How my amazing journey hit a short-lived snag

Twenty years ago today, 30 November 2000, I got my fourth Who album, Odds and Sods. Based on all the glowing reviews at thewho.net (whose review section is now only viewable through archive.org), I was prepared to instantly love it.

But instead I hit an unexpected snag which left me wondering if I’d made a mistake. For a brief while, I had second thoughts about continuing my amazing journey with more albums.

That day, I had to go into town for an observation project for my child psychology class. Since I hadn’t a car, and didn’t know my way around Amherst well enough to trust getting on a bus out of the immediate vicinity, it had to be a place I could reach on foot. And none of the daycares and preschools I found in the phonebook were within walking distance.

Luckily, I found a church with a preschool whose teachers were more than happy to let me come over and observe. It was either First Church Amherst on Main St. or Grace Episcopal Church just off of Main.

Even that fairly short distance from campus seemed a long way to me! When you’re not familiar with a place, and are by yourself, you have little choice but to stay in a straight line if you don’t want to get lost, and not to go too far down any side streets.

After the conclusion of preschool, I decided to go into Newbury Comics on Main St. I’d wanted to go for awhile, but was held back by not being sure how to get there. Did I feel stupid when I realized how easy it is to get there! Approaching it from the other side provided a lot of obvious perspective.

Was I thrilled to find Odds and Sods in the CD section! I bought it with the cash I got from a recent study I’d taken part in for social psychology class credit. The checkout guy seemed kind of surprised by my purchase, though I never figured out if it were positive or negative.

This seems so hypocritical coming from someone who’s never cared what others think of me and who takes great pride in being different from the others, but for years I was held back from buying classic albums in stores because I was afraid the cashiers and customers would make fun of me for liking older music.

And now we have all these Gen Z kids on YouTube patting themselves on the back with comments like “Teeheehee, I’m only twelve and I love [band/singer from an earlier generation].” What do you want, a cookie and adults praising you as so much cooler than your peers?

That night in my single room in Chadbourne, I sat down to play O&S. Right away I was greeted by the shocking harmonica jolt of “I’m the Face.” I wouldn’t describe it as bad shocking, just not the type of sound I was expecting.

Because O&S is a compilation of, well, odds and sods, instead of a studio or even live album, the songs seemed kind of random and inconsistent. I didn’t think they were bad songs, just presented a bit confusingly.

Having both CD and vinyl now, I prefer the track order of the vinyl. It feels like more of a deliberately arranged album, odds and sods though the songs may be.

The CD remaster presents the songs chronologically, which gives an entirely different listening experience. After twenty years, I’m obviously more than used to it, but I can’t help but wonder how it’d sound if it were arranged as the original album plus bonus tracks.

Because of my experience with O&S, I always write album reviews as though a newbie is reading them. Some fool on Amazon once mocked me because I always mention if an album is ideal for a new fan or more for established fans. Why do so many people write reviews as though only longtime hardcore fans are reading them? I had serious second thoughts about getting another Who album because none of the reviews I read mentioned how O&S, while great, isn’t the most ideal album to get so early in one’s amazing journey.

I got my fifth Who album, The Who Sell Out, on 6 December, so I obviously wasn’t derailed for that long. Had O&S been my first Who album, however, it might’ve gone a lot differently. Tommy was challenging enough as my first.

But as Fate turned out, O&S was my fourth, and it just feels right. I couldn’t imagine any other album as my fourth.

My Quadrophenia story, twenty years later

Though I first listened to Quadrophenia on 18 November 2000, my history with the album truly began in 1993. I’d been looking at my parents’ fairly paltry vinyl collection since I was a kid, but I wasn’t drawn back to it till I was thirteen and getting into classic rock and pop. Since we no longer had a record player, I had to make do with reading the story booklet and looking at the photos.

Being that classic kid who read too much and understood too little yet again, I twisted myself in knots trying to figure out just what the title meant. I thought it was a real word whose definition eluded me!

A certain lyric in “Doctor Jimmy” also greatly unsettled me for years. When you only read lyrics instead of hearing them actually sung, let alone in the context of a complex story being told through a rock opera, you tend to miss a lot of important details.

Jimmy isn’t really saying he plans to rape a virgin. He’s reached the end of his rope and isn’t thinking straight by a long shot. There’s so much clutter swirling in his head, with the four warring parts of his personality. Jimmy’s angry, confused, a hot mess who needs help.

That lyric is also nothing next to some of the jaw-dropping awfulness featured on The Rap Critic’s Worst Lyrics episodes. The all-time worst I’ve heard is the Lil Wayne guest verse in “Karate Chop,” comparing rough sex to the beating of Emmett Till.

