My name’s Billy Johnson and I’m the middle of three brothers. Carl’s the eldest and Nicky’s the baby of the family, at 14. Anyway, I’m married to Cathy and we have two kids ourselves. I sell records, CDs and stuff. Got a little shop and also do mail order. I love almost all genres of music but have a special place for the 60s, especially Psychedelic, Freak Beat, and Garage Punk. My story begins with telling you about this band, the guys who really got me into music. Possibly the greatest garage punk band of all time was The 3rd Face, whose 1966 masterpiece World Revolution was one of those criminally ignored slices of loud, intelligent rock ‘n roll. They also released a handful of singles, probably the most famous being So Bad, Girl. A veritable masterpiece of sneering vocals, fuzztone, pounding drums and distorted guitar. Their LPs and singles fetch a lot still, even though you can now get most of their stuff on CD.
They were right up there with the Shadows of Knight and the Chocolate Watch Band, trust me. The funny thing is that my dad was lead guitarist of the band. As was befitting, he led sort of a bohemian existence with the band, until they broke up in ’70. He was already married to mom and finally went back to his 2nd love, journalism.
Anyway, back to the whole point of this story, which is to tell you what happened in 1979. It was the weirdest thing, because Carl had a sort of mini-breakdown or something. He was 23 at the time and was in his second to last year of medical school. Champion athlete for years running, scholarships coming out of his ears and engaged to the prettiest, smartest and coolest girl in town (well, next to Cathy). Man, he was handsome to boot and sailed through everything. I’m a bit of a plodder; always was. Same as Nicky, ‘though he’s so damn cute and funny he somehow gets by. It just isn’t fair. Anyway, suddenly everything went pear shaped for Carl and seemed to spiral out of control. Bam; he and babe split up, Bam; he quit the team, Bam; he actually dropped out for a while. We all thought it was dope at 1st, but it wasn’t. We all had the odd brewski at times but none of us had smoked grass or anything. Dad was open minded but told us a lot of stories from the 60s, including one about a really bad trip and that was enough to convince us to abstain. Anyway, Carl was weird for that two months; sometimes (as before) he was the greatest guy in the world and sometimes he was moody as hell. We realised we had to give him a lot of space and thank God he did snap out of it, gradually. Things are almost back to normal now, almost…
We had a beautiful suburban home in Lincolnwood, just outside of Chicago, complete with real stone surround in the kitchen, big back yard, game room etc etc and mom was especially happy. She still makes the best cinnamon bread ever. We had this really crazy dog. She was a collie named Rosa. Loveable and sweet but a little excitable, with a talent for running out into the street without thinking and jumping on everyone with paws and mucho slobbers and stuff. You just learned not to wear suede and girlfriends had to be warned, at least for the 1st visit to the house. She loved us all but her special friend was Nicky and it was mutual. Soon as he was back from school they’d be off outside running or playing catch with his Frisbee. God, he loved that dog.
One Saturday evening Carl opened the door, saying “C’mon Girl” and Rosa bounded out and you could hear the squeal of brakes but it was too late. Everyone was downstairs watching TV and Carl didn’t realise that I was (for once on a Saturday) finishing some homework in my room. Everyone ran outside, Carl was no where to be seen, neighbours were running around and there was even an ambulance. Nicky was holding Rosa and crying and mom and dad were doing what they could. There was nothing to say; I knew what had happened but didn’t tell anyone. I ran up to Carls room, opened the door and confronted him; it’s strange; my most visual memory is of our jeans, plaid work shirts and haircuts. “What do YOU want, chump” Carl sneered. I didn’t wait to think what to do, but grabbed him and actually pulled him up physically. Something I’d never ever have considered previously. “I saw everything, man. Why? Why?” “Gonna TELL on me?” he said with a twisted grin and made to punch me. I restrained him which surprised us both. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do, but you’re not gonna pull that kinda shit ever again. Believe it, I’m keeping my eye on you” For the 1st time in his life, for just a second, he looked scared. I left the room and closed the door.
David C. Flynn 16th Nov 2007