When I was a teenager, nothing mattered more to me than music. It was almost like a physical place I lived in. Music was all-encompassing, resonating inside me, both creating and following my shifting moods. It provided a kind of solace away from the real world while reinforcing my own private reality. I listened to music all the time, from the moment I woke up in the morning and was getting ready for school, to the second I burst into the door when I got home. I still have a crazy passion for music and suspect I always will.
As a teenager and in my 20s I was probably pretty annoying about music. Not because I was obnoxious about my snobby taste in bands. I was never an early adopter (or early dismisser) of whatever was cool. I was often, in fact, a late adopter. My musical tastes typically reflected those of people at least ten years older than me. I was the odd girl rocking out to “Lunatic Fringe” in my bedroom while everyone else was lining up to watch “Rattle and Hum” at the theatre. And even though I loved Ann and Nancy Wilson I firmly believed (and still do) that Karen Carpenter was the best female singer who ever lived. I was also inclined toward classical music thanks to an enthusiastic grade 4 teacher who inspired me to borrow “Hooked On Classics” records from the library. I stayed out of most musical conversations at school and on the bus because I was — let’s face it — pretty nerdy about music.
But it wasn’t because of my out of step tastes that I was annoying. It was because I was so completely dazzled and subsumed by music, to the point of distraction. In the same way that I can’t hear people talking to me when I’m reading, I have trouble pulling away from the experience of listening to a song I love. I remember when I finally had my own car and could listen to whatever I wanted to while driving that my trances interfered with socializing with others. In my teens there were bitter arguments over what to play in the car when riding anywhere with my family. It got down to a kind of mental arm-wrestling. The winner had to have the best argument and my brother was really good at it. Why should we listen to Pearl Jam in the car on the way Christmas dinner, asked my frustrated, religious, Christmas carol-loving Mom? Because what does Auntie Alma wear every Christmas? Pearls. And what does Auntie Gina give us every year? Homemade jam. In spite of my mom’s protests, we listened, briefly, to “10”. Jim Reeves and the Christmas polka had to wait.
But I digress. The one exception to my completely out of step old soul musical tastes was contemporary Canadian music, which I was right on top of. My first concert was Platinum Blonde at Expo Theatre in 1986 when I was 13. I was an avid fan of any video show and most Canadian bands. I was delirious with joy on rare MuchMusic free weekends when I could tape music videos on our recently acquired VCR; many of the bands were by default Canadian thanks to CanCon regulations.
But of all my musical education, live concerts were the best. They were major events and also one of the major sources of conflict in my home. My parents were kind enough to allow me to buy tickets, but logistics were the issue. No question, my dad would drive me and my friends downtown and home again, and that was great. But there was that long, uncomfortable post-concert hangout that drove my patient Dad crazy and prompted him to ask me, a bit unkindly, if I was a groupie. I had no idea what that meant but could tell it was something unsavoury and that he disapproved. My friends and I just wanted to be there until the last moment with other fans like us. Getting a glimpse of a rock star and maybe an autograph was part of the experience.
I had the sense not to tell my parents until very recently about my phone calls and visit to the home of a local musician when I was 15. Randy Gould was the guitarist of Vancouver band, Blvd. Although there would have been no way of convincing my parents at the time, he was nothing like the typical rock musician stereotype. He was not egotistical or narcissistic, nor did he harbour any sordid motives in talking to me and my friends. In every interaction he was kind, maybe a bit amused, and he went along with the antics of a silly teenage girl in order to teach us the truth about rock stars: that they they were just ordinary people, like everyone else. I’m grateful to Randy for that lesson, and recently wrote about that slushy January afternoon when I met him in 1988 (and will be submitting my story to the CBC’s Creative Non-Fiction competition by deadline tomorrow).
So where is Randy Gould, 25 years later? I wish I knew. I’ve tried to find him so I could thank him for being so sweet to me and my friends. A few years ago I came across a woman on facebook who used to know him and was also looking for him. “He was such a nice guy,” she said, and promised to let me know if she found him. In spite of my efforts I haven’t been able to find him or any recent references to him on the web. I don’t want to imagine worst case scenarios, and really hope he’s just out there laying low, quietly doing what he loves.
Via my story and my blog post, I have vague hopes that my gratitude, 25 years later, will reach Randy Gould some way, somehow. But if not, I’ll tell the people here: my story is for you, Randy. Thank you for the music and for being a positive force — and most of all, for helping me tell a great story.