News on Walk In Silence (the book)

Hey all,

Some news on the Walk in Silence book project.  I shared this on my LiveJournal a short time ago (edited for clarity):

I think I may set aside Walk in Silence, the book.

I’ll finish it of course, for my own reasons, but I don’t think I’ll be releasing it as a self-published book, at least not for the foreseeable future. It’s a tough decision, but it’s one I’ve been thinking of ever since the start of the year, maybe even before then.

There are a few reasons…one is that it started feeling less like a book worth publishing and more of a vanity project. On a more personal note, writing this memoir version really felt like I was really just trying to finally purge it from my system once and for all so I could move on. While on a personal and emotional level this can be a good thing, and I may even be proud of the end result, it’s not something I’d be happy with on a professional level. I wouldn’t be embarrassed about it…I just don’t think it would be something worth putting out there professionally. As I said, it’s become a vanity project — it’s a story I want to tell, but I’m doubting there’s a significant audience for it. Maybe I’ll put it out there as a serial on [this] blog at some point. It feels that would be the best home for it, when all is said and done.

Do I feel sad about this? Not entirely. A bit let down, of course. That nagging feeling that I’ve wasted a few thousand hours of writing time on something that may or may not see the light of day. But I’ve had a hell of a fun time reading all those music bios and reference books for research, and I’ve come to appreciate and understand music a hell of a lot more over the years. Totally worth it just for that alone. I may also feel a bit embarrassed, having bloviated the idea and everything else about it over the last three or four years online, much to your wavering patience and tolerance, but I think I’ll get over it.

But really…the main thing is that I think I’ve outgrown the project. My heart and mind have moved on, probably some time ago, and it was high time for me to accept that.

…so yeah.  At this time, it’s no longer going to be an e-book/physical book project.

On a more professional level, I think it would have been problematic as a book, especially a self-published one.  There’s only so far I can go with Fair Use in regards to copyrighted music, and I don’t think I’d have done the project justice (to my standards, anyway) if I had to hold back for legal reasons.  Doing it as a blog series would give me more leeway and make it more interactive, as I’d be able to provide links, audio and/or video.

SO.

What’s in store for this project?  Well!  Glad you asked!

I’ve already gotten a good ways into it (it focuses mostly between 1984 to 1989, and I’m currently writing about late 1988), so instead of trunking it and erasing it from my mind, I will use my collected notes and writings for it and do a serial much along the lines of my Blogging the Beatles series from a few years ago.  It may start out as a once-a-week entry, but if time permits and I get myself into the groove, I may post more than that.

Another plus for me morphing it into a blog series is that I get to return to my originally planned release date again!  Yay!  It’s still in the planning stages, but I’m thinking a soft start date of April 19 or thereabouts, to celebrate thirty years of me obsessing over this damn genre.

April vacation, 1986, when a dorky teenage kid from a small town discovered a college radio station for the first time, and how it completely changed his life.

Thanks again for sticking by, folks.  🙂

Why can’t you see, you’re fighting a million and me

God’s Favorite, “(Hurry Hurry) Sunday”
(not to be confused with God’s Favorite Band…different group entirely!)

Well, this is certainly a surprise!  This has been hiding on YouTube for almost a year and I never noticed until just this moment when I was doing a bit of Walk in Silence research.  This little gem of a track was the first song I ever taped off a college radio station (WMUA 91.1 at UMass Amherst) — the same taping session on 11 November 1986 that introduced me to The Go Betweens, Felt, and This Mortal Coil.

I listened to that tape so many times I pretty much wore it out, and it wasn’t until about a year ago that I had Jeff Shelton play it on his KSCU show The 80s Underground and finally heard it again after what seemed like decades.  I downloaded that particular podcast just so I could finally have the track in my collection again.  I was never able to find the vinyl anywhere when it was out, and as I currently do not have a turntable (yes, I am a heretic!), I can’t go on Amazon and buy it.

I remember hearing this track and thinking the vocals were a little too earnest (in that 80s indie way we’ve all come to love in retrospect), but there was that gently sweeping melody that kind of reminded me of early REM, who I was getting into at the time.  It also hinted at that pastoral walking-through-the-woods-in-autumn mood that I would get from a lot of the college rock I loved then.

Flying Bohemians Trivia:  This song is one of three that inspired me to write “Lift Your Heart Up (In Your Hands)” in 1991 (the others being Love and Rockets’ “Welcome Tomorrow” and Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians’ “Swirling”).

WIS: Points of Interest II – Northampton

A few more pictures from our visit to New England a few weeks ago…this time focusing on Northampton.  Our road trips in 1987-88 often included a stop or two down here.  I obviously gravitated towards the record stores and sometimes the book stores, but there were also quite a few excellent restaurants here as well.  It’s still one of my favorite places to go when we’re in the area.  I would not mind living here either, if it were not for the fact that we’d have to deal with snowy winters!

Downtown Northampton

Downtown Northampton, north side of Main Street across from City Hall

Here’s a panoramic shot of part of downtown Northampton, as seen from across the street in front of City Hall.  That alleyway is Cracker Barrel Alley.  We used to park in the lot back there during our trips to Main Street Music, which is where Village Salon on Main is now, to the left of Starbucks.  Here’s another view of the Alleyway.

