My First Seven-Inch Record
"The End of the Innocence"
In high school I listened to Alternative music. I was pretty proud of myself. My favorite band was the Smashing Pumpkins. They had had a smash hit with their first album, titled "Gish", and no one in Tracy had ever even heard of them but me, which tells you a lot about Tracy. So I walked around humming tunes and quoting lyrics, smug in my individuality. One day I walked into a classroom and began to unskillfully sketch the Smashing Pumpkins logo on the white board. This Chinese girl came up and said "No, dummy, it's supposed to look like this" and drew a logo much nicer than mine.
Her name was Sophy and she knew about all the obscure Alternative groups I listened to, and a lot of groups I had never heard of. She told me to come and paint a mural with her. After that she told me she was going to take me to the big city: Berkeley. I had never been out of Tracy without my parents.
We went to book stores and record stores, and I bought a cheesy tie-dye t-shirt with her money. We stuck to Telegraph Avenue. We walked around on the campus. She took me to a pizza place called Blondie's, where there were a lot of the ugliest people I had ever seen. I had thought that punk rock was something out of the distant past, a style for all the wasted high school kids they warn you about in the After School Specials. For this reason all the punks looked about thirty-five years old to me. I was really freaked out.
We went to this club which was named after its address: 924 Gilman Street. More scary people, sitting on torn up furniture watching some very loud band play on a concrete stage in a converted warehouse. Every inch of the walls was graffitied. There were some hard rock bands and some punk bands, and a guy in front who was dancing like nothing I had ever seen. I knew about moshing and all the smooth dance moves the rap kids liked to do, but nothing like this.
A group came on stage and I instantly dug them. They were from New Jersey or some other far off land and they were named Rye. Sophy and I stood right up front, even though I was convinced the punk rockers were all glaring at me. Probably they were. After the band finished, Sophy suggested we go and talk to them outside while they loaded their equipment. I would never have thought of such a thing.
They were cool guys. I was flabbergasted to learn that the guitarist was only sixteen years old, the same age as me. For my summer vacation I went to the Grand Canyon, and for his summer vacation he went on tour with a punk rock band. Exotic. We went back in and Sophy informed me that, even though they didn't have a record out quite yet, I could look for another band on the same record label, since punk record labels put out bands who all sound similar.
I looked through the cardboard box that the record seller at the table had and found a seven-inch record that was on Troubleman Unlimited, the same label as Rye. It was called Unwound. This was DESTINY. Ok not really.
I had bought some other seven-inch records earlier that day, made by independent alternative groups, but I still think of this record as my first underground record. When I listened to it I knew that this was a different sound. The sleeve was black with photocopied images on it, unlike the other slick record sleeves. On the back it only gave first names for the players. No other information.
The name that I thought about most was Sara, on drums. Who was Sara? I imagined a giant of a woman, with spikes and chains and a mohawk, filthy and crass, like the punks at the pizza place. I imagined a small girl in torn clothes, like the dancing punk at the show. I imagined a guy who called himself Sara, just to do it. I didn't know what to expect.
From that point I slowly lost interest in the music and clothes and social scenes I saw at high school. Over time I began to believe that punk was better that all that garbage. But most of all I began to see that there was a better kind of music out there, and a better kind of band. It was a slow change but it was pretty big in the end. When I finally saw Sara in person, a long time later, I was relieved to see that she was just a normal girl, and not a freak like I had imagined. Of course, my definition of "normal" had changed.
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This document last updated 2 December 1997