In the late 90s, I used to have this recurring dream about seeing the reunited Clash again. At the time, I was living in Seattle, so in the dream I was always in the back of Mercer Arena and I was always standing near some Seattle rock luminary: one time Mark Arm, another time Kim Thayil, one time Eddie Vedder and his wife Beth. (Their presence in the dream was actually not the fantastic part; had there been a Clash show in Seattle, I can pretty much guarantee all of those people would have been there somewhere.) I remember the red and orange of the lights and I could hear Joe’s voice clear as a bell. The dream always came in on the middle of songs, never the beginning, and I never heard an end. But the feeling was always the same, every time, that sense of awe and waves of rolling thunder emanating from the stage.
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.
Even I am not immune to the year-end listing process. Here’s my list of favorite/best shows of 2011. It’s so skewed as to representative of nothing except my particular universe – but it’s not like I’m pretending that 2012 isn’t going to be a laundry list of Springsteen and Afghan Whigs shows.
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.
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.
The video above is Jesse Malin onstage at the Stone Pony Saturday night. Yes, that is me, singing along in the background, even though I was taping. I hit record because I was anticipating some kind of hopeful rumination about Paul Westerberg or the Replacements or something similar. Instead I watched a bunch of people stand and stare at the stage.
I continue to remain amazed that in 2011 that “Bastards of Young” is not canon, that it is not mandatory, that everyone in the world does not know the words to it. Or even at least a Jesse Malin audience who presumably bought the covers record for which this was the lynchpin (as per Jesse), that they would know this song. I remain amazed that the Replacements continue to fade from view, that people don’t know and don’t care and don’t care to know. I am like one of those old people who remembers when things were one way and they still think things are that way, because in my day everyone I knew loved the Replacements (or made a conscious decision that they did not) and they were huge and important and hugely important, they were massive, they were the kind of thing you planned your life around, an album, a tour, a show, a television appearance was like a national holiday of some sort.