Murder Machines Strike Again

This time I’ll let my President speak for me.

PopeLollapolooza 2015 in Philadelphia

Our reporter at Logan CircleI’m among the hundreds of thousands on Philadelphia’s JFK Parkway near Logan Circle, watching on a jumbotron as pope Francis, at Philly’s Independence Hall—standing at the very same lecturn as Abe Lincoln used to make the Gettysburg Address—addresses the millions of Americans watching in person and at home on TV.

To paraphrase his speech, I think Francis just said to Donald Trump and all the idiots who follow him: SUCK IT! The theme is immigration and religious freedom, and Francis is very succinctly rebuking the current Trumpesque sentiment of vile immigrant bashing. It’s a nice speech. You have to know Spanish to follow in real time as the English subtitles are minutes behind Francis, which has the non-Hispanic folk scratching their heads while all the Spanish speakers in the crowd, tens, hell, maybe hundreds of thousands of of them, are wildly clapping and screaming joyfully. Sarah Palin is probably pissed he was’t speaking American. I’ve clapped loudly at several of his main points.

My take on this pope:

The man has tremendous charisma and a quiet, beautiful manner that made many around me turn to tears as he spoke. A hispanic woman near me shouted in Spanish, “He’s so CUTE!” He seems genuine and not much of a political actor, moreover he wisely avoided making any radical statements that would set off the American right wing. I came to this not knowing anything about Francis and left thinking he’s a great man who says some beautiful things, inspiring things, though I am not a member of his religion nor do I particularly agree with much of its doctrine. But his words were powerful and moving. If, of course, you understand Spanish, and I do understand enough to have gotten the gist of what he said.

Francis is a pinko socialist like me on many social issues, not against capitalism as much as for a more regulated form that lessens the wide gap between rich and poor. His call for noblesse oblige, in other words the well-to-do among us reaching out to the poor and helping them, was inspiring. Then he called out specifically to Hispanics: Do not be afraid to assert your language and culture! THAT was inspiring, and all the Hispanics around me were crying out his name, or “Si, Papa!” There was a massive flood of Latino tears in Philly today.

I think he’s a good man leading a church that may not agree with his left-leaning ideals; there are too many who don’t agree with Francis in the halls of the Vatican and certainly the more right-leaning Catholic USA. While he won’t change the conservative orthodoxy and doctrine of the church he leads (you know, like the fact women are still second-class members of a church ruled by old, celibate men), I do think he’s making lots of people think, including skeptical me, the pinko socialist side of me, that is; on religion I remain steadfastly atheist, the very core of my intellectual belief system and something that will not budge, ever.

Francis does stand for peace, freedom, saving the environment, and equality, with the exception of the equality of women within his own male-dominated church. Most of my life, with usual bevy of priests, bishops, cardinals, and previous popes, I’ve largely ignored their fairly repugnant social views, and have been horrified by their treatment of women, plus I completely tuned out their religious dogma; after all, I quit being a Catholic long ago because, simply, I didn’t believe any of it, especially the part about there being a god.

This pope at least has me listening to his more enlightened social views with which I heartily agree. Now if he can show the same enlightened thinking with how his church treats women. THAT would be monumental.

The pope in Philly

The pope in Philly insanity begins in a week on September 25 and 26, 2015. Here’s a map of the security perimeter that Philly is erecting to “protect” the pope. Included in this perimeter are my home and neighborhood, where all traffic will be cut off and people have to pass through security checkpoints to enter the perimeter.


I will be a prisoner in my own home next weekend when the pope arrives in Philly. All traffic in my neighborhood will be blocked, security will be tighter than in most prisons, and a gigantic jumbotron will be posted on Broad Street near my building so all the pope worshipers can watch his journey through Philly’s streets. We’re expecting 2-3 million people will be lining our streets, about as many as who celebrated the Phillies 2008 World Series victory.

Personally I am indifferent to the whole silliness; as an atheist and ardent believer in Democracy (notice the capital ‘D’), I have little use for unelected (by the people) theocratic leaders, especially this relic from our (European-Americans) barbaric, feudal past when we were harshly and unjustly ruled by kings, princes, bishops, lords, and other vile, unelected scum. I refuse to capitalize his title and could care less about him or his church, one to which I was forced to belong as a child and adamantly refused to believe in its religious dogma or god since I was intellectually conscious as a child. Sorry, folks, I’m just not wired for religious belief and I hold zero reverence for religious leaders.

