WiS: Points of Interest 1

Our vacation was fruitful on many different levels, and I was able to fill in a lot of the gaps for my Walk in Silence photo database.  Here’s the first of a few posts focusing on various points of interest related to the 1986-1989 timeline of the book.  Hope you enjoy!

I used to catch the school bus from that intersection. Imagine a surly teen waiting for the moment he could pop on his headphones and blot out the inane conversations going on around him.

I used to catch the school bus from that intersection. Imagine a surly teen waiting for the moment he could pop on his headphones and blot out the inane conversations going on around him.  Usual soundtrack: The Smiths or Depeche Mode.

This was taken from the front room of my parents’ house, looking up the street.  If this picture looks a little streaky to you, it should — that was a minor five-minute flurry of snow that fell not an hour after we arrived!  But yes, this was similar to the view from my bedroom window looking north, where my desk was.  It never felt like the edge of the world, but more like a hideaway from it.  I spent a lot of time there, listening to WMUA or WAMH (or one of my many tapes or records) while doing homework, writing, or reading.

From Google Maps, as I didn’t get a decent picture:

My high school, which hasn’t really changed that much at all over the years.  A lot of memories of walking through these halls.  I still remember my locker number (103, Lower C hallway, just outside Mr. Jolly’s room).  My house was two and a half miles from here, so I took the bus (#312) and tried to avoid everyone that annoyed me.  The ride took just shy of twenty or so minutes, due to traffic and a few further stops, so I could listen to at least three or four songs on my Walkman before we got there.

Oh, and if you’re curious, this was my standard attire during my junior and senior years, as displayed on Spare Oom couch:

Not the originals -- the first duster and Smiths tee bit the dust from overwear. Duster 2 was from a friend, and I found the Smiths tee on eBay.

Not the originals — the first duster and Smiths tee both bit the dust from overwear by 1990. Duster 2 was given to me from a high school friend around that time, and I found the Smiths tee on eBay last year.

A tatty green duster (my grandfather’s) and a tee shirt showing the cover of the “William, It Was Really Nothing” single (bought at MSM and cherished as one of my favorites) was all I needed to wear to show my unique weirdness — no need for mohawks or nose piercings in my small town, not when I was already known as the resident college rock geek.

On our recent trip we also made a point to stop in Amherst and Northampton on one of the days, for varying reasons.  One was to meet up with a few friends from the area, but it was also to revisit some of our old haunts.  I’d been heading down that area since the early 80s when my family would shop at the malls down in Hadley; A. is a Smithie from the early 90s and knows the area as well.

Amherst Common

Amherst Common, where we would often congregate

The Five College area is one of my favorite places in the state.  In high school my friends and I would frequent this area all the time, hanging out not just at the mall but on the commons and in the various stores and cafés, talking and laughing and listening to great music.

Panda East - my first taste of Chinese food

Panda East – my first taste of Chinese food

Panda East was a Chinese restaurant we used to frequent back in 1987-88 (and yes, I am a bit surprised that it’s still there after all these years), often for dinner before or after we did our shopping or going to a movie.  After we ate we’d hang out in this little courtyard in the foreground and talk about all sorts of things.  I remember listening in on a conversation about college plans and silently wishing I could be a part of it.  Alas, I had one more year to go.

The former Bonducci's across from the common

The former Bonducci’s across from the common

Almost directly across from Spring Street on the common was a café called Bonducci’s. It was where that Veracruzana Mexican restaurant is now, in that right corner spot.  It was your typical collegiate café that served coffee, sodas (I always used to buy the Snapple vanilla creme, back when they used to make sodas) and pastries.  This was often our last stop of the night, but it was also where we’d often have the more serious conversations. Some of us would trade gossip, others would talk about philosophy (as one did when we tried to pretend we were being all deep and academic).  I would often be the one to initiate the conversations about music, of course.

One picture that didn’t quite come out is of the small strip of stores on North Pleasant Street.  Here’s the Google Maps version:

That corner spot where Zanna is now, used to be where Al Bum’s was back in the 80s (and I think into the very early 90s).  My dad brought me here probably around 1985 or 1986, as it was one of the few record stores I knew of that carried Beatles bootlegs.  A year later when I discovered college radio, it became an important and expected stop for finding the punk, college rock and industrial sounds that I couldn’t find at the malls or department stores.  When my friends and I headed down here, we’d almost always stop for an hour or two and dig through the bins.  Al Bum’s played a significant part in my music collecting during that time; what I didn’t buy at Main Street Music in Noho, I bought there, with a very minor percentage bought at the music stores at the Hampshire Mall.

