This week’s COtW request, for “Bring it Home to Me,” comes from one of my old childhood friends, Dan DeBruin. Danny and I, along with some of the other old pals mentioned or pictured in this blog were rock & roll buds, discovering old and new music together, learning guitar, swapping tips on gear, forming bands, and so on. We were joined at the hip during that time of golden friendships, early adolescence. Here’s an oldie we probably discovered together.
Another friend from that time, Chris Campion, just came up last week for a quick visit and a night at Fenway for a Sox v. Mets matchup. After I left town as a kid, Chris went on to drop out of Villanova, move back to New York, and formed the beloved indie NYC/Long Island band the Knockout Drops. They struggled like so many great club bands in the 1990s, just on the verge of making it nationally, getting a label deal and all that golden-goose stuff. In the meantime, Chris went through his own personal struggles. He has written a poignant and funny memoir of this era called Escape from Bellevue, a Dive Bar Odyssey, published by Gotham Books and recently released. The book was borne out of a successful run off-Broadway at the Wesbeth Theater of his show of the same name. In the show, Chris performed the stories from the book and other vignettes and the Knockout Drops provided a musical counterpoint and anchor, playing some of those songs from the time he explores with his prose. Chris will be an added treat, reading between the opening act, Mean Creek, and Buffalo Tom at the Paradise in Boston June 26
I highly recommend the book. As I have waxed nostalgically here in prior posts, something about having my friends frozen in time in my memory at the age of 16, when I left NY for Boston, has added a bittersweet and seemingly everlasting pang of melancholy and unresolved adolescent loneliness. It does not matter that I have continued to see some of them over the years. To me, these guys will sort of always be trapped in that amber, friends — boys and girls — who meant the world to me, from whom I was carried away. So when one of them died, it was not the image of a grown man, married with a child, that I remembered; it was the boy I went to nursery school with, my neighbor and best friend through elementary and junior high school and the sadness was that much more acute, not as painful for me as for the many who were close with him in his more recent years, but a different kind of heartache.
Reading Chris’ book also had a similar resonance for me. First of all, many of the memories, while having a general appeal for readers who do not know him, have specific significance for me – both the early times growing up on Long Island, and the later periods while he struggled trying to make a band work. But it was the young Chris, the kid who made us all laugh, this happy-go-lucky optimistic kid, this was the image of the person I recalled as the adult Chris recounts his travails of beating his own brains with liquor and drugs, as Iggy put it, and getting beat down by the wringer of trying to be the rock star he was so born to be. Disappointment keeps raining down, and it is the head of the sweet kid I was friends with that I picture taking the brunt of the storm.
Chris, I can attest, is still that big-hearted guy. And this is the poignancy of getting older while realizing that, even as responsibilities pile up, marriages form and maybe crumble, career highs and lows are achieved, the inner kid remains in the heart of most of us. Unfortunately, many people’s development and brains also just cease to evolve past that point as well, so we are often faced with decisions made by those with just such a level of development, hence many of the daily micro and macro fugazis in this world.
Please like my version of Sam Cooke’s classic “Bring it Home To Me,” which Sam originally recorded with Lou Rawls on low harmony, almost a dual lead vocal. I am neither as baritone as Lou nor as high tenor as Sam. I’m somewhere down in the middle for both parts.