I find all this a huge waste of resources and taxpayer money. All this pageantry and grandeur for a foreign potentate in a city, Philadelphia, that is the birthplace of democracy, where we demanded, and fought for with our blood, our freedom from these asshole kings, princes, and bishops from Europe’s Ancien Régime; the irony is not lost on me. The USA was created on the idea that all men and women are equal and we bow to no one in servitude as subjects, that no religion or church will ever hold power in our governance as free citizens. I choose freedom and enlightenment.

Scenes of Our Kafkaesque Dystopian Culture

James Blake is a fabulously wealthy (net worth: $8 million) former star tennis player who attended Harvard and has been known far and wide as one of the finest, most decent gentleman to play the game. Yet, a few days ago, to a NYPD officer he was just another “perp” who was guilty before he’d done anything, just another “scumbag” on this overly-aggressive cop’s radar in a case of “mistaken identity.” So the cop used excessive violence to “take down” another “scumbag.” Except one thing: James Blake is nothing of the sort, had done nothing wrong, and furthermore offered zero resistance.
We must ask ourselves a simple question: Is that what we citizens of this country are today, guilty until proven innocent to our police and at any moment can be subjected to violently excessive force? The cop was going after suspects for credit card fraud, hardly a crime of violence where such violent force is required to apprehend the perp. Furthermore, this cop, in plain clothes and not in uniform, bum-rushed and violently tackled Blake, who had done nothing wrong and offered zero resistance.
Take race out of this for a second, and this still rankles me as a citizen to see our police treat citizens with such disrespectful contempt. There was no need to tackle Blake had he been guilty! The fact he was an innocent victim makes this incident even more of an outrage.
Had this been done to some regular guy and not a well-known celebrity like Mr. Blake, we’d never know about it. He would just be another innocent citizen of this country violently treated by an overly-aggressive cop overstepping his mandate to “protect and serve.” The NYPD must fire this police officer to send a message to its rank and file: you need to treat your fellow citizens like fellow citizens. You are not judge and jury. Moreover, simple common sense says that this kind of force isn’t necessary for a crime like credit card fraud to apprehend a suspect you are pursuing, especially if they don’t seem to be the least bit resistant, as was the case with Mr. Blake in this video.

Update: “But of course” department. According to the New York Times, the officer who manhandled James Blake has a history of excessive force complaints. You think?

Blake, ever the gentleman that he has been his whole public life as a star athlete, has, since this happened, publicly handled himself with an amazing amount of grace and class. 

Fun at Work

Here’s a simple 3-to-1 conveyor merge I programmed the other day for my company’s current project. The key to this logic is introducing new cartons onto the main belt without crashing them into anything else already on it. This was my first test of my PLC code and it was a raging success!


Music Break

Occasionally I have been known to lay down a track or two when I have time. Here’s a clip of my unfinished work called “Say Goodbye.” I am looking for a singer to do the lead vocals. Know anyone? Call this funky techno. It’s my attempt at pop music, or at least how I imagine what pop should be. Dig the 1985 photo of me playing in my music studio I built in my Army barracks room at Fort Benning. A long time ago in my life, I wanted to be a music producer. That I became an automation engineer later in life was a result of the painstaking process making music through automation those many years ago. Now I want to return to my roots and give it a try in earnest this time. I quit Facebook and all other social media except this blog, where I’ll update how my progress is going. Here’s the first sample of my first music project, the song “Say Goodbye.” This file has all the backing tracks: bass, drums, synths, electric piano, etc.

Fiction Break II

A Humid Summer

A short story

©1985 Matthew C. Scheck

Part One: We Meet

You haven’t really experienced the pain of real humidity until you’ve spent a summer in southern Georgia along the Chattahoochee River. I spent three summers there and it got worse for me every year. The more pain it caused me, the more intensely I would fight it. Back then I was angry and intense and scared of my life, so I tried to push myself to insane limits simply because I could and because I was convinced I’d die young like my father, so what the hell, let’s make it happen. My last summer there I ran ten miles every day at four in the afternoon when the humidity was so horrible I could barely breathe after the seventh mile. What made it such a crazy test was that I couldn’t quit because the seventh mile was three-quarters of the way around Lawson Army Airfield at Fort Benning, in the middle of nowhere, and therefore I had no choice but to finish. Few of my friends would make this run and the few who tried hardly came back for a second try.

