ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Nicole Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Zack Anderson
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Kevin Berger
   Lawrence Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Zachary C. Bush
   Tony Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Neil Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Dana Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Phil Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J. de Salvo
   J de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Dorsey
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   t. joseph dunn
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Ron Dvorkin
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Amelie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   Matt Harris
   William Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Lois P. Jones
   Tao Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gene Justice
   Gary Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Bernard Kennedy
   Raud Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Robert S King
   Ashley King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Anne Lecrivain
   Marie Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   Emma Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Hyatt Mason
   Lee Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Robert John Miller
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Greggory Moore
   Carl Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Toti O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Kristena Prater
   Luke Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
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   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
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   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
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   Howard Sage
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   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
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   Lorraine Sautner
   Rati Saxena
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   Sondra L. Scott
   Ken Scott
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   LB Sedlacek
   Lisa Segal
   Anthony Seidman
   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   Sanjeev Sethi
   John W Sexton
   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
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   Nancy Shiffrin
   June Shiitake
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   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
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   Apryl Skies
   Knute Skinner
   Sam Skow
   Ratpack Slim
   Lee Sloca
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   Danielle Smith
   Clinton Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
   Jeanne Marie Spicuzza
   Richard Spuler
   Matina Stamatakis
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   Julia Stein
   Eric Steineger
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   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Mani Suri
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   John Duncan Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
   Evan Traiger
   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
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   Sharieff Walters
   John Wariner
   Deborah L Warner
   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
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   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Leigh White
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   J.T. Whitehead
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   Claire Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
   Jessica Wilson
   Robert D. Wilson
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   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
   Joseph Wistren
   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
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   Julie Yi
   Britney Young
   Gregory T. Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
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G. Murray Thomas
August 2008
   

 

