC and The Cult, a choice that was popular at the time but in hindsight was about as short-sighted sonically as Ian Asbury singing for The Doors.  Columbus’s finest would line thin wires around the telephone poles so no future politicians, doctors, engineers, or teachers would drunkenly slip off the curb into an oncoming giant pick-up truck from one of the nearby rural burgs that dotted the adjacent counties.

I had shed South Campus several years prior. My drinking tastes no longer required me to search for the cheapest beer around, and the clientele of these establishments only pushed my buttons as I was just as likely to lose my temper with frat-boy lunk-heads or what I assumed were silly coeds. Besides, I had moved up north, closer to the store, near Larry’s and Stache’s——a convenient walk from any of these hangouts with little to no danger of getting into a row.

“Let’s take the alleyway, that way we don’t have to deal with the bullshit of High Street,” I suggested to Keith.

“Good call, man, that shit gotten even crazier, didn’t it?” I was drunk. We stopped at UDF to share a 40 ounce in the alley as we needed to feed the buzz lest it be too diminished before we completed the three-block walk to Crazy Mama’s.

“To be honest Keith, that was some really weird shit. I mean, it was like they were honored to know us, not vice-versa.” We hustled to the alley, pulling swallows from the bottle, and had finished it by the time we got to Crazy Mama’s. Dumping the empty bottle in a dumpster, I remarked to Keith, “It’s amazing that these dumbasses can’t seem to do this. Here we are drunker than shit and we know enough to throw our bottle away.”

Crazy Mama’s had steep stairs and as we climbed them we could feel the sweat inside the room. Bauhaus was playing. “I dunno Keith, they’re playing gothic shit tonight, maybe we should just go back to Larry’s.”

“We’re already here, besides some gothic chicks are sexy.”

Rolling my eyes, I said, “Whatever.” It was packed, with a whole slew of folks we hadn’t seen and a lot of punks from out of town, including a group of skinheads that lurked on one side of the dance floor on the opposite of the bar. “I don’t have a good feeling about this,” I murmured to Keith. I hated crowds. Especially drunk crowds. With skinheads. Suddenly “Beat on the Brat” exploded over the bar, and I said, “Cool, we’ll stay” as I grabbed three beers, two for me and one for Keith.

Part three sometime in the future.

Jenny Mae and Jerry Wick part 46: Guided by Voices, Part II-The Beatles, The Grifters, and Sparks

January 22, 2012

Guided by Voices, Part II: The Beatles, The Grifters, and Sparks

The house on Patterson looked good in every season, as it was constructed of bulky, brown, stained, wooden clapboard and had stony, raised gardens. In the winter it looked lonely and almost haunted, while in the summer the peeling brown clapboard was blistered by the sun, but in autumn the house was in it element. With its tarnished grass fading gray and brown and yellowing leaves bulging out of its overstuffed gutters, it could be a grimy wooden effigy or the loss that October seems to bring.

The days and nights shuddered and burped along. Every package we received at Used Kids came bearing gifts of sound, and the mail box on Patterson always seemed to contain some letter requesting music from Columbus. Time was as still as a television station that was always on but never watched. Nobody paid heed to it.

I had fallen hard for the sound of the Grifters, a band from Memphis that annihilated sound and built it back up with blasts of melodic sounds that were at once disquieting and soothing.  I had received their first full-length, So Happy Together, from Scat Records. I listened to it while working at Used Kids one morning, and by the third song I was on the phone with Robert Griffin, seeing if he could get me in contact with them. By the end of the afternoon I had booked them a show at Staches with Moviola and Gaunt.

Onstage, the Grifters were a shuddering, calculated, belching wreckage of sound. With a cloud of distorted guitars straining to stay out of tune and, in a spurt of electric coughing, the audio version of a halfback darting from the pile into open space, they would bend into a melody as breathtaking as a dive into a warm pool of water. They were, in a sense, a counter balance to Guided by Voices. Where GBV would inject a heavy dose of smiling hope into their minute-and-a-half epics, the Grifters were more concerned with the disappointment that tragedy brings, a sorrowful blend of noise and crankiness.

At that first Grifters show at Staches, there was hardly anyone there, only myself and a few patrons who had managed to pick up the band’s record at Used Kids. Jerry Wick was not yet too impressed with the Grifters, but the Ted Hattemer and the other fellows in Moviola were enamored of their sound. The Grifters took a step into the freedom of feedback and built something that was as extraordinary as a stone castle, a noisy blackened musical hook to hang yourself with.

The next morning over coffee in my dining room, I played some Guided by Voices for the Grifters, explaining that I thought they had a lot in common musically. It was apparent that Dave from the Grifters was every bit as much a music fan as Bob Pollard. We spent the morning playing records and talking music.  This listening together was a form of breaking bread, and the bond of kinship was born.

There is really nothing as a stranger asking, “What kind of music do you like?”

I always think that a good response would be, “I really like the idea of Anal Cunt, but I never really liked their sound,” or, “I really like the first Cars record because I got my first blow job to it, but after that they went completely and embarrassingly downhill.” There was a difference in the world I inhabited. It was common knowledge that we all obsessed over sound. The knowledge that the mechanism of sound could be used to transport a person somewhere else was the adhesive that held our community together.

