On the Road, with Robert Smith (1987)

God bless my dad, that summer we drove out west and only had three tapes, two of them mine. We took a train from Chicago to Denver where we rented a car and camped around the Rockies, then drove to Las Vegas in a day. Went to a Tower Record store (where we bought another tape) and learned the Beastie Boys were playing in LA that week, and we were going there next, so my dad bought me a ticket but didn’t go in with me; instead he waited in the rental car in the parking lot at the Greek Theater while I sat inside and watched them drop Run DMC out of a helicopter onto the stage, and the girl sitting behind me I recognized from high school, almost asked her her name, then realized she was in the Nightmare on Elm Street movie I’d just seen.

God bless my dad for the fact I got drunk as a 16-year-old with some guys I met on the beach near Carmel camping, singing the song “Moon Shadow” and playing acoustic guitar, barely able to remember which tent was ours when I came back and staggered in and then puked, and the next day my dad didn’t really say anything.

We had three tapes: The Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, The Cult’s Love, John Denver’s Greatest Hits Volume II (my dad’s). I tried reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but didn’t get it. The same with On The Road—but maybe I was too young (and now, probably too old.) Like the Bukowski anthology I’m finishing, I’d likely stick my nose up at it. Like I said to Dawn about Bukowski, maybe it was the freshness of his voice, his brashness that got him the attention. He never comes across as literary, wasn’t trying to, seems more ‘anti-literary,’ but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s still real, and at times deep. Like Kerouac or other artists, it makes me wonder if they just take on the voice of their time somehow, they come to represent something more than themselves, and that’s part of their appeal. And if really, that’s what we’re all supposed to do when we write, to record the time.

God bless my dad for sitting through that tape by The Cure and Robert Smith’s voice and the squealing guitars and droll lyrics, dad’s back angled forward driving all those miles squinting, sometimes wincing, at the wheel.

Tomorrow’s Saturday and Anthony’s Navel…tune in for more stories about books and tapes, what makes us.


Categories: Memoir, music, musings

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. That guy in the picture is really good looking.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. oh, i love your dad and music memories. love how it’s all knit together into one memory

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I’m with your dad where Robby’s concerned. He sounded like he was off his meds. Then again, a lot of great art comes from people off their meds …

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true, it’s made me wonder if I should be on meds when I find relief in music like that. They turned it into pop music somehow which is quite a deft move actually.


  4. I kind of sympathise with your dad. For all I love the Cure, Rob Smith’s voice is rather like Morrisey’s – wonderful in small doses! Could still listen to The Head on the Door over and over … Sounds like quite a road trip – booze and the road and music, the Rockies and Vegas. Love the idea of getting smashed to Moonshadow on the beach. This could make quite a coming of age story Bill – if you’re ever tempted to write it, I’ll read it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, super. What is the mopey dopey inclination to burrow into those records? My dear friend Dave Dever always insisted they were pop, and no one else understood that. They were coming into that in the record you describe, there.
      Thanks for the encouragement on the coming of age, as it were. When does it really come and when it does, does it give or take? Or is that the giving in what it takes. Shut up now Bill. Good day to you, Lynn.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure Dave is right, they were pop, just with eyeliner and tons of hairspray and backcombing!
        Funny concept ‘coming of age’, something only middle aged and older folk talk about I suspect. Because as I recall going through the process, there was no defining ‘coming’ moment, just a long progrssion of tiny steps that have somehow taken me from being very young and naive to being the wizened, cynical hag I am today. There’s no one moment you feel like an adult, not even when you have first kids, because you feel terrified and underqualified and wonder why the professionals have sent you home with another human being that you’re so clearly unfit to care for.
        Maybe it finally happens when your folks die and you are officially the elder statesman in the family? I don’t know. ‘Coming of age’ is just a frame for film makers and writers I suspect 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, coming of age is looking back. It would be no fun to know that in the moment. You’re not really coming, as it were. You’re going. I don’t know. It’s my ‘metier,’ this. Once I get that down perhaps I can say I came and then I can finally, finally go.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, maybe you’re right. There can be a letting go once the moment is realised and accepted for what it was. Look forward to reading that 🙂


  5. This could make quite a coming of age story Bill – if you’re ever tempted to write it, I’ll read it 🙂 I know it’s good times, the best, no Styx

    Liked by 1 person

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