Billy Corgan (billycorgan) wrote,
Billy Corgan
billycorgan

Marking Time

The Marked was ahead of it’s time in a few novel ways…although generally unsuccessful and clumsy in our attempts, we did our best to blend really loud guitar with 80’s English, alternative rock in a more forceful way then what had been popular at that time…our mixture of 60’style paisley fed psyche-a-delia, in itself not unique (with handy “spacey” lyrics), was played with such overdriven frenzy that this common influence almost became mystical in feel…as is often the case, young bands take what they “think” they hear, and play their music in such an aggressive manner that it transforms into something new…we had grasped our obvious influences (Love and Rockets, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cure, Joy Division/New Order) and mashed them together with earlier teenage crushes (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, AC/DC) into a manner that was distinctly and brutally American… we had had something, however small, but of course it is 1986, almost a full 5 years before grunge would blow the doors wide open offa good ol’ rock ‘ roll…

Not only was The Marked my first real band (for all of just 9 interesting months), but it was also my social circle…Ron the drummer was my best friend, and the band breaking up essentially means, for the most part, losing him and his world…living with my father so far out west, away from the lake is isolating (the ‘cool people’ tend to live by the clubs in Lakeview)...plus being back in Chicago means not just the indignity of starting over musically, but also of trying to find some new people to meet and places to go…

Before I had moved to Florida, the place to see live music was the Cabaret Metro…the owner Joe Shanahan had turned the former bathhouse into the best venue in the city to see new alternative bands (long before the internet, your best chance to meet people who looked like you (weird) and thought like you (crazy) was at shows)…the year before (in 1985), I had had the chance to see the very first tour of The Jesus and Mary Chain…the Metro was absolutely packed to the gills as the Mary Chain had created such a huge buzz coming off their now seminal record ‘Psychocandy’…anticipating the large crowd, I arrived early enough so that I would get a chance to get a good spot on the floor and see the band up close…just before they came on, I noticed a small girl just behind my left shoulder, whose view of the stage was obscured by my height…I turned to her and said “you can stand in front of me if you like so you can see better”…she look surprised, smiled and said shyly “thanks a lot”, and nudged past me in the dense crowd…she was beautiful, lean, with an incredible face like a 20’s movie star, with long, wavy hair, and seemed young…I stared at this stranger during the whole concert (all 35 minutes of it!), and was sad to see her go when it was over because I had never seen anyone who even remotely looked like her in the flesh…also in that same period (again at the Metro/1985), I saw a punk band called Product 19 on a $3 show with other young local bands…I sat up in the balcony and watched their striking looking lead singer deliver an incredible, passionate performance that seemed beyond his years and far above the rowdy mentality of the young crowd…I bought their tape at that show, because I thought to myself that night that this singer (and the band) was going somewhere…without knowing it then, the simple act of getting out of the way for that little girl, and my random interest in an obscure local band, would change my life forever…

Because Chicago is a city of neighborhood bars and clubs (and the competition between them is fierce), owners tend to be very strict about underage drinkers…this severely limits my social sphere, because almost everything is 21 , and there are very few all-ages places to hang out…outside of the occasional all ages at the Metro, the only other place in town is Medusas…since it is my ‘only’ choice, I head back there to see if I can find any old friends and hopefully make some new ones…I meet a girl named Helen, who is a hairdresser a few years older than me…Helen, like me, grew up in the suburbs (she still lived at home), and comes down to the city on the weekends to hang out…we become friends, and because there is nothing romantic between us, feel comfortable going places together and talking on the phone all the time (back then, alternative type people were so far and few between that it is common that you might be the only person in your town with a funny haircut)…Helen becomes my late night phone buddy, as she is a very articulate and wry soul who, whenever I am around, makes me feel better about myself…Helen talks a lot about her boyfriend, who works the night shift and never gets a chance to come out…like her, he also lives in the suburbs, and through Helen I get to know all about this person without actually meeting him…his name is Lenny, and apparently he is a musician, a goth like her…I tell Helen that I would like to meet this “Lenny”, so there is a bit of connection there before we actually finally do…

