I’ve gone a little crazy with CD purchases lately, mostly trolling through the used Cd bins. A trip to Northhampton got me the first Byrds boxed set, the new B-52s album, and the Damned’s Phantasmagoria, which you might have noticed was the first (admittedly intermittent) “Album of the week”. Yes, I already had the vinyl, but the CD had two remixes I didn’t have. That version is out of print, and it was only seven bucks!!! What was I supposed to do? Not get it? Hah? I’ve also been getting a lot of neat Pink Floyd related stuff, like The Body from Roger Waters and Ron Geesin, a weird 4 song sampler from a recent David Gilmour show that was on PBS, and the Zabriski Point soundtrack, which I’m dying to listen to because it has a whole bunch of “lost” Floyd tracks. I also picked up a CD reissue of the first Sweetwater record, a CD from a German prog band named Jane, and the just released remaster of Perfect Symmetry from Fates Warning.
PERFECT SYMMETRY, Fates Warning 1989
The new CD comes with a bonus disc of demos and a bonus dvd of concert footage. I’m one of the stars of the dvd!
Well, not really. But I think my jaw hit the floor when I looked on the back and saw that some of the concert footage was shot in New Haven, because I was at that show! How cool! A chance for a rendezvous with the much younger me!
The footage was shot in 1989, and in 1989 Fates Warning was second only to Iron Maiden in my personal pantheon of rock gods. Like Maiden, they had endured after the potentially devastating loss of their first singer, John Arch, who stayed on for one more album than Maiden’s Dianno did, departing after the brilliant Awaken the Guardian. Fates came back with Ray Alder and No Exit, an album that got them some Headbanger’s Ball play on MTV with “Silent Cries”, and also had an eleven minute opus in “The Ivory Gate of Dreams”. Their music was riffy but intricate, and the lyrics were introspective and interesting. Perfect Symmetry picked up where No Exit left off in terms of it’s subject matter, with guitarists Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti writing songs about loneliness, alienation, and growing up. PS was the seventh CD I ever owned, the first of their releases that I didn’t own on vinyl.
I watched the concert while on vacation in Maine. I think I saw myself a few times—I think that’s me, the hulking blond brute headbanging and pounding his fist in the air near the front of the stage by Matheos. It’s hard to tell, as there are a number of hulking blond brutes, with hair equally as medieval and long as mine was. I wish I could remember more about the show beyond thinking it was great—not the details of the show as much as the details of my own life from that time period. What was I thinking? What was I feeling? Was I worried about a test or a term paper? Was I going out with Kim the next day? What story was I working on? When was the last time I’d been home? Had I switched majors yet? As I started to scrutinize the footage looking for my younger self I started to worry—what if I looked right in my younger eyes and didn't recognize me?
I don’t even know for certain who I went with, which is terrible. I have a pretty good idea, but I don’t remember. I do remember who I went with to my second Fates Warning concert, though. I remember this because I never made it to the show. My roommate Freddy and I borrowed a car, a VW Rabbit, from a guy that lived on our floor, filled the tank and went. We were about halfway to New Haven when the car started acting funny, so we pulled over and noticed something we should have noticed before, namely that the car was a diesel. Oops! Freddy called his dad, who performed one of the most amazing feats of mechanical might I’ve ever seen—he actually removed the gas tank so he could drain all of the engine-destroying unleaded fuel, replaced the now-dry tank, and poured in a gallon of diesel. We drove back to the dorm, handed over the keys, and held our breath for about a week. Our friend never mentioned having any issues with the car.
I think I was supposed to carry that story to the grave with me. Sorry, Freddy, wherever you are! I miss you, man!
Watching the concert again, I remembered that I thought Ray butchered “The Apparition”, one of my favorite John Arch songs, but that he was devastating on the newer material like “Nothing Left to Say” and “The Ivory Gate of Dreams”. The video evidence seems to corroborate my sometimes Swiss-cheesy memory. Strangely, I own guitar picks from both guitarists from this very show. Matheos’ tossed his to me after one of the acoustic breaks in Ivory Gate of Dreams (this would have been a perfect video moment, alas, the camera’s eye did not witness it)and I found Aresti’s on the floor after the concert. One is blue, one purple—I don’t really know whose is whose--they are pictured below, along with a couple other hard-won picks from my collection:
In the video, a mosh pit breaks out every so often, and a few people dive on the stage and are promptly rushed off by the bouncers. The footage is dark and a little grainy and it is hard to make out any faces other than those right in front of the stage, but from time to time a shaggy Great-Pumpkin like head rises out of the mullet sea and I think that it might be me.
This hazy apparition makes me wish that the dvd had one extra bonus feature—the ability to transport the viewer back in time. What would I say to Young Danny, in the moments between when he’s banging his head against the stage? What would I say to alter the course of his life, which, a few moments before writing this, led to me scanning the Perfect Symmetry DVD for proof of my youth?
I’m reminded of one of Matheos’s lyrics from the album, from the song “Chasing Time”:
I’ve watched in silence
As a stranger within me grew.
Detached and distanced from the day
While youth’s precious years flew.
It doesn’t take me very long to realize that I wouldn’t say anything to young Danny. I’d offer no cautionary tales, no wisdom of ages, nothing that would bump him off his current trajectory, floundering and directionless as it is, awash with heavy metal music, comic books, and static acts. I wouldn’t change a thing.
But maybe I would shoulder my way through the crowd, throw my own fist in the air, and bang my head alongside of him.