We arrived at the Victoria & Albert Museum at 9:45am, thinking we were late and had just missed our 10am ticket entry time–only for the guard to tell us the museum wasn’t opened yet, but that when it did open, we just had to walk straight ahead to the entry for the exhibit. And we stood there as the crowd grew and grew, and people walked up and said that they were there for the Special Exhibit but didn’t have tickets, and the guard told them that there were already 400 people waiting upstairs (we took the subway route from the South Kensington tube station, so were underground) and that they had to go up there. I clutched my tickets tighter.
I have not been certain at all about this reconstituted Soundgarden, so uncertain that despite my great love for that band and their music I did not leap through hoops or get on planes to go see them. I missed all the gigs last summer because I was on the road anyway and so when they turned up back in NYC, I decided it was time. I heard all the whispers of separate tour buses and less than cohesive energy between the lead singer and the rest of the band, and it was just time that to go, to find out for myself.
This is written in response to Molly Templeton’s call for submissions in response to the New York Times‘ How-To issue.
Everyone should drive cross-country at least once in their life. Driving with a friend or a car full of people, it’s a life-changing experience. But by yourself, it is a moment of reckoning. Those hours and hours and hours behind the wheel with only yourself and your iPod playlist are as transformative as round-the-world travel.
I remember Achtung Baby as the record where it was not just about what and who U2 were as it was about what and who they weren’t. At the time, people weren’t just U2 fans, you were either fans of the Joshua Tree- era U2 who didn’t love what was perceived as this sudden change, or you were the people who were starting to — not so much lose interest towards the end of that particular phase (including, by all accounts, the band themselves), but might have tired of some of it just a tad, and you loved Achtung Baby not because it was U2’s next album but because it was Achtung Baby. To me, it was closer to the era where they made their bones. For all of the insistence on noise rock influences and Einsturzende and their ilk, I heard the Stones at Nellcote, I heard Marc Bolan’s gold lame pants, I heard the Silver Factory, I heard the Bowie of Heroes, the Lou Reed of Transformer, the Dolls at the Mercer Arts Center. It was Manchester meets Motown.
It was iconic, it was ridiculous, it was groundbreaking. It was overwhelming and exciting – if you wanted to be overwhelmed and excited by all of the above, which I most certainly did.
Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. Tonight (10/5) at midnight ET you can listen to my appearance on Dave Marsh’s Kick Out The Jams on Sirius/XM 30. We’ll be discussing the RRHOF, and B-sides and Broken Hearts. I read from the book, talk about it with Dave, and play a few songs. Happiness is hearing your teenage writing idol say nice things about your writing.
In answer to this tweet asking for memories of the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle:
THE CROC: the line along the plate glass. the chicken fingers. the neon sheep. drinking whiskey in the back bar. THE GODDAMN POLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM. watching ebay sellers stalk mark arm and steve turner for autographs while they ate their chicken fingers. young fresh fellows. girl trouble. THAT POLE, WHAT IS IT DOING THERE. stubbornly refusing to believe that yes, r.e.m. WERE playing there on monday night and sitting on the sidewalk for three songs before getting inside. the supersuckers. gas huffer. the fastbacks. mike watt. mike watt 4 days after 9/11. mike watt any time. the curtains. the paper mache snakes. THAT EFFING POLE. Endless Mudhoney gigs. Wellwater Conspiracy. Pre-Bumbershoot Under Assumed Name gigs. Cheap Trick, three nights in a row. The Knitters. John Doe solo. It almost doesn’t matter who was playing there, if it was at the Croc, guaranteed it was worth seeing.
P.S. when i came back to Seattle last year to see Greg Dulli at the Croc, I ran up to the pole and hugged it.
It was hell.
I’m talking about what it was like in high school at the end of the 70s, when the music on the radio was just awful. It was bland and overproduced and you were faced with trying very hard to convince yourself that you liked “Hotel California” or what you would do with the four copies of the Foreigner album you got at your birthday party (hint: march them down to Discount Records, where manager Greg used to let me have the run of the returns bin in exchange for updating the fiddly catalog with the tissue-thin pages that was supposed to be a listing of every record ever made).
It was inevitable, it being New Jersey, and it went on all night – adding “Promised Land” at the end of ISHFWILF, thanking Bruce for the loan of the hall, getting the crowd to “Bruuuuce” them. It was inevitable, and I knew it was coming, but when Bono went to the front of the stage and pulled out the sign – and that person had to have gotten online at the stroke of dawn to get that spot – it didn’t make it any easier, as he proceeded to dedicate “Moment of Surrender” to the E Street Band. And again, again, even with all of that, even though I knew it was going to happen, I’d seen the video, I’d heard the song files from Oakland, Bono invoking the last verse of “Jungleland” in New Jersey, across the parking lot where we stood and watched them all there not that long ago – well, goddammit, you learn from the best, you Irish bastard.