My Favorite Band in High School

    A: Identity

    Im betting that when you were in high school, you had some favorite musical artist, one that represented everything you liked in music. In fact, they probably represented more than that -- your favorite artist was probably tied into your whole notion of who you were. Your identity and your favorite band were probably intricately linked, if not so tied in together it was difficult to tell where one ended and the other began. I know I had such a favorite band.
    Further, I bet that today you are, at the least, mildly embarrassed, if not totally mortified, to admit to this favorite band.
    Why do we do this? What is this need for some favorite artist, to pour all of our musical fandom into?
    And why, later in life, are we so often embarrassed by our adolescent choices?
    Certainly, much of this has to do with our early attempts to determine our identity. George Bernard Shaw said, Life isnt about finding yourself. It is about creating yourself. But in our teens we usually dont have the self-confidence to create ourselves, we usually dont even realize it is an option. So we look for our identity in the external world; we attempt to create our identity by copying someone elses.
    People have always used art to understand themselves better. That is one of the purposes great art serves. Weve all experienced that Aha! moment, when a character in a novel or play does something, and we suddenly see ourselves, often from a new, revealing angle. Great artists understand human nature better than the average person, and they express that understanding better. So we look to them to explain ourselves; ie: to discover our identities.
    Adolescence is a particularly ripe time for this, as we are both actively engaged in the process of discovering who we are, and are usually quite inarticulate about describing said discoveries. Even as we begin to understand ourselves, we often cannot express what we understand. So we look to others to express it for us. We are especially liable to grab onto some song lyric and say, Yes! Thats exactly how I feel. (The band Lush have a great song, called Heavenly Nobodies, about relating (too) closely to a bands lyrics.)
    For a teenager, music is often the first place to look. Music is such a huge part of popular culture that there is no way it wouldnt be part of that search. In addition, popular music, more than any other part of our culture, certainly more than literature, but even more than movies or TV, claims to speak directly to, and even for, youth.
    Rock musicians have always been a kind of older brother or sister to their (teenage) fans -- someone who understood the world at large, and could explain it to you, but who, unlike your parents, and most other adults you encounter) understood what you were feeling and going through.
    Of course, in our adolescence, we are also quite prone to misinterpret lyrics, to assign them meanings based on our own experiences and perspectives which are far from what the musician intended (and this is assuming we even hear the lyrics correctly, as far as the actual words). I believe that such misinterpretation doesnt matter. If the lyrics, in our own interpretation, whatever it might be, help us to understand ourselves, and our lives, better, then they have done their job.
    But lyrics are certainly not the only factor in choosing a favorite band; in fact, they are usually not even the primary factor. There are many other ways to identify with a band.
    A band (or a musical genre) can give us a peer group. In our teens, identity is often a group thing. Certain musical tastes (such as punk or goth) almost come with a built-in identity these days, complete with instructions on how to dress, who to hang out with, even how to act and feel. Others are subtler in their dictates of taste and fashion, but we will often find that those with similar musical tastes are similar to us in other ways.
    Consciously or not, our choice of a favorite band often makes a basic distinction -- am I a conformist or an independent spirit? Is our favorite band the same as everyone elses, or is it a band no one else is championing (perhaps even one most people have never heard of)? I would bet that this simple question can be a remarkable predictor of the eventual direction of ones life. (Perhaps I should take a poll.)
As for why we are so often later embarrassed by our favorite band, not only does our musical taste change, our whole identity changes as well. As we grow, we may discover, or create, an identity far removed from who we (thought we) were as a teenager. We may well be embarrassed by our previous conception of ourself, and everything which went with it, including our musical taste.
    Of course, we also may just have had shitty musical taste as kids.
    Which brings us, finally, to my favorite band in high school. Yes, Ive been rambling theoretically and avoiding admitting it. Am I embarrassed by it? It seems like I should be. In fact, it strikes me as a prime example of youthful taste, the type of band one avoids mentioning later in life.
    My favorite band in high school was... Blue Oyster Cult.
    Are you done laughing yet? Because Im not really all that embarrassed by it. Ill be the first to admit BOC went downhill in their later years, but their first three albums are some of the finest hard rock ever recorded. They were tight, ferocious, complex and melodic, all at the same time. I still listen to them (in fact, Im listening to them as I type this).
    My personal favorite of their albums is their second, Tyranny and Mutation, but that may have much to do with production as either the songs or the playing. The production of their first, self-titled album, is a bit thin, and the third (Secret Treaties) is just a bit too polished for my taste. Unluckily, on their later albums, that polish totally took over.
    I still remember the first time I heard Tyranny and Mutation. My friend Ricky played it for me in his basement bedroom. He knew Id like it, and he was right. They became my favorite band almost from that first spin.
    The album design added to the appeal. The cover featured a bizarre geometric design, all black and silver, which seemed to carry many hidden meanings (as I would soon discover was the case with their lyrics as well). Even the fact that on the B-side of the record the usual red Columbia label had turned black seemed significant. This band promised mystery and dark power before you even heard them.
