Decades ago, I found it fascinating to hear my grandmother talk about things that had happened decades ago. I was always fascinated by the fact that she could even remember things that had happened so long ago. Well, here we are, and I’m about to tell you a story that begins, as you guessed, decades ago.
So … decades ago … when I was a schoolboy, there was no Facebook or Twitter, or Amazon, which meant that all the recommendations of cool things to read and do, and listen to, came from my friends. One friend knew all about the coolest comics, another was in charge of sports teams, and a third one was a reader.
And then, a fourth one, Mika – name not changed – was my house guru for music. He was perfect, because he didn’t just introduce me to new music, or old music for that matter, but when he did, he put it into context. Speaking with him was like speaking with a music critic. Not only did he know that Bruce Springsteen was the Boss, he knew why he was the Boss, and why he should also be the boss of me.
Like a drug dealer, he would play Born in the USA, then let me tape that record and get hooked, before pulling out Born to Run, and putting into context, telling me the history of the band and the album. And then, better than any algorithm that I’ve come in touch with on any website, he knew exactly which album, which band to suggest to me next.
Springsteen was followed by John Mellencamp, and Huey Lewis. First their newest albums, then their back catalogue. Then the Blues Brothers, and several other bands that didn’t stay in my memory all these decades.
Every time I sing “Dancing in the Dark” and add an echo chorus to it, like they sang on the remix, I think of him. Every time I hear any song on Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow”, I think of him. I remember the Blues Brothers, because he lent the album to me, and I returned it to him five years later, hastily one summer, having already moved out of our little town.
And that’s the last I heard of him.
Until a few weeks ago.
In August, we had a high school reunion in that small town of ours, so I decided to track him down to see if he wanted to join us. He was fairly easy to find, I recognized him from a photo I saw on the Web, but to be sure, I asked my cousin – who was his classmate, I wasn’t – to double check it for me.
“Yeah, that’s Mika all right,” said my cousin, so I fired away an email.
Turned out Mika couldn’t make it to the reunion, but at least we now had email contact again.On Monday, I emailed him a YouTube link to a Springsteen/Southside Johnny rendition of “I don’t wanna go home”, and replied quickly.
“Thanks for the link. Saw both of them a few years ago. Bryan Adams still playing at your place?” he wrote.
Now, Mr. Adams had come to my life through other channels, but had stayed just like the ones Mika had recommended to me. So I said “yes” and then told him that that’s all I still listen to since he used to be my resident music guru.
Another five minutes later, I received another email from him. This one had a list of seven albums, together with a short description of each one.
So now, I’m finally giving this “Ryan Adams” guy a shot, and I’ve already spent way too much time listening to the sound of a burning match in the beginning of a Afghan Whigs album because that’s what Mika told me to do. Now I need to get up to speed with Mumford & Sons, and some guy with three names, one Mr Flowers, and a few other bands.
There’s no rush, of course. For decades, I’ve gotten by with the help of my 1980s favorites just fine.
Well, maybe there’s a little rush.
“Tonight, I’ll go through my albums and think about this,” Mika wrote in his email.
I got my guru back. Even if it’s by correspondence, at least for now.