Bob and the rest of Guided by Voices were making monthly visits to Columbus, usually to record with Mike Rep and drink beer with Ron House, Jim Shepard, Jerry and me. Shuffling into the store in the late afternoon, fresh from the hour drive from Dayton, they would arrive just in time for the five o’clock God-given right to a beer. Dan Dow once made the outrageous claim that getting stone drunk at work was not always a good idea. Ron replied, “Well Dan, that’s why we fought the fuckin’ revolution!” There was no argument from us—how could anyone dispute the constitutional right to happy hour? After sharing Rolling Rocks or vases of Budweiser at Larry’s or BW-3, Bob would huddle with Mike in the annex and mix and mash-up the tinny four-track recordings he had made. We talked music and sports mostly, because in Ohio there is really nothing else that matters. The weather is always gray, the economy is grayer, and politics is just a slick slope to traverse over beer..

One afternoon Bob asked me if I was familiar with Odyssey and Oracle, by the Zombies. “Yeah, I love it. It’s kinda like Odessa by the Bee Gees. In fact, it’s my girlfriend’s favorite record.”

“Do you have a copy?”

“Yeah, it’s not on CD yet. In fact, there’s only a crappy best of on CD. I actually think I have a first pressing as well as a Rhino re-issue. You can have the reissue or I’ll trade you something for the original.”  Bob offered to trade his copy of Slay Tracks, the first single by Pavement, which I gladly accepted.  We also talked about new bands we liked, especially the Grifters, whose tarnished, feedback-laden sound had made an impression on Bob.

He wondered aloud, “That’s what I’m trying to do, get that sound, but maybe my songs are too poppy.”

“Oh, you have to see them live. They pull all that noise off in person and it’s like watching a choreographed car wreck.”

Bob excitedly replied, “Lemme know when they play next and I’ll make sure GBV plays with them.”

Guided by Voices were playing in Columbus quite a bit. Dayton hadn’t embraced them  yet and they were not quite polished enough to get shows there, so they would come to Columbus and play with the Slave Apartments, V-3, Belreve, Gaunt, and Jenny. One of the most memorable shows they played around this time was when they opened for  V-3 and the Dutch noise band The Ex.

Roughly a month or so later, Flower Booking called me and asked if I would be willing to book another Grifters show. Although I had already brought them to Columbus several times, losing a pocketful of money on every occasion, I gladly accepted. By now Jerry had become a fan, mostly on the basis of their single “She Blows Blasts of Static”, a song of epic, noisy wreckage that pulled you in and then pummeled you with leathery hooks before offering release, so Gaunt was on the bill. I phoned Bob, who said that because it was on a week night not everyone could get off of work to play the show, but he would come up anyway. During the show, Bob, Jerry, and I were just to the left of the stage. As the Grifters plied their splintered sound in front of thirty or so souls, Bob turned to me and Jerry and yelled, “The three best bands ever: the Beatles, The Grifters, and Sparks!” Jerry and I would repeat this often to one another, nodding our head with laughter at our own inside joke. “The Beatles, the Grifters, and Sparks!” Indeed.

Bob wearing a Used Kids t-shirt on this early video

no Jenny Mae on youtube:


Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 31: The Fruit of Happenstance part one

May 2, 2010

The Fruit of Happenstance part one.–1995-1996

“How to kill a frog?” is a question that has never entered my mind, in as much as being to ask myself a question on how to stitch a pair of jeans together. There is a saying that pertains to boiling a frog slowly and the frog becoming used to the warming water and finally being unable to escape the clutches of the water as it starts to rage around the poor critter. In this manner so it went with some of the madness that not only shrouded our lives but also provided the stability to enjoy the water as is rose around us. There were happy coincidences  that paved the way to finding company in fits of panicked loneliness where one would find themselves talking to the bass player of band passing through town and discovering her best friend went out with a local lead singer or even the fact that her favorite obscure song is not so obscure to you. These were the breathtaking episodes that have long provided the mini-oasis’s of my life, for a moment when the world would halt around dim-litted beer signs and the skinny shuddering of a bare chested man, belting out “this is a job for a stupid man…” as he would slither across a crowd of other like minded rabble who cursed day jobs of slinging paper into feeders or food on plates. In that scene everything would breathe in at once and then freeze, like a Nike sports commercial where the athlete hovers in the air in science fiction fashion, I starred in my own science fiction where reality would peer through as if blanketed in mask made of panty hose. I could see the outlines but never the details.

Shit just fell in our lap; karma meant nothing as there was no sense of order in an existence that was constructed out of attention deficit disorder cement. In the summer of 1995 as I lurched through a marriage and divorce that grabbed and shook all of the disappointment from a childhood designed by escape the music was the only promise that held true. Jenny was in New Orleans, living the life of a bohemian that many of us in Columbus only pretended to be, she had left the past behind as she ran from her future. Her apartment was just off the French Quarter, working as a waitress she and her husband at the time, spent evening in the jazz clubs she adored and she painted and grew her flowers in a small courtyard directly behind her house.

Ted Hattemer and I assembled her debut album and I hated her idea of the cover, I should have trusted my instincts and used just one black and white photo of her as a naked child smiling as she was showered with the garden hose. That year, the dinky little label that Jerry and I started just a few years would release four full length records through Revolver USA. The promise that Jerry had bellowed in my ear that we would be self-sustaining appeared to be happening even if my utter accident.  In fact, in hindsight it was amazing that we could even get records shipped out on time, as only recently I discovered a check of $22 from Comm Four, a tiny distribution company in New York dated from 1993. Revolver USA was at this point completely funding the label, with a belief that some of the international and national press that music from Columbus was garnering would translate into sales. Years later I have a garage filled with physical copies of mis-guided faith in my business acumen.

