When I was about 17 or 18, I spent a couple of weeks during the summer working at a “fun park”, the kind of place where they have mini-golf and go karts and so-on. Sounds alright, doesn’t it?
But the park wasn’t open at the time. It was dilapidated and horrible. These awful people had purchased as some kind of tax shelter and were trying to fix it up so they could re-open the place. It was down a dirt road on the other side of a river. It was a nightmare. It was the kind of place where childhood dreams die in front of you.
My job was to cut and rake what felt like an endless expanse of grass and weeds and haul it away, while the owner mocked me mercilessly (he was convinced that I was gay). He would walk out and see me every few hours and spend his valuable time calling me a wimp, when he wasn’t chain-smoking and making racist remarks about the other workers.
The only saving grace to this horrible purgatorial summer employment was my Sony Discman (yes, I am 31 years old). And during this time, I listened to two albums obsessively. The first was “Are You Experienced”, one of the greatest debut albums of all time, in my opinion. But the one that fueled my rebellion and rage was “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath. I dug into those songs like they were the only thing that would quash my daily misery. And they did.
I would always skip “Iron Man” and the title track. Anyone who grew up in a small town with one FM radio station, in the pre-internet era, had heard those songs enough; they were the ones that would always get played about 7 times a day. You could turn on the radio for an hour and be guaranteed that you’d hear at least one of them. And they’re the most boring songs on the album.
But the second side of that album was a revelation. “Rat Salad” with its knotty riffs and its huge drum fills. “Hand Of Doom”, with its sinister blues drive. “Faeries Wear Boots”, with its crazy time-shifts and that mammoth funky shuffle. And above all, the simple magic of Toni Iommi, the man who taught us all to TURN IT UP. His playing was so beautifully pure, so elemental, so deceptively straightforward. It’s the sound that spawned a thousand sonic worlds. It was like a black hole that sucked all of rock and roll into its singularity. It kept me sane and gave voice to my senseless pre-adulthood rage.
After a few weeks in this terrible job, I told the owner that he was a racist, sexist, abusive piece of garbage. I quit and never went back.
Tonight, I will sit at the feet of the master, as the immortal Black Sabbath takes the stage in Hamilton, ON. I never thought I would see them, ever. Thanks one of my oldest friends, a long-held dream will be fulfilled.
Full report coming soon.