February 14, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Tom Petty & Stevie Nicks

Tom Petty, March 27, 1980
Pencil on bond paper

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers got lumped into New Wave for a bit, maybe because their debut album sounded like such a throwback? That label quickly proved false, but it did lead me to Damn the Torpedoes.

I was blissfully free of any Byrds or Bob Dylan associations, so I took their work at face value, and loved it. Plus, Tom Petty just came off as effortlessly cool, which was a major selling point to someone who was tragically uncool.

Looking at this old drawing reminded me of someone... who is it? Ah yes, Dale Gribble! No editorial opinion is meant by that.

Stevie Nicks, August 1982
Pencil in sketch book

Since 1975, I've had an intense love/hate relationship with Stevie Nicks. She was given a reprieve from my hatred when she started hanging around Tom Petty, reasoning that someone as cool as him would only hang with other cool people, right? Their relationship resulted in some adultery rumors for Petty's marriage and Stevie's debut solo album, of which I genuinely liked 40% of.

Back in the day, the image of Stevie Nicks was compelling, but the musical output that came from it too often bothered me. I was never a fan of poetic mysticism, save for a few tunes from The Doors. And it bothered me that she got the lion's share of attention in Fleetwood Mac, when it was clear that Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie consistently had the goods while Stevie was hit or miss.

A good case in point is the Fleetwood Mac album Tusk. In my mind, the 2-record set is really 3 solo albums. Christine McVie’s songs were faultless, and so organic and seemingly effortless that it was easy to once again take her for granted, rather than praise her as being the most consistently great member.

Then there were Lindsey's songs! I was captivated by the ad hoc feel of his tunes, as if he’d haphazardly thrown a mess of wet noodles on the wall and whatever stuck became a song. They sounded alive and urgent and even when he was pissed off (on something like “That’s Enough For Me”, for instance) it still sounded…fun. “Fun” was never a word one would use to describe any part of Fleetwood Mac, but neither was “alive” and “urgent,” you know? But that’s what I heard coming from him, and at times it seemed like Lindsey was making a jittery new wave record while his bandmates were putting on more cocoa butter to soak up the Southern California sun.

Then there were Stevie's songs. "Sarah" is undeniably pretty. "Angel" remains her best rock moment. But then there was "Sisters of the Moon," which makes me cringe just typing the title.

As soon as I had home-taping capability, I made a cassette of just Lindsey's Tusk songs, with some Christine bonus tracks thrown in. Pointedly, there was no Stevie. And by the time of her second solo album in 1983, I was decidedly anti-Stevie (save for the track "Enchanted"). Turns out Lindsey's production was her emperor's clothing, and here was my editorial cartoon on the matter:

For the Bird, Winter 1983
Charcoal on sketch paper

February 13, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison, Spring 1981
Felt tip pen and letter stencil on bond paper

Only upon finding this stash of drawings from my teenage years did I remember how much Jim Morrison once meant to me. The 1980 publication of the Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman book No One Here Gets Out Alive was a conjuring trick that resurrected the dead. And the first Second Coming of Jim Morrison culminated in his September 1981 Rolling Stone cover with a headline forever etched in my brain: “He’s hot, he’s sexy and he’s dead.”

Jim Morrison, August 1982
Pencil in sketch book

While many of The Doors’ singles were still all over the radio, the book (which I read a total of 5 times in high school – even gave an oral book report that garnered an A) led to buying and listening to the albums.  Because it was so evocative of the era, this led to a crash course in 1960s hippie history (Richard Brautigan, Peter Max, youth rebellion, free love and rampant venereal disease), and I briefly fashioned myself a modern day hippie. But hippies weren’t as glamorous as, say, The Warhol Factory, and since both camps did lots of drugs, might as well stick with The Lower East Side over Woodstock (indoor plumbing always wins).

Come the tragic murder of John Lennon, it was The Doors, The Beatles and Black Sabbath who got me through that horrible winter of 1980-81. And come the introduction of marijuana to my world, Jim Morrison’s excess was an inspiration to scale greater heights of inebriation. He set the example that constant intoxication can lead to artistic achievement, so under the ever-present gaze of an American Poet poster on the bedroom wall, I wrote horrible poetry.