17–19 November 2000 was my very first weekend staying on campus at UMass instead of obediently going home to Pittsfield like an overgrown little kid with no life. It’s no fun being a victim of learnt helplessness, even if in my case it wasn’t the result of deliberately malicious intentions. I also only transferred after two years of community college. While that saved lots of money, it didn’t do my emotional, psychological, or mental maturity any favors!

That Saturday afternoon, I walked into town and went to Mystery Train Records. What luck, I found Quad in the used CD section for only $16! I was hungry for a third Who album after Tommy and Who’s Next, and had heard so many people on my lists highly recommending it as one of the best albums to get early in one’s fandom journey.

Was I blown away when I got back to my single dorm room on the first floor of Chadbourne! I loved Quad so much, I played it twice that day, and many more times in the coming weeks. Love at first listen. When I finally quit trying to overanalyze the story and title, and just listened without prejudice, I got Quad.

This album would’ve meant so much to me during junior high. It’s a story just about every adolescent who’s ever lived can deeply relate to—not fitting in, being different from the others, feeling alienated from everyone around oneself, not getting along with parents, being bullied, feeling on the verge of cracking up if one more straw hits the camel’s back.

Each of the four bandmembers is represented by one of the warring aspects of Jimmy’s psyche. Roger’s theme is “Helpless Dancer” (a screen name I’ve used at a few message boards), Keith’s theme is “Bell Boy,” John’s theme is “Doctor Jimmy,” and Pete’s theme is “Love, Reign O’er Me.” The themes appear as instrumentals in the title track and “The Rock.”

In “Quadrophenia,” they’re played separately, signifying how fractured Jimmy’s state of mind is, at war with himself, wanting and trying to be so many disparate things to so many different people.

In “The Rock,” they initially appear individually, but gradually start merging, faster and faster, until finally they emerge as one and Jimmy makes peace with himself in “Love, Reign O’er Me.”

Twenty years later, Quad is still an emotional tour de force every single time. It’s been with me through half of my life and counting, and never lets me down. Words shall never express my deep love and gratitude to this wonderful band and all they’ve meant to me for so long.

Twenty years of awesomeness

It’s finally here. My porcelain anniversary with Tommy, my very first Who album. How did twenty entire years pass by already? That’s half of my entire life gone! Half of my life loving The Who. I became interested in them in ’93 and liked them since ’94, but ’twasn’t till 2000 that I finally made the transition from a casual lawnseat fan to a serious, passionate, hardcore fan.

I detailed the story of my amazing journey on my crystal anniversary in 2015. Now that milestone anniversary seems an entire lifetime away. Most people don’t like reminders they’re getting older and that their youth will never come this way again in this lifetime!

When I turned forty at the end of last year, my first and primary thought was, “I’m now as old as John Lennon lived to. At my next birthday, I’ll have outlived him.”

The Who have been a huge part of my life for half of my life, roughly equidistant between my 34 years of being a Monkeemaniac on the highest end and a bit over nine and a half years of being a Duranie on the lowest end. In September 2000, I had no memory of anything that happened twenty years ago, and now I can remember as far as 37 years ago (plus my first, fuzzy memory of 38 years ago, seeing E.T. in the theatre).

Every time with Tommy is like the first time all over again. I’m swept back to that wonderful visit to Mystery Train Records with one of the few good roommates I’ve had and being twenty, my entire life still ahead of me, no idea what the future held. And then listening to the first three songs in Pittsfield after coming home for the weekend the next day, and listening all the way through the next night.

Side note: I really began blossoming and becoming a full part of the UMass Hillel community after I finally started staying on campus every weekend late in my junior year. I was held back so much by almost always going home prior, to say nothing of attending community college the first two years and missing out on formative underclass experiences. Learnt helplessness is very difficult to escape.

Proud lifelong tomboy I am, I take special pride in being a Who Rottweiler, the nickname Pete gave my fellow female fans. There are so relative few serious female fans of hard rock and metal bands, but I’ve never been interested in stereotypically girly trappings. Becoming a Who Rottweiler was a logical outgrowth of that.

Though as I came to discover over the first year of my amazing journey, I’m not as gender-defiant as I thought. I found myself loving songs a lot of guy fans slag off, like “Sunrise,” “A Man Is a Man,” “One Life’s Enough,” and “Our Love Was.” Many female fans swoon at those songs!