    Blue Oyster Cult played intelligent heavy metal. I know that may sound like a contradiction in terms, but its true (and wait until I start talking about intelligent punk rock). Their songs were written intelligently, and played that way. Their songs were actual compositions, not just riffs, like much heavy metal. They were complex, and made room for all the musicians in the band to strut their stuff.
    Primary among them was lead guitarist Donald Buck Dharma Roeser, who had a unique style -- fluid, clear, yet fierce. His solos, especially on the live material, built logically and smoothly, yet he could also spit out rapid fire notes like Eddie Van Halen would do a few years later.
    While no one else in the band was a virtuoso like Roeser, they were all talented, and melded those talents into a solid and, as I said, complex whole.
    Although the music snared me, I quickly became enamored of their lyrics. Lyrically, they were a challenging band. They used lyrics by people such as Richard Meltzer (noted rock critic) and Patti Smith, who was going out with band member Allen Lanier at the time. My first introduction to Patti Smith was through the lyrics to their songs Baby Ice Dog and Career of Evil. Even the lyrics penned by the band showed an intelligence above that usually found in heavy metal, although they did deal with typical heavy metal subject matter. That is, various forms of evil, ranging from motorcycle gangs to serial killers, Nazis to drugs, Satanism to simple jealousy.
    But the real challenge, often, was figuring out just what they were singing about. Their albums did not come with lyric sheets, but they did provide an address where you could write for the lyrics. When I wrote, (of course I wrote off to them) I received a computer print out, which I rapidly set to deciphering. Many of the songs were obvious; often they told little stories about drugs deals gone bad, and bomber pilots on their last mission, and fugitives on the run.
    On the other hand, many of them were not obvious. They dared you to figure out what they were about. In the tradition of the best poetry, there always seemed to be more going on in the lyrics than they said on the surface. There were hints at secret societies, occult worship, drug rituals and other mysterious goings on that were never fully explained. Further, there was a sense of a meta-narrative, some larger story which tied all their lyrics together. (Although here I may be, again, trying to read a deeper meaning into song lyrics than the writer intended. The meta-narrative I looked for was probably an illusion. However, much like the Paul is dead thing, I suspect it was a cleverly created illusion; they knew what they were doing when they repeated names and images from song to song.)
    At this point I have to stop, and reconsider the whole thesis of this essay. For as I look back, I have to wonder what Blue Oyster possibly has to say about my identity, either as a teenager, or its later development as an adult. Why was I drawn to all this negativity? Ive certainly never been a violent person, never been drawn to Satanism. In fact, Ive really been an optimistic, positive person for most of my life.
    I can offer some quick answers, without even touching the question of evil and negativity. Hard rock always appealed to me because of its energy level; energy has always been a key component of my musical taste.
    And then theres that question of conformity. While I had friends who always appreciated the band, I knew nobody who also considered them their favorite. It was a way of establishing my unique taste. Of course, I expected everyone to catch up to my taste eventually; I kept waiting for them to become the biggest band around. Ever since I saw a friend come into our 9th grade classroom carrying a copy of Alice Coopers Killer, I wanted to be the one who was ahead of the curve.
    The lyrics were another appeal. For a budding wordsmith, BOC lyrics contained much to like, and much to learn from. The challenges of the lyrics, their seeming mysteries, provided me with hours of entertainment, attempting to decipher them. Although I wasnt really looking for writing lessons, Im sure I learned a lot about how to make words mean more than they said on the surface (or, at least, how to make words seem to say more). Even the straightforward stories were lessons in economy of detail (Then Came the Last Days of May tells the story of a drug bust with just barely enough details to clue you in to whats happening).
    While both of these are certainly indicators of the person I became, neither explains why, specifically, Blue Oyster Cult. There were plenty of other bands which could have confirmed my outsider status, and, to be honest, much better examples of lyrical complexity and mystery.
    Part of determining who you are is finding out who you are not. Music (or any art) can be used to explore parts of your personality which are not dominant, to experience vicariously actions and emotions you would never indulge in reality. You can find out as much about yourself through this as through listening to songs which you relate to completely.
    Throughout my life as a music fan, I have found myself enjoying music which expressed the opposite of my overt personality. That is, negative, nihilistic music. This is especially true in my later adolescence, when I discovered punk rock (and I will go into it in much ore depth when I discuss Iggy Pop in my next installment). It seems I was looking for something in music which I did not find in myself. It was a combination of experimentation (could I possibly be this negative person? or do I at least possess a strong negative side?) and catharsis (working out my negative impulses in an acceptable manner, loud and late at night in my bedroom). Of course, at the time I never thought it through in such detail, or really any detail at all. I just liked negative music, and then went on my smiling, optimistic way.
    Although, in the end, Blue Oyster Cult were not really evil. They were middle-class white guys playing at evil. They were intellectualizing it. Just like me; I had (have) a tendency to intellectualize everything. So maybe they were, after all, a perfect fit with my personality.

