Name 3 Songs!
You’ve seen the videos. A guy walks up to a teenager wearing a Jimi Hendrix shirt and asks if she can name 3 Jimi Hendrix songs. She’s not even slightly embarrassed to tell him no and finds the question quite ridiculous. Then he asks another unsuspecting band t shirt wearer the same question. Quick edits confused expressions. Next. Next. Next. Guy gets a few hundred likes on his video and makes some point about something or other.
Read the comments.
“Why can’t she wear whatever she wants. It’s self-expression. Who made you the fashion police?”
Aaaaand, the person in the comments is right. It stopped mattering a long time ago. Let it go.
What we’ve got here is a guy who grew up in a time when the music you listened to defined who you were in pretty well-defined terms. Let’s jump in Bill and Ted’s phone booth and punch in November 23, 1981.
There are two reasons I remember this day as clear as Scott Russell’s mind after meditation.
For one, it was my thirteenth birthday. And second, it was the release date for AC/DC’s For Those About to Rock We Salute You album.
Yard work, snow shoveling, money saved by any means necessary. I rode my bike down to the record store and pulled out crumpled one dollar bills, quarters, dimes and nickels like a wino at a craps game. Pushed it across the counter and took the album home.
In my room, lights off, headphones on. I was transported to a sold-out stadium and I was Brian Johnson. For the next year I’d lip synch every word to every song to a standing room only crowd. Don’t even be riding in the car with me when that title track comes on unless you want to hear me scream “Fire!” louder than Beavis all hopped up on Jolt Cola.
So, when I pulled on my AC/DC shirt and walked into school. It was a suit of armor. A flag. A signal to all the other kids that they could have Boston and Reo Speedwagon. I was with the burnouts and headbangers. When the punk kids wore Black Flag and Misfits shirts, it was to tell the rest of us that we didn’t even have a clue what was going on. They were on some shit we didn’t even know about.
This was when having purple hair or a mohawk guaranteed that somebody was gonna pick a fight with you. When the only people who had tattoos were old war veterans, bikers and guys who’d been to prison. Today you can have all three of those and be a bank teller. Things have definitely changed.
I knew a guy who’d ride the train to New York City once a month and come back with punk records we’d never be able to find anywhere else. Then we’d all pile in cars and go see those bands somewhere in Jersey. At the shows we’d buy the shirts right from the band members themselves. It was like being on a mission. Like that guy in that movie where he’s going up the river in Vietnam? Except we weren’t dodging bullets, and nobody died. Thank God. But we wore those shirts with pride and reveled in the fact that most folks had no idea what that skull on our shirt meant. But we knew. And when you’d see some other random kid walking down the street wearing a 7Seconds shirt and he saw you in your DRI shirt, you knew you had a friend. A kindred spirit. Someone else who’d been there, done that. Another guy that lived for this shit.
That’s where the name 3 songs guy comes from. But he’s goddamn annoying. He’s the new version of the old man who used to stand on his lawn with a hose and spray you down when your baseball rolled on his grass. (Yeah, we used to go outside and play baseball for no reason too.)
Time moves on. Even though I have all these old stories about road trips and aggro male bonding expeditions, if I had an iPhone and YouTube in 1981 I would have been all over it.
A kid today can get interested in obscure Norwegian metal, go down a rabbit hole, and get an education in a weekend that it took me the entire 90’s to soak up. You can learn about Seattle grunge, New York Hardcore and the birth of rap in the Bronx just by staying up all night jacked up on blue light and Monster Energy.
And that’s a good thing. In 2022 the world is smaller and more inclusive.
In an age where every piece of information known to man is at your fingertips, it’s a lot harder to hold on to your “thing” and keep it precious. If a kid wants to wear an Iron Maiden shirt because it looks cute with her jeans then that’s what’s up. If I wear mine for a completely different reason, then that’s what’s up. I don’t look for my tribe at Starbucks.
I see them at the Hard Rock Casino in Fort Lauderdale at the Judas Priest show. A sea of bald heads in denim and black t shirts. Leaning on canes and limping toward the concession stand for nachos. All of us suffer from sleep apnea. With our ever-weakening bladders, we stand in a line for the men’s room that snakes it’s way all the way back to the slot machines. When a random grey-haired dude raises a tattooed forearm high enough for his metal shirt to ride up over his belly and yells “Slayer!” we all yell it back. And we can all name 3 songs.
Jai Guru Deva