I met her during one of these crazy runs. Well, I didn’t exactly meet her on this day, since we’d already met informally at work at Martin Army Hospital, where she was a civilian registered nurse on a ward and I was an enlisted Army trooper working in pathology. But we really didn’t know each other than our understanding of our differing roles in the pecking order at the hospital.

I was just a kid, twenty-one, a bright Specialist Fourth Class who had dropped out of his honors program in college and enlisted in the Green Machine, winding up in the Medical Corps at Benning. She was thirty and married to a powerful, up-and-coming West Pointer, a major in the 197th Infantry Brigade at Benning’s Sand Hill. She was certainly the most beautiful woman at the hospital, which I’d noticed every time I saw her. Tall. Lithe. Athletic. Long, shiny, straight brown hair. Amazing blue eyes that made you smile for an hour afterwards even if they were directed at you for a brief moment. We’ll call her Jamie. Jamie McMahon. A University of Maine grad, originally from Bangor, Maine. A lovely singing voice, especially when singing Tears For Fears or Simple Minds songs, her favorite bands that summer. Her rendition of “Mad World” would make you cry.

I learned all this after I met her on that road in the middle of nowhere on one of my suicide runs in the nefarious and painful South Georgia summer humidity of 1984.

I’d tripped on a pothole and sprained my ankle, and right about when that happened she drove by in her convertible. And wouldn’t you know it I was injured and she was a nurse. So of course she stopped. My heroine, Jamie McMahon, RN. And wouldn’t you know it she’d just had a horrible fight with her horrible husband, who smacked her face and left her injured too. It was fate we became lovers. A magical, painful, humid fate.

“Hey, are you okay, Vampire?” she called out as she braked hard to a rather violent stop in front of me. She called me “Vampire” or “Dracula” because one of my duties was as a phlebotomist, so I was frequently on her ward drawing blood from her patients, and on one of these ward rounds she started calling me these silly nicknames. I didn’t mind her calling me them because she looked magnificent in her tight hospital whites. However, just because we playfully flirted on my ward rounds, I never considered having a chance with this upper-class, beautiful, magnificent, very married woman. She was far above my lowly station.

And then I tripped that day in the middle of nowhere in that god-awful humidity and there she was.

“My ankle is blown,” I replied. I was sitting on the side of road in obvious pain, covered in sweat, smelling like ass, and yet bemused she just happened upon me in the perfect time of need.

“Can you walk?”


“Can I give you a ride?”

“My hero! Yes!”

She got out of her car and went to her trunk, from which she got her first aid kit, from which she got out a chemical ice bag, with which she smacked to activate, then taped it to my ankle. “It’s not too bad, it looks like you’ve sprained it before, eh?” She said as she stood up.

“Wow, who gave you that shiner?” I asked as she put her arm around me and helped me hobble to her car.

“My beloved husband,” she sneered as she helped ease me into her passenger seat. Then she got in the driver’s seat and sat silently for a few minutes.

“I’m sorry. You need this more than I do,” I said as I took the ice bag off my ankle and gently held it to her swollen eye. She didn’t resist.

“C’est la vie,” she whispered.

I couldn’t stop looking at her during that silence. My ankle wasn’t the only throbbing extremity on my body as I leered at her in her snug Dolfin running shorts, white t-shirt, and flip-flops. I was six two and she was nearly six even; I loved tall women above all else. I stared at her the entire time she sat there without speaking. It was very quiet in the middle of nowhere. We were both beautiful and in pain. The rest just happened.

Suddenly, abruptly, she pushed the ice bag and my hand away, started the car, and looked at me earnestly. “You want to get a couple of beers and some raw oysters with me, Dracula?” she asked as we drove away. “I’m not going home and I don’t have any friends here and you’re really cute and a great guy and I like you.”

