Tag Archives: crosby stills nash & young

Van Halen Cassette tapes, Kindergarten Underpants, Atari 2600, and the Awesome Hippie Babysitter

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Atari2600wood4

Atari2600wood4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rock and roll was the background music to my life from a very early age.  I initiated this obsessed love with two cassette tapes.

The first was “Purple Rain” by Prince.  I had that when I was about 4 years old.  My Dad bought it because he thought it was a killer album.  My Dad always had an ear out for what the best music on the scene was, a practice that I tried to pick up on.

The second was “1984″ by Van Halen.  I had that when I was about 5 years old.  I loved the song “Jump“, and also loved “Panama”.  I memorized the lyrics to “Jump” and used to sing them to my classmates in Kindergarten.  They looked at me like some sort of space alien.

My Dad was really into music.  When I was in my Mother’s womb my Dad’s drummer, Rodney Psyka nicknamed me “BB” (pronounced “Bee, Bee”), which is why my parents named me “Benjamin Bradford White” a little bit of a reference to BB King, but a never ending reminder that my identity was carved out in the middle of a bar gig.

I had no idea when I was a little man that my Dad had been heavily into the 60′s and 70′s drug scene. Nor did I have any idea that the members of Van Halen had probably indulged in their fair share of booze and drugs (especially old Diamond David Lee Roth!).  I just knew that I loved the sound of music pumping in my ear-drums.  Something about it felt familiar to me.

When I was a kid, my Dad smoked Barclay 100′s cigarettes.  I remember being 4 and 5 years old, and my Dad would be blowing that mellow blue smoke into the air.  I would be wafting it away from my face, trying not to breathe it in.  I always yelled at him saying, “Dad!  Smoking is so gross!  I hate it!” My Dad would just laugh and light up another, at times apologizing for smoking.  My mom would give my Father the dirty look that she often gave him.

I didn’t grow up under any sort of religious instruction.  The basic religion that my parents seemed to feed me was love, tolerance and compassion, coupled with BeatlesJoni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young records.  As a child I looked to musicians as being a certain breed of sage or prophet. I felt that their chords and melodies contained some sort of mystic power.  I was drawn to it.  It was the most spiritual experience that I encountered in my formative years.

When I was a kid in elementary school, I did pretty well.  They had me in a couple of advanced classes and I was basically a geek.  I was a different kind of geek though, because I had a variety of friends.  I was somewhat of a “socially adjusted geek”.

I had an appetite for trouble as well!  Once in Kindergarden I pulled my pants down in front of the class when my teacher had left for a short time, trusting that we the students would behave ourselves. We found after that she had left to join a small group of people that were observing their class behind glass with a one-sided mirror.  It was a behavioral experiment done by the Montessori School we were part of at the time.  They wanted to see if kindergarten kids could behave themselves in a large group without adult supervision.  I led the kids into a mini riot when I dropped my drawers and thwarted their experiment…

My parents later thought it would be a good idea to put me in public school, to give me more structure and rules.  It ended up working well.  I became a good student, and more well behaved.

In the meantime my Dad worked for John Hancock, an insurance company that was doing well in the 80′s.  He was at work often but he was also a good Father.  In many senses he was more of a friend to me than a disciplinary force.  I could always talk him out of punishments.  For example, after the pant-less fiasco my Dad tried to take away my Atari 2600 for a month…  and I talked him down to 2 weeks of Atari-absence.

Then there was the first time I witnessed my Dad get drunk.  He didn’t do it often, especially in front of me, and he definitely wasn’t an angry drunk, more of a slap-happy drunk.  We were at a wedding once when I was 10 years old and he had a little too much whiskey.  He had a lot of wild conversations with random people, basically being the life of the party in an extreme sort of way. While I, on the other hand, didn’t get it.  I cried and cried on the way home telling him how wrong it was.  After all, I was taught in school that these exploits were wrong.  Something in my young conscience felt horrible about it.

My Dad reassured me that he wouldn’t do it again.  He was generally good to his word throughout the rest of my pre-adolescent years.  He wasn’t an alcoholic, just a social partier.  He communicated to me that his position as a Father was more important than his party life.  He did a good job of keeping those two worlds separate before my eyes for quite a time. 

I had a babysitter named Laina who talked often of going outside to “get a fresh of breath air”.  I had found out that she smoked Camel cigarettes, and thought that maybe she was going outside to toke. I thought that was true because she used to come back from the “breath of fresh air” in an erratic mood and feed me some wild snacks, like Tato Skin potato chips, marshmallows and Coca-Cola Classic.  Then I hit the age of 13 and found that all hormones of either gender make one erratic. Nonetheless, it was safe to say I began to get a little chubby and crazy on this munchie food towards the end of my Elementary School days.

