'Round the Dial
Wednesday 11 June @ 15:25:05
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressable is music.”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “The Right To Remain Silent”
Greetings, trusty ‘Dialheads! Here’s hopin’ you’ve all got your windows open, your stereos cranked, and your freak flags flyin’ high. Me, I pretty much kick out the jams all year long—and find myself in a lot less trouble during cold winter months when neighbors, gas stations near the State Capitol, and people on the West Bank can’t actually hear my tunes from here in St. Paul’s Midway. And believe me, I’ve tried everything—soundproofing my walls with egg cartons, laying down four layers of thick carpeting, buying smaller, nearly bass-less speakers, quickly turning the volume knob up and down in appropriate “crank” spots, and even restricting myself to only playing “less offensive” music really loud. None of it works, man.
I’ve always found it a bit strange that, though I live in a very loud, busy part of a major metropolitan area, people are still so quick to anger over a little loud rock ’n’ roll. Forget the guy with the jackhammer who starts up at around six a.m., don’t worry about the seven different monstrous garbage trucks who pick up trash right around dawn, and don’t bother yourself with the sirens, gunshots, screams for help, circling helicopters and sonic booms from overhead F-15’s—somebody’s playing Wilco’s “I’m Always In Love” on 10! Call out the National Guard, send a report to the Homeland Security Counsel, and get out the noose!
And don’t even get me started on how scared most people are to tell those ubiquitous traveling rap afficionados that the ungodly deep, booming bass units crouching like beasts in the trunks of their cars are shaking the shit right outta their little pink cracker bowels. “Well, shucks, Mabel, I really don’t like that there rap stuff, ‘specially when it’s that loud, but I bet that feller’s got a gun, so I’m not gonna say anything about it.” Nope, they’ll just grit their tobacco-stained teeth, spit into the wind, and wait for somebody like me to come along playing Johnny Cash’s “Man In Black” too loud—even though they probably love Johnny Cash—THEN they’ll start complaining to the landlord or calling the cops. (What makes them think a guy in his mid-thirties playing Johnny Cash really loud wouldn’t have a gun? Oh, well, thanks to the guv, now EVERY idiot can conceal and carry a weapon) I’ve actually gotten to the point where I’ve challenged officers who’ve come to my door with a request to turn a sleepy LEONARD COHEN song down at TWO IN THE AFTERNOON to get out and do something about all the other cacaphony assaulting my senses when my stereo’s turned down to what they call a “reasonable” (read: headphones) level.
Once, the sound Nazis came bashing on the door before mid-afternoon as I was playing the live ACOUSTIC version of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World.” “Oh, you’re going to come here and hassle me for playing music with NO BASS in the middle of the day when EVERY OTHER door in this building has either crotch-rattling commercial rap/hip-hop (KDWB—commercials and all—was a popular one) or horrid, tepid, teeny-bopper anthems (I once heard Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me” played 62 consecutive times by a 14-year-old neighbor girl. You guessed it—nobody called the cops.) BLASTING from inside loud enough to shake the exit signs off the walls?” I asked one particularly energetic young officer.
“Look—nobody called us for them, sir. They called us about YOU.” As if the sarcasm in his voice wasn’t enough to clue me in that I wasn’t exactly facing a fount of concern, he eyed me over the top of his mirrored shades with a look of absolute disdain. “ME?” I choked, “How the hell do you know it’s me they’re calling for, when there’s all those other loud-ass stereos goin’ in other apartments?” Keep in mind that, as I chatted with the officer, my own tunes turned off, we could both plainly hear the strangled blasts of at least five other stereos going on my floor. “Because, sir...” he paused for effect, brushing a tiny piece of lint from his uniform, “the caller specifically complained about the guy playing NEIL YOUNG!”
I’m sure ol’ Shakey would be proud of my reaction. After the uniformed representative of Orwellian society turned on his jackboots and marched away, I promptly fetched a stack of 3M sticky pads and wrote “LOUD STEREO” on several dozen of them. I then crept through all three floors of my apartment building, sticking a note on each door that was blasting Hootie, Jewel, Bobby Brown, and Toad The Wet Sprocket (these days, it would be Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Fifty Cent, Avril Lavigne, and Eminem). After posting my little directional notes on around 23 doors, I returned to my apartment (but not before noticing that the doors without stereos blasting had televisions blasting just as loud or louder—apparently, OPRAH WINFREY CRANKED UP TO ELEVEN didn’t bother anyone at all) and proceeded to call the local sheriff’s office. “Hello, this is the sheriff’s office, how can I help you?” “Uh, yeah. I’d like to report some loud music being played.” “OK, sir, and what’s your name and address?” “Um, this is an anonymous call—I just want something done about this infernal racket!” I sputtered, giving them the address of the apartment building and quickly hanging up.
Not an hour went by before there was a loud knock on my apartment door. I flung it open, expecting to find a gaggle of angry, Hootie-cranking neighbors ready to string me up by my short and curlies. Instead, I found the same (lint-picking) officer standing there, holding ALL of my little “LOUD STEREO” notes bunched up in one hand, his truncheon clasped tightly in the other. He thrust them violently into my hand. “So!” He barked. “We’ve got us a smart-aleck here, huh?” “What?” I gasped, still not quite believing my eyes and ears. “Oh, you thought you could just call us and we’d forget all about your loud stereo and go hassle all these nice folks who live here, huh? Well, it doesn’t work that way, sir. You can’t call us and expect us to go knocking on two dozen doors for noise complaints like it’s some mass-production line.”
