Punk Rock

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My freshman year in high school, I got into punk rock. It was an incredibly positive influence.

Before Punk

I already had a reputation for odd taste in music. The first album I ever bought was Tarkus, by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. My older brother Kirk used to listen to them. Little brothers want to be like their older brothers, and he was the closest thing I had to a positive male role mondel, so I got some to. I think the second album I bought was a Kiss album. I think it may have been Rock and Roll all Over, but I'm not sure.

Now, before you think I had some totally wild musical taste when I was in middle school, you should realize that I also had a complete collection of Duran Duran. I mean, come on, the reflex is an only child. I think I mostly got Tarkus because of the cute half-animal, half-tank on the cover. Likewise, the Kiss album had a cartoony cover with the face painted band members.

Freshman Year

Freshman year in high school, I started hanging out with a guy named Jason. We'd met each other before. Our mothers knew each other, and we'd both gone to Walker Middle School, but he was in a different block. I only really remember hanging out with him once before high school, when I went over to his house to play Snapshot (Snapshot was a man to man combat game for use with the Traveller role-playing game). Anyway, we ended up in gym class together, and decided to share a locker, so we got to talking. We got to talking about music, so one day I brought in my boom box (kids, do a Google search) to school, and played King Crimson's Indiscipline for Jason. He listened to it as we walked through the gym and said, "You know, I think you might like punk rock."

I can't remember if Jason made me a punk rock tape or not. I remember he was reluctant, because he was the first person really into punk rock in our class, and he got asked to make a lot of tapes. I don't recall having a tape made by him either. However, I did start getting punk rock albums. The first punk album I got was Black Flag's My War, with songs like My War (My war, your one of them/you said, that you're my friend/but your one of them) and Beat My Head Against the Wall (beat my head against the wall one more time/won't solve my problems at all/I don't care about parties or a good time/I won't stand in your line). Next I think was the Circle Jerk's Wild in the Streets, which had a horde of great songs on it (86'd/Good as Gone, Murder the Disturbed, Question Authority, Defamation Innuendo).

Positive Effect

Punk Rock had a positive effect on me in two ways. First was the idea that surfaces didn't matter, and that conformity was oppression. Ever since the Diary Incident I had been a freak. But I desperately wanted acceptance by the "cool" kids, the mainstream. I was never going to get that while I was a freak, but I just couldn't not be a freak. I remember Jason telling me that he got into punk in middle school. He hadn't really been accepted either. But then one day he was accepted, for no apparent reason. It seemed rather nonsensical and stupid to him, so he rejected it all. It allowed me to reject the popular kids as they had rejected me, to just say "fuck you" and to go ahead and be a freak as much as a wanted to.

Second of all, punk rock is an incredible outlet for aggression. With all the abuse at home and all the rejection from my peers, I was an incredibly angry little kid. And punk rock was angry music. You could listen to it, and bang your head, and scream along with it, and really vent that anger. And nothing I have encountered in my life (outside of outright violence) is as angry as slam dancing. (Yes, kids, we called it slam dancing back then. "Moshing" was later term). In a way, it was outright violence, but it was all consensual. A whole bunch of kids just slamming into each other insanely, venting our rage on each other and ourselves in an odd sort of group flagellation. Oh, it was glorious.