David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Problem-Solving, Punk


• Out lesbian musician Anna Egge grew up in North Dakota and New Mexico — quite a change in climate. She remembers North Dakotaas “a really beautiful, vastly open space. There’s nothing there, so you have so much space and time in a day…. Just a lot of sky and land, great sunsets. It was beautiful.” North Dakota, of course, gets very cold during the winter. Fortunately, people know to be prepared. Ms. Egge remembers, “On the school bus, we had to have a bag that was kept under our assigned seats that had an extra snow suit, an extra set of shoes, a can opener and two cans of food in case we got stuck in a blizzard!”

• Opera singer Hans Hotter made a number of movies early in his career. In June 1939, he received his first film offer. His first film test was with middle-aged actress Käthe Dorsch, and it was not a success. However, Ms. Dorsch spoke with the movie producer and convinced him to have Mr. Hotter test with a younger actress. This second test was a success. Of course, Ms. Dorsch and not the younger actress starred in the film, and when Ms. Dorsch had a scene with Mr. Hotter, with whom she became friends, she would whisper to him, “Sorry it’s me again, but imagine I am the younger one!”

• Henry Lewis was talented in more than one way. At a Catholic school, he played a recital, but he forgot the middle of a composition by George Frideric Handel. No problem. He improvised some music that sounded as if Handel could have written it, and he got through the recital. Henry’s father wanted him to go out for the football team. Henry went out for the team, made it, and immediately quit. Henry said, “I wasn’t interested, but I wanted to show him I could do it.” Later, Mr. Henry Lewis became a noted conductor.

• Even when she was a child and needed to be babysat, Lady Gaga enjoyed shocking people. She used to strip completely naked, hide, and then jump out of hiding and surprise her babysitter. Lady Gaga’s parents called her “Loopy.” Of course, Lady Gaga grew up and started performing in small venues in New York City. Audiences there can be hard to please. When one audience began to ignore her, Lady Gaga stripped down to her bra and panties and then sang. The audience stopped ignoring her.


• 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**k is going on? Every show, you f**king 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**king 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.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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