We did not realize that some of the fuel that made us burn could also consume our everyday existence as evidenced by the marriage and divorce that rocked my little rock and roll world that year. Instead of celebration I was wrecked with self-doubt and reservation. Jenny appeared to enjoy New Orleans but she got the itch to return to Columbus and soon was living in the little green house directly behind what now houses The Bourbon Street and Summit nightclubs. Upon returning, she hooked up with Jeff Graham, who owned a small basement studio on the outskirts of what can only be referred to as the hood.

Diamond Mine studios was housed in a small pillbox styled house in the Linden area of Columbus, an area that my mother grew up in. During the forties this area was populated by many of the returning G.I.s who would use their GI Bill money and live in this new developed neighborhood. Stretching from just north of downtown Columbus, Linden is bordered by the I-71 freeway directly to the west and Cleveland Avenue which shoots out of downtown in an angled line like a bullet from a gun. Linden was a victim of white flight in the mid-fifties, and my mother’s parents were the only white family to stay in their house on 19th Avenue and Hamilton. Diamond Mine lay just to the north of this house, and today the neighborhood is pocket-marked by blocks of suburban bliss only to be rudely accented by the next block housing boarded up crack houses and gun shots borne out of frustration and confusion.

I knew who Jeff was, he was in couple of bands that were of the college rock variety, whose influences would both consist of Elvis Costello and Kansas so I knew little of him. I was shocked when I was led down to the basement studio which was much larger and sophisticated than I had ever imagined. It was the real deal, not some crappy cassette 4-track set up on a case of Black Label beer with shitty Radio Shack microphones duct-taped to broken mic-stands. His sound board had different colored lights and could have from a set of Star Trek. He played me some of the new songs Jenny was recording with him, Dan Spurgeon and Sean Woosely. The sound was rich, deep and sophisticated; I could not believe my ears. I had no idea that Jenny could sing to well. Maybe she wasn’t such a fuck up as she hic-cupped her way around me in the cramped studio….

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 30: Funerals and Winter

April 18, 2010

Funerals and Winter

Winters in Ohio are made of the emotional dregs of depression, the ashen polluted air of decrepit steel mills and coal mines and a landscape populated with battered hopes and forlorn thoughts. These somehow congeal together to make a gray morass of dingy desperate grey that rises with the fallen hopes of fall football fans stretching from Cincinnati (the Bungles), through Columbus (the Luckeyes) and settling into Cleveland (the Mistake on the Lake. This gray wraps around the skyline from November, just in time for most of the football Gods to have squelched any hope for a January championship, into the late blasting winds of March. It is unrelenting and oppressive, with an ability to cause statewide cursing on a daily basis by almost broken saddened masses who wrap themselves as snuggly as they can in winter coats, multi-colored scarves and wet boots that get their monies worth in the ever ending slush of winter.

There is a certain physical hardness that comes from living in Ohio, where brutal winter after brutal winter can shape a face into a soft enamel of skin. This is more from the neurotic impact of the never-ending gray than the wind and snow. Ohio lacks any semblance of a mountains and the haphazardness of the weather disallows such outdoor winter fare as pond skating, skiing or hockey so we naturally hold things in, wearing brave faces, drink beer and hone a cynicism that only a veteran bar-fly would appreciate. For many Ohioans, they go underground, hibernating in basement dens with large televisions, pizza and sports television thus resulting in bodies transfigured by lack of exercise and shitty food, bloated and immense as the depression that festers inside the girth. For others of us, we pined for escape through art, music, treadmills and alcohol we found our relief in stumbling through the slop of icy mud while we looked for our cars that we only parked a few hours earlier. I am not certain if there are any studies on the rise of alcohol sales and the use of anti-depressants in the winter months but I am quite certain that in Ohio these tend to skyrocket.

Jerry passed away in January, it was fitting that his death arrived amid snow drifts and the general crappiness of Ohio weather. Where the general mood is “what the fuck else can go wrong”, where many people tend to take the weather personally as another gray filled day is an act from God, exacting one more piece of a bruised soul. Anyway, this was how I felt when Jerry died, I had suffered from depression for many years and the old ways of dealing with it were drying up as much as I was trying to keep them wet. The music scene was changing for me, and much of my hopes in bands and artists were being vanquished by the personal choices the musicians were making. Jenny was living in Florida, having given up her music career as she stood on the brink of minor-celebrity in the indie-rock world, Moviola had shrunk from the favors of major-label overtures in favor of children and home buying, Appalachian Death Ride had basically ceased to exist as members battled their own demons, only the New Bomb Turks were still making music. Jerry was dead and I felt my life was now being defined by lose.

The world was getting suffocating, the choices fewer and while not yet thirty-three I couldn’t see myself at forty yet alone at thirty-five. Instead of being an active participant, as I once was I struggled to find a place within my shifting existence. I was certainly becoming someone whom I swore I would never become, a cynical bitter shadow who ducked from participation to search for meager pockets of laughter and sex brought by the ingestion of alcohol. Even these once fantastical pursuits were shriveling up and unsatisfying. Jim Shepard had hung himself, his life defined by his rejected death, swinging by a belt fastened to a doorway whose sole purpose was to hold the weight of the walls above the passerby’s was now betrayed by the ultimate act of sadness. For myself, the suicide of Jim was an event that reached deep with my own psyche bringing a long thought act into fruition, it was as destabilizing an event as any as I had ever encountered. Until the death of Jerry.

