The Music You Love

The music you listen to when you are in your teens and twenties never leaves you. Something about that impressionable age, when all experiences are new, the music gets planted in your soul. And sometimes, on rainy days like this morning, the thought comes to you out of nowhere, “I wonder whatever happened to that band X that I used to love.”

In the days before the internet this would mean running through your collection of cassette tapes, videotapes and CDs or maybe call up a friend to see if they had anything. Now that we have the internet all I had to do was type “Groovechild sick at last” in Google.

Groovechild was the band that ruled UNH when I was there. This was 1991-1995 so Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and flannel were in, LA hair metal bands were out. Flannel suited New Hampshire just fine, in fact I think it never went out. There was also a huge stoner subculture in New Hampshire so the jam bands were enormous – Phish, the Dead, etc.

Unlike the Dead and Phish, I have yet to meet someone who didn’t like Groovechild when they heard them. They made songs like “Riverside” which appealed to pretty much everyone but they also made epic long jam songs like this one:

It’s so crazy to me that footage like this exists. Here was a band that I thought I would never see again and now I can see footage of them from when I was in school 20 years ago.

Watching the footage I wonder “Why didn’t this band hit it big?” They had the sound, the stage presence and they set the crowd on fire. The ruled a small pond totally but never hit the national level.

Maybe it was my impressionable age but there were so many bands in the NH-MA area that were just so damn good that never got any airplay or press. Media outlets were limited back then and if you weren’t top 40 or on WBCN, forget it. But at the same time this forced bands to be resourceful. In 1993 I saw the band Percy Hill in the basement of our university student ghetto Young Drive. This was when they were just starting out and they grew into this:

But there was something so great about that. Going out to a live show, expecting nothing and being blown away. I saw some nameless band on a whim at the Middle East and the girl I was with shouted in my ear, “I’m having an AWESOME time!” I bought the CD and never forgot them, although just about everyone else did:

Friends of mine lived in Boston for the summer of 1993 and I remember them telling me about the Plough & Stars house band G. Love and Special Sauce. Before the internet, it was cool to say “I knew about this band before they were big.” It sounds stupid now but back then it took a lot of effort to find quality music. So yes, I knew about G. Love before he hit the national level.

Although they came along later, one last band that should have hit it big was the band Mr. Airplane Man. Two girls with a stripped down sound, drums and guitar, that’s it. Try this one, it should be in the soundtrack of some movie. I saw them at the Middle East and was deaf for half of the next day:

Thanks for running down memory lane with me. It was a fun afternoon.What little known local band from your youth do you wish got more press?

Easter Girls


My mother lives in a condominium complex surrounded by rolling meadows. Seeing the girls playing in their Easter dresses in the fields on a beautiful spring day, it couldn’t have been more perfect.

The one on the left is the future class president. The one on the right is the class clown. I love them both so much.

Historical Events

My grandfather was many things but a storyteller he was not. He was in the navy for 25 years but it was only at his funeral that I found out he was at the Battle of Midway. The man would give the most excruciating, verbose driving directions to the supermarket but he never once mentioned being at the battle that turned the war in the Pacific.

That’s the difference between me and my grandfather. If I had been at Midway or some event of equal historical significance, I would have spun that tale to everyone around me every hour of every day for the remainder of my life. Maybe it’s better it was him and not me.

Last year my mother unearthed grandpa’s old navy log book and turns out he saw a lot of action – Guadacanal, the Solomon Islands, a Japanese dive bombing attack. That’s a photo of it above. He served on a destroyer, the U.S.S. Ellet, which is a smaller gunboat screening an aircraft carrier, in his case the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Last year I did a little research and found there was a Facebook page for grandpa’s ship. On it a man was interviewed who was one of the last living members of the crew. I sent him email and asked him if he knew my grandfather.

I damn near cried when he wrote back, “When I knew your grandfather aboard The Ellet he was the Chief Boatwains Mate. I remember him very well because he was one of the kindest gentleman I met during my four years on the Ellet.”

Class Size

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about an interesting interview with a teacher in his book “David and Goliath”:

Did she want twenty-nine children in every classroom at Shepaugh? Of course not. Debrito knew that she was a bit unusual and that the ideal number for most teaches was lower than that. Her point was simply that on the question of class size, we have become obsessed with what is good about small classrooms and oblivious of what can also be good about large classes.

It is a strange thing, isn’t it, to have an educational philosophy that thinks of the other students in the classroom with your child as competitors for the attention of the teacher and not allies in the adventure of learning?

As a parent of two girls, this makes sense to me. Yes, in our home two kids are competing for my attention. Dinner conversations can be difficult with them both talking at the same time.

But there are advantages to having multiple kids. Often I sit back and watch them play together for hours. This could be called lazy but I think they get more out of interacting and exploring the world together than having me dictate life lessons to them.

Moscow

As I was walking my daughter to school this morning I was talking with another parent. He asked me if anything was new and I said, “I’m going to Moscow.” There were a couple of other parents nearby and my statement made them turn to see who I was. For one fleeting moment, I felt cool.

I should have run with it and said, “My people need me to handle the situation in the Crimea.” But no, it’s nothing that James Bond-ish. I work for a Russian company and I’m expecting to sit in a lot of meetings.

But going to Moscow has been a dream of mine for a long time. I have a hard time explaining it, I don’t even understand it myself. There’s something about Russia’s tortured history that fascinates me. I once read a description of Russia as a giant that wakens, throws all its might into taking two steps forward and then collapses in a heap and falls three steps behind. As Russian dash-cams and “Only In Russia” image searches show us, it is a very peculiar country.

Part of my interest in Russia is because I grew up in the shadow of the Cold War when the Soviet Union was the enemy. When I was a little kid I looked at a map, saw how big Russia was and thought, “We’re doomed!”

Memories of the Cold War make us laugh now but no one was laughing when they aired “The Day After.” Information back then was in short supply and there was no bigger mystery than what lay behind the Iron Curtain. How did they live? What did they want? What was their story? So that, I suppose, was the trigger.

No one reads books any more but I strongly recommend all of Robert Massie’s Russian history books. History that is so well written, I used to read “Catherine the Great” to my wife in bed as we went to sleep. I’m looking forward to this trip. It will be good to get away.