[As an aside, there was a satellite store for Faces (more on that in part 2) that was partially hidden behind that Mobil gas station next door.  Within that was a mini-store that sold cassettes and cds called For the Record.  I bought a handful of tapes from there between 1987 and 1989.  It’s since become a dilapidated and empty warehouse.]

Holding our breaths

Holding our breaths

Lastly, a picture from our trip back in 2012.  There’s a stretch of Route 202 in New Salem that cuts through a tiny corner of Shutesbury for a few hundred feet before popping back in.  I was always amused by this little bit of ten-second town-hopping, and sometime around 1985 or so I got into the habit of holding my breath between the two town signs.  I got all my friends to do the same, so when we headed back home from an afternoon or evening from the Valley area, we’d always do this.  Thirty years on and I still do it every time I come back and visit.

Coming Up: Views of Northampton and maybe a bit of Boston as well!



Downtown Northampton, MA. Spent a lot of time here between 1986 and 1989, especially at that store to the left of the Starbucks. That was the location of Main Street Music, where I bought far too many albums. 

WiS: Autumn in Massachusetts

Yay, we’re on vacation!  We’re spending a week in Massachusetts, half in my hometown to visit family and friends in the Pioneer Valley, and half in Boston to see the sights and visit our friends in the metro area.  We of course are heading out at the point in the year so we can hopefully see some foliage as well, and remember what stupidly cold days feel like.

Our last visit to the area was in April of last year, so it’s been a good year and a half.  I know things have changed in the ol’ hometown (new storefronts, a high-end renovation/expansion of the town library), so it’ll be interesting to see.

I have also packed my fancy camera so I can take many pictures.  Many of these will most likely be source and reference material for Walk in Silence.  I’m also bringing a few notebooks to scribble notes, thoughts and memories as they come.  This will definitely help me kickstart the WiS project into its final stretch.  And if I can get a good photo for a cover, all the better!

So yes, if you don’t see me here for a week, I’ll just say I’m doing research.  Heh.

[WiS] I started something…

About a year and a half ago, I’d decided to take a few days off writing to get all my writing (and other things hiding away in file boxes) sorted and arranged.  It took much longer than usual, I think I kicked up enough dust to give me allergies, and I was sore afterwards.  But I had a much more organized bookshelf and filing cabinet in the process.

The best part?  On Saturday when I was looking for all the printouts, outtakes and notes for Walk in Silence (and pretty much every other project related to it dating back to 1988 or so), it took me all of a half hour.  Boom, done.  Which gave me even more time to actually sit down and read through some of these things this weekend.  Bonus!

I’m also returning to my beloved 80s album collection again.  As you can probably guess, I’m listening to the Smiths’ Strangeways, Here We Come from 1987 as I write this.  I always found it kind of sadly amusing that I finally got into the band just as they were breaking up.  Also, I’m enjoying the weekly radio show The 80s Underground (which I listen to via KSCU.com, but is also available via podcast) which plays on Wednesday afternoons.  It’s a great show because the DJ does what he can to play the less-familiar tracks from great bands instead of the same ‘hits of yesteryear’.  Worth checking out.

You might have guessed that I’m looking forward to getting this project done, even despite all the other writing projects I have surrounding it.  I have all the resources at my fingertips now, and most other things I can easily find online, so it’s mostly just a matter of keeping focused and knowing the trail I need to follow.  It’ll be tricky, but I think I can do it.

More to come!

Current Book Status: Oh wow I thought I’d be outta here by now

I kind of hinted at this on my LJ yesterday, but I may as well make it semi-official here: I’m planning on releasing Walk in Silence, the book, in April of 2016.

So, what does this mean?  Well, for me, it means that I have six months to get my sh*t together, get a final version written, edited, formatted and ready for publication.  Yes, I will be doing the same as ADoS and self-releasing it through Smashwords and Amazon.  This, on top of working on the final revision and edit of The Persistence of Memories, other projects, and the Day Job.

Why April 2016?  Because that will mark thirty years (April vacation 1986, to be precise) since I’d discovered college radio and kickstarted an obsession that hasn’t gone away. I think an anniversary release would work nicely.  It’ll be tough, but I think I can do it.  It’s not a strict deadline, but that’s the one I’m aiming for.