During this time I also got a guitar for Christmas.  My Dad had the guitar amp wrapped up and under the tree, and I had opened up all of my presents including the amp, but no guitar was to be found.  Then my Dad pulled a kamikaze move and grabbed the guitar out of his closet.  I was thrilled.  It was a black Fender Squier Stratocaster with white inlays.

Laina, my babysitter, was really proud of me for chasing after rock and roll.  She got me into the DoorsAerosmith and Led Zeppelin.  I listened to Zeppelin II for the first time, and it blew my world apart.  Jimmy Page’s riffs made me want to learn how to tear it up just like him.  Laina even helped me write a song, and we called it “Death Theater”.  She was really bummed when I made the lyrics a naive version of an anti-drug rant.

But Laina and I became pretty good buds.  She took me downtown in Hudson, Ohio during the annual shaving cream fight that all the middle schoolers and high schoolers used to go to.  It made me feel pretty cool to say the least, especially for a 4th grader!  Laina helped me figure out a little bit more of who I thought I was, and turned me on to rock and roll that turned my world upside down.

The Post-Hippie Scene of Kent, Ohio

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Main St Bridge - Kent

Main St Bridge – Kent (Photo credit: Todd Baker << technowannabe)

Kent, Ohio was made infamous by the 1970 May 4th shootings of 4 college students on campus, and Neil Young, backed by Crosby, Stills and Nash, coined the song “Ohio”, which forever rang in the consciousness of Kent residents.  Ever since then it was one of the premier hippie spots in the Cleveland/Akron area.

In the center of this hippie culture was Brady’s Café.  Brady’s Café was right next to the Kent State University Campus, and was upheld by hippies who had been around Kent for a long time.  It attracted a new generation of hippies…  Gen-Xers and Slackers who listened to Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, as well kats who were into the Grateful Dead, Phish, and the more widely accepted Dave Matthews Band.

Duane and I were drawn into the scene of Brady’s, and were introduced to it by his older friend Brenden, who often sold us dope.  At least once a month, a band called “The Black Hole Jokers” would play there.  They were mostly a Grateful Dead cover band.  I had my “initiation” into the Brady’s scene at the ripe age of 15 when the Jokers were playing.

You can imagine the kind of scene a Grateful Dead cover band drew in.  A synchronistic plethora of freaks, circus clowns, dopers, hippies, Frat Boys, Goths, Wiccans, Transexuals, Preppy Kids, Metal Heads, Harley Riders, Bisexuals, Satanists… you name it, were all there in their respective haze of choice to enjoy the surrogate psychedelic sounds.  I was just a kid, and no doubt got stoned on weed that was stronger than what I was used to at Brady’s.  Now I was hanging with college kids and adults in the drug scene.  At times, it was more than I could handle.

I spent many nights at Brady’s sick from something or another.  One night I was just ill and spitting up by the ledge on the outside of the café.  It may have been that I had been taken hold of by some bad pipe greens that were laced with something nasty.

We literally used to buy drugs in the upper floor of Brady’s from crazy dudes we didn’t know.  One dealer was named “Seff”.  He was a bi-sexual nymphomaniac, and a heroin addict.  He would sell Duane and I weed, sitting right in the middle of the coffee shop on the upper floor.  Looking back I realize I could’ve gotten into some weird situations that I didn’t understand or know how to prepare for.  Someone transcendent was looking out for me…

They turned Brady’s into a Starbucks years later…

Taking Mescaline and MDMA and Playing Bad Live Music

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English: Mescaline extracted from cactus, 100%...

English: Mescaline extracted from cactus, 100% all natural. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The spring of 1999 couldn’t have had a weirder mix of popular music.  Songs like “Praise You” by Raver-style DJ “Fatboy Slim” shared billboard spots next to songs like “One” by Creed and “What it’s Like” by Everlast.  This was an era when many styles of music were converging and combining.  It was a melting pot of hip-hop, rock, hard-core, trance, dance music, jungle, heavy metal.  We were a generation on the verge of the millennium, the internet was just beginning to bring the world into one vast social network.  The globalization of culture was at hand.

In the midst of all the popular music of this era, I was a retro-rocker to the core.  If an album hadn’t endured for at least five years in the consciousness of artistic rock n’ roll culture, I probably wouldn’t get into it.  In 1999, I was listening to Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Yes, Rush, early Genesis, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, The Grateful Dead, Crosby Stills and Nash, U2, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Lenny Kravitz, Blind Melon, and more.  I had a blue case full of used cassette tapes that I was constantly popping into the tape player of my blue Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight.  Their was a consistent soundtrack in the background during all of the out of control chaos of my party lifestyle.