Strange Days, August 1982
Pencil in sketch book

Come the time I had a boyfriend with a terrible liquor problem, I realized that Morrison de-evolved into a fat, belligerent drunk, and suddenly, the romanticism of him faking his own death evaporated. And year after year, Ray Manzarek’s non-stop worship that relived every second of Morrison’s existence seemed pathetic.  And I am still traumatized by this drum poetry reading by John Densmore.

Since 1980, Jim Morrison continues to be a Burnout Rite Of Passage, like a sexy, psychedelic teddy bear for the Freaks & Geeks years. Walk into any head shop right now, and he’s up for sale alongside the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix posters.

Jim Morrison, Winter 1983

But my genuine take away from that phase is two of their albums: Morrison Hotel and Waiting for the Sun.  To my ears, they stand up proud regardless of historical context or personal memories of Morrison worship… which I forgot I had till I saw these drawings.

February 12, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Chrissie Hynde

Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, March 22, 1980
Pencil on 3-hole punch paper

When I first heard “Brass in Pocket,” it was good enough. Being high on a New Wave frenzy, I was excited for an album that would probably be another in a series of Blondie clones, and that was fine by me.

Seeing the debut album cover for the first time at Camelot Records was exciting; it was just as simple and iconic as the cover of Parallel Lines, but more minimalist. And that red leather motorcycle jacket and fingerless gloves? It was a lightning rod for a girl still in the “dress-up” stage of life.

But once the record needle hit the first track on the album (“Precious”), it was – literally - drop-jaw time. This was so not Blondie new wave fizz – this was some serious rock shit, with dirty words, dirty thoughts and dirty guitar wrangling that had me miming an air Telecaster before ever reaching the final track, “Mystery Achievement.”

The impact of that first listen to their debut album still resonates to this day. It was the songs, the sound, the sequencing of different emotions. That a girl was at the center of it was just one of many transcendent points. But let’s focus on Chrissie Hynde.

Chrissie Hynde, May 13, 1980
Watercolor on bond paper

Whereas Debbie Harry was a goddess, Chrissie Hynde was human. No matter how much makeup and clothing I slapped on, I could never replicate a millimeter of the Harry aura. But I already had the bangs and too much eye makeup – throw in some hastily crafted fingerless gloves, buy a leather jacket and voila! – I could look like a 10th rate knock-off of my new idol (and that I went to high school dressed like that remains one of the most embarrassing days of my youth).

As much as I needed to be inside the music I listened to, I had never felt the urge to pick up a guitar until Chrissie. In retrospect, it feels like an acoustic guitar magically popped into my hand somewhere during the 3rd listen of side one of the album. In reality, it was a $35 Sears acoustic given by my Mom as a birthday gift the following October. But it was Chrissie who inspired the need, Nancy Wilson of Heart who seconded the motion, and that enabled a teenage girl to have the exact same experience as every teenage boy around her. Gender should not be allowed to rob one of that heady musical milestone and Chrissie made it seem as natural as getting a driving learners permit.

Pretenders Space Invaders, October 1980
Pencil and marker in sketch book

Because so much was made of Debbie Harry being A Girl, Chrissie being One of the Guys had real magic. She was following in the footsteps of her musical idols – most all of them men – and her being female never made her reconsider what she could or could not do. That she was able to accomplish all this without sublimating her natural female tendencies was a lesson quickly learned. That she did not make an issue of it made it all the more potent.

In the press, Chrissie wasn’t so much out spoken as honest about everything. From being drunk and belligerent to being broken-hearted and vulnerable, she wasn’t a manufactured image, she just was.  And none of it would have meant much for very long if not for those songs and that band of people.

James Honeyman-Scott instantly became my new guitar god, Martin Chambers made my legs twitch and Peter Farndon was so dreamy. Together, those 4 were dynamite, and I could empathize with the great thrill it must have been for Chrissie to be Just One of Those Guys. Which is why the deaths of Honeyman-Scott and Farndon were such a punch to the gut – it might as well have been the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash for all the destruction it caused to a great rock band.

Chrissie Hynde, August 1982
Pencil in sketch book

Chrissie and Martin recovered and moved on, and had many great moments. It’s not like Chrissie could have stopped doing the only thing she ever wanted to do in life. And in the ensuing years, even when she had moments of musical laziness or misfires, she is always genuine in much the same way Keith Richards or Iggy Pop are always true to their code. Chrissie Hynde proves that musical integrity and longevity is not just a Guy Thing, but rather it’s staying true to what you were born to do.