Thankfully, the testosterone-fueled bellow came first—as did the sound of a revving engine—to give me a split-second chance to react. There was no second attack wave. There seldom was. It was all about savagely vocal indignation, a hand-launched missile of some sort, and a tires-screeching getaway amidst a chorus of laughter or yee-haws.
This time, I was only an hour or so north of the city where I was born—San Francisco—and I remember feeling a little betrayed that I was assaulted while still in striking distance of the place I called “home.” But, in 1977, when punk rock was a vile cacophony of nothing created by losers to play for other losers, wearing a leather jacket, having just one pierced ear, and sporting a head full of spiked magenta hair qualified me for freak status and a wake-up call from a flying chunk of gravel.
The silly thing was that I knew I was wearing the “colors” simply because I truly liked the look, and I adored being part of any musical community that would have me. Society had little to fear from me. I was still living with mom and dad—a middle-class college student who toiled through journalism and romantic-poetry courses, drove a ’64 Falcon, held a part-time job, and had a sweet Italian girlfriend. I was also burning to play music, and punk was my way in. I wouldn’t be able to hack it around Eric Clapton, Steve Howe, or Jimmy Page, but I could write simple songs, bash chords on a guitar, and sing badly. Amazingly, it all worked, and soon I was touring the regional scene and recording vinyl 45s on actual tape. I was a working musician—a hard-working musician whose ambition was pushing him to write more, play more, record more, and succeed more. I probably wanted the same thing the kids in the trucks in all the places where they scream and throw rocks at freaks wanted: a good life, lived honestly, doing something I loved. But, of course, I had magenta hair.
One day in July 2006, I showed this month’s cover to an acquaintance. He said, “I am so tired of all these tattooed weirdos with piercings up their wazoos.”
Suddenly, I remembered the seemingly countless days spent in inhospitable towns back when I wore ripped t-shirts and leathers and boots and makeup and jewelry and fluorescent hair color.“Yeah,” I smiled. “What are those kids thinking?”