It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 5 years since my dad passed away. For the people that knew my dad back in the day before he became ill and a shell of his own self, they got to see exactly where I got a lot of my “style” from. My snarky, opinionated, and unabridged way of thinking, talking, and writing about music came from my dad. So love me or hate me, you can thank (or damn) my father for making me the person I am today.
My dad and I didn’t have the best of relationships. We didn’t hang out, we didn’t play catch, we didn’t watch sports, we didn’t go camping, and we didn’t go on vacations together. Hell, we were barely in the same room ever. For as long as I can remember, my dad and me were two ships that passed in the night. We didn’t really communicate or talk all that much and we honestly didn’t share much in common at all. My father viewed success and happiness on how much money you made whereas I viewed success and happiness as doing what you truly love to do regardless of how much money you make or how rich you are. This was my dad’s big issue with me being a musician but at the end of the day, whether he liked it or not, he supported me the only way he knew how and that was to just let me do what I wanted to do.
While we may not have had a lot in common or even talked all that much, one of the things that we did share was a love and a passion for music. I can remember my dad and I sitting in the living room as he played Styx’s The Grand Illusion. “Donald, do you hear that? Now THAT is good music. Listen to his voice and listen to the arrangement of this song. This is what good music is all about.” I remember asking my dad about the Beatles and he said, “Dishwater. That band… Sheesh. You want great music? Listen to this and he would put on a Joan Baez record or a Buffy Sainte Marie record or, of all things, Iron Butterfly’s “In a Gadda DaVida.”
My dad’s taste in music was as broad and as diverse as mine is today. I can still remember him telling me, “Donald, I don’t care if it’s polka music or if it’s heavy metal music. Good music is good music as long as it’s played well and that you can stand by it and argue your case for why it’s good.” He always told me to never let the general public dictate to me what was “good.” Just because it’s on the radio and everyone likes it doesn’t make it good. “Madonna sucks and she’s all over the damn place” he’d tell me. “Just because she’s huge doesn’t mean you have to like her. If you like something about her music, that’s fine but being famous doesn’t make you good.”
My dad wasn’t the biggest fan of hard rock/metal music but he definitely took an interest in my music. Whenever I would bring a record home, he would want to sit down in the living room (or god forbid in my room) and listen to the album together. Back in the 80’s when most parents were forbidding their kids to listen to the evil Ozzy Osbourne, my dad was sitting and listening to the “Tribute” album. My dad dug it. He thought Ozzy was cool and that “Goodbye to Romance” was “… way better than that Black Sabbath shit.” “But Dad, Sabbath is awesome.” “No”, he said, “Sabbath was loud and Ozzy couldn’t sing his way out of a wet paperbag.” Sure, whatever pops.
In our own dysfunctional relationship, music seemed to be the thing that would bring us together. It was something we could talk about and something we could bond together one without ever having serious “heart to heart” talks or “sit downs.” A lot of times it would just be us sitting there, quiet, listening to an album and him asking me what I liked about it and then him telling me what he thought about it. My dad thought Cinderella was one of the coolest bands around. He took me to see them in 1988 and he thought it was one of the classiest, most well put shows he had ever seen. After that, everything was, “Yeah, but was the concert as good as Cinderella?” He though Poison was shitty, he thought Anthrax was stupid, but he thought Metallica was a very smart band. “I can tell by looking at their song titles that these guys have something to say” he said looking at the back of my Master of Puppets album. I’m glad I can read the lyrics here because I can’t understand a goddamn thing that guy’s saying but I get it. He’s angry and it comes through.” Yeah… he got it.
Whether I agreed with him or not, I always valued his opinion. He thought W.A.S.P was hands down one of the worst band on the planet but he appreciated the fact that they were carrying on this tradition of performance art that Alice Cooper (who he really liked) had started. He though KISS was terrible (which we always argued about) but he respected them for doing something that nobody had ever done. Dad taught me to have an opinion and to always be willing to stand by it and defend it. He also taught me to respect the opinions of others while knowing that those very people may not respect me (or may even kick my ass or want to) over my opinion.
When I started doing this blog in 2009, my dad thought it was the coolest thing. He loved hearing my stories about interviewing bands, going to concerts, and hanging out backstage with bands. He also loved it when I would tell him about how I would piss of bands, fans, or both for that matter when I would post an opinionated album review, concert review, or editorial. He told me, “Donald, you’re doing what you always wanted to do and you’re good at it. I’m glad you’re doing it but be careful. You might get punched in the face over some of this shit.” Again, he got it and he got me and it was something we connected on in our elder years.
Before my dad passed away in 2012, we had made our peace and we connected on a deeper level than we had before. Even after all those years though, music still seemed to be the thread that brought us together. To this day, whenever I hear a new album and/or band, I can’t help but wonder who my dad would’ve liked. I think he would’ve loved Jess and the Ancient Ones. I think he would have thought Old James was bad ass rock and roll and I think my dad would have really liked Jorn Lande. One of last things I remember talking to him about before he died was who I thought one of the worst bands out there was. I played him songs by Mastadon and Ghost. My dad’s reaction: “Mastadon sounds like their name. A big gross ugly animal that stinks. This stuff makes Ghost sound like Classical music.”
So have you ever wondered where I get it from? Well, now you know.