Jerry’s funeral was planned by his family, who were sweeter than I would have thought, as for many years Jerry shied away from his upbringing as so many of us were prone to do. Our insular world was filled with familial outcasts who not only scattered far from our physical upbringing but tended to push the memories of broken childhoods away to be replaced by the swagger and commotion of searing guitars, cigarettes and laughter. These latter three ingredients were the saviors we always searched for, and for me they were being replaced by urns and pine boxes. Jerry was buried in Parma, Ohio and large working class suburb of Cleveland, filled with tiny shoe-box houses constructed after the Second World War to house the returning G.I.’s and their lustful spouses. I met his father, mother and younger brother, trying in vain to let them know the joy their son had brought to our confined world. How Jerry’s music had touched people overseas and most importantly been able to grant those who knew and love him a starting point for merriment and copious amounts of late night cackling. I don’t know if I ever came close to succeeding. Jerry, flinched with the sound of religion especially fundamentalist Christianity, he would badger me for my weekly attendance to mass and try in vain to poke holes in my belief in Catholicism. His funeral was rigid, with a large gathering of his friends from Columbus, Cleveland and Chicago crowded into the hard wooden pews that were symbiotic of the service. The pastor didn’t try to capture Jerry’s audacious sense of humor and was much more focused on the afterlife, with little semblance of hope for those gathered around his coffin that we could emerge from foolish lifestyles.

I had driven up with Brett Lewis and our friend Jim, my girlfriend was going to meet us up there for the funeral. They picked me up at my house, I brought along a bottle of vodka I had started to become friendly with and a twelve pack of beer. We landed in at the motel and caught up with Bettina Richards and Elliot Dix, a Columbus native who had become a fixture in the Chicago music scene. We went out to the small neighbor dive bars that Jerry no doubt would have inhabited if he chose to stay in Parma and laughed as we told ridiculous Jerry story after ridiculous story. When I walked into the funeral home the next day and saw Jerry laying in the casket I quickly turned heel and found a dive-bar just a muddle away from the funeral home. I had two doubles of Maker’s Mark and returned, emboldened by the alcohol I could now face my friend. I knew at that moment I had a very serious issue with alcohol.

Cleveland was gray with a callous skyline that heaved masses of smoke into the air, as if the smoke stacks that pocketed the area were upturned water faucets, gushing grayer into an already overflowing bathtub of sky. We huddled around his grave as tears fell to the ground and the shattered expressions blossomed around the cemetery, I felt guilty as I did not answer his father’s call for pall bearers. I wanted to hide somewhere but stood there with my back against a tree, muttering to our friends about the Jerry’s foolishness. Jerry’s parents made a beautiful gravestone for him, complete with a guitar carved into the granite surface. For them, the loss must have been greater as they never had the opportunity to know the sheer pleasure of their adult boy, only unanswered questions. I was too chickenshit to help them clean his house out, I begged off every opportunity I could as they made the trip from Cleveland; they were left alone to piece together his life over the past twelve years. Later, his father contacted me, asking for video of his son. I still haven’t gathered these together.

I quit drinking roughly over a year later; I had a very difficult year after Jerry died. A year filled with trepidation, loss, and eventually new awakenings. As, I traversed early sobriety, Jerry would flash across my mind and leave tiny bits of encouragement as I fought feelings of escape and angst. I was one of the only persons I had known to give up the drink at that time, a singular figure in my life held up by the unsettling events of my near past and the promise of strangers I had no idea existed. When my daughter was born nearly four years later, I would cradle her in my arms and think of Jerry. How much he loved kids, he loved to be silly and how much he would have loved my darling little daughter.  For once, I think Jerry would have been brave enough to tell me he was proud of me. For a moment even the gray of an Ohio winter, cast rays of light throughout my life.

photo by Jay Bown

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 29: Ohio

April 3, 2010


Growing up in Ohio is different for all Ohioans, most because, like so much of the United States, Ohio is both vastly rural and also contains some of the largest and best known cities in the country. Everybody has heard of Cleveland and Cincinnati two large cities with history and reputations. Cleveland was populated by a large ethnic population from Eastern Europe, with massive Serbian, Hungarian and Czech immigrants who traveled west-ward to boil away their lives in the steel mills and manufacturing jobs of Northeastern Ohio. Cincinnati is nestled in the southwestern part of the state, just across from Kentucky; it is metaphorically across the invisible mason-Dixon line of Ohio. Hamilton and Clermont counties are two of the most conservative counties in Ohio, and while much of the state has overcome many of the racial tensions, Cincinnati with several large riots in the past two decades appears, at times mired in the early 1960’s.

Columbus would be that invisible Mason-Dixon Line, most people have heard of Columbus, the largest in terms of population of all the cities in Ohio it is mostly known as the largest college town in the country. A city that lives and breathes Ohio State football, which was mired in a multi-decade hangover after repeated defeats in the Rose Bowl that costs the saintly Buckeyes numerous National Championships. Even the smaller cities of Ohio are known, Toledo, Dayton, Canton and Akron have all garnered space in the minds of national citizenry, even if it is for such pop-culture phenomena as Corporal Klinger, the Wright brothers, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and rubber tires.

Then there is small town Ohio, with images of Sherwood Anderson, unlocked doors, county fairs filled with cotton candy and first kisses. An idealistic concept that feeds into the basic American dream that a small-town anybody can arise from corn-fields and hidden glens to climb into space like Neil Armstrong or John Glenn, the Presidency (seven of them-all mediocre hail from Ohio, or the silver screen such as Paul Newman and Clark Gable.

