Bells I heard a thousand years before

I had an important conversation with a buddy of mine the other day. I called him on Saturday morning, he told me he was busy, but I went by his place anyway.

I was bored.

Over the course of a couple hours the night before, he’d completely disemboweled his motorcycle and brought its complex innards in to his basement in USPS crates.

I know shit about motorcycles, so I helped by drinking his beer.

I started digging through his CD collection while he dissected some piece of the fuel system.

“You’re a fucking idiot.”

“Hand me that gasket. Why am I an idiot?”

“I don’t know that we have the time to cover that topic thoroughly.”

“YOU SURE BUDDY? This rebuild is gonna take me a couple days. Asshole.”

“Statement stands.”

He banged around and screwed things and wiped oil off of tiny parts. I walked back to his stack of CDs.

“I hope these are stolen.”


“If you paid actual money for these CDs I don’t know that we can be friends anymore.”

The whole stack was garbage. And it was a big stack. There were a couple of good albums in there amidst the filth, interspersed, like afterthoughts or accidents, statistical anomalies. Shit taste or not, it’s nigh impossible that any dude in SF isn’t going to own at least one Bob Dylan album, or possibly a tape of Superunknown he got for his 14th birthday. A burned Maxell CD that says Christina’s Best of the Yardbirds Mix that somebody left at his house does not redeem an entire collection of crap, though. It certainly does not make up for the fact that he owns ALL THE FUCKING KORN ALBUMS any more than putting a cherry on a dog turd makes it into a sundae.

I dug deeper, tossing his shit CDs into one of the emptied, greasy postal crates. It filled up quick.

“This is a fucking atrocity. Blink 182? Dashboard Confessional?”

“Oh come on dude. There’s some STP or something in there, it’s not all bad.”

“Which album?

“I don’t remember man…”


“God fuck Trevor, I don’t know. You’re such a nutjob about this shit. Calm down. Hold this shit on here while I screw this to the exhaust.”

I held the whatever little thing on to its little bracket while he put the bolts back in, shaking my head in disbelief the entire time.

“Come on. So I like different stuff than you. I like lots of different music. I’m not an elitist.”

“I know this is going to come off sounding kind of personal, or overly critical, but you’re a complete moron.”

“Because I like some variety?”

“BECAUSE ALL OF THIS STUFF IS CRAP MAN. How the fuck do you look yourself in the eye every morning when you know there are two DJ Tiesto albums in your basement. That you own.”


“Techno, man?! I mean are you kidding me? Are you 15? This is some kind of elaborate joke, some sick, sick prank? I feel like I just came in your basement and found a cache of child porn and a necklace of severed ears dude.”


“I’m going to offer you the chance of a lifetime. I’m gonna help you out, man, and get you on the road to recovery. Elevate and educate your pathetic, Live 105 loving ass.”

“While I appreciate your offer to make me as narrow-minded and ivory-tower as you are about shit that doesn’t matter…”


He stared at me blankly.

“Don’t thank me man. Not yet, anyway. You just wait. I’m gonna make you a CD.”


So that’s where I got the idea for the Rock and Roll Primer. An 80 minute triumph, a masterpiece.

It had to incorporate everything that is beautiful and righteous about rock. It had to be absolutely god damn amazing.

I got to work immediately. I grabbed a burrito on the way home, figuring mixing it together might take a few hours.



Two weeks later I was crushed and depressed, absolutely despairing at the magnitude of my task. My room, generally an orderly and disciplined place, had transformed into some kind of freakish rock laboratory. Empty beer cans and Saltines boxes covered the floor. All manner of strange shit was set up on every horizontal surface; LPs, CDs, a (nonfunctional) Casio keyboard from about 1988. Page after crumpled page of lists and charts and indecipherable calculations, all written on the backs old PG&E bills. Seriously weird shit that I don’t even recall owning, like a huge, bubbling chemistry set full of green liquid and a deck of fuckin Tarot cards. My filthy, ink-stained beard was repulsive and grey, like somebody stapled dead mice to my cheeks. I scared the hell out of myself every time I walked near the mirror.

I had no idea what a nightmare creating The Primer would be. Eighty minutes is just not enough time. You can barely get fucking started with eighty minutes.

It’s like somebody says “Hey, cram the New Testament onto the paper that comes in a fortune cookie”. Or “Hey, move this ocean. Here’s a bucket.” No joke.

I distinctly recall watching the sun come up drunk after spending six hours trying to fit Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety right into the middle of the Primer without displacing too much other important rock.


Regardless, after two weeks of intense work, it’s time to put The Primer into Public Beta.

I went through about 468 rough drafts. Here’s current list for The Primer.

We’re calling it RC1.


The Primer, RC1

01 – Derek and the Dominos – Crossroads (live)
02 – Canned Heat – I’ve Got My Mojo Working
03 – Led Zeppelin – Heartbreaker (live BBC version)
04 – Ted Nugent – Stranglehold (hell yes)
05 – Iggy Pop – Lust for Life
06 – The Who – Young Man Blues
07 – Nirvana – Aneurysm (live)
08 – Metallica – Free Speech For The Dumb
09 – Rolling Stones – Miss You
10 – Jimi Hendrix – Catfish Blues
11 – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Laughing (live)
12 – Beck – Crystal Clear Beer
13 – David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust
14 – Radiohead – The Tourist
15 – Arlo Guthrie – The Motorcycle Song
16 – Lou Reed – Heroin


If you’ve read the list and you think “Hey, you forgot The Eagles! And Rush! and maybe that good Killers song!”, you’re an idiot and should probably just die.

Otherwise, by all means, make suggestions.

I dare you.


I’ve considered writing out a long, exhaustive explanation of why each song made the cut and which alternatives were thrown away, but fuck it. It needs to stand on its own two legs anyway, not come with a fifteen page annotated dissertation in the liner notes.

Instead, since it’s still in beta, I’ll mention the few weak spots I still see:

Track 8 – I really needed a rough and angry song here, and Metallica is pretty damn canonical when it comes to that… Still, it doesn’t feel right. Too manicured, I guess. I tried “The More I See” in there instead, same results. Sabbath was another possibility, but it stuck out like a black guy in the NHL. I also thought about So What, which was better, but the jump between Hetfield shrieking SO FUCKING WHAT and the Rolling Stones was unbearable.

Track 14 – Meh. Need something appropriately strange and non-traditional to match these last few songs… This is a good song, don’t get me wrong. I’d take Paranoid Android if it wasn’t like fifteen minutes long… or a Pink Floyd song…

Somehow I don’t think that one is gonna make the final release, let’s just say that.


This shit could go on for months so I’m just gonna shut up now and see how it flies in real life. Burning copy #1.

Wish me luck.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: