randy bewley, and reminiscence
The Idolator obituary, if you hadn’t seen it yet. It is sad and tragic and far too young, and this is where I kick myself for not going out on a school night to see the reunion. (Part of it, of course, is that sometimes I want the magic to continue to exist in my head as it always was, and not as a reconstituted version. Which is why I only half-lobby for a Replacements “reunion” [in quotes because with Bob, it’s not a reunion].)
This is more about the chain of events, how things were, and how they are now. I’m trying to remember how I first heard that Randy was in the hospital, which was the initial report. I know I saw it come through some information stream which I cannot recall, and promptly sent that story to Miriam (living in Belgium, she would have seen it sooner or later, but I knew she would want to know sooner). Miriam and I have been friends since the mid-80’s. We started talking to each other after a show one night, after seeing each other at show after show after show of the same kinds of indie rock bands, on the Maxwell’s “circuit” (if you will – there were other clubs, of course, but the idea is, the types of bands who played Maxwell’s back then were in one group, and everything else was in the other).
Then, not long after that, the notice that he had passed started coming through. I should have timed the filter from the old-school PR guy or rock journo I surely got it from, until it hit, oh, say, Brooklyn Vegan.
I compare this to when D. Boon died, when I got an anguished phone call in the middle of the night, from someone in South Jersey who had heard the news – which was still an unconfirmed, but very reliable rumor – on a college station. It could have been WPRB, it could have been one that only broadcast at night and doesn’t exist any more. In a few days, we had the information confirmed – I believe even MTV picked it up – but the chain of information was slower.
I look at the quantity of people writing about Randy and I wonder if they ever saw Pylon or had been old enough to have seen Pylon. Not that the latter disqualifies you – it’s not my fault my parents had sex before yours, as a friend of mine says – but the volume seemed out of place compared to the proportion of Pylon’s importance in the large Music circle. In my group of friends, it would have ranked another late night phone call, but I wouldn’t have expected someone working in Tower Records, say, to have known or cared. I look at some of the younger music bloggers posting about Randy, and I think, “Are you doing this because you genuinely feel this loss somewhere or because everyone else is posting about it?” I will honor the former. I deride the latter. I read those blogs and think, You know, people who know and care about this will have found out in some other way besides your blog, and the people who read your blog do not know or care, and your inclusion of this here as just another thing to give you traffic or make you look smarter cheapens it, and does not give you any more credibility or authenticity.
Irrational? Maybe. Selfish? Probably. Elitist? Quite likely. So fucking what.
Maybe I am bothered because it is just so easy now, to find out about a random band in a random town, without having to dedicate any effort to it. You don’t have to go to a record store, you don’t have to send carefully-wrapped dollar bills in an envelope to a P.O. box in St. Louis or Minneapolis or Austin or somewhere in the places inbetween those dots on the map in order to get back a photocopied fanzine where there might be an article about a band you heard about but have never seen or heard (but want to). If you want to find the other people who care about the same music you do, you get online and go to whatever blog or MySpace or Facebook or a message board and voila. You’re not special ordering records (and I do mean records), you’re not staying up late and jury-rigging your antenna to pick up stations left of the dial (there’s a reason behind that song title, it’s not just a pretty turn of phrase).
I guess this is the place I turn into a cranky curmudgeon. It is all so fast. It is all so much. And I am not entirely sure it is better. In fact, I am pretty sure it is not. There is so much I love about the internet, so much it has given me. There is no way I would have pursued writing about baseball in any other way, and no way I would have had the kind of success I have had as a sportswriter without the internet. It would be so much harder to get my photography in front of people. It would not be so easy to stay in touch with friends, although I wonder sometimes if we weren’t better off with the phone and the parameters of watching long distance charges on phone bills. But I do not know about what it has done to music. It is probably 50-50, but the 50 on the other side just kills me sometimes
All of this sparked by Randy Bewley’s death, because the days I loved and cared about Pylon were those days when you found out about it because Michael Stipe mentioned them or someone brought home a copy of Flagpole from a trip to Athens or someone in a record store was playing the single when you came in. I remember hearing them on WNYU back in the days of the New Afternoon Show (I would sit in the parking lot at the end of my after-school job and listen as long as I could and prolong the drive home, since I got the best reception in my mother’s VW Rabbit).
I will stop right now by saying that I wish his friends and bandmates my deepest sympathy, and may his journey thrive.
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