And while The Who have never been known as Tiger Beat pinups for teenyboppers, I also was (and remain!) quite physically attracted to the boys as they were in their prime. The music comes first and foremost, but Hashem (God) blessed all four of them with good looks. Perhaps a bit unconventionally handsome, but handsome nonetheless.

Pete’s vulnerability re: his appearance, esp. his nose (which I never found that big), increased my attraction and solidified my choice of him as my fave rave. He’ll probably be the first to tell you he hasn’t always been the easiest person to be around, but I admire his brutal honesty, and adore his sensitive soul.

It’s also fairly unusual I’m particularly physically attracted to a guy with blue eyes. I’ve always been all about brown eyes. (Fun fact: There’s no such thing as true black eyes. People described as having black, raven, sable, etc., eyes have VERY dark brown eyes that merely appear black.)

I’m so glad I finally bit the bullet and bought a Who album already, after about nine months of hesitation and longing. Sometimes we have to take a chance and try something new, and songs will never become familiar if we stick to greatest hits collections and the radio.

I owe so very, very, very much to this wonderful band. Pete is one of the principal writers of the soundtrack to my life, and his music, both in The Who and as a solo artist, means the world to me. I couldn’t imagine not having his songs in my life for so many years.

And it all started in Amherst with the story of a blind-deaf mute boy.

A double album full of eclectic goodies

Image used solely to illustrate subject for an album review, and consistent with fair use doctrine

Released autumn 2001, Scoop 3 is the last of Pete’s double albums in this series, unless he decides to surprise us with a fourth installment after all these years. Owing to its fairly recent vintage, most of the material dates from the late Seventies through 2001 instead of mining the deep vault. Most of the songs are also from Pete’s solo career instead of Who demos or later revisitings of Who songs, and many are instrumentals.

As Pete explains in his liner notes, he wrote fewer songs with lyrics as of 2001, owning to not being under contract for either The Who or his own solo career. Thus, he had complete freedom to pursue a more experimental type of music, and different types of music than he had when he was obligated to produce albums.

He didn’t entirely stop writing lyrical songs, though. He simply chose to keep them unpublished in case he recorded with The Who or as a solo artist again. (To date, I’ve not listened to either of the albums Pete and Roger made after John’s passing, and have no desire to ever do so.)

Pete also started doing a lot more piano and keyboard music because he seriously hurt his wrist in a 1991 bicycle accident, and using those instruments was wonderful physiotherapy.

Amazingly, at least 27 of the 34 tracks were made in my lifetime!

Disc One:

“Can You See the Real Me” (1973)
“Dirty Water” (1979)
“Commonwealth Boys” (1984; later became closing track “Come to Mama” on White City)
“Theme 015” (1987)
“Marty Robbins” (1984)
“I Like It the Way It Is” (1978)
“Theme 016” (1987)
“No Way Out (However Much I Booze)” (1975)
“Collings” (2000)
“Parvardigar” (German version) (1971)
“Sea and Sand” (1972)
“971104 Arpeggio Piano” (1997)
“Theme 017” (probably 1983, given it was intended for the aborted final Who album Siege)
“I Am Afraid” (1990)
“Maxims for Lunch” (1983)
“Wistful” (1991)
“Eminence Front” (1995; obviously not the demo version!)
“Lonely Words” (1985)

Disc Two:

“Prelude 970519” (1997)
“Iron Man Recitative” (1993)
“Tough Boys” (1979; later became “Rough Boys”)
“Did You Steal My Money?” (1980 or 1981) (“The true story behind this doesn’t make anyone look good—especially me. It is not the time to tell it.”)

“Can You Really Dance?” (1988)
“Variations on ‘Dirty Jobs'” (recorded 1997, fully orchestrated 2001)
“All Lovers Are Deranged” (1983)
“Elephants” (1984)
“Wired to the Moon, Pt. 2” (recorded on piano 1997; strings and vocals added in 2001)

“How Can You Do It Alone” (1980) (“I quite liked The Who’s rendering of this song. Roger sang it really well. But it is probably one of those songs that needed my acidic tone to work without awkwardness. Whichever version is your favourite [and you may hate both of them] it’s good to be able to compare.”)

“Poem Disturbed” (1994) (“You can hear my phone ring. I knew who it was: my then girlfriend. These were strange times for me.”)

“Squirm Squirm” (1990)  (“At last, a song with a happy inspiration. One day I was holding my new-born son Joseph and singing him to sleep. It came into my mind that seen from high above we humans must look just like insects, or worms. As he wriggled in my arms I sang to him about the messages we all believe we get sometimes from above. At the time I was gathering material for Psychoderelict, which was—among other things—about the loneliness and collapse of a once famous and beloved rock star. The song seemed to contain and reflect both the peace and safety of this child in my arms, and the chaos and danger that surrounded us out there in the crazy world.”)

