Song of the Middle Class
It’s a Wednesday night, well after closing time.
Not that closing time, as a concept, means anything to us.
Every drunk in the van is under 21, most under 18.
A quiet night, no gigs and no parties, just good honest underage drinking of malt liquors and driving the endless tracts of Artesia Boulevard to Bloomfield to South St and back:
The Cerritos loop.
So we’re sitting there, bored, Naugles parking lot.
Me and Kimm, Chris and Paul maybe, Larry and Rich, some of the DC boys…. hell—I don’t know.
Any Summer night is interchangeable and unique.
Nights of aimless driving and drinking, talking and listening to cassette after stretched
C-90 cassette on a stolen Blaupunkt.
The mixtape comes to an end, cutting off 999‘s The Boy Can’t Make it with Girls
There is that organic pause, then the mechanical snick of the tape head flipping and side B starts: Middle Class, Out of Vogue!
Even in 1981 it is an oldie.
One of the rare first ones, brought back into the fold after one of Kimm’s reconnaissance missions downtown LB to Zed Records.
Kimm would unveil the latest finds around the drinking table, stacks of alien vinyl that we would pore over, front and back, sleeves and labels, before resting on the tunrtable and letting blast.
Suburban Lawns’ Janitor, The Weasels‘ Beat Her with a Rake……The Normal and Warm Leatherette!
These early punk songs were all startling listens within context, wildly different from the polished shit coming at us from KMET.
But those songs held onto that nouveau artrock aesthetic, somehow, songs showing a winking intellect above the rawness of the take:
Yeah, I know it sounds like shit to you, but this is art, no?
You cannot possibly understand what we are trying to say here, dummy!
Not the case with Middle Class, no.
This was straight ahead business, no time for phony poses:
The frantic pace, the militaristic cadence of the vocals over the gallop of bass and drum, these blueprints have served us-all-since the needle first dropped, and the pause button released on tapedeck to let spin the tiny reels of Memorex.
We stole a dozen ideas from that blast of an EP.
And now, in the dead of night in the lot of a dearly departed fast food joint, the song makes for the perfect soundtrack for the action:
Doug comes tumbling into the van, rubbing hands together and cackling.
“Go, go—fuckin punch it!”
I start the Blue and White without thought, so used have I become with these sudden get aways from stupid mischief.
“Skanker,” yells Chris–“what about Duane?”
Under those August fluorescents, Duane falls out of the double doors clutching a bathroom sink.
His Sex Pistols homo-cowboy shirt is stained with fresh blood, as is the porcelain hunk in his mitts.
Apparently Skanky had a little trouble yanking the sink off the wall and blood has been shed.
He is crying with laughter as he almost gets his prize to the van, but the sink is slick with blood and the plumbing goes crash to the ground.
Shards split across the parking lot, diamonds against asphalt, and the sink splits in two separate halves with a final clank as Home is Where comes on next.
Another good one, all throbbing bass line and syncopated riff, the guitar sound honest still.
Duane does the only logical thing left.
He takes the bigger of the chunks, looks back at us and gives us the gap tooth grin we’ve come to know as the green flag of mayhem.
He holds it aloft for just a moment before letting it sail through the glass doorway:
Here’s your goddamn sink back–happy?
The night is full now, blood and breaking glass and people yelling, confusion and chaos over the charging music……and are we being chased?
Wild noise in the night!—-it was all we wanted, really.
I can do nothing more than put the Chevrolet in gear and turn the stereo full blast.
The destructive nature of punk rock?
Is that what yer saying?
Hell, everyone’s got a million stories like that, all over the place.
Punkers of a certain age were free in the night, untethered by cellular device and social network, free to write the story as it went along.
But God bless us, if nothing else we all seemed to grow up and learned, yeah, you got it brother–No Man is an Island!
And we found out that there was value in this music and in these shows.
And regardless of a hundred asshole promoters that ripped us off in the past because they had no respect for what we were doing, we’d come to a place where we could come together for something good.
We’re honored to be part of this fundraiser, but mostly just proud of this funny little tribe.
Because maybe by helping each other we’re just helping ourselves.
And we can somehow soothe the scars on our arms and patch the holes in the walls, souvenirs of the songs that said what we couldn’t possibly say.