    B: Judgment

    I finally got to see Blue Oyster Cult in February 1974. (Hey, it felt like finally, theyd been my favorite band for a year already. Besides, they were a New York band and, unlike, say, The Rolling Stones, played Rochester regularly.) They opened for Black Sabbath. I walked around for a month before the concert bragging about how they were going to upstage Sabbath.
    In my opinion, they did. That is, in my opinion as a fanatical 16 year old BOC fan. Sure, I could justify my opinion; in fact I did writing in my journal that BOC was the more complex band, that Sabbath were simplistic and repetitive. And I found support in the review in the local paper (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) which not only agreed with me, but actually used the same word, complex, to describe BOC.
    Ive had no occasion to revise my opinion since. But do I even have the ability? My memories of the concert are so colored by my taste at the time that they are incomplete. That is, I barely remember anything of Sabbaths set; I have just a vague memory of thudding noise. I suspect that, having already seen the band I came to see, I didnt even pay full attention to them. (Although I do maintain my bragging rights to having seen the early, Ozzy-led Black Sabbath.)
    I next saw BOC a year later, opening for Rod Stewart and the Faces, a mismatch so off the charts that comparison is meaningless. I know I enjoyed BOC more, but I also remember that the Faces put on a great show themselves -- an explosion of sloppy, drunken glory. My memories of this concert are further colored by historical considerations -- it was Stewarts last tour with the Faces, by summer Ron Wood was a Rolling Stone. So I almost feel obliged to upgrade the Faces show to match its significance.
    A year later the roles were reversed -- Blue Oyster Cult was now the headliner, over a relatively new Rush. This was the best BOC show I ever saw. With the extra time the top spot allowed, and some maturity as a band, they really opened up. Roesers solos had a clarity and development I had never heard in them before. I remember a long, and, frankly, beautiful solo on Astronomy that seemed the epitome of a well-controlled composition.
    And now I got to listen to other people talk about how great Rush was, about how they had totally upstaged BOC. By now I had also acquired some degree of maturity; rather than argue I just nodded my head knowingly.
    A year after that, I saw my final BOC concert. This time, they were definitely the ones upstaged. This was a huge stadium concert, and they were again headlining, over Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ted Nugent and some really sucky band called Starz. Even as a huge BOC fan, it struck me as a little strange that they were billed over Skynyrd.
    There were two problems. One, even Nugent put on a more energetic show than BOC. Actually, that shouldnt be too surprising -- energetic shows were Nugents forte, and he did not disappoint that day. But BOC seemed particularly lacking in energy.
    But the real problem was that BOCs big finale, with which they closed every show, was to get everyone in the band, even the drummer, lined up on the front of the stage jamming on guitar. Even if it wasnt the musical highlight of their show, it was an impressive piece of showmanship.
    But Skynyrd closed their set with a four guitar rave-up on Freebird which was impressive musically, and would have been hard to top. So BOC didnt even try, they just dropped that part of their show.
    Besides, my musical taste was changing by then. I wasnt so enamored of Blue Oyster Cult any more. I would also argue they were changing. Agents of Fortune, their latest album, had been a disappointment. Musically, it was much more polished, almost poppy. And their lyrics had become less subtle, more cliched, almost a parody of their earlier songs. And their new single, Godzilla, only continued this trend. It was a cartoon song about a cartoon character, and I felt them almost turning into a cartoon themselves.
    Although Lynyrd Skynyrd werent really my taste either (punk rock was only months away at this point), I was more capable of some objectivity now. Skynyrd simply put on a better show, and I recognized that.
    So now its time for some grand statement on musical taste and objectivity, can we really be objective about our musical tastes? But I let you draw your own conclusions.
    I will say that very soon David Bowie and Iggy Pop had taken over as my favorite musical artists (and have remained there). I still enjoy BOC (especially those first three albums), but they are consigned into a chapter of my musical history labeled high school.

    Postscript
    After writing this essay, I saw BOC again, for the first time in almost thirty years. They played a small hall (The Grove, in Santa Ana, CA). All the pretension was gone. The best way I can explain this is to point out that, instead of black leather, they all wore blue jeans. They still put on a great show, with lots of soloing from (a now balding) Buck Dharma. They played a variety of songs, drawing from their entire catalog, but especially the first couple of albums. My overall impression was that they were happy to still be playing music after all these years. That they still put on a great show because they still enjoy it.

copyright 2008 G. Murray Thomas