IMG_5703When Adam Ant took the stage last night to a recognizable, ear-bustingly squawky guitar solo I was ecstatic. After looking at set lists from a few previous shows over pre-concert drinks, I was hoping he’d continue opening with what my wife thought was a pretty obscure song–Beat My Guest. A fan of Adam Ant’s slightly later stuff–Jules had never heard this early work. For me the song was part of my introduction to and expanded education in the world of “alternative” music.

1984. I was in my first (and only) year at New College in Sarasota, Florida and one of the guys (Jon something–I can’t remember his last name) in a nearby Third Court room made me a mixed tape of music to expand my horizons. Adam Ant’s Beat My Guest (along with a liner note extolling his yodeling) was one of the songs on that tape. Reaching back into my memory, I can only really recall a few of the other songs: Cows by the Suburbs (how could I forget that one!); Kids Don’t Follow by The Replacements (one of my all-time favorite bands that never made it); Killing an Arab by The Cure; Holiday in Cambodia by Dead Kennedys; and Damaged Goods by Gang of Four. I think it may have also included something from Husker Du, the Violent Femmes, the Dead Milkmen, the Minutemen and others–but I can’t remember the bands or the songs. I only know that the impact of the music was deep.

In high school my musical tastes were mostly (gulp) mainstream. But even then, I had a collection of DEVO albums, listened repeatedly to The Jim Carroll Band’s People Who Died with good friend Chuck Miller and preferred the off-beat lyrics and music of The Kinks to most pop. But, it wasn’t (like many people I’m sure) until I got to college that my musical tastes went underground and expanded.

New College, Jon’s mixed tape and Beat My Guest were only the beginning of the journey. Transferring to Rutgers University in New Jersey was another transformative experience–the urban university’s world of night clubs, college radio, eclectic roommates and alternative record stores. Of course, being closer to New York City never hurts–though the best music was either on WRSU (the university station) or WLIR out of Long Island.

For a year or so–while at Rutgers–I kept in touch with Jon. He would let me know what was being blasted out of the huge, splintery wooden speakers at New College’s Palm Court Parties and I would share what I’d been hearing on WRSU or the college clubs. Eventually we both got more absorbed in our own college scenes and the correspondence stopped.

JPEG stripped down and ready to grunWhat didn’t stop was my love of seeking out alternative music. I even created a short-lived comic strip for the college paper that followed the exploits of the never-famous band Built for Speed.

Following graduation, I was lucky enough to listen to Matt Pinfield (and other great DJs) on WHTG-FM out of Eatontown, NJ and enjoy live shows (including Flock of Seagulls, The Whirling Dervishes and The Cucumbers) at the Green Parrot in Neptune, NJ.

Of course, many of us will think that those (1984-90) were the heydays of alternative music–that fuzzy edge time between the sometimes cliquey underground madness and the music becoming increasingly mainstream-cool. As the Adam Ant concert demonstrated, the nostalgia can be convincingly strong.

It would be easy to say that hearing Beat My Guest and the memories it brought back simply solidified my belief in that Golden Age of alternative music. In fact, it might have. And that’s something aficionados will argue over craft beer and lattes late into the night. What they won’t argue over–and what I really take home–is the power of music to prod the dark crevices our memories as well as mark new moments in our lives.

Vive Le Rock.



~ by kipwkoelsch on February 1, 2018.

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