I have always thought the greatest musical karma ever was Mick Ralphs bringing the song Can’t Get Enough to Ian Hunter and the rest of Mott the Hoople and being turned down. Ralphs believed enough in the song and not enough in the long term future of Mott that he left and formed the band Bad Company with Paul Rodgers. He was right on both accounts. As Bad Company rose Mott the Hoople faded. Can’t Get Enough became Bad Company’s first hit song and instantly became my favorite band. I loved them, loved the second record Straight Shooter really loved Run With the Pack and liked Burning Sky.
It seems quite odd that a band I loved so much would come to symbolize so much pain, darkness and suffering, so much so that I have spent 40 years trying to suppress repress or forget completely the events of an entire year of my life. And that year should have been important. I had been looking forward to it. It was also the year of bad decisions and things fell apart very quickly.
In the fall of 1978 I was a Sophomore in high school, technically my second year of high school but the first actually at the high school. I was looking forward to it if only because there would be more girls to look at. I had dreams of finding a girlfriend There was trouble at home though. My father was spending time away for work and these just seemed to increase. My mother was quiet. It didn’t take a genius to know things were wrong and they split up. I didn’t know anyone who had divorced parents.It was confusing. I chose not to talk about it all except because of my age I had to pick where I was going to live. No kid no matter what age should ever have to do that. I had to choose between the mother who loved me and wanted to keep me safe or the father I just wanted to be close to, even though I knew all that he wanted was not to pay child support. I broke my mother’s heart with the second worst decision of my life next to being born, that any one person could make. It went as I expected. My father was interested in one thing being single and I was in the way. He was rarely home and mostly left me at home to fend for myself. I was heartbroken even though I was not surprised by anything. I couldn’t go backwards, I couldn’t go forwards. Somewhere around this time, my best friend from junior high abandoned me for another friend. I don’t blame him. I wasn’t easy to be friends with.
With one friend gone I found a kindred spirit to lift me in Guy Bach. We were likely the two most obnoxious sophomores to ever walk the halls of any high school, but he was what I needed. Together we were the Bartholomew brothers Hannigan and Shenanigan. Guy knew there were troubles and at his home I had the kindness I couldn’t seem to get anywhere else. His parents were so good to me and his father pulled me aside more than once to make sure I was okay. I was anything but okay. I was drinking and drinking a lot and I would take anything anyone gsve me. It didn’t make the confusion any better. It was an angry response to a near impossible situation to manage on my own. School was a nightmare. I had been offered advanced placement classes which I had refused. I didn’t want to be removed from a classroom of people that I liked to go somewhere where i believed everyone would look down at me and that’s how I felt. But those English classes were boring and I wrote a story about my pet rock the famous Rock Bottom and I was sent to the office where a couple of teachers a guidance counselor and a vice principal pleaded with me to go to advanced placement courses. They threatened to call my parents. I was surly angry said some things that should have gotten me suspended but didn’t. I told them to call my parents because at that time I doubted my parents would even care and I guess they called one of them or they just moved me anyway because suddenly I was in advanced placement everything. I feel sorry for every teacher I had that year. I don’t know why no one noticed how much pain I was in but they didn’t and I sure wasn’t talking to anyone about anything. I knew my mother would help me but I crushed her and I honestly didnt know how she felt about me. I saw my dad as an enemy and every adult as just another person who wanted to control things for me. I was only 15. I was lost and I needed guidance.
