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Entry date: 3-19-2024 – Look Upward – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

I can only look towards the sky and shake my head.

It seems like no matter which direction I look right now,

there is stress and pain and grief.

So many people I know are hurting right now.

I can only look upward towards the sky.

 

“Sky,” I say.

I ask.

I pray.

“Sky, what can I do?”

“How can I help?”

 

But the sky only remains above.

It never reaches down

And plucks me up

To meet it face to face.

I can only look upward to the sky.

 

Shaking my head does no good.

I feel my hair gently slapping me.

Pretending to be a breeze,

I guess.

Pretending to be.

 

“Sky, what is going on?” I ask.

“Please tell me.”

People often ask for a sign,

But I see them all around me.

People are hurting.

 

I don’t need a sign.

I need an answer.

I need people to breathe and live

And be.

I can only look upward to the sky

And thankfully that’s still free.

 

*****

 

Said goodbye to my friend, Jim, last night. It sucked. It was beautiful, too, because a huge crowd of people were there to show their love and support. The fellowship was amazing, but saying goodbye was awful. Seeing so many people who I love that are hurting right now was awful, but we were hurting together. There was some strength in that, I suppose, and I hope Jim knows we were all there because we love him and Stephanie and his family.

 

My heart goes out to Stephanie and their family. If there is something I can do, I hope they know they can reach out. I will be there.

 

*****

 

I have to take my mind off this stuff.

 

*****

 

The first day back at school was a good day. That was a nice thing. I was productive and it felt good to be at work, doing work, and being there for the students. There was also no Cocaine Baby.

 

*****

 

(Record number 80)

 

“I don’t want a holiday in the sun/I wanna go to the new Belsen.”

 

Like many of my peers, that was all I needed to hear. I was hooked. When my friend, Kevin, dropped the needle on the record in 1982 or so, I was hooked. I didn’t know what it meant to be a punk or that I could be one, but I knew that I loved the music. It was raw and powerful and made everything else I had been listening to seem kind of tame.

 

My perspective was changed forever after actually hearing the Sex Pistols, but it wasn’t some sort of instantaneous transformation. Since the only friends I had that were listening to the Sex Pistols were complete hooligans, I was a closet punk for much of the next two years. Finally, though, during my sophomore year in high school, I realized I could join the tribe.

 

“Dragged on a table in a factory/illegitimate place to be/in a packet in a lavatory/Die little baby screaming.”

 

If “Holidays in the Sun” opened my ears to punk, “Bodies” showed me what it could truly be. The song is just wrong in so many ways but to people like me, it’s also quite right. Johnny Rotten (AKA John Lydon) sneers his way to infamy in this one, plus it is a straight up punk rock classic. It sounds vital to this day.

 

“No feelings/No feelings/No feelings for anybody else except for myself/my beautiful self.”

 

“No Feelings” keeps the party going and played right into the stereotypes that were quickly forming about punk rock in Merry Ol’ England in the mid-1970s. It sounds so tame today. It is kind of like a revved-up Jerry Lee Lewis’ song with distorted guitar instead of piano.

 

“You’re a liar/You’re a liar/Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, liar.”

 

This is probably the single greatest influence on how I write lyrics of any of the songs that I listened to early on. One of the most common themes in my songs, especially in Hillbilly Devilspeak songs, is lying. Outside of this fact, “Liar” is not a song I have given a lot of thought to over the years, but I see you now, song. I see you.

 

 

“Eat your heart out on a plastic tray/You don’t do what you want then you’ll fade away/You won’t find me working nine to five/it’s too much fun being alive/I’m using my feet for my human machine/You won’t find me living for the screen/Are you lonely? All needs catered/You got your brains dehydrated.”

 

 

As Johnny says, “The problem is you.” This is another favorite of mine. “Problems” has that iconic sneer in spades. I am remiss in not mentioning that the guy who gets very little credit, usually, for the power of the Pistols is Paul Cook. He may not have invented the “punk” drumbeat, but he certainly paved the way for many, many copycats. “Problems” is a perfect example of how he drives a song. The drum performance is not flashy at all but it is propulsive. Well done, Cookie.

 

 

“God save the Queen/she’s not a human being/and There’s no future/And England’s dreaming.”

 

 

Steve Jones sets the table here along with a more than capable bass line from Glen Matlock. Unfortunately, Matlock doesn’t get any credit on this record. “God Save The Queen” is just pure English punk rock.

 

 

“I’m a lazy sod.”

 

 

“Seventeen” is all angst and “Fuck you” to anyone over 30. I’m reaching here, but the reference to being 29 in the first line makes me think that Rotten was up to something here with the words. This one is a nice little piece of punk rock history.

 

 

“I am an anti-christ/I am an anarchist/Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it/I wanna destroy the passerby.”

 

 

“Anarchy in the U.K.” was my favorite song for a long time. It said all the things I wanted to say with its attitude. I couldn’t really identify with the whole “U.K.”-ness of it, but I could certainly feel the sentiment. When you have no real identity to latch onto, one of the only ways to find any recourse is to lash out against everything. It’s beautiful.

 

 

“Submission/Submission/Submission/I’m going down, you’re dragging me down/Under the sea.”

 

 

The bass line of this song is completely subversive. It makes me feel dirty in a good way. Again, I have to give a nod to Matlock who had to have written it. Jones and Cook just lock in here in what is one of the more overt examples of Cook just slightly overplaying, but it’s so good. Bill Price and Chris Thomas mixed this one perfectly.

 

 

“There’s no point in asking you’ll get no reply/oh just remember I don’t decide/I got no reason it’s all too much/you’ll always find us out to lunch.”

 

Yes, I am “pretty vacant,” too, sometimes. This was the first Sex Pistols riff I learned on guitar. My friend, Chris, taught it to me in 1988. I played that fucker over and over and over. It felt so good to be able to play a Sex Pistols song after over half a decade of trying to decode them in my mind. This is another one that makes me feel a little electricity in my body. It’s not dirty, though. It’s exuberance.

 

 

“Think it’s swell playing Max’s Kansas/You’re looking bored and you’re acting flash/With nothing in your gut you better keep your mouth shut/you better keep your mouth shut, you’re in a rut.”

 

 

It was much later in my appreciation of this record that I realized “New York” was a diss track. For some reason, I kind of ignored the New York Dolls for a couple of decades. I just couldn’t be bothered to really listen to them. Maybe “New York” brainwashed me. I think it might have.

 

 

“Don’t judge a book by the cover/Unless you cover just another/And blind acceptance is a sign/Of stupid fools who stand in line.”

 

 

Now this one, I did know it was a diss track even though we didn’t call it that back in the day. “E.M.I.” closed out the American version of the record, which I’ve had in my possession in some form or another (many forms, really) since I first bought it back in 1983 or 84. It was my first punk record and I’ve always loved the little laugh Rotten lets out during this one.

 

 

I owe so much to this record. I’ll leave it right there. It probably should have been the last record I wrote about this year, but instead, it is number 80.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



I look upward a lot.

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