“Yeah…sure,” I mumbled.

And that’s how we became lovers. We went to Mick’s Shack on Highway 431 across the border in Alabama, where we got raw shucked oysters on the shell and drank many beers. Then we went to a dreadful motel in Phenix City, Alabama and made love until the next morning. Just like that. No awkward first date or cute meet. We just happened to be in the exact spot when we both needed each other, and from that moment forward we were inseparable.

In fact she was the love of my life. And my biggest tragedy.

Up next: Part Two: A Major Snag

Fiction Break

Suicide Requiem

A short story

©1988 Matthew C. Scheck

I had that goddamned dream again. You’re standing on the edge of a cliff looking back at me. “Catch me, you coward!” you scream. Then you jump.

It’s obvious I’m too far away to grab you before you fall, so when you implore me to catch you, what do you really mean? Do you want me to jump after you so I can catch up to you? I was never your hero so I assume you wanted me to suffer your fate too.

I can hear you call me a coward again as you vanish into the unknown; you know I won’t follow you into the abyss, ever.

I run to the edge: Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck! But you’ve vanished.

Once again you torture me. Seventeen years of this, goddamn you. It hasn’t been easy maintaining a normal life with your fucking voice screaming in my head all the time. Twice I cracked and everything fell apart. Twice I had breakdowns like a whimpering child; I am sure you enjoyed watching me crash and burn both times; how you cackled with glee as my shaking hand reached for my bottle of Ativan and I popped several of them until I passed out. But both breakdowns were long ago. Now I merely suffer in silence. Age brings wisdom and wisdom means coping without breaking. That which does not kill me makes me stronger; you’re a cruel cunt for teaching me this lesson the way you did.

You were the coward, Petra Stein; you killed yourself and blamed me. I was an untrustworthy prick and a cheating asshole, sure, but I wasn’t worth your life. What a shitty trade you made. Worse: I would never kill myself over you. And I loved you more than anyone in this entire world. Did it occur to you I was unworthy of your self-sacrifice?

So do I have to spend eternity apologizing for your self-destruction?

Did it ever occur to you I hated myself and loved you, but hating myself made it impossible to love anyone very well? My hating myself led me into the arms of others; my hating myself destroyed your love for me; my hating myself certainly wasn’t your problem, and your solution sucked ass; you correctly blamed me but punished yourself, you idiot. Leaving me wasn’t enough; you had to punish me by leaving everyone. You were supposed to be the strong one, you coward.

And always in my head I hear you sing that miserable Talk Talk song, “Talk Talk,” like you’re serenading me from hell; it’s your suicide requiem:

Well did I tell you before
When I was up
Anxiety was bringing me down
I’m tired of listening to you
Talking in rhymes
Twisting ‘round to make me think
You’re straight down the line

All you do to me is talk talk
Talk talk talk talk
All you do to me is talk talk
Talk talk talk talk
All you do to me is talk talk.

How ironic that your suicide requiem was the song playing when I first saw you; what a harbinger of doom, that song. When I first saw you the club was packed and yet I could only see you on the dance floor, long, flowing red hair, pale skin, blue eyes, full red lips, freckles, perfect body; you looked so fierce, passionate, and intense; my Teutonic tiger. You were hottest piece of ass within 1000 kilometers and everyone knew it, especially me.

Self-hating coward that I was, I couldn’t just walk up to you and introduce myself, even though you looked right at me and beckoned me with your sparkling eyes; no, I just stood there hyperventilating and convinced myself that there’s no way this goddess wants me nearly as much as I want her. How many times had my cowardice denied me love? Would my courage fail me again?

Then you walked up behind me and pinched my butt. Your fingernails dug into my ass cheeks until I looked into your eyes; even a fool like me could take a hint. You smiled; I nearly fainted. We realized right away neither of us spoke the other’s language well enough to communicate, yet it didn’t matter—we communicated with lust and touching and the anxiety of knowing now was not soon enough for both of us. I was so in love with you the moment I met you that I had a horrific panic attack; I panicked because I realized how empty my life would be if I couldn’t have you. I had to have you.

And had you I did—for a while. And in that while, we had a torrid love affair. We were two young, beautiful, absolutely hot beings; when you touched me I felt as if I was being electrocuted.

