David Bruce: Music Anecdotes

• Good things — and good stories — can come from small beginnings. The Fastbacks were a punk band from Seattle, Washington, that was formed by Kurt Bloch, Lulu Gargiulo, and Kim Warnick. Ms. Gargiulo remembers, “The point when I decided, ‘Okay, I’m going to play in a band — I’m going to do this myself’ is [when] I went to this concert, and it was just the worst band. They weren’t a punk band; they were just kind of a rock band. They were so bad that I told Kurt, ‘These guys are so bad that I’m going to go start a band just to prove that I’m better than these guys.’ So I got Kim and Kurt to sign up, you know ….” So how’d it go? Ms. Gargiulo remembers, “We just started playing, and it was really bad. … I’ll tell you, it was just horrible.” They got better. Ms. Warnick remembers some of the memorable concerts the Fastbacks did: “Opening for Joan Jett at Wrex; opening for the Ramones in 1983 or ’84 at the Eagles auditorium; the shows in Japan with Seaweed and the Supersuckers in 1993; and all the Pearl Jam concerts in 1996, where we went as far as Istanbul and we finally realized our ultimate rock and rock fantasy. Seeing the enormo-domes of the world andplaying them was killer.” By the way, Kim Deal became a member of the Pixies through an audition for a bassist. How did she win the audition? She was the only person to show up. Also, Penelope Houston became lead singer of the San Francisco band Avengers almost by accident. She remembers, “I had some friends at the Art Institute that were starting a band. One day I was in their warehouse, and they had a PA set up. I had never sung through a microphone before. They were gone for the day, so I had six or seven hours to sing along with records. I found it so powerful to have this PA. They came back, and I said, “Well, you’ve got your lead singer right here!” They wrote seven songs in a week, and she worried, “How are we gonna remember all these songs?” The first time they played together, some incorrect play lists caused a problem. In the middle of some major discord stood Mr. Houston, who was thinking, “I can’t remember how this song goes.” After about 90 seconds, everyone stopped playing and began to ask, “What are you playing?” Finally, they figured out that the guitar player was playing one song while the bass player and the drummer were playing another song. The Germs also got a little ahead of themselves. They started wearing band T-shirts and plastered Los Angeles, California, with band posters before writing any songs. And did you know that the Adverts’ first single, released on Stiff Records in 1977, was titled “One Chord Wonders”? One more story: Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex said that she would shave her head if she ever became a sex symbol. She did become a sex symbol — and she shaved her head. (I lied — here’s another story: Susie Quatro also rejected becoming a sex symbol. She was a 1974 centerfold for Penthouse— despite being fully dressed.)

• Kirstie Southcott, a 22-year-old shop worker from Hastings, East Sussex, England, and her friend Paige Bennett, a 20-year-old receptionist, both like metal music. In 2014, Ms. Southcott said, “If you’re a girl and you like metal, it’s frowned upon. People expect me to be into Justin Bieber and One Direction and, when I say I go to metal gigs, they think I’m strange. People think rock is more for the boys, and that girls should be into pop and dance, but my generation shouldn’t be pigeonholed. I shouldn’t have to like pop just because I’m a girl.” Both Ms. Southcott and Ms. Bennett say that they feel safe at metal concerts. Ms. Southcott said, “If I go to a gig, I know I’ll get looked after.” She has experience. At a Korn concert, the 5’1” woman accidentally got thrown into a mosh pit. She remembers “a lot of burly blokes hitting each other, and there was me.” Fortunately, she was quickly rescued: “A couple of boys I met that night grabbed me and threw me out of the way, and made sure I didn’t get trampled on or hurt. You might think metal fans look scary but they’re the most caring and loving people you’ll ever come across. Male, female, gay, straight — it doesn’t faze us.” Ms. Bennett once got caught in what is called a “wall of death” — audience members divide into two groups and then rush at each other — and she said that she was quickly rescued by male fans who pulled her to a safe place: “Boys treat girls with a lot of respect. I’ve gone to deathcore gigs — really, really heavy — and there were all these big, hefty blokes with long hair, and I didn’t feel in any way uncomfortable.” Ms. Bennett said that she has felt a lot more threatened during dance nights, and she notes that the dance culture is allied with the drug culture, in contrast to metal. She said, “There’s no drug culture around metal at all.” (Of course, in any large group of people, whether fans of metal or enthusiasts of classical music, some people will be evil, but I have read many good things about metal fans.)

• Producer Steve “Mr. Mig” Migliore started small with a studio in a room in the home of a friend’s parents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He and the friend charged $25 an hour to produce and mix songs. But after a friendly music attorney named Brad Rubens introduced him to the major labels, he became big quickly. Mr. Migliore was broke and flipping hamburgers in a food court when he discovered that his remix of LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live” had reached the top spot on Billboard’s adult contemporary chart. He immediately said, “Does this mean that I have a career?”

• Why did composer Jean Sibelius rarely invite musicians into his home? He explained that musicians “talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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