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Sample Saturday, “Music, Mayhem and Bad Decisions,” with Bonus Track

M&M frt Verson 1December 8 is a tough day for me. Even as I prepare for today’s book signing, I remember that 38 years ago today, John Lennon was murdered. Twenty-two years ago today, my maternal grandmother (for whom I am named) passed away.

It’s a tough day, but it’s also one that put my feet on the road toward the music business so many years ago. Today’s sample is from my memoir about those years, Music, Mayhem and Bad Decisions (click here for purchasing links). The subsequent bonus track is David Bowie’s beautiful cover of “Imagine.”

My first exposure to the Portland music scene came when I did something completely out of character for me. It was December 1980, and I skipped school to go downtown for a John Lennon memorial in the aftermath of his murder. A local band called The Malchicks was playing and, honest to God, I thought the lead singer was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. His name was Billy Rancher, and I am sure that my parents grew mightily sick of hearing about him. Of course, I was in huge trouble for ditching school, but I didn’t care. I was a senior with very good grades, knew I would graduate — and had just gotten a tiny taste of the world I hoped to inhabit.

At about the same time, along came something new: MTV. (Yep, I’m old enough to remember when MTV played music videos and nothing else.) Suddenly, I was hearing a whole different sound. Consider that the most popular bands among my classmates were Van Halen and Blue Oyster Cult. Now, suddenly I was listening to The Yachts, Bram Tchaikovsky, Human League. It was like a whole new world opened up to me.

As I said, I went to a semi-rural high school. We lived across the street from a dairy farm. I don’t remember more than a handful of people of color among my classmates — including the exchange students from places like Japan and Iran. Being “different” was strongly discouraged, to say the least.

There was this tiny enclave of people, primarily in speech/debate and/or theatre, and we embraced this new music. Devo and The B-52s were requested at school dances and we would pogo merrily away. We were the “punk” crowd, according to the Van Halen fans. It must be said that this does not mean we were the proverbial “cool kids.” Quite the opposite, in fact. However, we didn’t let that stop us.

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