A co-worker relocated to Israel today. This in itself is no big deal - he’s Israeli-born, Israeli-educated, and Israeli commando-trained. But tucked under his arm as he boarded the plane and it began its long flight to the Middle East was my copy of Jimmy McDonough’s epic Neil Young biography, Shakey. Or so I imagine.
Around the office I have become known as the Guy Who Listens to Crazy Bongo Music. The guy who disappears once a year to follow a concert around the country. The guy who gets angry when someone thinks that Mission of Burma is an online video game. The guy who knows that the Holy Modal Rounders were not a religious cult. It’s not as glamorous as being The Fresh From College Stud Who Gets The Women, but it’s far better than being The Guy Who Only Eats Dairy, or The Guy Who Blasts Vicious Farts In His Cubicle, or The Guy Who Sniffs His Snot Back Up His Nose All Day Instead Of Buying A Box Of Kleenex.
I’ve since developed a dedicated interoffice network of a few brave souls who occasionally stop by to grab some tunes they’d never hear on the radio or be inclined to listen to otherwise. Think of me as a corporate office version of Red from The Shawshank Redemption.
So when this particular coworker, who is significantly older and balder than me, stopped by my prison cell-sized cubicle and asked what I was listening to, I hesitatingly removed my headphones, paused the iPod, and told him I was rupturing my eardrums to Funhouse by the Stooges. I readied myself for the usual, and obvious, comment: a smartass crack about not knowing the Three Stooges played music, followed by a shrill impression of one of Curly’s famous ticks, mannerisms, or spasms. Or one of Moe’s two-fingered gouges to the eyes.
But this co-worker’s response was different. He claimed that Funhouse was his favorite album from the 1970s, and that he had seen the Stooges in concert in Cleveland throughout the early 1970s. At first I was skeptical; like the Sex Pistols or Velvet Underground, many music fans of a certain age claim to have seen Iggy Pop in his barking, howling, yelping, peanut butter-smearing prime. But as he described how he worked in Cleveland immediately after college graduation in 1968, and soon became caught up in the local music scene, I could tell that he was not bullshitting. He even later showed me his ticket stub from the now-infamous Metallic K.O. show. A true badge of instant respect.
At first the image of an Israeli-born observant Jew tuning in to the abject filth and gutter-prowling violence of the Stooges was hard to reconcile with the suit-wearing project manager sitting in my cubicle. But as he continued to talk about his exploits in the early 1970s, including how he followed Neil Young’s solo acoustic tour around the country with various chemical aids, it became obvious that I was in the presence of a True Sick Muso who had Lived It.