Mudhoney vs. Metallica

Sitting at the bar at Fennario, just before 8 am, finished the paper, the xword, the sudoku, need to get to work. I’m finding myself holding fast to the last few days of 100% flextime before I start teaching again next week. At the same time, while I haven’t been bored, I’m finding all the unscheduled time easy to fritter away playing word games on Facebook (particularly fond of Scramble, which is their version of Boggle, but they can’t call it that because of copyright infringement issues).

Having a Mudhoney revival through my headphones. What a great band. What an awful band. Both, at the same time, actually. That’s part of their charm, of course; they’re the drunken teenage garage band that never grew out of it. Right now the song is “Stupid A**hole,” an Angry Samoans cover. Mudhoney was the band that turned me onto the whole Seattle grunge/punk thing. I’d seen Nirvana when they started touring to support “Nevermind” but before the record broke big. They were OK, but when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was on the radio every 15 seconds, I really hated it. I couldn’t figure out whether they were a bad metal band or a bad punk band. It wasn’t until I started listening to Mudhoney that I figured out Nirvana was neither, but the whole scene was doing something else. The particular song was “Fuzzgun ’91.” I was co-hosting a party with my roommates Trip, Tom, Fred (and our various other full and part-time housemates) after a show at the Screamin’ Deacon. Somebody put on “Fuzzgun” on repeat on the CD player, and a crowd of about 60 people just went nuts running around the house, jumping on the furniture, pogoing, slamming, making up words (the song is instrumental). We probably spent the better part of an hour like that, and the next day I’d decided that all those bands were amazing; I’d given them short shrift.

Mudhoney won more points from me a couple of years later when I saw them for the first time, at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, NC, March 1993. It was the night UNC won the NCAA basketball tournament, which sucked for me (I hated UNC for a long time because it was the only college I applied to that rejected me). Mudhoney came on stage not long after the game ended and just blew it out for more than 2 hours. It was one of the most amazingly cathartic experiences I’ve ever undergone.

While I’m thinking about rock music stories, I need to write this one down too. It’s about the day Metallica saved my life. July 1986, just west of Statesville, NC on I-40, about 7 am. I’m driving up to Mt. Mitchell (highest point east of the MS River, by the way) to hike with some friends, having stayed up all night partying with other friends at the Wake Forest Debate Workshop. Anyway, I’m cruising, tired, speeding like mad, when all of a sudden I wake up going about 80 mph in the median. Fortunately I’m a light sleeper, and fortunately I managed to keep the car pointing straight while I was driving in the grass. That’s about as scared as I’ve been of anything, even scarier than going to a FSU/Miami football game at the Orange Bowl. Deciding I’m in no shape to drive but not able to stop because I need to meet my hiker friends, I pull off at the next exit where there’s a gigantic truck stop. I’ve already had a bunch of coffee, so I’m looking for No-Doz, which they don’t have, and finally settle on something else. While I’m waiting in line, I notice the obligatory rack of cassette tapes (remember, it’s 1986) and start flipping through to find the loudest thing they have.

Turns out the loudest thing they have is Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” for $3.99. I figure it’s worth $4 to keep myself awake without having to pump more caffeine into my already-queasy stomach. I’d heard Metallica before (their first record, “Ride the Lightning,” had gotten steady play on the Georgia Tech radio station’s weekly punk show) but wasn’t a fan. I also figure that listening to something I don’t like will help keep me awake. So I hop back in the car, crank down all the windows, crank up the stereo as loud as it’ll go without blowing up the speakers (I was an audio-snob even then, and listening to speaker casings rattle bugged me then as much as it does now) and popped in the tape on repeat (my car had one of the first auto-flip and repeat tape players I’d seen). Over the next two hours, I learned every word I could understand of that album and even grew to like it. Every once in a while, I still put it on and wax nostalgic about that trip.

This is not one of those times. Mudhoney is still blaring. The current song is “You Got It,” featuring this very sophisticated chorus:

“You got it, damn right you got it, that’s great, keep it out of my face.”

If that’s not poetry, I don’t know what is. Or even better, the last chorus:

“You got it, damn right you got it, get f*cked, keep it out of my face.”

Now THAT’s poetry.

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