The first thing that struck me about Lenny was how old and young he looked at the same time…he has one of those rough, handsome faces that seems like its from some distant tribe of long forgotten warriors…the second thing I notice about Lenny is he is the singer from the punk band Product 19!…when I had last seen him (playing), his hair was chopped into a crew cut, and he was dressed like a working class yob…but now he had long, dyed black hair and is wearing the standard issue black trench coat…I immediately launch into how great his band is, and how I had seen the show the year before and was so impressed I bought the tape…Lenny laughs and says that he appreciates what I am saying but the band has broken up…he is not into that stuff anymore (meaning punk), and is sorta in a new band that is more gothic…he says he had recently done a few loft shows with a couple of other guys from the burbs, but that one of the guys had already quit or wasn’t into it or something unclear…he suggests that maybe we could get together and work on some stuff…the fact that I already have respect for Lenny as an artist makes his offer really attractive…plus, he turns out to be a really great guy…

I get the chance to know Lenny for a time as a friend before we ever make any music together…he is a tender soul who lives with his mom, and is one of those guys who still resides at home more so because he wants to be there to help her out as opposed to some loser who just can’t get it together (like me)…Lenny has a real job…he earns what seems to me like a ton of money, drives a BMW, and actually seems like an adult (he is just a few years older than me)…he lives out in God knows where, and in order to get over to his house I have to try to borrow somebody’s car for the day cause it’s just so far…sometimes Lenny is even nice enough to come and pick me up at my dad’s, drive me out to his house, and then take me back the next day…we start making demos on Lenny’s 4-track cassette, which is a much nicer model than mine…Lenny plays bass, so the general idea is: let’s write a new song together, he’ll do his thing, I will do mine (which is at this point very minimal, plinky guitar), and one of us can sing the song (probably whoever writes the lyrics)…it is fun working this way, and each time we get together, we easily manage to come up with a new idea, sometimes two… there is no stress or disagreements because we want the same thing, which is to sound like a general mix of our favourite stuff: Gene Loves Jezebel, the Mission, Cocteau Twins, in addition to the usual suspects—Cure, Siouxsie, Bauhaus…there is no master plan, no talk of taking over the world, we don’t really even think in terms of even having a band…we are just having a good time and making music that is close to our hearts…I’m encouraged, because the songs are definitely a step up from the Marked’s material and some of my songwriting work is paying off…I am slowly gaining confidence that I can write a decent song if I put my mind to it…

One day, Lenny brings up the name of the other guy he was playing in that band with, not from Product 19, but the alternative group which had never even been named…he asks if I mind if he invites the guy over, that maybe he can join us in our songwriting and demo sessions…apparently his friend is also in another band, but since those band members are going to college now, he’s is looking for something to do…the guy I end up meeting is female skinny, with the subtle hints of a new wave haircut (but one that could easily be turned back into a normal college guy hairdo at anytime)…he lives at home with his parent (he never left), and is going to school…he has a nice new telecaster, much nicer than my ratty mustang…everything about this guy screams mama’s boy (he is too clean!), but he seems nice enough…the 3 of us put our heads together and record a song I wrote on the spot, a New Order rip called “Now that I feel this way” (it has 2 chords and 2 parts)…Lenny’s friend immediately plays some stuff that goes well with my guitar part, a surprise to me because it is an instant complimentary language to the one I am speaking…the click is there right-straight-away, and where Lenny and I previously on our songs had captured a sort of imitative smile, this guy brings the energy in the room up a notch instantly and makes my new idea sound more original, and thereby more appealing…which is great…this creates a general excitement between us, which is hard to describe correctly considering we are in a normal bedroom, in a normal suburban house on a uneventful evening like any other (in God knows where)…but there is enough spark there that we decide that the 3 of us should get together and write again real soon…