And then one night you saw me walking out of the Kino with another girl.

You never asked me why I cheated; you just blamed yourself and punished me by denying me the chance for your forgiveness. I remember your Aunt Claudia warning me that you loved me too much and I must be careful; I never imagined she meant that much.

You made your decision without consulting anyone; boy were we all surprised when you killed yourself! Not only that, but your family wouldn’t let me anywhere near your funeral; I might as well have slashed your fucking wrists, they blamed me so much. You were dead and the dead make lousy villains. So naturally I became their villain. I let them blame me because I blamed myself.

Seventeen years have passed. You’d be thirty-five now; you’d be Frau Petra, your boobs would sag a little, and there’d be lines on your beautiful face, and yet I’m sure you’d still be the hottest piece of ass within 1000 kilometers. Our kids would be bilingual wunderkinden. You’d be a doctor just like your parents. You’d never miss Germany because you always wanted to live in America. You’d be here to love me and protect me from myself.

But you’re not here. I don’t even have photographs of you; someone I dated after you died burned them because she hated competing with your memory. It didn’t matter; she lost to you anyhow. When she left me she wrote “Fuck you and fuck that dead Kraut bitch” on my bedroom wall with a magic marker.

Seventeen years.

You made it clear you’d never forgive me the moment you opened your arteries with a #10 surgical scalpel blade. What a melodramatic little ceremony, your suicide; you waited for your parents to leave for their shift at the Krankenhaus; then you filled the bathroom with dozens of lit candles like a Catholic alter during Easter; you filled the tub with hot water and bubble bath like we used to do when we bathed each other and then fucked; “Talk Talk”—your goodbye note to me—was playing on your tape deck; a framed black-and-white photograph of me in my Army uniform was perched on the sink so you could look at me as you mutilated your arms and then slowly bled to death. How clinical; how dramatic; you stupid fucking cunt.

Your family never spoke to me afterwards, so your best friend, Heike, related all the gruesome details about a year later when we ran into each other by chance in Saarbrücken at Club Gloria. Her grief over your suicide equaled mine, and we hated you so much for what you’d done that we fucked all night in your memory. In the morning Heike cried and left without saying goodbye. Did she cry out of guilt or because I called her Petra while I fucked her?

You knew I’d never love anyone ever again; you knew they’d all be mediocre compared to you; you knew I’d never let go of you; you knew I’d fall apart; you knew I’d hear your voice for eternity; you knew the emptiness I’d face without you. What were you thinking as you sat in that tub full of bubbles, bleeding profusely? Was I worth dying over?

Guess what? You killed me too, you hacked my wrists that night with that scalpel—I’m just taking longer to bleed to death than you.

See you in hell. I hate you, Petra Stein.

Roar, Damnit, Roar!

If the American people could truly, and rationally, understand the depth of depravity and corruption at the heart of our political and economic system nowadays…what would we do?

Because it’s much worse than many of us even want to believe, and it’s at every level of our government and business world. Government is not the only problem, because as the financial crisis of 2008 proved, even our corporate elite are grifters and film-flam artists out to fleece us of whatever wealth we have. But they got government, totally in their pocket, to bail them out of their abject failure (the chief economic advisors/cabinet members for Bush AND Obama were once CEOs of Goldman Sachs!) We, the people, are not so lucky when the banks foreclose our houses or our bosses hand us pink slips. We’re on our own even though we pay more in taxes as a percentage of our wealth than the wealthiest do, especially wealthy corporations.

Today’s social climate is a tough place for political commentary, if only for all the nasty fighting it induces with people of differing ideological views. Each side wants to place blame on the other; no one likes to be wrong, so discussion reaches a shouting impasse as one or the other side refuses to view the facts, but instead wallows in emotional attachment to beliefs long ago proven wrong, or bad. People can barely discuss the weather without some sort of ideological screaming match.

I say, our national motto is E Pluribus Unum, Latin for From Many, One. So, in reality, we’re all to blame in many ways.

