Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jello 'n' Me

Last week was very strange. It was a week when it seemed as if the life of an American punk rock icon and mine were somehow intertwined. This is what happened:

As usual of a morning I sat with my coffee and breakfast having a surf of the news, entertainment sites and music blogs I enjoy each day. It's my routine before ablutions and heading off to work at the music store. One music blog I check in on is called Cover Me. As the name would suggest it is devoted exclusively to cover versions, which I have a fondness for and compile CDs of. One regular Cover Me feature is They Say It's Your Birthday, which "celebrates an artist's special day with other people singing his or her songs." On Monday June 17, 2013, the featured artist was the aforementioned punk rock icon, one Jello Biafra, who turned 55 that day. For better or worse, here are the covers of his songs.

It had been a quiet day at work. Neil and I busied ourselves with the usual jobs in a routine, ho-hum kind of way, until at around 3:00pm a balding, greying middle-aged man dressed head-to-foot in black walked in and caught my attention. With the punk star's image fresh in my mind from two days prior, as he poked about in the 45s rack I thought, 'Wow, that guy really looks like Jello Biafra.' Then when he spoke to me to ask where the Canadian punk records were, I immediately knew it was Jello! Crazy!

What the hell was Jello Biafra doing in l'il ol' Nanaimo? I remember my boss Steve telling me that Jello had been in his store many years before, when it was located in Country Club Mall, buying a bunch of exotica/lounge records, so I asked him what brought him to town. It transpires he has friends in our community, and was here to see them as part of his birthday celebrations. Anyway, we left him to it and he listened to a pile of Japanese surf/60s R 'n' B and other cool records until right up when we closed three hours later, dropping $290 to considerably boost a quiet day's takings.

A box from our Ottawa supplier J-Mac arrived in the afternoon. As I do with every delivery, I opened it to inspect the contents prior to processing the order. Amongst the LPs were two copies each of Jello's Dead Kennedys' "Bedtime for Democracy" and "Frankenchrist." This may not seem particular unusual - this is a record store, after all - but the fact is we had not had these titles in for the longest time. The latter, in fact, is out of print, so we were lucky to track these copies down at all. All things considered thus far this week, I looked at the records and thought, "Hmmm... what the hell is going on here?!"

Susan and I (with our friends Art, Carol, Pete and Heidi) attended the awesome Campbell Bay Music Festival on gorgeous Mayne Island on Friday and Saturday. There were hundreds of people there, arriving steadily all day long on both days. The bands were amazing, pretty much keeping my eyes glued to the stage the entire time (Friday included), but for some reason that surely can only be explained by cosmic intervention, at some indeterminate point I suddenly felt compelled to look to where the festival entrance was located a way down the field. And wouldn't you know it, the guy walking through the gate at that precise moment was wearing a Dead Kennedys t-shirt bearing the classic DK logo.

Trust me, chills ran down my spine when I saw this guy. Bear in mind that the Campbell Bay Music Festival is a very folk music-oriented, generally rootsy affair, and despite its DIY ethic is as far removed from political hardcore punk rock as can be imagined. There are lots of hippies and crusties present, and nary a punk in sight. In truth I saw very few band shirts or merchandise of any description, regardless of genre, so this Dead Kennedys t-shirt was something of an anomaly in this situation. Really, if someone was spotted wearing a Belle & Sebastian t-shirt it would have likely been deemed edgy.

What does this all mean? Why did all this Jello stuff arise in one week? Does Jello perhaps have some part to play in my future, his presence and the inadvertent Cover Me heads-up presenting the first clues...? Is he aware of this? Or do I have some part to play in Jello's future, and everything that happened last week was the universe's way of informing me? Of all people and all musicians, why Jello Biafra? Because Susan is the service advisor at an automotive repair garage, does the DK's song "Trust Your Mechanic" suddenly have some significance for us?

Yeah, what a weird week! Coincidence has played quite a part in my life at times, and in weeks like June 17-22, 2013, such occurrences can really mess with your head. Because coincidence is obviously all this is, but coincidence(s) so extraordinary that it is easy to think there is something more 'designed' at play! Ah, whatever... but in the middle of it all I did get to wish Jello Biafra a belated happy birthday, which is presumably not something I'll get that many more opportunities in life to do!