Because of its history and rich tradition, Ohio ranks fifth in colleges and universities which logically lead one to believe this is the reason it is home to so many artistic and inventive people. In spite of all of this, when one grows up in Ohio, one has the feeling of being the underdog, of someone who always just comes up short.

Ohio is known and felt as an also-ran, an area known for what it almost has but never had, and in fact never will. For an ocean we have a large lake, for mountains we have foothills and we are forever defined by our collective losses. Our sports teams are known for despair, in Cleveland it is brought out in such slogans as The Fumble, The Drive and losing the World Series with one out to go. Cincinnati is tethered to a football team better known as the Bungles and Ohio State Football went thirty years between National Championships and is better known now for losing two in the past five years. We are in our hearts cynical but lovable malcontents.

Musically, Ohio is rich, especially when it comes to punk rock, with an abrasive arty sound that helped birth the movement. Helped by the ample liberal arts colleges that dot the state, such as Oberlin, Kenyon and Antioch and huge state universities such as The Ohio State University, Ohio University, Kent State and Bowling Green. The arts scenes have always burped out terrific and idiosyncratic fare such as Pere Ubu, Devo, the Wolverton Brothers, the Dead Boys, and Guided by Voices. In the late eighties each town had its own brand that helped define and nurture the other bands and artists. Cleveland had the most excellent and under-appreciated Prisonshake, the Mice, Death of Samantha, My Dad is Dead and Cruel, Cruel Moon. Dayton had Guided by Voices. Cincinnati had the aforementioned Wolverton Brothers whose shambling country-art punk is as twisted as anything from a David Lynch movie, the Ass Ponys and the Afghan Whigs. Athens birthed Appalachian Death Ride and Geraldine, two sinister bands that would be at least marginally famous if they resided anywhere but Athens, Ohio.

In Columbus, we first had Jim Shepard (Vertical Slit/V-3), Scrawl, the Great Plains, the Gibson Brothers, Royal Crescent Mob, Boys From Nowhere and Mike Rep all made up of various odd-balls and characters who would play a huge role in the development of what is somewhat now being regarded as a high point in the Columbus underground scene. The specialness of that time was mostly due to the large and fanatical friendships and respect we had for not only one another but also for those bands that set the stage. Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae would both be besides themselves to share the stage with any Ron House fronted band and the same would be said for the New Bomb Turks who would open for any band they deeply respected, whether it be the Fastbacks (from Seattle) or Prisonshake.

We put stock in ourselves and to a large part, our friends. Friends who would carry the torch of loneliness offset by a burning desire to be heard and to hopefully lay next to another congenial soul by five am. Our hopes, crashed as theirs did when things did not quite pan out as we had planned. We were prepared for it, as it is in an Ohioan’s soul to step up to the plate and be called out by the proverbial sinker ball. Three strikes. The Trip. The Fumble. The Drive. Etcetera and so forth. Nobody got famous, nobody ever really made a dent in any product counting mechanism like Billboard, The College Music Journal or MTV but we loved and cherished one another as if our lives depended on it, night in and night out. What we discovered was the result wasn’t the prize; the prize was the friendship and the making of art for fuck’s sake. That is what an Ohioan does, not always stylish but always sincere.

Jerry Wick & Jenny Mae: part 22-Jim Shepard & V-3

December 19, 2009

Jim Shepard

There were several people whom we bounced around with, the majority were people in our same age group who had the same interest, The New Bomb Turks, Greenhorn, Moviola and various bartenders and bar maids.  Outside of this group there was a core group of Columbus musicians and artists whom we all admired; these were for the most part the 80’s generation of the underground music scene: Dan Dow, Ron House, Mike “Rep” Hummel, Scrawl, Don Howland, Jeff Evans, Dan Dougan and Jim Shepard. We all had our walls, some built up by bandied down rumors, some by musical preference, some by the types of intoxicants people took and others by past and future romantic interests. For a while, Jerry, Jenny and I spent a great deal of time sitting in the wooden booths at Larry’s, standing by the stage at Staches or Apollo’s or manning the corner window at BW-3, drinking a vase of happy hour Budweiser.

Jim Shepard was an outsider in a land of outsiders; he had spent a great deal of his life in Florida, a veritable outpost of misfits and a state that was constructed for interlopers and floaters who would head down south in search of new beginnings and self-inventions. Jim was a short man, who wore his mat of greasy black hair as if it were a prop from a Harry Crews short-story. He walked with a slight lean as if the weight of the world pulled him forward, waiting to smother him in its own gravitational pull. He was constantly unshaven but never bearded; it was as if he had gotten a George Michael shaving kit from the liquor store. He was a constant ruffled sort, who spoke in a deep mumble as if he were sending himself coded messages. In a sense, even though I drank copious amounts of alcohol and spent hours on barstools next to Jim, I never really knew him but then again I’m not sure if I’ve never really known anybody.

Jim had Jerry’s and I respect from the get-go, he was semi-famous by our standards as a long-time home recorder who had been putting out records for well over a decade. He also had garnered a well versed fan base especially with the East Coast music tastemakers such as Thurston Moore, Johan Kugelberg and Byron Coley. He had been performing music for many years and his band Vertical Slit was a quiet, yet solid underground force in Columbus.