I knew Kim from Junior High. I can’t remember the details of why we became a couple. I think your first love is always the one that messes you up the worst. The funny thing is I feel towards Kim what I have always felt. She is a super fun person. I always liked watching her she is so full of verve. But to this day we are always a bit of a mess. I tried to hide as much as I could from everyone. My dad is incredibly likeable and charming so he was always very cool to friends. Neither Kim or Guy ever knew just how much of a lifeline they were to me. No I wasn’t suicidal. I never thought about it but I also didn’t care whether I lived or died. Guy really knew there were problems when one day we went to get a snow cone and Guy being Guy said man I sure wish we had some rum. So off to my place we went. Guy probably thought I had a stash which I did. There was always vodka outside my window which I drank from every night. Nope we walked in, my dad in his easy chair watching television and I went to where the liquor was and poured rum in both of our snow cones. Then we left. By this time I spent more time grounded than not, but grounded meant nothing. Every weekend my dad would leave and tell me to stay home and fifteen minutes after he ws gone I would leave too. By the cold months of the year I was spending a lot of time at the Seventh Street Theater where I had been accepted by a motley and degenerate group almost all older than me half of whom were gay called the Front Row Club. Guy usually had a curfew so I would either drive there myself with no drivers license but my dad did give me a car with the instructions don’t get caught or someone would give me a ride. I was accepted there and for some odd reason there was always someone I could talk to. My dad banned me from the place after meeting one of these strange people accused me of being gay, still makes me laugh. Of course hanging out with these people and the many high school people that would show up started the rumor and the ridicule and even more pain and humiliations as my peers called me evey name they could and asked me every inappropriate question there was. It didn’t mtter that I was straight. It was something to hurt me with. So if you want to know why I avoid reunuions or gatherings of classmates well there you go. I have no desire to see any of these people.
I bet you are wondering right about now what the hell this has to do with the band Bad Company. Haha, well nothing really. As much as things were chaotic and bad for me I hadn’t fallen completely apart, I didn’t like being bullied or made fun of but there was little I could do. I had a great best friend. I had a cool girlfriend complete with a dog named dammit. Dammit come here. I can’t remember if that was really the dog’s name. When Bad Company announced a concert at good old Tarrant County Convention Center naturally I wanted to go and Kim was willing to drive. My dad’s girlfriend closer in age to me than my dad offered to drive me and Guy to get tickets if we would only skip school, ahhh gee let me think about that, I really like math, ok sure. All we had to do was wait for her while she went to her hair appointment. No one really explained to two 15 year old boys how long hair appointments could be but we waited and by the time we got tickets all we could get was balcony. Still okay to me because it was still my favorite band. There was trouble in paradise though. Kim was spending more and more time with an ex-boyfriend including taking me to his house and stranding me in his living room while she went off to “talk” to him. I couldn’t have seen it coming if it had been a freight train but of course everyone else did. Guy said break up with her, I said no way. Bad Company was going to save everything. We went to the concert and Kim said she was going to go to the floor and say hi to someone and she would meet me at our seats. She never showed. Paul Rodgers greeted us all with “Hello Houston” which angered me to no end because I was already angry and then they didn’t play a single song from Run With the Pack. Now it was the Desolation Angels tour but that was a horrible album. Concert over, Kim shows up thankfully to give us all a rilde with the ex-boyfriend in tow.
A few nights later she made it official and broke up with me. I told her I was coming over and she said okay but it would not change anything. I was grounded told my dad we needed milk and he said don’t go to Kim’s and I went anyway. I was gone almost an hour. I did bring milk back. My dad actually was kind that night and he said it was okay that it would happen again and that it was just part of growing up. A few weeks later after a horrible argument I walked out of the apartment and ran away. I lived in Fort Worth for a few days with various members of the Front Row Cub taking care of me including taking me to school. I got a note through the office that I needed to go home after school one day. My dad and I created a very uneasy truce. A few weeks later school was out and my dad had to force me to go get my drivers license. A week after that I was arrested for minor in possession (alcohol not drugs) in Saginaw. My dad came to get me in the jail. That was not fun. We had to go get my car, thankfully the cops did not know that it was there or searched it because it would have landed me in considerably more trouble. A few days after with my dad angrily camping out over me we had to go see a juvenile judge and he let me off. For a week my father laid into me with angry words every night, I was called worse names by him than I was at school and so one morning after he gave me a laundry list of things to do while he was at work I packed some of my stuff and left. This time I stayed gone for awhile. I stayed with two of the nicest human beings on the planet, one an openly Gay man who was the official leader of the Front Row Club and a drag queen who did nothing but make me laugh and helped me work through a awful lot of pain and confusion and even called my mother for the first time who was worried sick about me. She had a litany of rules that I would need to follow most of which I didn’t like. She was tough, my mother. She was the toughest person I have ever known. Every rule was non-negotiable. I don’t know how close she ws to breaking. She did tell me that my dad had washed his hands of me. It would be a few momths before I saw him and that was briefly.The best feeling I had that year was being hugged by my mother. I can still feel it.
