The How I Learned Series features writers, storytellers, comedians, and other raconteurs holding forth on a different theme. It all happens every last Wednesday of the month, and sometimes more than that, which basically means you will have the best night of your life on those nights, repeatedly.



Behind The Music: How I Learned

Monday, June 28th, 2010


Hello! Last week's music themed How I Learned was delightful and bananas! We had grand ruminations, live music, funny stories, dramatic reenactments and visual aids. What more do we as a people want out of life? If you were there, THANK YOU. Here are some sweet, sweet memories for your virtual scrapbook. If you missed it, here's a roundup. It's alright to cry. There's always next month.

I'd wanted to do a music theme ever since I started this series 18 months ago. After all, not everybody knows that I was conceived in 1972 in London after a Jon Hendricks concert. I guess the vocalese orignator's live scat really made my parents want to do it. (Gross.)

Also, in case you’ve ever wondered who goes to see Johnny Mathis in concert, the answer is THIS LADY. (If you could see me right now you'd know that I am pointing to myself.) Yes, I went to see Johnny Mathis, along with my mother and her gay husband—my stepfather. In fact, I was taken to most of the concerts the adults in my family went to so that by the time I was 10 years old I’d not only seen Johnny Mathis, but also Ray Charles, Gil Scott-Heron, Tina Turner, The Pointer Sisters, Beatlemania with Marshall Crenshaw as John Lennon, Lou Rawls, Dionne Warwick and Miss Diana Ross. I was also taken to a generous amount of musicals as a child, not the least of which was the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls. I know what you’re thinking: "Is she actually a gay man?" The answer is: Most likely, yes.

I feel like the first music video I ever saw was On The Loose by Saga, thanks to my babysitter, Stacey DeMaio, and the dawn of MTV. The first LP I ever bought with my own money was 1999 by Prince. The first cassettes I bought were The Cure’s The Head on The Door, The Smiths’ Meat is Murder, and Squeeze, Singles: 45’s and Under. The first rock autograph I ever scored? Glenn Frey. (It’s okay to be jealous.) My first Led Zeppelin album? Naturally, Led Zeppelin IV. A friend who I've known since high school came over one night when I had Houses of The Holy playing. She said, “This is like when we were 16 and had sketch books.” It's true. Led Zeppelin has, like, 5 songs on the soundtrack-in-progress to my adolescence. It's a box set. And don't even get me started on The Cult.

I’ve never understood people who aren’t utterly transported by music. Similarly, I never understood people who made mixtapes without putting the song titles and the artists on the back of the cassette. I seriously doubted their commitment to The Music. June's How I Learned Music Could Change My Life was all about our commitment to The Music.

ERIN BRADLEY, getting by with a little help from her friend (sorry, I couldn't help myself!) who served as a "human film strip," read to us about an elaborate (and slightly rapey?) fantasy about Axl Rose, which she concocted when she was 14 in order to help her fall asleep at night. That girl has one vivid imagination I can really get behind.



DANIEL NESTER, truly a force to be reckoned with, shared his mega obsession with Queen by reading vignettes from his book God Save My Queen. He then introduced his friend, Gene Cawley, who wasn't afraid to totally rock out with an acoustic version of Queen's anthemic love song, "Fat Bottomed Girls."

"Get on your bikes and ride!"

Rolling Stone contributor and Love is a Mix Tape author, the great ROB SHEFFIELD, read a personal essay about being a young, impressionable fan of The Smiths. He thought Morrissey knew the answers to everything, only to feel devastatingly betrayed at the realization that he didn't. The piece was from Rob's forthcoming book (which you should obviously buy at the same time that you buy Erin's new book, Every Rose Has its Thorn, and Dan Nester's latest, How to be Inappropriate), called Talking to Girls About Duran Duran. It comes out in July.

"'You should never go to them. Let them come to you. Just like I do. Just like I do.' Jesus. Thanks A LOT, Morrissey."


Uke-toting comic, BEN LERMAN, simultaneously dirty and adorbs, relayed the life-changing night he survived a Grateful Dead concert and inadvertently came out not just on the other side, but out of the closet. Then he sang an original song--actually, a parody of an Ace of Base hit (lord, remember them?)--about being faced, literally, with a lady's labia. Yep.


Also, remember when I told you about this event before it happened, and I said that I was going to have a special guest? Well, I did! And it was Michael Hutchence! Actually, it was my friend ANDY HORWITZ, but I'm pretty sure no one could tell the difference.

Andy, a writer/performer, creator of Culturebot.org, Performing Arts Curator for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and star of The Promise of New York, helped me share a piece of INXS fan fiction I "crafted" in 1987 at the age of 15. Andy blew me away with his masterful interpretation of the late Michael Hutchence.

Needless to say, the story is majorly cringe-inducing and the embarrassment factor is off the charts. But, obviously, that's how committed I am to The Music.


Thank you to every single one of you who came out to support and enjoy How I Learned last week. You guys rock my world.

Please join us on July 28th for How I Learned I was Right All Along! Details coming soon.

xoxo Blaise

PS. If you haven't already, join the mailing list by dropping me a line at howilearned@gmail.com to get event announcements and reminders--that's only two emails per month!


How I Learned photos by: Jon Boulier