Joe Clifford’s a writer. He’s been to jail, but never prison. www.joeclifford.com
MTV’s 120 Minutes started airing around the time I turned 18, and I was introduced to this new brand of music. Up until then I’d been raised on a steady musical diet of mainstream radio, classic rock, Springsteen, the Stones, the Who, shit you can find on the dial just about any time of day, anywhere in the country.
I lived in a small farm town on the East Coast. I had a band. Mostly we noodled around with spacey jams and Pink Floyd covers in my parents’ basement. But with 120 Minutes came an introduction to the Connells, Material Issue, Soul Asylum, the Smiths, and suddenly we had a direction. Exchanging 18-minute shapeless dirges for tightly crafted 3-minute power pop, we started to take off, and began playing around the state, getting some press. And with that came the confidence…and the girls.
I became too big for my little farm town. I’d already discovered Kerouac and wanted to hit the open road for adventures, and like any 18-year-old with a band, I thought I could be a rock ’n’ roll star. But where to go? New York? LA? Then I heard the Replacements’ “Left of the Dial.”
Pretty girl keep growin’ up,
Playin’ make-up, wearin’ guitar,
Growing old in a bar,
Headed out to San Francisco,
definitely not L.A.
There’s never been a more ragged, raw voice in rock than Paul Westerberg, who would become as influential an author as I’d ever read. Took it as my cue. San Francisco. Packed up my shit, and took off cross-country with my girl.
Then like Neil Young, I hit the city, and I lost my band…
I’m 41 now, a home-owning dad in the East Bay Hills. I’ve got a couple scars, a few tattoos, and whole bunch of stories. And I can honestly say I would not be here but for one little song…
♬ Listen to Left of the Dial ♫
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