Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lies/Liars: White Lies


Jason & the Scorchers: White Lies
 [purchase]

There are things from my past that I think that I remember perfectly, although sometimes other people have totally different recollections. My piece a while back about my visit to Gettysburg led to a spirited discussion from my friends about what actually happened, and now I have no idea how accurate my memory of the event was.

But for this story, I know that I have some serious lapses in memory, which is probably a good thing, because it allows me to tell it without naming names, which really don’t matter, anyway. And making stuff up, which I may well be doing, sort of fits the theme. So, be prepared for vagueness.

My senior year in college, I applied to law school. I did pretty well on my LSATs, had a non-embarrassing GPA from one of the most competitive and prestigious colleges in the country, and, according to the historical records in that college’s Career Planning Office, it seemed like I would have no problem getting into my first choice, a well-regarded school located in Greenwich Village. Of course, if I hadn’t been a know-it-all Ivy League senior, and had actually deigned to speak to one of the trained counselors paid to dispense wisdom to the likes of me, I strongly believe that I would have also applied to some safer schools. But I didn’t. And when the acceptances came out, I was shut out. It was, by all accounts, the hardest year to get into law school, and I whiffed. My parents displayed less disappointment than I expected (and I still don’t know if that was an act), and after graduation, I moved back home. With the help of my father, I got a job working at a big New York law firm. That failure to get accepted, and that job, ultimately led to me meeting my wife, so ultimately, it worked out for the best, but that’s not what this story is about.

For a while, I commuted into the city with my dad, and we have some funny stories about that, too. I worked at the firm, ironically Richard Nixon’s former firm, and applied again, this time hedging my bets and ending up accepted to Fordham Law School, which turned out to be a great experience for many reasons.

Fordham, at the time, had no dorms for the law school, located at Lincoln Center, in a very expensive part of New York. Luckily, my parents were willing to help out, and through a roommate finding service, I found an apartment that was within walking distance to school, with two guys my age. It was a pretty nice apartment—three bedrooms, living room and small kitchen in a modern, high rise building. Jerry Orbach, pre-Law & Order, lived there when he was on Broadway in 42nd Street. It was an illegal sublet, though, and I wasn’t on the lease. And, it turned out poorly.

The two guys were friends, either from college or high school, and they were working—one, I think, was at a talent agency and the other might have been at a financial services company. I don’t even remember their names. They seemed nice enough, but it soon became clear that my life—getting up, going to class, coming home, making dinner and studying, then watching TV or listening to music, didn’t really jibe with their working lifestyle, which included having disposable incomes. These guys had a friend who, I think, worked for a record company or music publishing company and was an aspiring songwriter. I don’t remember his name, either, but he actually succeeded. OK-using the few facts I actually remember, I think I found him on the Internet (but, to be fair, I’m not sure if it is really him)—he has a Wikipedia page, has written a bunch of middle of the roadish hits and jingles, recorded a few albums, sued Mariah Carey for plagiarism, and even owned the baseball that Mookie hit through Buckner’s legs. And we have 2 friends in common on Facebook, one of whom is a writer for this site. So, if you want, I bet you can find him, if that is him.

During this time period, I somehow heard about Jason & the Scorchers. I feel like I read about them in the newspaper, or maybe I heard something on the radio. They were what was then referred to as “cow-punk,” a mix of country and punk that predated “alt-country” as a thing. Their second EP featured an awesome cover of Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” which might be better than the original, and was, otherwise, kick-ass. My recollection is that this friend of my roommates had some way of getting the EP for me for free, and he did, which was very nice. It is possible, though, that I got it from one of my old record company contacts. I’m pretty sure, though, that I didn't pay for it.

Shortly before my Christmas break, my roommates asked me to move out, saying that they wanted a friend (that friend?) to move in. I really had little leverage, so I moved out, because who would want to be in that situation and moved back home briefly. After the holidays, I moved into an apartment in a much crappier building in a slightly sketchier neighborhood, which I ultimately shared with my good friend Bill, and where we were living when Bill introduced me to my wife. A couple of years later, Jason & the Scorchers released their first full album, Lost and Found, which was also great, and included today’s featured song, “White Lies.” Their next album, though, wasn’t so great, and they found themselves considered too country for rock radio, and too rock for country radio, because, apparently, Uncle Tupelo didn’t exist yet to kick off the alt-country/Americana revival (I know, that’s not really true). But, clearly, they were ahead of their time, and unfortunately faded into oblivion (with the obligatory recent reunion that hasn’t seemed to get much traction). Here’s a professional music writer’s fairly recent reminiscence about the band.

Did my former roommates really want their friend to move in, or did they just want me out? Was it the truth, or just a white lie? Maybe if I remembered their names, I could try to track them down and ask.

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