Flashbulb Flashback: Origin Story // 8.2.12

Remember the rush of ambivalence when you didn’t care about anything yet still wanted to believe in something? Your insides twisted from losing faith in the ignoble structures of civilized life – phony eyeballs lagging with the imprecision of an infant. At some point you’ve got to snap the elastic and feel the pop. Back when Guns and Roses took over, middle school was dominated by socially engineered initiations. The kids old enough to attend weekend dances drank and had sex in the halls, at least oral sex – at least, that’s what we heard.

A friend and I had stolen a carton of Camel straights and were dedicated to smoking every single butt. In tree houses; with girls by the creek; listening to DRI or AC/DC records on listless summer afternoons. Eventually, we just wanted more music, we had a lot of smoking to do. Sometimes uninvited, we foraged through the collections of our friends’ parents and older siblings. Frank Sinatra and Black Francis sonically shook hands. I sold my first song that summer for records and a skateboard I never rode – it was a thrashy number called, Test Tube Baby. The day I wrote it, the fellow who bought it doused a culvert in gasoline and sent the flames skyward.

Later, on a visit to a busy Waterloo Records, a hurried cashier accidentally slipped a copy of Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz record in with my copy of Sonic Youth’s Sister. My understanding of music, as well as my life, were revolutionized, as a quest was initiated towards moments Lester Bangs spoke of when he said, “Don’t ask me why I obsessively look to rock and roll bands for some model for a better society. I guess its just that I glimpsed something beautiful in a flashbulb moment once, and perhaps mistaking it for prophecy have been seeking its fulfillment ever since.”

The Flashbulb Moment is less likely if your eyes are blind to it. Audra Schroeder, over at The Observer, wrote an article, How Not to Write about Female Musicians, How Not to Write About Female Musicians talking about male writer’s sexualized criticisms of female artists. You should read it and the Village Voice article it refers to, both are sharply written. Schroeder’s description of a music editor rationalizing why women have no place in rock and roll is not unique, I’ve heard of such cranks basing their conclusions on the fact that guitars are an extension of the penis. As Gilles Deleuze says, “Freud sees nothing and understands nothing.” Nothing is profound if you don’t allow it to be; I’m guessing these fellows never heard Mo Tucker, Kim Gordon or Exile in Guyville. Of course, the ancients forebade females from studying math because they were sure it dislocated the uterus. The little dictator is hard to move beyond.

Nearly ten years ago – as an employee at Waterloo – I was lucky enough to see Kim and Sonic Youth perform a rare in-store, which proved to be yet another Flashbulb Moment.


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