Thus ended a year of pain and yet in so many ways its never ended. I have spent 40 years repressing or trying to forget anything and everything about that year. It has colored my world in shades of grey and black with occasional glimmers of green blue and purple. Now a few things, Its not my friend’s fault for abandoning me. The fault was mine for not communicating better. If you think Guy should have spoken up stop we were 15. If you think Kim ws horrible remember she was 16. No one did anything wrong. I thought a lot in those days about going back to junior high an talking to Coach Massey or Ms. Goad. They would have helped me. Almost anyone had I asked or said something would have done something. Guy’s father couldn’t make me talk. I made a series of catastrophic decisions which is the story of my life. Its not Bad Company’s fault. I am sure Mick Ralphs asked to play songs from Run with the Pack. That bastard Paul Rodgers who couldn’t get the city right ruined everything.
I know its silly. When those first five albums come up I never know how I will react. Sometimes I just start crying. Sometimes I numbly go through them. I still do love Run With the Pack though, still despise Desolations Angels and I really liked some of the late 80’s post Paul Rodgets period. They are just not the same band for me, probably not fair but there is just too much pain and darkness I associate with the albums I once loved so much.
I spent the rest of high school with the sure fire plan to be invisible. I wanted few friends and anytime someone got too close I would push them away sometimes by just taking a break from them. I wanted nothing to do with being noticed. I did just enough to get good grades so my mom would be pleased but not enough to make the National Honor Society. That took a lot of energy picking and choosing which assignments I could tank to lower my grade just enough. Do you know how much planning and energy that took? I wanted no more girlfriends and that meant in my senior year when I really liked a girl I had to keep her at arms length even though I knew it confused and hurt her. I didn’t like that. I have never liked hurting someone. I knew what it felt like but i also didn’t want to be hurt myself. It would be college before I had another girlfriend and she would hurt me badly and the one after even worse. I have learned to push people away before they can hurt me, friends, intimate relationshps scare me. Please don’t tell me as a social worker I should know better, I hate it when people do that as if therapists or social workers are somehow immune to personal pain or personal issues that we should all just heal ourselves. I spent a lifetime working with troubled youth with that fire that if I could just help one prson it would somehow lessen my own.
I think for most sons the relationship they have with their father is the most complicated one ever. There is just something about how sons feel about their fathers and father their sons that inevitably things get complicated. My father and I have gone through wonderful times and we have gone through rocky times and at this stage of our lives mostly we have found a balance. There is a lot of love between us. There isn’t amything you are going to say that is somehow going to make the events of 40 yeaars ago go away. There isn’t anything he is going to say or that I am going to say. That year has never been discussed. Be careful with any criticism, judgment and certainly any name calling. I honestly believe if I had stopped and asked to talk to my dad and told him all that was going on he would have listened as any of the adults, teachers, school administrators parents of friends my mother or my sister. Any one of them would have listened and helped. I chose to manage it on my own which was disastrous.
I have not shared everything of that year with you or with anyone. No one knows everything and to some extent this means me as well. I put all the memories and pain away in boxes sealed them up and hid them in the darkest recesses of my mind. They bounce around and occasionally something escapes. I can be riding through old Hurst or Bedford and see a spot and something will slip. Several years ago I wrote a smll novel and to date its the most charachter development that I have ever done on a single character. I spent weeks working on this one aspect, this person without a friend in the world without ever having a friend, ever. Devoid of even the most simple of communications with people he is invisible. He is never promoted, never given a raise, never invited to office parties. At one point he says I have lived 27 years this way and I don’t think I can do another 27. A few days after writing this I woke up from a bad dream, not a nightmare a memory of that horrible year and I knew exactly where Calvin came from. So these memories will find a way out and I will deal with them as they come.
Hello Houston indeed, damn that Paul Rodgers