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Friday, January 1, 2010

1977, The Two Sevens Clash: I Start Playing Guitar

Chris Broderick and myself were living in an aprtment in the back of my dad's Big Train Variety Store on Beach Boulevard in Hamilton. It was spring and I would soon be leaving for my first trip out west, to Banff, Dawson Creek and eventually, santa Cruz California. My father had found an old Harmony guitar that I think he paid $20 for, and one day I took that out across the railroad tracks in back of our place and started picking out a song while sitting on a rock on the beach. It was my first composition, and though a simple instrumental, was the foundation for of many inspired moments to come. Six months later, in the forest beside my friend Dwight Orange's townhouse (where I was crashing at the time) in Dawson Creek, I would write a song with words and a melody, and by a an early autumn creekside I was singing and playing at the same time, and it was my own song!

Dawson Creek was a wonderful and wild place, and I became friends with Giselle Pinard, and the guitar-playing brothers Vince and Steve were also great friends to me. Mike Gauvin and Dava had a house there, and I stayed with them for awhile too. Had a girlfriend named Donna who really rocked my world, but I was a fool and didn't know what I had.

I was learning songs by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, John Prine and other songwriters, and beginning to pen my own tunes. Asthe cold weather was approaching, one day I packed up and left, with a plan to hitchhike several thousand miles south to Santa Cruz, California. In Banff I had met some guys from there, and they invited me down to their place in Scott's Valley.

When I arrived, I had missed the big party at the house in the country by a week, but my friend's still let me pitch my tent in their backyard for a couple of days. They also treated me to my first burrito, homemade from ingredients we bought on a walk to the Scott's Valley grocery store. Soon I was living and playing on the streets of santa Cruz, and really fell in love with the town and wanted to live there. I met "shane wallace", but shane was actually my friend's younger brother's name, but he thought it was a better road handle than his given name. he taught me a few more Dylan songs, and we also hung out with a barefoot troubadour who knew a lot of blues, and he told us about a folk festival he was heading to in San Luis Obispo.

Shane and I decided to hitch down to the festival, and people went out of their way to drive us where we need to go, and quite amazingly, the first van that picked us up gave us an unce of pot, and the next car gave us a Thai stick and a half. I have posted that story before, but may expand it right here in the future, or I'll link up the earlier post if I can find it.

The festival featured Spank and Our Gang, Buffy Saint Marie and others, and i felt truly privileged to sit around a fire with Buffy and others while our bluesy friend played and sang for Her Majesty.

Upon returning to Santa Cruz, I felt the pain and loneliness of being homeless and so far from friends and family, and my mom was kind enough to send me bus fair home. The idea of hitchhiking acrosss the United States was justifiably scary to me, so I planned to take a bus to Vancouver, and another bus to Toronto, about 6 days journey in total.

I made it up to San Francisco and then had to wait one day for my bus to Van, so I checked into a fleabag hotel and picked up the local BAM (Bay Area Music) and found there was a punk band called The Dead Boys playing at the Old waldorf that very evening. Discovering that this place was only blocks from my hotel room, I strolled over there in the afternoon to see how much the tickets cost. When I got there the roadies were unloading the truck, and I offered to help out. They were glad to have the help, and when they heard I was from Toronto (we LOVE playing Toronto), they offered to put me on the guest list for that night, and told me to come back early before the show.

I was invited backstage and got to smoke hash with the roadies while they tuned up the band's guitars, and had a front table seat for what was a deeply mind-blowing experience; my first punk rock show! Stiv Bators was outrageous and Cheetah Chrome and the band were furious and wild, and though I was not immediatley about to give up my protest folk blues persona, the stage was being set for me to shave my hair and go punk two years later in Vancouver.

When I think about what led me to punk rock, it was a combo of personalities; the strident righteousness of Joe Strummer and the potent ferocity of Joey Shithead on the other, the seemingly out-of-control nihilism of Bators and Rotten. My reaction to the joyful sound of The Ramones was similar to how I felt about Bob Marley when I first started listening regularly to him in Quebec City; I dug it, but I wasn't really clear on where all the happiness was coming from, and wasn't feeling how strong acts like reggae's Marley and punk's Ramones could be so overjoyed in such a painful, underwhelming, calamity-filled world. My earnestness was sincere, and people like Bob, Joey Ramone, Joey Shithead and Johnny Rotten all helped me learn to laugh and enjoy life, even while fighting gross injustice.

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