Woven into the fabric of the years 1998 and 1999, was participation in a retro-rock cover band called “Kaleidoscope”.  I played bass and sang both lead and background vocals in the group.  Garrett Nevin sang and played guitar, and my good buddy James played drums.  We did a great variety of old-school rock songs like “Time” by Pink Floyd, and “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam to name a few.  There was just one problem, neither Garrett nor I could hold a tune vocally!  At this point, my vocal chords were wrecked with smoke and hard living, though I had never really had a strong voice.  Garrett didn’t have a very good voice either.  We could jam instrumentally with the best of them, but couldn’t sing.

We played a variety of safe gigs in Kaleidoscope.  Most of them were for friends that would have supported us if we had tied cats to microphones and pulled their tails.  Eventually, we landed a gig among strangers.

Garrett came to us one day, telling us some news.  “Hey guys, I got us a gig at a huge frat party at Nelson’s Ledges!”  He told us.

Nelson’s Ledges was a huge hippie hideout.  And apparently, a large group of collegiate jocks and beer drinkers had rented the place out to throw a big concert.  I don’t think I was fully aware that I was about to play the most humiliating gig of my life.

When we arrived at Nelson’s, I was with my girlfriend, Jaime.  It was very early in the summer of 1999.  I was done with high school and withdrawing from a large amount of speed that I had done all throughout the winter and spring.  Of course, because I had no intellectual or ethical grounds for abstaining, we wanted to find some sort of hard drug to take.  It was the summer after my senior year, and I still had no desire to abstain from the hard partying scene.  It’s a simple fact of God’s wisdom that “the backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.” (Proverbs 14:14)  One who wants to stray from what is right will receive a just consequence- simply that they will be handed over to the natural end of their pursuits.  God has created the world where no one can float along in an illusion of epicurean selfishness for too long.  There are consequences to all of our actions.

But Jamie and I were ignoring the consequences.  We scoped the scene at Nelson’s Ledges and effortlessly found an older hippie lady that sold us two pills of ecstasy.  She warned us; “These have a little bit of mescaline in them, so they’re going to make you trip as well as roll.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mescaline)  I only knew that mescaline was found in the peyote cactus and used by Native American tribes to foster “vision quests”.  I had never knowingly ingested it.  Our band was about to go on in 45 minutes.  We took the pills and chased them down with swigs of water.

The next thing I knew, Kaleidoscope was playing live.  The ecstasy and mescaline started to invade my mind like a fire eating up dry brush.  I thought we were playing the best music in the entire world, as the drugs were reaching their peak.  I was tossing myself around the stage like a crazed circus clown, every wave of sound seeming to caress my ears and soul like lavender lotion.  I looked out in the crowd and they all appeared to be just like me, smiling and caught up in euphoria.  I looked over at James and Garrett, who were completely obliterated on hashish.  They seemed to be frowning and barely making it through.  I thought to myself, “man, if only they were on the wavelength I was on, they’d get it!”.

We had a set of 2 hours.  Somewhere about an hour and a half into the set, I came out of the extreme euphoria I was experiencing…

I awoke, though I had been conscious the entire time.  I looked out at the crowd and the noises from the people that once sounded like cheers and shouts of adoration, turned into booing and cussing.  This group of frat-boys were standing with their friends, in a group of about 500 people.  They were drinking ungodly amounts of beer and literally trying to jeer us off of the stage.  We finished the last thirty minutes of the set, and though I was still high out of my mind, I was in reality enough to realize the horror I was in the midst of.

Many people philosophize about the power of drugs and creativity.  It may be true that drugs open one up to the power of the weird and mysterious, and make one desire to go outside of the box in their quest for art.  But this can be done all the same if one desires to tap into the source of creativity- God Himself.  In the end, drugs destroy people’s abilities to perform at anything.  This performance was proof of that.  I was so high that I thought the entire crowd loved our band.  When I came to, they were literally trying to force us off of the stage.  Once, even Noel Redding, Jimi Hendrix’s bass player, said that Jimi was so high while on stage once, that they played through 2 songs and had to cancel the gig, because Jimi couldn’t even make it through the chords of the song.  Though the mystique of creativity and freedom has been thoroughly associated with drug culture, when it comes down to it, drugs destroy a person’s ability to create.  I can’t imagine the kind of music Jimi Hendrix would have made if he would have gotten sober, instead of choking on a pill, drug and booze filled vomit on September 18th, 1970.  This was a man that carried his guitar with him almost 8 hours a day and practiced constantly.  If he would have been off of drugs, he would have truly been an unbelievable virtuoso.  People who associate drugs with great creativity are fooling themselves.

And if I would have known then what I know now, that all the music I created after quitting drugs was ten times better than before, I may have been led to quit drugs altogether much earlier.  But I chose to buy into the lies.  I was an addict in search of the next out of control experience.  I didn’t care if I lived, died, or went to prison.  I didn’t want to stop, and I was headed for more trouble.