dick after midnight
When it comes right down to it, I dont really know Dick. And Im willing to bet money youve never even heard of him. Dick Bowser is, or was, somewhat of a legend in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Aside from owning one of the greatest names in history, he was also a guitar player in Dick and the Balls, pioneers in Kalamazoos punk rock scene. They dissolved before I found out what punk rock was.
When I was a fledgling tenth grader I started checking out music, and it wasnt long before I embraced what was known as punk rock, a genre which included everything that wasnt Def Leppard or Judas Priest. To be the genuine article meant I was into safety pins, crazy sunglasses, weird hair, trenchcoats. I think I may have also been heavily influenced by the short-lived New Wave TV series, Square Pegs. Like any newcomer in any scene, I was impressionable as a piece of Silly Putty: into wimpy Flock of Seagulls one day, pledging my allegiance to Black Flag the next. To me it was all the same, and I needed to soak up as much of it as I could, cause, you know, I was a punk rocker.
It was about 1983, I was 15 years old, so of course I had the universal piece of equipment that was standard issue with all high school students: a boom box. One night I was fiddling around in my room with the radio, fishing through the static for some reception. The lights were off and I twisted the knob to the left side of the dial, then suddenly I hit some music and listened with growing joy. The station was playing punk rock. A punk rock radio station in Kalamazoo. The DJ came on and started using radical college-sounding terms, like zeitgeist and discordant. I didnt know what he was talking about sometimes, but I liked the sound of it. I jammed a tape into the box and started recording, my soul going hot-buttered rum warm. What a score.
The DJ was Dick. His voice was slow and deliberate, like he was on a mission of grave importance. Perhaps he was. The station was broadcast from the local university, which makes sense because back then that kind of music was called College Rock. Dick had the late shift, and his show was appropriately called The Midnight Hour. Over the next two years I taped as many of Dicks shows as I could, and his music selection became a guiding beacon. Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, X, R.E.M., The Cramps, The Minutemen... Bands Ive listened to for ten years since, but might have never heard if not for Dick. Gradually I began to understand the difference between the Dead Kennedys, the Dead Milkmen and Dead Can Dance. I paid more attention to the quality of the music, listened to what the lyrics were about, what statement was made. How the music made me feel.
There is a line you come to in high school. You want recognition as being different, but acceptance by your peersindividuality versus belonging. The music you listen to affects the way you dress, talk, think, act. Its an easy way into a social group, or can be what defines you as not like the rest. Whatever side of the line you wind up on, there are labels to make sure nobody gets confused as to who, or what, your identity is: "Im not alternative hip-hop, manIm indie-rock funk-metal. Theres a difference, you know."
In the wee hours of the night, on a frequency called 89.1, I found the place I belonged, and learned its not whats on the label but whats inside the jar.
Note: Richard Bowser was also in a band called "Violent Apathy."