Sunday, June 08, 2008

My Brother



I don't usually get too personal here, but I was rooting around some guy's garage yesterday, when I came upon a record I've been searching for for a long time. It's a weird 1969 concept album by Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons called ""Genuine Imitation Life Gazette." I've never listened to it. It's the cover that's important.

The 4 Seasons were from the same neck of the woods that I come from. They were, first and foremost, Jersey boys. For the cover of "GILG" they did a photo shoot in Military Park in Newark, NJ. My brother Tom was 18 at the time, and he cut school to go to the shoot. That's him sticking his head out of the crowd.



Tom was 9 years older than me, and I alway thought he was the coolest person I knew. He was a teenager in the '60s, and there's nothing cooler than that. He always had great taste in music. I remember him getting mad at me for changing the radio in our bedroom to the teenybopper WABC. He preferred the much more boss WMCA, home of the Good Guys.

He introduced me to so much great music, mostly through my listening to his records without him knowing. Early on it was Motown, Sam Cooke, and The Beatles. Later on it was Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, The Family, Zappa, and King Krimson.

When it was time to deal with the draft, Tom joined the National Guard, where he learned to be a mechanic. After he got out he smoked a lot of pot, drove around in a beat-to-shit van, lived on a boat and a farm, and generally raised hell. When I hit college we started hanging out together, taking road trips fueled by coffee, cigarettes, cocaine, and God knows what else. I took him to see The Cramps in Trenton in '81, and he showed up in a white leisure suit, which in retrospect was pretty punk.

Unfortunately, Tom never know his limits when it came to drugs, or anything else, for that matter. He became a junkie, and contracted HIV around 1983. Most anyone else would have faded away within a few years, but Tom was indestructible. He survived several bouts of pneumonia, got run over by a car, got arrested several times on drug charges. He managed to get himself together, got married and had a son. He survived for 25 years, dying last month at the age of 57.

A few years before he died he fulfilled a lifelong dream of buying a house in Central America. Ironically, it may have been there that he contracted the virus that finally brought him down. I hope he's somewhere smoking a joint by a palm tree, grooving to Bob Marley. For me, at least I have record cover.

3 Comments:

Dearest MadCat Joey, love the album cover with your bro on it, touched by reading about him, hugs and kisses and warm wishes, love, etc Ruby

By Blogger Ruby Re-Usable, at 9:14 AM  

what an amazing find! thanks for sharing some wonderful memories.

x

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By Blogger sexy, at 8:35 AM  

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