A lot went into getting me back — dragging me back — into music in the mid-1990s. That the radio got a lot better-sounding had a little to do with it; having a college roommate who played a little bit of everything at high volume helped a lot, I'm sure, as did a weekend in January 1994 when K-Rock played every Beatles song, plus a couple of bootlegs, alphabetically.
But a big part of it was arriving at college and discovering the Internet. The Web wasn't a part of the equation yet, but Usenet was. Remember rn? That was my little gateway to the music I'd grown up listening to, through groups like rec.music.beatles and . . . oh, damn, what was the oldies group called . . . was it alt.music.oldies? No, but something like that.
Whatever that oldies group was called, one of the main purveyors of signal amid all the noise was a fellow named Andrew Rogers, a Bostonian type. I didn't seek his posts out right away, but I quickly learned to. Rogers is legendary still in guitar-tablature circles online; his tabs, they say, are accurate and thoughtful and catch the little things that make a great song great. Not being a guitarist, I didn't always understand them, but they taught me something anyway, even if it was just a couple of lyrics. His knowledge of the music of his childhood was damn near encyclopedic, it seemed. His posts were full of wit and humor and life, and most made certain to remind his reader that Louie, Louie was and remains the greatest recording of all time. (I'll quibble, but only by a place or two.)
In one of those only-online things, I came to feel I knew the guy.
The good and the bad of the Internet is that, though it will introduce you to a lot of people, it won't always keep you in touch. Until June 6, 2001, I hadn't read anything by him in almost four years, hadn't even heard his name in three. That was the day I learned he had died of complications from leukemia last June 14.
His tab work seems to be hidden, sadly, because the record companies and publishing companies like to play Penny Wise and shut down lyrics and tab sites.
The stuff he liked didn't match 1-to-1 with mine, but the variety reminded me that I could like the Beatles, the Kingsmen, the stuff coming out of Rohit's speakers, Elvis, the Beach Boys, Bobby Darin, Marty Robbins, maybe even Green Day, too. His passion for it, too, reminded me of those amazing, innocent days back in the mid-'80s, when little 9-or-10-or-11-year-old me used to bounce around the living room playing air guitar to Baby's In Black and There's a Place and You Can't Do That.
I started playing those records a little more when I was home (minus the air guitar — usually), made tape copies for school. I started going back into record stores when I went to the mall on breaks. I began browsing the record racks at used bookstores. I switched off WFAN every so often to see what Dan Ingram and Bob Shannon were playing on WCBS-FM. Sometime in all that, I got reminded that that little southern rock song from late 1965 by the Bobby Fuller Four, the one with the dirty word buried deep in the stereo mix, was worthy of a little closer inspection.
From the rock of the early '60s to the rock of the late '60s to the rock and roll of the late '50s to the R-n-B of the early '50s to the punk of the late '70s . . . back for awhile to the new wave of my childhood . . . then off to the folk revival, back to the original folk . . . Several dozen CDs and cassettes later, I'm still inspecting the music of the last century, and I owe that love at least a little to Andrew Rogers.
I never made the time to thank him for what he'd done to bring rock and roll back into my life. So here it is. I'm sorry I'm late.Michael Fornabaio — firstname.lastname@example.org