When I met Jim, I was working at Used Kids; he was working for a local jukebox repair shop and was good friends with Mike Hummel. Jim would drop in during lunch time and hang out, flip through records and chat. Once in a while he would sell us some of his records which were put out by out of town labels such as Ropeburn and Siltbreeze. He would huddle with Hummel next door at the Used Kids Annex and they would fuck with his tapes and bang out music deep into the night. On certain Monday evenings, Jerry and I would stroll down to Larry’s for our start on the evening and we would be disappointed by the weekly poetry night, we took offense to collegian artist’s types butting in on our time at Larry’s. On many of these Mondays both Jim and Mike would be there, reading and spontaneously spouting off their poetry. Jim’s being more of the science-fiction-cum-gutter-found prose influenced by Phillip K. Dick and William Burroughs. Jerry and I would crowd against one another, no doubt too chicken-shit to express our own poetry in such a stark setting, Jerry would couch his in between blasting guitars and punk-rock beats and I my own would lay dormant in dog-eared rumpled notebooks where they still sit, twenty years later.

V-3 came about after the breakup of Vertical Slit, it was an unsightly band with Jim’s paranoid dark blue-collar mystique, Rudy, a drummer of small demeanor and Nudge Squidfish a jovial wide-eyed gentleman who was prone to talk of UFO’s and conspiracy theories when prompted by a few drinks. Live they were freakish sight straight out of community access television but they carried a powerful force in Jim’s highly melodic art-ish squall that was one part early Fall, another part Joy Division and the rest filled with land-locked Florida bizarreness and mid-Western sludge.

Jim was funny, even if one could not always hear his almost inaudible comments that would slip out of his mouth like a small bump in the road. For a moment when he spoke you would think that a ghost passed through the room, moving a coffee cup or beer bottle across the table; you would think you heard him and then you didn’t. It wasn’t before long that Jim and Jenny Mae had developed a strong friendship, both of them had a fondness for the dive bars of North Campus and both of them enjoyed slurping a few drinks before the sun set down.

It would appear that musically that Jim and Jenny would have little in common musically as many of her pop songs where constructed out of a love of early sixties pop, The Beach Boys and the bounce of early eighties college rock whereas Jim’s music was as serious as a life pursuit. What they bonded over was a sense of melody and a meeting of the bohemian lifestyle, filled with creativity, late nights, cheap rent and the cultivation of laughter. Both suffered, more internally than physically, with Jim although it should be noted I did not know him well-he was too closed for that, you could feel the gravity of his darkness through sunken eyes, mused hair and the stubble around his chin. He wore his clothes as if they were an afterthought, articles for warmth-nothing else; they consisted of ragged blouses, jeans and old flannel. He carried himself as if he were Harvey Pekar, one with a distrust of the modern world and its complexities as a point of contention. His songs evolved around science-fiction, social commentary and the pursuit of a connection I think he never gained with the exception of his music.  Perhaps his greatest line was “negotiate nothing, tear it all down.”

Jenny and he started drinking together shortly before his death, they would both meet at either Walt’s or Bourbon Street in mid-afternoon passing the afternoon hours in a connected shadow world lit by bar lights and their own brilliant creativity. Jenny told me one day that she had been drinking with Jim for a while and that they had started recording together, mostly her adding keyboards and trumpet to some of his tracks. I joked that they should record a cover of the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers duet “Islands in the Stream”, which Jenny used to play. She shocked me a week later and told me that Jim was up for it, I have no idea if it were ever recorded.

Our world was small but it opened up the universe where ideas bounced off of one another like bubbles in beer, we would have one ingenious idea flowing after another without a filter to identify the logical of said idea. Huddled around empty bottles and amplifiers the stage of the world was in the basements and living rooms of our lives. Fashioned out of four-track tapes, sticky homemade record covers and note books furnished out of loneliness and dreams that were one part illusion and another part delusion Jim, Jenny and Jerry bonded over the ideal that the world was what you carved out of it, one note at a time.

As much as Jim’s outsider manner defined his life and his being, he made strong connections with other like minded people, although many of us came from somewhat disparate backgrounds we all had (have) a passion of the transformative essence of music. The opportunity to escape the mundane of our lives through the process of electricity, sound and speakers. Jim made an impression on Bob Pollard and commented one drunken evening to Bob while marveling at Bob’s propensity to fashion melodies as if they were breathes of air, that he “was like a vampire on Titus, sucking songs out of the earth.” Titus was the street that Bob lived on at the time, next thing you know the next Guided by Voices album was named “Vampire on Titus.”

Jim, Ron House, Bob, Don Howland and Mike Rep were the elders in our world, wizened cynical “old” men who had been there-done that and were still plugging in and plugging away, making vital music deep into their (aghast!) thirties while most other people we knew of that age were watching Disney videos with diaper fitted children and listening to generic alt-rock pretending that one could be hip with a mortgage payment. That lifestyle was so far removed from what we were living it might have been in an alternative universe. Our own misgivings kept us  happily insolated and isolated.

Jim, Ron, Mike, Don and Tommy Jay somehow having the insight to recognize their own place in the small pond of the Columbus underground scene managed to tolerate one another long enough to record together under the guise of Ego Summit and released a terrific record titled “The Room Isn’t Big Enough” (now available digitally on Old 3-C Records). A smorgasbord of clashing but similar styles coalescing to carve a minor dent in the history of nineties home-tape underground. It contains one of the most disturbing songs in the Midwestern music cannons in Ron House’s “Half Off” about a prostitute who eats her leg off to get out of a trap. Sung/spoken by Don Howland it is as chilling as it is as shittily recorded, with a claustrophobic aura that chokes the listener almost as much as the smoke being exhaled by the musicians when recording the record. Therapy is recommended after every listen, it is that frightening.