“Outlive the Dinosaur” (1990) (“The word dinosaur was of course first used to describe ageing rock stars with vicious irony and I use it here with vicious irony redoubled.”)
“Teresa” (1980; later became opening track “Athena” on It’s Hard)
“Man and Machines” (1985)

“It’s in Ya” (1981) (“Not much to say about this song. A woman I vaguely knew sent me a letter rightly complaining I was getting self-indulgent [after the release of the Who Are You album] and it later sparked this song about what makes the magic of rock ‘n’ roll. It isn’t the musician—it’s the listener.”)

I only listened to this album for the first time in 2019, on Spotify, despite how long it’d been out. I personally would recommend the first two Scoop albums to a new fan first, since a lot of these songs seem more geared to longtime, serious fans.

While I’ve not listened to Scoop 3 nearly enough to be familiar with all the songs, I’d count “Lonely Words,” “I Like It the Way It Is,” and the German “Parvardigar” among my favorite tracks.

The day the Angel of Death passed me over

19 August 2003 began like any other day. I woke up at the cruel and unusual hour of 6:30, which ought to be illegal, to catch the bus on time for my awesome temp job at a bank. There was a permanent position coming up, which I planned to apply for and probably could’ve gotten.

Though I could’ve taken two buses to work, I liked the 15-minute walk. Part of it went through a kind of sketchy area, but I never had any run-ins with the wrong kind of people.

At about 8:00, while I was crossing the street after getting off my bus, the light changed and a black 2004 Chrysler immediately began driving. My elderly assailant didn’t brake after I was bumped up onto the hood of her car. She didn’t brake when I tumbled into the road. She continued driving as though I weren’t underneath her car.

I truly believed I was about to die at the age of 23, and all these thoughts began rattling around in my brain like crazed pinballs. It was terrifying.

And then the Angel of Death passed me over.

My right leg’s final act as my dominant leg was stopping that vehicle of doom from going any farther. Had my legs not become pinned underneath the back driver’s side wheel, Mrs. V. would’ve kept on driving. It’s a miracle only my right leg broke. The right rolled on top of the left and protected it.

As soon as I realised I wasn’t dead, the most intense physical pain of my life hit me, and I began screaming over and over again, at the top of my lungs, “Help me, God!” I couldn’t feel my legs, and was terrified I’d been paralysed. My shoes had flown off, and my stomach and abdomen were being burnt.

A group of people ran across the street to help me. Some of them, including a fireman, tried to lift the car off me, but didn’t succeed. A bespectacled African-American woman in green scrubs, whose name I never got, held my hand, prayed with me, and kept talking to me to try to calm me down. I wish I could find her and thank her.

I was pinned underneath that Chrysler for 15-20 minutes, fully conscious. When the ambulance finally arrived, I remembered a story my summer school chemistry teacher told about a guy who was stuck between a subway and a wall. Her colleagues got into a big debate over whether he’d explode or implode when he was freed. In terror, I asked, “I’m not gonna explode or implode, am I?” before the car was lifted off.

It was such a relief to wiggle my toes. That meant I wasn’t paralysed. Then I began to sit up to check if my back were broken, only to be pushed down. As I was loaded onto the stretcher, I said, “I have to be at work by 8:30.”

I couldn’t walk for eleven months, and had seven surgeries between August 2003–September 2009, four leg and three plastic (to remove the burn scars). I also needed two root canals. Some of the chickenpox scars on my lower left arm were torn clear off.

I believe down to the very core of my soul my uncle was watching over me. There’s no rational explanation for why I wasn’t killed and got off with “only” a shattered tibia and fibula, second- and first-degree burns, and a bunch of gashes, scrapes, and bruises.

Had this happened 50-60 years ago, I would’ve been an amputee.

Had I died on 19 August, I would’ve shared my Jahrzeit (death anniversary) with Groucho Marx and Blaise Pascal.

A taller, thinner person might’ve been crushed or thrown. My (mostly) Southern Italian body type saved my life. I had less distance to fall (at slightly over 5’1.5″ in bare feet), and more flesh to cushion the impact.

My mission in this incarnation wasn’t over yet. It wasn’t time for Archangel Michael to carry me off to the other world. To quote the famous prayer in The Phantom Carriage:

“Gud, låt min själ få komma till mognad innan den skall skördas!”
(“God, let my soul come to maturity before being harvested!”)