So what’s the current status of the book, anyway?   That’s…a good question.  I have about six or seven different versions in various states of (in)completion, copious notes, a hell of a lot of reference material, but nothing actually complete.  Sure, it’s kind of crazy for me to think I can get it from complete disarray into a finished product in six months.  Especially when the theme of the book kept changing — I was originally going to write about the ‘college rock’ sound of the mid to late 80s.  Then I was going to write just about my obsession with it.  Then I was going to compile a history of the sound.  And then I realized that none of them really quite connected with what I wanted to write in the first place.  So while I distanced myself from it and worked on the ADoS release in the interim, I kept the project in the back of my mind and let it percolate.  What did I really want to do with it?

I can’t rightly say what it’ll exactly be about at this time, but now that I have time and inclination to complete this project, I’m happy to say I have a much clearer idea, and will be starting in on it this weekend.

In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you start seeing more 80s-themed posts and videos here within the next few months!  🙂

New (and Reissued) Tunage

A lot of really good titles out these past few weeks, giving me all sorts of new releases to listen to, which always makes me happy.  Let’s see what’s currently in rotation, shall we?

Silversun Pickups, “Pins & Needles” from Better Nature, rel. 9/25/15
This one took me a few tries to get used to…like Interpol’s last few albums, I really like what I hear but it didn’t quite gel with me the first few times.  However, SSPU continues to write excellent songs, and Nikki is still one of the best bass players out there.  I actually kind of prefer this album track over the new single that’s out (“Nightlight”, though Nikki gets a prime front-stage mix here).

Caspian, “Arcs of Command” from Dust and Disquiet, rel. 9/25/15
I’m usually very choosy about my post-rock and alt-metal, but this one connected with me right from the start (especially with this track) when NPR was streaming it the other week.  They’re like a heavier Mogwai (yeah, I know!) with the mindset of GY!BE (without the overly long noodling), with the drop-tuned heaviness of Deftones and Deathmøle thrown in, and they’re absolutely perfect for my writing sessions.  And they’re a Boston-area band, so yay!

Chvrches, “Leave a Trace” from Every Open Eye, rel. 9/25/15
This band’s sophomore album made even more of an impression on me than their first one, and I think it’s because they’ve really tightened the songwriting.  They know how to write a great and catchy alternapop tune without sacrificing substance for style.

New Order, “Restless” from Music Complete, rel. 9/25/15
The reviews have been spot-on:  this is the album New Order would have made right after Technique back in ’89 if they hadn’t gone on all those hiatuses, done all those solo projects, broken up and gotten back together, etc.  [That’s not to say Republic and the others were bad, just that they kind of felt like they were in neutral compared to previous records.]  This one is a fine return to an earlier form, one that fits them incredibly well.  On a side note, Tom Chapman does fine work as the new bassist to replace Hooky, though there are times I still expect to hear the high-on-the-neck bass riff now and again!

Garbage, “Vow” from Garbage [20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition], rel. 10/2/15
Daaang…it’s been twenty years already?  A phenomenal debut album from one of the best mid-90s bands out there, and well worth getting the super deluxe version with all the tasty remixes.  [And I’m snooty when it comes to remixes, so that’s saying a lot!]  It was one of the first albums I’d picked up after moving back home in autumn of ’95, and got me through a lot of personal things and writing sessions.

Editors, “Marching Orders” from In Dream, rel. 10/2/15
Oh man, I’ve been waiting for this one since being blown away by that first single, “No Harm” came out back in May!  After releasing the poppier, sunnier The Weight of Your Love back in 2013, they’ve returned to a much darker, more cinematic sound, which really suits them well.  I’ve given this quite a few spins since I downloaded it on Friday, and it’s already made its way onto my writing soundtrack list.


So let’s see, what do I have to look forward to the next few weeks?

Duncan Sheik, Legerdemain (10/9)
Oberhofer, Chronovision, (10/9)
Here We Go Magic, Be Small (10/16)
Dave Gahan & Soulsavers, Angels & Ghosts (10/23)
Guy Garvey, Courting the Squall (10/30)
The Neighbourhood, Wiped Out! (10/30)
Mutemath, Vitals (11/13)
The Comsat Angels, reissues of 7 early albums (!!) (11/20)

Yep, shaping up to be another excellent year for music!