In the failed experiment of nineties rock and roll perhaps the most elaborate but yet simple minded plan was for major labels to sign well respected but commercially limited bands and dropping then when sales didn’t match those of Seven Mary Three or Bush. Columbus was ripe for this idiotic take on major label experimentalism, and sadly this would have detrimental effects on most persons in this blog. It’s not as if signing to a major label was idiotic in itself it was that at that point in the business design of corporate music was one part fed off the ideals of the sixties and early seventies when artists as diverse as The Velvet Underground, Tom Waits, Moondog and Phil Ochs could be signed and allowed the freedom to be artists. Whereas the major label mindset professed this ideology it still worked (works) with the mind frame of the quick-cash turnover of the most blandest and cynical music of the nineteen-eighties, whereas the bottom line is sales and the exposure. Hence some of the oddest couplings of artists and money since the Hampton Grease Band signed to Columbia. Such was V-3 signing to American imprint Onion records.

Johan Kugelberg had left Matador Records to take a job working directly under Rick Rubin and was given his own vanity label which he titled Onion, a very tasty but yet smelly vegetable. He managed to sneak in four excellent releases before the label realized his venture would not bring in any money. These were: The Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments “Bait and Switch”, The Monks re-issue, The Stiffs (whose uncanny New York streetwise-art-punk would predate the Strokes by several years) and V-3. Even by the non-startled place in our collective world the signing of Jim Shepard to American was stupefying basically because Jim’s music could be equally standoffish and abrasive, a challenge of sorts to the listener just like the man himself. “Photograph Burns” has some very warming songs on it, most notably “Bristol Girl” which ended up on countless mix tapes I constructed on my living room floor deep into the night. There was nothing odd about the conundrum of many of the underground artists signing to major labels, as Jerry once told me “I want to be famous”, what I think he really meant was that he wanted to be immortal. It is easier to be immortal if more people know who you are, so it only makes sense to hitch your song to a corporate machine like Warner Brothers whose Bugs Bunny may be more immortal that any human. Besides one could always return to the basement, although Jim never really returned to the basement after V-3 got dropped after Johan lost his job. He was dead within two years.

I saw Jim huddled next to the video trivia game console on the end of the bar at Bourbon Street one Sunday night during an absolutely depressing bout of Karaoke sung by half awake hipsters who took pride in the fact that their jobs didn’t require them to be their early Monday morning. He eyes were flat and deep enough in his skull that they could be mined. He had a jar of beer sitting in front of him, I asked if he were ok and he said he was fine. He was a vacant as a vacuum. I said something to Jerry who loved Karaoke about Jim, “he’s just fucked up tonight.” A few days later at work, Ron hung up the phone and said “Jim Shepard hung himself last night.” Jim’s funeral was the first of several in a few years’ times for a small but close knit scene of outsiders, artists and music fans. A collection of dazed and rocked ex-girlfriends, musicians, bar-keeps and family gathered around a photo of a smiling (!) Jim and talked to pass the time as a sweaty undercurrent no doubt sent us all scurrying to various hidden parts of ourselves that we dare not try to touch.

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part ten: Guided by Voices

September 8, 2009


One afternoon as I was perusing the middle island at Used Kids, which was filled with hundreds of $1 LP’s, I found a bright yellow record with blunted Times New Roman type-face and what appeared to be a smudge of  a thumb print. It looked fairly interesting enough, well enough for me to pick it up and flip it over. It was pressed in Dayton and had been just been released although the sparse cover art and the thickness of the cardboard sleeve made an impression that it was actually pressed in the late 70’s or early 80’s.  At that point in time, pre-blog, pre-online anything, pre-instant satisfaction and instant opinion one had to be a bit more curious about records.  Anything you bought may have an unknown quality to it, on one hand it could possibly change your life (like the first time I heard “Touch Me I’m Sick” by Mudhoney) or it may prove that you wasted anywhere from $1 to $9 depending on the errant purchase, such as a vast majority of the dollar records.  At this time I relied heavily on Ron House and Dan Dow, who ran and owned Used Kids and who to this day have the most impeccable tastes and judgment in music that I have ever met. The name of the record was “Self Inflicted Arial Nostalgia” and it was by Guided by Voices.

Used Kids was started by Dan and Ron, as they shedded the shackles of Moles records and started their own store underneath the newly opened School Kids Records run by Curt Schieber. Kurt owned School Kids and his shop had once dwelled in the subterranean basement. Anyway, in 1989 I was still working at Discount Records, wearing a poly-cotton blend pant that chaffed my legs as I yearned to be free to not sell New Kids on the Block or the newly invented cas-single. I usually headed to Used Kids on my lunch break or if it were later in the day, I would stop in there as I headed to Larry’s to get a drink to tied me over the last few hours at Discount.  I was at that age, more knowledgeable in music than any sane twenty year old should be, where I could tell you how mastered every Elvis Costello or Randy Newman record but could barely handle long division. I had been living and breathing records for as long as I could recall.  I remember in 1977, pleading with my father in Kroger’s that I would be happy to eat eggs and cereal all week if he just spent the grocery money on three records.  Mostly likely Kiss or Stevie Wonder records.  When I was going to middle school in Athens I spent my afternoons behind the counter of a hole-in-the wall shop called “Side One Records”, I wasn’t allowed to work but the two guys who ran it let me hang out.  I can still remember them playing the hell out of a Herman Brood and His Wild Romance record. It was basically all I ever wanted to do besides maybe be a college professor. I never became a college professor but I did marry one. So one and a half of my dreams have been realized, anyway it’s probably funner to fuck a college professor than to actually be one.

