It’s dawned on me that you’ve been reading this column for the past 38 weeks now and while I’ve given up a lot about myself there are still a lot of things you don’t know about me. Don’t excited you aren’t going to find out any deep secrets, but I thought maybe I’d take this week and discuss some of my influences which might give you a little more insight into what informs my opinions. Consider this your primer on Dave, the aging hipster.
There was an extremely brief period of time in my life when I wasn’t consumed by art, music, movies and literature. These were the early years. During that time I was quite passionate in my love for all things Lone Ranger and Speed Racer, if you want to know where it all began you can trace it to right there. I’m not sure what conclusions you can draw from the combination of early Japanese animation and black and white pure blooded American TV but they were my first loves. I quickly moved on though to reruns of the Beatles cartoon and Elvis Presley. Don’t ask me where the Elvis fixation came from, since I can’t remember any Elvis albums at the house and never saw him on TV. I can remember quite clearly though playing the Beatles with a neighbor kid and using our plastic lawnmowers as guitars. I also remember quite vividly doing an Elvis impersonation for show and tell in either kindergarten or first grade.
I went through a slow period after that. I’m not sure what I was interested in until about 6th grade. Reading became very important to me then. I can recall sitting on the stairs leading up to my house and reading 1984. I know, I know, you don’t want to believe me, what kind of kid would read 1984 in 6th grade. Well I did and I even have the version printed in 1984 to prove it, it was brand new when I bought it. The cover has now been torn off, pages are ripped and underlined, it’s a mess. I was reading not only dystopian literature beyond my years at this point but also HG Wells and The Hobbit and the typical stories for a child my age.
In 7th grade we moved from my home in Pittsburgh to a foreign land called Hartford, CT. Everything changed at that point. Until then I had been interested in friends and ball and bikes and all the things that go along with being a typical kid, suddenly I was thrust into a world where I knew no one. I made friends but I also retreated inward. Music began to become much more important to me during this time, music and books. In 9th grade two forces that couldn’t have been more different collided and transformed my life. The first was professional wrestling. You see, I wanted to be a professional wrestler more than anything in the world. I had close to 10,000 magazines and books on the subject and watched close to 15 hours of the stuff on the TV in any given week. To call it an obsession wouldn’t be giving it enough space in my life. To further my professional wrestling career along I joined the high school wrestling team. At this point I was a bright kid with absolutely no interest in school. To be on the wrestling team you had to have a C average though, so I started to get serious with education.
It was extremely, unbearably hot the summer after 9th grade, rather than take the bus to the beach with my friends most days I sat inside and read No One Here Gets Out Alive about Jim Morrison and the Doors. This is it, this is my touchstone. Everything goes back to this book for me. In Morrison I found someone who was smart and vibrant, good looking and daring, someone that understood education and literature and art and actually created things. Morrison read hip writers like Kerouac and Ferlinghetti, he listened to the blues. He was wrote poetry, he was a renaissance man as far as I was concerned.
I can’t stress to you how important this book was to me. I read every piece of Beat literature I could get my hands on, not an easy feat for a kid in North Versailles, PA let me assure you (we had moved back to the state by then). I was definitely listening to Motley Crue and Def Leppard; The Scorpions and Metallica but I was also digging Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. At that point I was mostly listening to bootleg cassettes bought at local record shops but my world was expanding. In 10th or 11th grade I got into Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck and the Stones in a serious way. From there I was listening to Robert Johnson and a lot of the early blues artists. From reading about Parker and Kerouac and Ginsberg I was introduced to modern art like Jackson Pollock and William de Kooning. You can imagine how popular I was, a 15 year old kid reading Beat literature, listening to either heavy metal or jazz and trying to discuss modern art in a small town outside of Pittsburgh. Yeah, I was every woman’s dream.
In college it started to click. The influences I’ve already discuss melded with alternative music and authors like Brett Easton Ellis, Douglas Coupland and William Gibson. Grunge exploded bringing alternative music and coffee houses to the forefront of popular culture. I was already hanging out there due to my love of beat literature, I was suddenly hip. Movies like Singles and Reality Bites were the rage and so was I. All of this lasted for a few years. It moved me beyond heavy metal and into alternative music. I dug deeper, got into goth for a bit too long, reverted back to jazz and hard rock, psychedelic music and experimental music. My love of beat literature has never changed. My love of professional wrestling did. My fascination with industrial music died a fast death. And here we are. I could go on but this gives a sort of overview and isn’t that what a primer is all about. I don’t know if that’s helped paint more of a picture for you but it filled a column right and at least given you a little information about why I am the way I am and how I started down the path of a know it all ex hipster whose sure his opinions about art and music and literature are better than yours and the correct opinions to have. Next week I’m sure I’ll be back to bitching about something!