17 January 2008

8+

"Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" by Iron Maiden which clocks in at 9:53

I didn't want to listen to Iron Maiden, but I had to. No choice. I listened because my most basic survival instincts told me to. See, there was this "kid" in homeroom with me in 7th grade - not quite a bully in the classical sense of the term (most likely because he wasn't smart enough to put together the facts of his own existence and realize that he was, indeed, made to be a bully), but pretty much as close to being a bully as one could get while still maintaining some sense of niceness, innocence, and friendship. Not that he was my "friend" per se, but he kind of demanded to be just that for those few minutes we were in homeroom each day.

He always talked to me, from the first minute of the first day of school right up until the bell rang signifying that it was time to leave the sanctity of homeroom and venture out into classes with teachers whose intent was not to count heads and take attendance, but to actually teach. Which was fine by me, even though it made me completely uncomfortable, because I was a "new kid" that year. I'd take whatever friendship I could get at the time, be it an Acromegalysaurus Rex, a Neanderthal metalhead, a 32 year old man taking 7th grade classes for the 19th year in a row who strangely happened to share his name with a well-known brand of American whiskey, or all of the above. If you haven't guessed it yet, this fella in homeroom with me was an "all of the above". And then some. Every time I heard his name called I paused and felt the oddest combination of awe and pity, I think we all did, for here was a "kid" who shared his name with a famous product and who wore more facial hair than our school's janitor. Imagine the respect a thirteen-year-old boy would give to someone if their name was, say, Kawasaki Dirt Bike. Right? Now, how about someone named after an adult beverage?! Pretty rad.

(I'm not going to disclose his true identity here on the internets, so for the purpose of this exercise, we'll simply change this person's name to Old Grand Dad and move forward from there. In many ways, this would've been a more fitting name for this man-child than the one he was given, so this should work just fine.)

Our homeroom desks were arranged in the most predictable of formats: the alphabetical row system. Old Grand Dad's seat was right next to mine and I could smell him every day. It's how I started the day - cup of coffee and the morning paper? No thanks, I'll take the stinky pituitary mutant please. And this particular mutation, our Old Grand Dad, he emitted baaad smells. Adult smells. Each morning, same deal. That classroom might as well have been the inside of Ted Kennedy's toilet the day after St. Patrick's Day, the way this "kid" smelled. That's right, "kid". I use the term lightly when applying it to this behemoth. He looked, and smelled, more like a competitor in the World's Strongest Man competition than he did your average middle-schooler. I can't lie, I wish I could, but he didn't smell like something semi-cute and overtly humorous (such as "soup", as the poor other-girl in Juno famously smelled); no, Old Grand Dad reeked of alcohol and cigarettes and stale vomit and the interior of an aging double wide. Every single day.

That's really just to set the scene however, it's not the essential aspect of this story. Iron Maiden is. At the time I wasn't really sure why Old Grand Dad smelled so much like trash, but I kind of assumed it was because he was over-21 and hitting bars every night. Hey, I did know for a fact that there were two kids in my 7th grade class who were 17 years old, so over-21 didn't seem like that much of a stretch. Stop laughing, we couldn't help it! This was North Carolina in 1988. We'd only really had an education system for 25 years at this point. Anyway, looking back, I'd be willing to bet there was a lot more of John Bender in Old Grand Dad than anything else. It's quite sad, but I betcha he looked and smelled the way he did because that's exactly what his dad/father figure looked and smelled like. At least he had the world of Iron Maiden to escape to.

So there we were, Hagrid and Matty Potter. Old Grand Dad and Matt rather... homeroom pals: Stinky and the Brain. Horton and his Who. Andre the Giant and Mini Me. You get the point. But, I was no dwarf at this time in my life mind you. I was nearly six feet tall in 7th grade, but he was so much larger than me, and played football, and sported the coolest jean jacket in the entire Southeast, and yelled at me every single day in homeroom: half Southern yelp, half scary metal-nut exclamation. A friendly yell, but scary no less. With his face clenched up all tight as if he were risking hemorrhoids to battle constipation, he'd yell over to me. "Hey dude, WOO! Iron Maiden rrrrocks! Woo! Hell yeah." Old Grand Dad was campaigning for this band to become part of my life since the first day he met me. Was there ever even a choice offered to me in regards to listening to Iron Maiden? When he loaned me his cassette copy of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (without me asking for it), did I have any choice but to high-speed dub that sucker and listen to it as if my life depended on it?

Something changed that night during the listening. I listened to the tape and didn't much care for it, but I also smelled the tape. It smelled......amazing! I marveled at the wonder of science that sat before me. Here was an item from the lair of Old Grand Dad himself and yet it didn't smell like the man it came from at all. Battling remarkably powerful forces of stench, this tape somehow maintained that new tape smell. I wanted to use it, and Old Grand Dad himself, as my science fair project. A guaranteed "A" for bravery, if nothing else. But instead, the alluring fragrance of new tape made me give Seventh Son of a Seventh Son a second chance. I still didn't love the record, but I did enjoy it enough to seek out some other albums by Iron Maiden, which led to me discovering at least 5 of their songs I'd eventually fall in love with. All thanks to good smells coming from the house of Old Grand Dad.

I'd like to tell you that the unexpected new tape bouquet also led me to give Old Grand Dad the man-child a second chance. That from this landmark post-Madien moment forward we became best buds and that we still talk to this day, but that's just not true at all. I haven't spoken to him since the final day of homeroom some 20 years ago. But I imagine that somewhere, out there in the warm North Carolina nights, lurks a man jamming out to "Wrathchild" and still striving to complete the 7th grade. Old Grand Dad, this one's for you.

*above photo found HERE

Buy Seventh Son of a Seventh Son on Amazon/on iTunes

EAR FARM's 8+ is a weekly feature that showcases songs longer than 8 minutes. In the recent past these songs were featured on EF's 8+:
Mandy Reid - "Tornado"
Genesis - "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight"
Metallica - "Master of Puppets"
British Sea Power - “Lately”
The Decemberists - “The Mariner's Revenge Song”
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Free Bird"
Ludwig van Beethoven - "Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 - Allegretto"
Gioachino Rossini - "La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie)"

To see a full list of every song featured in EAR FARM's 8+ click HERE.

4 comments:

Matt said...

I meant, but forgot, to include this allusion...the first time I ever met Old Grand Dad, first time I ever smelled him, totally went slightly like this.

Anonymous said...

lmao...picturing you and old grand dad.

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