If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly

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Seeing a copy of Def Leppard’s Pyromania album on vinyl this evening made me happy. It took me back to when I was a teenager┬áliving in my parents’ house in Jerome, Illinois.

I don’t have too many memories of that time in my life, other than wanting to move away and live somewhere else. Anywhere else. And I knew that starting college was the only chance I was going to have for making that happen.

So I did what I could to bide my time. I kept my grades up, but I would be a liar if I said I worked very hard at it. And I found escape in the music of the day. Def Leppard came along at the end of my freshman year of high school, and from then on it was a procession of Motley Crue, AC/DC, and what are known today as “hair metal” bands. There was some Springsteen thrown in for good measure, and some Led Zeppelin–lots of Led Zeppelin, really–and others like Night Ranger and Loverboy and even some Ratt. I owned at least two Ratt albums on vinyl, back in the days of my high school angst.

I never owned Def Leppard on vinyl, though. I had a copy of Pyromania on cassette, and even a copy of their first album On Through the Night on cassette. And I was in college by the time Hysteria came out, so I never owned that one at all. Loved the music, but never got around to buying it.

I took the copy of Pyromania out of its inner sleeve and looked at the grooves of the vinyl. I was reminded of what a tactile experience it was to hold an LP in your hands, so you could put it on the turntable and drop the needle onto it. CDs are smaller, and the feeling is less pronounced. And a cassette hardly felt that way at all. Maybe it was the plastic involved, or the portability of a tape that allowed it to be carried around in a car. Vinyl LPs never had any of that. You kept them in your room, or wherever the turntable happened to be.

As I was looking at the grooves of the record, my eyes wandered into the middle, where the needle would have gone to after the last song of a side was through playing. There were always a series of little scribbles or numbers in there, but nothing worth looking at too much. But Pyromania–at least the UK pressing of it that I was holding in my hands–contained a special little treat that I, as a cassette owner of the album, knew nothing about.

On side 1, in small but still legible capital letters, the words “IF YOU’RE GONNA BE A BEAR” appeared. I got a good laugh when I saw it, because it seemed like a weird thing to have on a record album. But then I started thinking about it: If your’re gonna be a bear, then what? The obvious thing to do was flip it over and see if there was anything else. And it turns out, there was. “BE A GRIZZLY” appeared in a similar place on side two.

The quote appeared in the movie Cannonball Run, which came out before Def Leppard’s album did, and so it’s possible–although not terribly likely–that someone was making a reference to that movie. The quote was originally attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, so perhaps whoever did this had that as their source of inspiration. But whatever it was, it felt like an old secret was revealed to me tonight, and I’m happy to spend a few moments writing about it here.

Unta Glieben Glauten Glomen….

I know this much is true

At the end of a long day at work today, I faced the prospect of a long commute to get home. It always seems like getting to work takes 15 minutes in the morning, and getting home takes an hour in the evening. Some of that is psychological–does anybody look forward to work more than home?–and some is because I don’t take the tollway on the way home. When the tolls are doubled, as they were here some time ago, it makes taking the tollway each way seem like an extravagance.

To pass the time on the way home today, I had a CD filled with hits from the 80s. Songs that, whether I loved or hated them back in the 80s themselves, are now a treasured part of my past. It’s very bizarre to think of Billy Squier as being a treasure, but two minutes of FM hit radio in 2012 is enough to make me start singing “Everybody Wants You.”

At one point, about five or six songs into the CD, a song started to skip, and I wasn’t able to listen to it. What surprised me today, and probably would have disgusted the ┬áteenager I once was, was that I was disappointed when I couldn’t hear Spandau Ballet’s “True.”

Back in the 1980s, I listened to Def Leppard, Judas Priest, the Scorpions, Quiet Riot, Night Ranger, and pretty much any other “hair metal” band that was on the radio or on MTV. I listened to some other things too, like Prince, Bruce Springsteen, and Run-DMC. So I wasn’t locked into just one type of music, but I did have my preferences. And Spandau Ballet wasn’t among them.

But things changed over time. I was once a simmering cauldron of confusion, anxiety, frustration, insecurities, bravado, and stupidity, with a thick outer layer of smart-ass holding it all together. I was waiting for my life to start back then, oblivious to the fact that I was already living it, and once those teen-aged days were gone, they weren’t coming back again. I actually wanted that to happen back then, but now I wish I had found some way to enjoy the moment a bit more than I actually did.

So the me that once hated Spandau Ballet, because they didn’t have long hair and guitar solos, is gone. In his place is someone who’s lived enough to know more about how the world is, and how people are, and how things turn out the way they’re supposed to, whether you see them coming or you don’t. Someone who can appreciate a catchy melody and a nice sentiment in the lyrics. And someone who is a lot more comfortable in his own skin than that kid from three decades ago.

The next song played without a hitch (“She’s a Beauty” by the Tubes), and before too long I was back at home, living a life that the teen-aged me might find interesting, or boring, or perhaps someplace in between. But at least there’s now room in it for a song by Spandau Ballet.