Every year I pay my respects to one of my two heroes (my Dad being the other). Today I met with Gino’s daughter and her family. I haven’t seen them in nearly 10 years.
It was a true honor. Remember Gino and those like him this Memorial Day. They deserve so much more than we give them. If you don’t know Gino’s story, you can get it here.
I wrote this song. But I don’t own it anymore. This made me cry….
I can remember picking up Badlees records (CDs actually….some of the first CDs I bought were from The Badlees) at Gallery of Sound. I think the store is still there. The one across from the Viewmont Mall. People still buy music. What a concept.
I used to work way up 81 North, so the record store was on my way home. Bought “Diamonds in the Coal” there. And “Riversongs”….before it got picked up by the major label. I didn’t give a shit what label they were on. They were a great band. And they made great songs. And for me….plugging away at my own songs, singing in half empty coffee shops….I felt a kinship. Because they were my age. And they were doing it.
(I’ll pause here momentarily….and venture that nobody ever mentioned the Badlees and Russell Crowe in the same sentence before. So I’ll be the first. I have no idea why this came into my head but when Crowe won his best actor Academy Award he made an amazing speech that finished like this…”a dream like this seems kind of vaguely ludicrous and completely unattainable….[so] for anybody who’s on the down side of advantage and relying purely on courage, it’s possible.”)
So yea….I was buying these records. It was possible. These were our guys. They had coal balls.
These weren’t old dudes. And they weren’t young punks either. They were just like the guys I hung around with. They came from nearby. Places I knew how to get to. And suddenly they were all over the radio. And not just the local stations either. You don’t open for Queen or Plant and Page from local spins alone. “Angeline is Coming Home” was irresistible. “Fear of Falling”. Tight. Compact. Instantly hummable. Palladino’s pipes. I remember some guy saying “wow this guy really sounds like Hootie”….and thinking….”no man, Rucker sounds like Pete, asshole. Check the fucking dates on the package…”
Anyway, we love to label things. To compare things. We require fixed points of reference, otherwise we get lost. Like astronaut Tom Hanks flying blind without the earth in the window.
Success is a funny thing. It inspires all sorts of things, one being jealousy. There are lots of bands out there. Some are damn good. But not everybody gets to the level that the Badlees got to. I can only speak for myself and the guys I know…but I never heard any bitchiness about what was happening. I never knew anybody who knocked them just ‘cause that’s the thing to do. We rooted for them. They seemed like good guys. I didn’t know them. But when a band makes glorious noises, you feel like you know them. That’s one of the great things about music. It forges bonds….even between total strangers.
Maybe they never made a record that hinted at the power of their stage shows. You’d see them live and they’d be blowing the roof off these places. Their records were quieter. More introspective. The Badless were not robotic. They didn’t mimic their records. They explored them and kept digging deeper and deeper, excavating stuff that kept the same folks coming back time after time. It’s how you do it.
Just recently the band announced that they were calling it quits. Twenty five years is a long time to be in a gang. That’s what a band is. Band members can carry on private conversations without saying anything. It’s a closed society. Nobody else is allowed in. When a member starts to stray….the rest herd him back in. When they start to play, it’s all telepathy. The better a band is, the simpler it looks from the outside. I’m reminded of a great LBJ quote about loyalty. “I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.” Nobody pissed into the Badlees tent.
All this just to say…the Badlees were a band. In every sense of that word. And one of the best to ever come out of our area. NEPA could have been Seattle if anybody ever bothered to come here. So it wasn’t like the Badlees didn’t have any competition.
I’ve since gotten to know some of them. Bret Alexander and Ron Simasek are both class acts….every bit the “good guys” I always presumed they were. I’ve talked quite a bit with their sometime songwriting collaborator Mike Naydock, who is just pure gold. They don’t make ‘em any sturdier than Mike.
I don’t know the reasons behind the breakup. Sometimes the time is just right to move on. The Badlees gave and gave and gave for 25 years. They don’t owe anybody anything. I have these records. That’s plenty good enough for me.
Go on YouTube someday and look for clips of the band bashing away in Bret’s kitchen…..like the basement tapes on the first floor. It’s glorious stuff. These guys were brothers.
I truly hope that they still are.
In a bit..
