(passed on 11/20/09)
November 21, 2009
It wasn't as if it were a total shock.
It was more of a tragic inevitability held at bay by denial and lack
of real contact. So, it was merely a vaguely anticipated surprise of
bitter sadness. One that had become almost routine in the chain of deaths
and grieving that accompanies the loss that we feel for those we have
lost daily movement with but have reserved as a matter of course, a
place in our hearts. A hero from a time when we were going for it and
not just waiting for it.
I last saw Phil at Alpo's wake—a
fitting prologue to the tragedy, literally and symbolically to his illness
and loss of his voice. I don't usually shed tears for a fallen loved
one till months or even years after the fact. But in fitful dreams last
night he kept appearing to me. The shock of red hair pressed beneath
the cocky scally cap, the tinted aviator glasses in front of eyes so
full of life and optimism that I can only think of one word—bravery.
Against the armor plated world of pretension he struck repeated hits
with only his bare hands, his inimitable voice and open tuned Gibson
SG knockoff. He was the Hank Williams of my personal mythology. It's
the wrong time to brag—but I will because it evidences my respect,
my love for the guy. I found him in his mother's basement in Lynn hunched
over a reel to reel four-track with a butt and a bud and a rag tag repertoire
of songs. Later I introduced him to his future bandmates at the Summit
Club—Ricky Bobby and Punk—yes dear reader I had a minor role in
the inception of the Dawgs. When most of the rest of the scene were
miming tepid new wave posings, Phil was playing hardcore rock ’n’
roll written from the heart. Like a musical Hemingway—bulls, blood,
booze and broads.
A lot of people recognized his talent
but he never got the recognition he deserved.
Recently I was dragged to the movies
to see Pirate Radio—a cute little confection that purports
to be a tale about the beginnings of modern rock. I was disconcertingly
annoyed by its happy go lucky irreverence and cookie cutter rebellion.
It was an affront to my personal vanity. As an antidote I conjured up
the image of Phil and consoled myself to knowing somebody so real. The
moviegoers around me chuckled unknowingly at the saccharine platitudes,
and I thought to myself, too late, that I really must give Phil a call.
As the movie ended there was a "sum-uppance"
that said something to the effect of, "Pirate radio died
in 1966 but the dream lives on"—yeah bought by the Disney channel!
Phil, a real pirate, has died but lives
Love you buddy,