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Entry date: 5-9-2024 – Skylar, Skylar, Skylar – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends


Today is Skylar’s birthday. She is double digits. It’s hard to believe ten years have gone by. She’s not the only one who has grown up in the past ten years though. I feel like a different person, too.


To say that I love her is an understatement. She makes things so much better in this life. I look forward to building something similar with Mia, of course, but we got to have Sky living in our house for much of her early years, off and on, and we’ve been able to  have an awesome bond.


Happy birthday, you little fourth grade turd.




There are times, I have to admit, that having Sky in the house feels a bit like having one of my students at home. 9 & 10 years olds just do things a certain way. Being around them all day long then having one watching TV on the couch, stealing the remote from me, seems somehow fitting and irritating at the same time.




Granny and I talked about how toe nails get super hard to cut as you get older. It was a hilarious conversation. She was in good spirits yesterday and seemed to be having a good day. The human body is a weird thing. I never thought about it, but she shared with me that hospice sends a podiatrist around every few months to cut her toe nails.


I have to admit, there is a part of me that doesn’t want to get to the point where I can’t cut my own toe nails.




I watched a video that my old friend, Kevin, made recently about how misleading the idea of people leading “wild” lives can be. It was really good. Kevin Is a wise dude.

It was a good reminder to be present, embrace the beauty around me, deal with things, and then let shit go. I’m paraphrasing here, and he said it way better, but I liked what he had to say a lot. Between Kevin and another friend, Dave, who likes to put wisdom on social medial from time to time, I love getting random messages from dudes I like. Who says technology is bad?




It was strange to read about Steve Albini’s death yesterday. I have some things to say about it, for sure, but right now, it’s just kind of a numb feeling. I had always kind of thought that I would get to meet him and talk to him at some point.


Doesn’t seem real.




It’s 1983 and I’m standing in the little alcove/doorway of my first teenage bedroom in Glendale. I’m holding Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast in my hands and wondering just what the hell I’ve done. I had made a choice, and it was time to live with it.



For the briefest of moments in my freshman year, I flirted with the idea of going metal. Quiet Riot and Mötley Crüe had captured my attention thanks to their radio and MTV onslaught and Deer Valley High School was full of what people called “Hessians.” I was looking for my tribe.


Among the many cool heavy metal t-shirts I saw on a regular basis, the ones that stood out to me the most were from Iron Maiden. I guess I figured if I was going to take the plunge, that was the direction I was going to go. My mom didn’t seem to mind taking me to the record store every once in a while, so I mustered up the courage to ask for an Iron Maiden cassette.


I don’t know why, but I felt like I was doing something very subversive. Just having the cassette in my hands made me feel like I was getting away with something. I also, and this is not just some writer’s trick to build tension or suspense, felt like there was something about that record that could quite possibly be evil.


As a youngster, I had a healthy fear of demonic possession. Holding that Iron Maiden record, was I opening a door to Hell? The question had to cross my mind. I mean, I had been dubbed “Damian” just a few years before by my 6th grade classmates because they thought I looked like the kid from Damien: The Omen II. That had fucked with me a lot and all the copycat horror movies that aped Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby in the 70s didn’t help.


Putting Number of the Beast on my stereo or just looking at the cover where it shows “Eddie” being the puppet master for Satan, did not, though, unlock any doorways between my room on West Charleston and the netherworld. It didn’t even make me a metalhead for life. All it did was bring another band into my life that I really liked.


I listened to Number of the Beast a lot in 1983/84. I’ve gone back to it year after year since, as well, because it is a really good record. I have some other Maiden faves, too, but Number of the Beast was my introduction to the band, so it will always be special to me.


We even got to play the side stage at an Iron Maiden show in 1999 or 2000 at what was then called the Cricket Pavilion. The crowd walking past us (and even a few stayed and watched) did not know what to do with Hillbilly Devilspeak, but I didn’t care. I just sang my songs and pointed out all the stupid mullets I could.


The big bonus of doing that show, though, was getting all-access passes.