Cracker Barrel Alley...many an evening clutching my latest record purchases while walking here.

Cracker Barrel Alley…many an evening clutching my latest record purchases while walking here.

A few reasons I show this. On our trips to MSM, there was many a night’s end when we’d be walking down this alleyway and back to the car, clutching our latest spoils and already planning when we’d borrow them for further dubbing.  In fact, after our shopping we’d often hang here for a good half hour, talking about all sorts of things before we had to head back home.  It has not changed one bit, maybe aside from the repaving.

Second?  See that building in the background?  That community-themed mural has been there for decades (and touched-up here and there), at least since the 80s.  But the important part was that boring little brick wall around the corner from it.  About two stories up, someone sometime in the early 80s spraypainted the word ‘ANARCY‘ in large black letters.  No idea how they got up there, and I don’t think anyone fessed up to it, either.  But promoting anarchy to the point that you deliberately spell it wrong?  We loved that idea!  It fit in with our 80s small-town nonconformist ideals quite nicely.  I think it stayed up there at least until the early 90s when it was finally powerwashed off, but I’m sure most Smithies and other Five College kids from that era will remember and cherish that tag.

And when I was down here with family, while I spent most of my time (and money) at MSM, my dad would often go a few doors down to…

DSC04096

Broadside Books, a fiercely indie bookstore that would make City Lights proud.

…which not only is still open, but still looks the same after all these years!  This indie has always been a mix of commercial, obscure, and political since 1974.  It’s a quintessentially New England type of indie, a community-first type of store that offers the bestsellers alongside books on grassroots politics and local history.

Faces, where many 80s rock pins for my denim jacket were purchased.

Faces, where many 80s rock pins for my denim jacket were purchased.

Ah, Faces!  It opened here in 1986 during the high point of that decade’s fashion, and catered to all kinds of ridiculousness.  This was your one-stop shop for dayglo clothing, fun printed tee-shirts, whoopee cushions, fake poop, posters (album, band, and black-light), disposable dorm and apartment furniture and accessories (in their huge basement), and anything else to make your college life California flashy in an otherwise drab New England.  And also where I bought a crapton of those pins you might remember seeing on denim jackets in that decade.  I usually went for the rock band logos, album covers, and the occasional silly jokey ones (‘I’m not weird, everyone else is!’).  It very nearly closed recently, but since it’s so beloved by students and locals alike, someone bought it from the original owner and it’s still alive and well.

Thornes Marketplace Building and environs, including a boot shop that I believe is older than me!

Thornes Marketplace Building and environs, including a boot shop next door that I believe is older than me!

Just across the way from Faces is another hangout, Thornes Marketplace.  Their website states it took over the site of the old McCallum’s Department store in the mid 70s and by 1977 or so it got its present name and has been an indoor shopping experience ever since.  There are stores of varying shapes and sizes, from clothing boutiques to kitchen accessories and even an Acme Surplus in the basement!  Speaking of which, way down in the sub-basement (back parking lot level) was a huge used record store called Dynamite Records.  It didn’t so much cater to hard-to-find obscurities as it did those albums you never got around to picking up when they were new, or that one record you’re missing from some band’s discography.  This was a bit later on, I believe, maybe in the early 90s and into the early 00s, as I spent many an afternoon beefing up my back catalog with their selection.   OH!  Yes, and just around the corner on that side street to the right (Old Street) is Herrell’s Ice Cream, quite possibly one of the best local ice cream parlors in the area.

Pleasant Street, which really hasn't changed all that much...aside from the storefronts

Pleasant Street, which really hasn’t changed all that much…aside from the storefronts

This little strip at the head of Pleasant Street has changed a bit over the years.  Northampton Wools is where Pleasant Street Video used to be for decades (said to be one of the best local rental places in town, and had quite the collection of popular and obscure titles).  McLadden’s Irish Pub has taken place of the former Pleasant Street Theatre, where all kinds of indie and low-budget movies would be shown.  I never went there until the mid-90s, but I did get to see quite a few great films there.  Their basement screening room was so tiny and oddly shaped, the first two rows had 3 seats on either side.  Further up is another record store I’d frequent in the 90s called Turn It Up! Records, down in a musty basement.  I usually went here for used cds, as their dollar bins were quite choice.  They’re still there, I believe!

One last thing I want to post here…it’s another ‘no longer there’ Google Maps embed, but it’s kind of important, at least to me!  It’s one of the stores in the strip mall on King Street, north of the town center, right near I-91.

This is the storefront where Northampton Newsroom used to be, back in the 70s and 80s (and I believe into the early 90s). It was your small WaldenBooks-style store with a selection of genres, a wide selection of newspapers and magazines, as well as candy, gifts and more.  I mention this place because in late 1984 during one of our family shopping trips down to the Valley, I bought a book here called Dragon Fall by Lee J Hindle.  It was the first winner of a YA writer contest for its publisher, and when I heard a teen had written it, a light bulb went off: hey, I could do this too!  I’d written some stories here and there that didn’t go anywhere, but after seeing this, there was no helping it…I had to be a writer too.  I started writing the Infamous War Novel in earnest and never looked back.

Hope you enjoyed the tour! 🙂

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!

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!