Back at home, life is in it’s normal chaos…my father’s drug problems are interwoven into the fabric of our life to the point where it is like standing next to a roaring 747 and pretending that there is no noise…it is occasionally joked about (he smokes a lot of pot, like 8-10 joints a day), but the general vibe is don’t ask, don’t see, don’t tell…I have been dealing with this for so long---the coke mirrors, the drug buddies, the middle of the night phone calls, the sudden disappearances, the ‘no money’ blues, the locked doors, that I don’t even think about it…it is as blue as the blue sky…we live together, but our relationship is more like 2 bachelors than father and son…he does his thing, I do mine…we talk here and there, and sometimes the conversation drifts into the red zone of our past: my step-mother, my disabled brother, my mom, his behaviour…my father listens, but usually cuts me off with a soliloquy about how no matter what adversities I have faced, he has faced worse and his problems are bigger than mine…money continues to be an issue for me, and since I have few resources, talk to my dad about what I might do…he tells me maybe I should cut my hair and get a real job (something he has never really done)…he brings up the spector of my inheritance, which I got from my grandmother when she passed away from cancer (I was 17---she had left me 1/3 of her house in a trust)…my dad mentions that since it has been over 2 years since she died (and now a legal adult), maybe I owe some taxes and I should check with my aunt and her brother, my uncle (the other 2/3’s), to see if I owe them any back taxes…he says something along the lines that ‘maybe if you neglect this, she will screw you out of your share and you’ll have shit’ (my aunt and I had recently had a basic falling out over the way I looked)…I call up my aunt right then and there…she is an imposing woman of around 300 pounds who everyone calls ‘Butch’…I explain my fear, and ask gingerly if there are any responsibilities to the property that I have that I should know about, and also, can she send me a copy of the will…without a seconds hesitation, she totally goes nuclear on me, calling me a “lazy bastard like your father” and hissing “I always knew you were a conniver!” (she had never spoken to me like this before, ever)…since my grandma had passed away, her apartment on the 1st floor had remained vacant,…because I was hard up, I had in the recent past asked my aunt if I could stay there, which I was told was not possible (even though I owned as much of the house as her!)…I had even asked her if there was a way I could take a loan out against my share of the house, to which she absolutely refused…so now, in the heat of the moment, these subjects which had lain dormant for some time now all came roaring back…she cursed at me like a drunken sailor and told me that as far as she was concerned, I would never stay at my grandma’s house ever again, that I had no right to the house on any level, and if I wanted even a single penny from my inheritance I would have to sue!! (an absolute nightmare scenario)…here and then, my relationship with my aunt and uncle, who have been in my life from the day I was born, ends over money, and to this day 18 years later, I still have not spoken to any of them, nor do I even know if they are alive…

As always, women float in and out of my life, often without direction or clear purpose…my former girlfriend still hovers in the picture, albeit angrily on her part (she had originally made the trip to Florida, lasting only two weeks---more on that later)…I occasionally fool around with a high school friend who I never had anything to do with physically during school, but now occasionally get together with for a roll in the hay to stave off loneliness (it makes me sad that we do this, but there is a silent agreement that we won’t judge each other for it, and tell no one)…I might pursue someone I had dated before, but she is back with her old boyfriend…so I don’t really have a girlfriend, just these random relationships of attraction and distraction that are going nowhere fast…so it is not that unusual for me to go out with my former girlfriend to see a concert…we are no longer an ‘official’ couple, but the general tensions still exist about ‘will we, won’t we’, and whoever she might be sleeping with that I don’t know about…we make a date and get all dressed up to go to the Metro to see Peter Murphy, the former lead singer of Bauhaus…after the show is over, as I am heading down the stairs, a bleach blonde girl with a crew cut rushes up to me and presses a piece of paper in my hand…I don’t recognize her at first, but it turns out it is the beautiful 1920’s girl that I had stared at at the Jesus and Mary Chain show (she had chopped off all her hair)…because I am with my ex-girlfriend, and the rules still apply, I don’t really know what to do but say “hi” and keep moving with the crowd…her number burns a hole in my pocket over the next few days, but I am not sure if I should call her…just a few days later, I accidentally run into this same girl at a party as she leaving on her way down the stairs as I was just coming up…I see her, and we stop for a awkward second in a “hey, how’s it goin’, oh, where you going?” “oh, I’m just leaving with my friends, ah, bye” moment…I take this as a sign of destiny, and realize then I will call her first thing tomorrow…
Tags: 1986, confessions
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