We can either be the sheep or the lion in today’s corrupt, anti-democratic, abject failure of a culture that is the United States of America. Sadly, far too many of us can barely speak to each other, blinded by our bad ideological, religious, and philosophical beliefs. Only one thing should bind us together, and it’s not religion, ideology or even philosophy; it’s our Constitution and what this brilliant social contract requires of us, the citizenry. In that we are all failing to some degree, if I may be honest.

Roar, you lions. Roar.

The Smiths: The Band That Changed Everything


I was a little late catching on to The Smiths. They broke out like a wildfire in Britain in 1983, ruling the UK charts (and emotions of the kingdom’s youthful denizens) as the new lords of pop music. They were huge in the UK for the next two years before they found their way to me, a 22-year-old Army medic stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, which was a world as far away from Steven Morrissey’s Manchester as could be found. You had to be a serious music seeker to discover the Smiths in America in 1985; they didn’t make videos for MTV and they got no airplay on American radio. Therefore, in America they didn’t exist.

My introduction to The Smiths came in late 1985 via a young nerdy kid who worked at record shop in Athens, Georgia. If the actor Andy Dick could mate with Michael Stipe of R.E.M., their love child would look like this kid. He was allergic to every element on the Periodic Chart, which caused him to spend his entire life immersed in a tepid pool of snot and slime and soggy, used kleenex. When many people talk, they often include a few “umms” every now and then to help collect thoughts before saying the next thing. With this kid after every three words he either sniffled or sneezed, and the timbre of his voice was always muffled by his snot-filled airways and nasal cavities. His breath was as foul as the air inside an old outhouse in summertime.

However, this kid, this Boris Snotbreath, as I called him, was cool. The coolest. Beyond cool; he was the cool avatar. This cool kid introduced me to The Smiths. They have been my favorite band since that day and have remained in the top spot twenty years later. They were the band that changed everything. So obviously Boris Snotbreath had to be the coolest human ever.

Snotbreath’s first rule to me: the first America-released record by The Smiths was crap. Total crap. Well, not total crap, but certainly they could do better. Instead, he said, if you want to know The Smiths, first listen to Hatful of Hollow, which contained alternate—better—versions of songs on their first record, plus it contained a few new singles they released after the record the Smiths came out in 1984.

Hatful of Hollow is a masterpiece. The Smiths sounded best playing live in a studio, with no overdubs or multi-tacking, just the lads kicking ass in unison, in one take, as if playing at their favorite gig on a Saturday night. Their tracks for John Peel’s BBC show, recorded live in the studio, are simple, direct, tense, and brilliantly vibrant, and were so refreshing in 1985 that I felt honored to have found them. This, I knew immediately, was going to be my favorite band.

The opening tracks, “William, It Was Really Nothing,” “What Difference Does It Make,” “Handsome Devil,” “This Charming Man,” and “These Things Take Time,” display The Smiths at their snotty best, so utterly brilliant, clever, and cocky, simply knowing they are the Next Big Thing; you feel their magnificence and forget every band or song you ever heard previously. On future records they would sound brilliant in many different ways, but they never got better or worse than those first blasts from Hatful of Hollow.

The Smiths, you see, were always great and were never—not once—bad on any record (Boris was wrong: their first record was brilliant; Hatful was simply better). They started out as the best band of their generation and they never retreated from that lofty post until they broke up in 1987. Every record was a masterpiece. Every single they released was as vital as the previous or next one. And when they broke up, they did so while Strangeways, Here We Come topped the charts in Europe and was fairly popular—reaching 55 on Billboard’s album charts—in America; not bad for a British band with little MTV exposure or radio airplay outside of college towns.

The Smiths weren’t Punks or Mod-Revivalists or New Romantics or some other Punk/New Wave hybrid; they were just an English rock band in the tradition of the Beatles and Stones and Who. They were not part of any silly movement or ephemeral style. In America they’d get tossed into the “alternative” bins at record stores, but they were not an alternative rock band.