I got to be right up there in front of the stage for Maiden and it was glorious. I ate their catering and skipped the opportunity to chit chat with a couple of the guys because, for some reason, maybe it was the chance of going to hell, I opted to give them their space. At that point, I was a long way away from writing about music, so I hadn’t yet learned that most musicians love to talk about themselves. 


Here are my main thoughts about Number of the Beast:


Steve Harris is a fucking god.


As great as Adrian Smith and Dave Murray are on the guitar on Number of the Beast, Harris is the man here. The basslines are sofa king bad ass. They make the songs stand out for me.


I had already expressed interest in the bass when I got this record but hadn’t started to play it yet. I don’t even think I could have verbalized that the bass kind of spoke to me yet, but clearly it was doing just that. When I listen to Number of the Beast now, I hear Harris doing his thing and just smile and shake my head.


From the beginning of “Invaders” where Harris plays those quick little counter melodies to the opening riffs, I’m totally in. I remember standing there in my room, thirteen or fourteen years old, and looking at myself in the mirror that was behind my door and just rocking out. I did a lot of air guitaring in those days behind closed doors. Number of the Beast is a great album for playing all the “air” instruments.


“Invaders” just fucking slays, too. I love the way the band attacks the song, and the song attacks my ears. Perfect song to get you going in the morning. Try it.


Then Maiden throws you a curveball and “Children of the Damned” starts out with acoustic guitar and things are slowed down and almost ballad-like until the choruses. Bruce Dickinson could really belt it out and he totally sells the band’s big run during the bridge part.


“The Prisoner” is just a big, bad ass riff. The recording from the TV show of the same name just kind of sells it right off the bat, too. After I got more into listening to Rush later, I started to hear a little bit of Rush in this one, too. If you listen closely, you might hear what I mean. Harris is a melodic player when he is not pulverizing you with what has to be the strongest right forearm in rock and roll.


Seriously, and my brother Tom pointed this out to me a long, long time ago, Harris has to have something akin to Popeye strength in his hands and forearms. You’d have to in order to play the bass the way he does. It’s uncanny.


“22 Acacia Avenue” is about a prostitute. That’s kind of a benign evil, I suppose, considering what comes after. “Number of the Beast” became my favorite song for most of my freshman year after hearing it. Actor Barry Clarkson’s famous voice over is one of my favorite song intros ever.


“Whoa to you oh earth and sea/for the devil sends the beast with wrath because he knows the time is short/let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast/for it is a human number/It’s number is six hundred and sixty-six. Hahahahaha.”


Fucking perfect.


The song that follows is also fucking badass. Until now, though, I had never read the story about how Steve Harris wrote this song because he was inspired by a nightmare he had after watching

Damien: The Omen II. I feel so…happy about this. Steve Harris clearly wrote this song for me. It was his way of saying, “Fuck those stupid kids in your class that made your life hell.”


If any of you call me “Damien” now, I’ll give you a hug, though, for reading this blog. Then I will put a curse on you.


Almost as much as I love “Number of the Beast,” I love “Run to the Hills.” That galloping bassline by Harris is totally rad. Clive Burr’s drums are also on point here, too. I mean, Burr is kind of the last person in Maiden you think of, but the guy rips throughout the record.


“Run to the Hills” talks about a different kind of horror all together. I remember thinking about how this song did not paint the picture of how America was created that my history books were telling me. Well done, Harris, well done.


Speaking of Burr, the opening of “Gangland” belongs to him. This was his last recording with Maiden, I believe, so he made his mark here. He even got a co-writing credit on this song and the ender, “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”


Now, the one thing you can count on with “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is that if you see Maiden live, you’ll probably hear them play it. I have certainly enjoyed hearing it multiple times over the years at various concerts.


“Hallowed Be Thy Name” is a quintessential British metal song. Literally hundreds of millions of heads have banged to this song. Think about it.


Now go bang your head to some Maiden.


Eddie Lives.



Papa loves you, Sky.


See you tomorrow.

On our way to Boston and then Maine. She was three.

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