Most people are all for freedom of speech….until that speech is something they disagree with….in which case they turn into Kim Jong-un with a really bad attitude..
Feels odd that we still don’t get that while we have an inalienable right to be an asshole in this country, that doesn’t mean we lose our “rights” when folks like….say…our employer….decide to punish us for our actions. It’s totally within my rights to go stampeding around saying I hate gay people….but if I hang a pro Westboro Baptist Church sticker in my cubicle, I probably have no legal options when the company I work for fires my ass. It’s the way things go. It’s known as “consequences”……and they can indeed be pesky.
Most people are all for freedom of speech….until that speech is something they disagree with….in which case they turn into Kim Jong-un with a really bad attitude. So if some hippie from Vermont calls Reagan a doucebag in an editorial in the “Greenpeace Gazette”, Sarah Palin is on Fox News wanting an immediate amendment to the constitution that bans calling the Gipper a doucebag. And this is news. (If is ok, however, to call Clinton a doucebag, because this is “free speech”) In the same vein….it’s ok for Obama to eavesdrop on my phone and internet conversations, but when Bush does it Democrats want to go all Nixon on him.
It’s the same logic in calling yourself “pro-life” and then saying it’s ok for the state to execute somebody. If everybody has a “right to life”, why is it Ok to say, “except this guy?” I say it’s the same “logic” because….well….there’s no logic at all. I have friends who call themselves pro-life. I have friends who say they support the death penalty. There’s not much I can do about what somebody believes and I really don’t lose sleep over either. But I reserve to right to be confused when the same person claims both. It’s quite American, I think, to feel this way. I feel like I’m being constitutional and stuff. Makes me feel red white and blue all over.
Burning the flag? How many men and women have fought and died for the freedom that flag represents? But our nation is not sturdy enough to handle a few crackpots with lighters? Disconnect? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
Immigration? Those damn illegals. Deport ’em right? Well…ok. But when all those pesky jobs those illegals do, like picking your food, suddenly cost agricultural companies a lot more to fill….and the “legal” people filling them start getting all Union -antsy when they realize how dangerous and shitty these jobs really are….and then prices go up…and corporate profits shrink….and them dividend checks get lighter…make sure you say “well that’s ok because it’s all part of the glorious free-market system..” You’ll say that right? (And you’ll cut your own grass and plant your own fucking garden too, right?)
And then there is really creepy stuff….like this NBA owner. A private conversation he has is leaked to the world. In it he’s outed as a run of the mill bigot. And old rich white guy boinking a dumb-as-a-stump 20 something who just happens to not be his wife. This guy is outed as a bigot. We’re shocked. Shocked I tell you!
Nobody can really defend this guy. I mean….he is a cretin and if anybody was paying attention (we weren’t) we’d know this already because he wasn’t shy about openly discriminating against brown people when it came to renting out his very public real estate properties. For this…..there was no public outcry. At all.
But this? Batshit crazy went the nation.
Still and all, I know lots of cretins. If every private conversation any of us had was suddenly placed into the public domain, how many of us are not gonna look like cretins from time to time? Answer? None. It’s the whole “people who live in glass houses” thing. It’s a pretty good analogy when you think about it.
Toss this guy out of the league for breaking the law? Surely. You can’t decide not to rent property to somebody because of the color of their skin. Good riddance. Except nobody gave a shit. Not juicy enough apparently.
Toss him out of the league for a leaked phone conversation? A leaked private phone conversation. Um….isn’t this a bit Orwellian? A bit of a slippery slope? Wasn’t there a line crossed here?
Today the soup du jour is a gay football player who was drafted into the NFL. Historic for sure. Not because he’s the first gay NFL player (boys…really?…insert head in sand much?), but because he’s the first openly gay man in the NFL. Our nation has come a long way. But then again, maybe not, since when in his joy at being selected the player kissed his male friend on live TV, it became front page news on CNN. The kiss became front page news. Not the selection.
In a world where religions extremists, in the name of God, kidnap little girls with the plan to sell them for $12 each, Americans are apparently more outraged at the sight of a gay man kissing his partner.
So yea….there’s that.
I wish what I’ve just written made more sense…but it’s the best I can do at the moment. My head feels woozy.
In a bit..