These four lads from Manchester were something new and something necessary, the next logical step in the evolution of pop and rock. Forget the silly hairdos and slick New Wave fashion of their peers in the UK; that was thrown out the window after the opening bars of “Hand in Glove.” Forget the phony folk heroism of U2 or Springsteen or Mellencamp; Morrissey killed all that feel-good Live Aid idealism with his first ironic ditty sung into a microphone while backed by Johnny Marr’s masterful guitar licks; Morrissey knew rock stars were not saints or saviors; they were just rock singers—pop stars—which was all they needed to be; they were the Lord Byrons and Oscar Wildes in tight trousers—they were not Joan of Arc or Jesus Christ. Forget the macho posturing and campy glam of Metal; Morrissey may have been gay (not that we fans gave a fuck), but he made Metal stars look like the silly, narcissistic fags that they were. Forget videos too; the Smiths never really embraced that medium, yet became the first band in the MTV era to sell records in America despite not getting airplay on MTV.

The Smiths were the band that changed everything.

Not only were the Smiths the most brilliant and original band to enter the scene in years, they refused to play the rock star game and triumphed magnificently despite this. They didn’t cuddle up to the BBC, MTV or the rock press. They didn’t just replace New Wave—they assassinated it with glee and began something newer and better, more honest and cool, and certainly more human. They rocked. They rolled. They made you laugh. They made you dance. They matured and yet never lost their DIY spirit. They were as much Elvis as they were The Who, Small Faces, Ziggy Stardust, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, and Joy Division. They were what the Jam should have been—as popular in America as they were in the UK. Morrissey and Marr were the 80’s John and Paul, Mick and Keith, Bowie and Ronson, Tyler and Perry, Eno and Ferry, Mick and Joe; without the one you cannot have the other; a creative symbiosis that generates greatness.

After The Smiths, fans would demand integrity, honesty, and sincerity—and not phony rock god posing or outlandish fashion statements—from their favorite rock bands. Rock stars didn’t need to be sex gods wearing codpieces who swaggered on stage in ugly spandex trousers and poofie hairdos like burlesque queens. Maybe rock music wasn’t just about sex, drugs, glamour, and partying. Maybe it didn’t need to be about hero worship. Maybe image wasn’t everything. Maybe the music should matter the most, not the stars or their stupid fucking style or image. Once the Smiths debunked the rock star myth, every cool band that followed could be themselves and not have to worry about their hairstyle, clothes, or public image. No more silly costumes or gimmicks were needed. Just play music, be cool, and be yourself. When you think of the Pixies, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Blur, Radiohead, Oasis, Coldplay, or Interpol, you probably know their music much better than their faces.

The Smiths were—are—my favorite band. By 1986 the world was divided into those who got the Smiths and those who didn’t. If you liked Bon Jovi, Metallica, Whitesnake, Ratt, Poison, Motley Crue, or Guns n Roses, you were not a Smiths fan, nor were you welcome in our world with your girlie hair, spandex, sock-stuffed undies, and god-awful “Metal” ballads. If you went to a show and let out a rebel whoop every time the lead singer shouted, “Let’s Party, Cleveland/Milwaukee/Skokie/Denver/Indianapolis!” then you were not a Smiths fan. If you cried while listening to an Ozzy-Lita Ford duet or at the end of Top Gun, you were definitely not a Smiths fan. If you didn’t read books you weren’t a Smiths fan. If you had a mullet you weren’t a Smiths fan. If you thought Ronald Reagan was a great President or Maggie Thatcher was a great Prime Minister you were not a Smiths fan. If you thought Kenny G was a jazz artist you were not a Smiths fan. If you did the “Electric Slide” you were not a Smiths fan. If you referred to women as “pussy” you were not a Smiths fan.

All the seminal 80’s bands like the Jam, Hüsker Dü, R.E.M., Undertones, XTC, Violent Femmes, The Church, Replacements, Pixies, and Sonic Youth, but first and foremost by The Smiths, who were clearly the best band of that era, head and shoulders above their peers; anyhow, what these great bands had was intelligence and passion, and they loved rock and roll as much as any long-haired stadium rocker; they just loved it differently. And so did we.

When The Smiths broke up in 1987 I was already starting to get bored with them, so it was a perfect time to part ways. I was sad, of course, but not as devastated or angry as when The Clash split. For the next 18 years I would store Smiths records away for years and then for no real reason pull them out, and for the next few years they were back in favor. And then it was back to the closet for another few years. It’s gone in cycles like that since the breakup, but my love for their music has never waned. They will always be my favorite band.