After a short while, the two men at Used Kids gleaned that I knew my stuff musically, especially when it came to classical and most rock. I was soon doing short afternoon stints when I got off at Discount. Even though I was the manager of Discount, I felt a kinship and admired Ron and Dan a great deal.  I felt immediately invited into a small community that I had somehow already been born into. All I had to do was find it. I think the fact that Dan had noticed me at two very sparsely attended shows a Bogart’s in Cincinnati helped seal the deal (they were respectively the Proclaimers and Lucinda Williams circa 1988).

I suppose Jerry felt the same way, there was something about finding a community when you are in young adulthood, for most of us who were/are part of this small but vital scene in Columbus this meant a realization that for many of us only existed through the music and the books we listened to in high school. By submerging myself in the music I listened to growing up I was awakened to the possibility that there was a world that existed outside of Springfield, Ohio. We didn’t necessarily believe in the myth of rock and roll per se, in fact I believe we embraced the everyday possibilities that the type of music we listened to promised.  There was something bloated, sickening and skeptical about most of the force fed music of the late 70’s and 80’s.  Our idea of escape did not exist through a can of hair spray and the glorification of hookers but of the grimy world of the Velvet Underground, the subliminal humor of the Ramones, the geeky romance of Elvis Costello, the anger of the clash and the mumbling beauty of R.E.M.. Plus we wanted to dance, to feel the abandonment that punk rock promised and we wanted to be able to touch it and for most of us we wanted to help create that avenue of deliverance. For Jerry and I that meant having heroes, for both of us our heroes were not so much the kinds propagated on MTV or through Hollywood movies but the kind of people who you could sit down and have a beer with.  Ron, Dan and others along High Street had made music that was not just manufactured by companies out of town but were in fact very, very good. It meant the idea that the fellow selling you a quart of beer or serving you food could also be the one writing songs about your loneliness or the crush you had on that barmaid down the street. He may be actually be writing his songs about her.

We were not the kind to be blessed with beauty, we were not the captains of the football team or the cheerleaders but the ones who made wise-ass remarks and knew that high school wasn’t the best time of our lives, nor was it the worst, it was simply a time in our lives that had to exist. We had our defects whether they be physical, emotional or financial, we didn’t hide from them in fact we would grow to accent some of these whether it would be wearing outsized cheap glasses or writing songs with our hearts on our sleeves. Jerry would flat out say that he wouldn’t take his shirt off because his chest was concave, it was like “well big deal now that you told us just take the fucker off.”  We drank cheap beer because we had to, and we wore thrift store clothing not because it was fashionable but because we were broke, from shitty paying jobs and life choices that made our worlds a little less complicated and funnier than it really appeared to be.

I admired a man named Craig Regala who worked alongside his longtime girlfriend at Magnolia Thuderpussy records, I had an undying crush on her but with her being with him and at least twenty-six years old was way out of my league. When the north location of Magnolia’s closed, I hired Craig at Discount where we laughed at the insanity of a corporate record store. We would sometimes crouch below the counter as the other one rang up a pain-in-the-ass customer and pull our penises out and wiggle them around, just out of eye shot of the customer. Craig had about seventy-seven ear piercings in his ears and tattoos that didn’t consist of roses or naked ladies on his arms, he was funny as hell and insightful. He turned me onto Galaxie 500 and the fact that Mo Tucker of the Velvet Underground was playing Staches up the street. Craig would later start Datapanik, the direct inspiration for Anyway. He served as a bridge to the other side, when I was young and living with Jenny. He took interest in the classic country music I had been listening to for several years.  He didn’t laugh when I tried in vain to grow a well sculpted mutton chops like George Jones, in early 1988. I was living with Jenny and much of the life we knew consisted of drinking twelve packs, and prank phone calling pizza joints and eating at the Wendy’s salad bar was a night out.  We were introduced to a world where everybody made an impact, where the genius really did live next door. It opened up the world as if we were toddlers discovering the magnificence of the back yard.

When I asked Ron about the yellow $1 record I was holding in my hand, he said it was decent and that a customer from Dayton sold it.  The customer was the singer in the band. I took the record home and was impressed, not blown away, it lacked the sonic wonderment of their next few records but it was especially catchy, especially “Navigating Flood Regions”. In a few years Bob Pollard would make a bi-weekly journey to Used Kids to work with Mike “Rep” Hummel on his next couple of records and I would get to know him pretty well. He was like the rest of us, with a bit of the manic frenzy Jerry had but with a slight hint of some sort of autistic brilliance about him, he was funny, gentle and extremely eager. Gaunt would be the first band I knew to realize the talent of GBV when they recorded an excellent cover of “Quality of Armor” for a label called Bag of Hammers. Jerry and I loved it when Bob and some of the other Guided by Voices crew came up; they were always polite and deferential to us about music. We drank with them and Kevin Fennell didn’t drink, I was blown away by this because the others ones drank like we did, which meant a vast amount. The drinking didn’t appear to impair their lives as nurses, teachers and artists as it didn’t appear to adversely affect our lives as record-store dudes.