David Bruce: Music Anecdotes

• Ian MacKaye, co-founder and owner of Dischord Records, and member of the punk groups Minor Threat, the Teen Idles, Embrace, Fugazi, and The Evens, remembers going to a Ramones concert in 1979 in Virginia. Lots of people showed up for the concert wearing torn jeans because the Ramones’ “uniform” consisted of T-shirts, leather jackets, and torn jeans. Unfortunately, the Ramones fans discovered that the concert venue had a dress code: no torn jeans. The fans went to a nearby pharmacy, bought needles and thread, and then went to the parking lot and started sewing up the rips in their jeans. Mr. MacKaye is an interesting guy with a strong work ethic and common sense. At concerts, he used to become angry when people would do senseless things such as bust up bathrooms. On stage, he would tell the audience, “The toilet is our friend — it takes the sh*t away. So what the f*ck is going on? Every show, you f*cking idiots break the toilets. It doesn’t make any sense.” Punk has a lot of sub-genres, and Minor Threat inspired a movement known as straight-edge, in which people abstain from alcohol and illegal drugs. (Henry Rollins, former singer of Black Flag, abstains from alcohol and illegal drugs.) Mr. MacKaye is credited with inventing the term “straight-edge.” Fans who were straight-edge would sometimes draw an X on both of their hands because bars would draw a symbol on patrons’ hands to indicate that they were of legal age and could buy alcohol — the X’s were a counter-symbol to the bar symbols. By the way, Mr. MacKaye says that he was not a good student while he was in high school. He disliked writing book reports, and almost always he would not read the book. When he had to write a book report on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he ended up calling the home of the author, Ken Kesey. (Mr. MacKaye says, “I called 555-1212 and asked for Ken Kesey’s number in Oregon.”) Unfortunately, Mr. Kesey was out of town, but his wife talked to Mr. MacKaye for 45 minutes and relayed to him a number of Mr. Kesey’s ideas. Mr. MacKaye says, “Not only did I immediately write a report and get an A on it, but I f*cking read the book because I couldn’t believe she had been so kind to me. […] Kids are always calling me about sh*t. I’m always happy to talk to them.”

• When Elvis Presley got his first royalty check from Sun Records — for $400 — he immediately bought his mother a new dress and new shoes. More money came in, and he bought a four-room house — Elvis grew up in a two-room shack — and furniture. The shack was called a shotgun house because a person could shoot a shotgun through the front door and the pellets would go out the back door without hitting anything. Elvis also bought his mother the car she had always dreamed of having: a pink Cadillac. Of course, he ended up making millions of dollars, and at least once he gave a new car away to a stranger. At a car dealership, he saw a woman named Minnie Pearson looking at cars. Apparently, it was obvious that she was only looking and not seriously considering buying. Elvis asked her, “Do you like that car?” She replied, “Shoot, yeah, but there ain’t no way” that she could afford it. Elvis said, “Yeah, there is. ’Cause I just bought you it for you.” He treated his only child, daughter Lisa Marie, well. Once, he flew her from Los Angeles, California, to Denver, Colorado, so she could see snow falling. Early in Elvis’ life, someone did a good deed for him. Elvis wore his hair long, and he declined to cut his hair so he could play on his high school football team in Memphis, Tennessee, although he had talent. Humes High School football coach Rube Boyce, Jr., said, “I told him he’s to have his hair cut by a certain time and he just never came back.” Some of Elvis’ fellow students threatened to cut his hair, and they trapped him in a bathroom. Fortunately, football center Bobby “Red” West, a tough guy who became one of Elvis’ friends, put a stop to the bullying. When Elvis was younger — age 11 — and still living in Mississippi, his mother bought him a guitar. Some bullies once cut his guitar strings, but fortunately, some other kids pooled their money together so they could buy him new strings.

• When John Lennon was a kid, he enjoyed watching The Goon Show, in which Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, and Spike Milligan performed comedy. Also featured on the show was jazz harmonica player Max Geldray. John was intrigued by Mr. Geldray’s playing, and John’s uncle, George Smith, gave the boy a harmonica — his first musical instrument. John taught himself to play it, and during summer vacation, John and Leila, his cousin, took a long bus ride to Scotland, during which John played the harmonica almost constantly. The bus driver, a kind man, promised to give John a better harmonica the next morning if he would come to the bus station to pick it up. John talked the rest of the day about the better harmonica he was getting, and the next day the bus driver, as he had promised, gave John a better harmonica. By the way, the Beatles had long hair — something unusual for men back when the Beatles became famous in the 1960s. A reporter asked the Beatles, “Are those wigs you’re wearing?” John replied, “If they are, they must be the only wigs with dandruff.”

• The young Leonard Bernstein played music loudly both day and night, even when he had roommates to cut down on living expenses. One roommate, Edys Merrill, used to go around with her hands over her ears as she loudly sang, “I hate music — la dee da da dee. But I like to sing: la dee da da dee.” Leonard responded by writing a song using those words and sounds — the song was one of a set of five titled Kid Songs, or I Hate Music. He dedicated the song to her.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Free davidbrucehaiku #13 eBook (pdf)

Free davidbrucehaiku #12 eBook (pdf)

Free davidbrucehaiku #11 eBook (pdf)

Free davidbrucehaiku eBooks (pdfs)

Free eBooks by David Bruce (pdfs)


Free eBook: YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIND: Volume 2

David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.



John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce





William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce




Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist:A Retelling in Prose


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: