Sample Saturday, "You Had to Be There"

You Had to Be There:  Three Years of Mayhem and Bad Decisions in the Portland Music Scene - Sharon E. Cathcart

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, Brahm 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.

But 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 was with tremendous delight that I graduated and began looking for work. I’d done the part-time food service gig, like every other high schooler, but now I needed something that would buy my freedom. My folks had bought a house, so there was no question of attending college; they couldn’t afford to send me, and they made too much for me to get financial aid. (I would eventually attend part-time on my own, majoring first in journalism and later in forensic anthropology.)

In the mean while, I listened to music, read music and fashion magazines, dreamed of visiting London, and wrote more lousy fan fiction. Laurence Juber, my favorite guitarist, was a big star in those stories. He’s brilliantly talented, and one heck of a nice man. I’ve had the occasion to meet him in person, and see him perform live a few times.

LJ, please consider this my apology for those stories.

"You Had to Be There" on Smashwords