“Well, that’s really cute.” I replied. “So anybody who wants to can call about my ACOUSTIC Neil Young while the sun is still shining, but I can’t lodge a complaint about knee-knocking BOBBY BROWN beats pounding against my walls?” “Oh, you can call, sir. But you’ll have to call separately for each person you want to complain about, and putting notes on their doors, trying to tell us we’re not doing our job, isn’t going to help you any. Besides, you’re the one we came to see in the first place, so don’t expect any sympathy here.”
That was it for me, man. I was righteously PISSED! “You people are fascists!” I exclaimed. “How you can live with yourselves, promoting such evil music over NEIL YOUNG, is beyond me! I think I’m going to write an article about this harassment and use your name and badge number, SIR.” His buzzed, Aryan head twitched just a bit, and he smirked at me, hitting the truncheon into his open palm with a loud SMACK! “Oh, yeah? How’d you like a little noise ordinance ticket, sir?” “TICKET?” I bellowed in disbelief. “You’re going to write ME a ticket when I’m the one who called YOU? How the hell do you justify that?” “Oh,” he smiled wickedly, “I don’t have to justify anything, buddy. I just have to write the ticket and appear in court. Is that how you want it?”
“Let me get this straight,” I said, “you want me to sit here all day listening to Hootie and Mariah Carey and Jewel through these paper-thin walls and play my own stereo on ONE so I don’t bother any of those “real music” fans who live here? And if I do complain, you’ll give ME the ticket?” “That’s about it, Mr. Hallett. What do you say?” he shrugged. “Well, I say GO AHEAD!” I spat. “Give me a fuckin’ ticket—I’ll FRAME IT and put it on the wall above my stereo! AFTER I print a copy of it in the paper along with an article about how CROOKED the whole system is, and use your name and badge number, SIR.” “Fine.” he said, and walked away.
I thought I’d gotten through to him. Surely another long walk through those halls—halls which were fairly pounding and ringing with the torturous sounds of KS95, KDWB, and RICK ASTLEY—would be enough to convince the man that I was right, that ANYTHING I played, no matter how loudly, would be preferable. After all, he’d just walked away when I seemed not to care about getting a ticket, right? Wrong. A few days later, I received a “Disturbing The Peace” ticket from the city (apparently, they couldn’t give me a noise ordinance violation before 10 p.m.) and had a scheduled court date. When the time came, I’d had plenty of time to think about the situation. I realized that, if I went into court with my long-ass hair, wild eyes, and dirty tennis shoes hollering about “freedom of speech,” the right to rock, and my constitutional right not to be constantly exposed to THE BLOWFISH at mind-melting volumes, the judge would simply assume I was on mind-altering chemicals or insane and belonged on them.
So on court day, I pulled my hair into a pony tail, used up half a bottle of Visine, and covered my old black tennies with a fresh coat of spray paint. I also packed an item that normally hung uselessly on the wall next to my stereo into a small brown sandwich bag, and headed off for my day of reckoning. After a long wait while the court dealt with ACTUAL criminals (there was the guy who nearly hit a cop on the freeway while he was writing a ticket for someone else, a woman who’d left her kids alone for three days while she went gambling up on the reservation, and one dude who had SIXTEEN DWI’s and was still driving), I finally got my moment in front of the judge.
“So, Mr. Hallett, you’re here today for violating the noise ordinance, eh?” asked the judge. “Actually, no, your honor.” I corrected him. “I’m here for DISTURBING THE PEACE because I was playing an ACOUSTIC NEIL YOUNG song—a song that’s actually ABOUT THE DESIRE FOR PEACE-—on my stereo in the middle of the day. And frankly, after hearing the last ten cases in front of you today, I think my being here is an incredible waste of your time, my time, and the time of your officers.” I glanced over at the smarmy young bull who’d written me the ticket—and not even had the guts to hand it to me in person—and nodded my head in his direction. “Oh, they’re not MY officers, Mr. Hallett.” said the judge with the faintest hint of a smile on his wrinkled old face. I saw the cop flush with embarrassment, and glare my way with hatred.
“What do you have in the bag, sir?” the judge queried, after noticing my little package (after all, I’d been busted for cranking that scary acoustic music—it might’ve been a GUN!). “Oh, I’m glad you asked, your honor. I’ve come to realize that I’m fighting a losing battle with the city. Apparently, it’s not how loud you play your music here, it’s WHAT KIND OF MUSIC you play loudly. So I’ve come up with a solution I’m sure will thrill everyone.” And with that, I pulled out the biggest, ugliest set of stereo headphones you’ve ever seen. I put them on my head and turned to face the crowd, who’d been tittling and chuckling throughout my hopeless attempt to exonerate myself. Everyone in the room (except the judge himself and the cranky little officer who’d written me the ticket) burst into uncontrollable laughter, and I turned back to the bench. Hizzoner had another small smile teasing the corner of his lips, but quickly turned serious again.
“Mr. Hallett, your courtroom antics are not appreciated,” he intoned, shaking his head. “I agree that your case isn’t the most urgent in front of me today, and you seem to have learned your lesson, but I still feel that imposing the mininum fine would help you to remember to keep your music down next time. $50, pay the clerk.” BANG!! Went his gavel, and it was over. Of course, the fine turned out to be $90 with fees and taxes (apparently so those wonderful, happy little court clerks can afford to take vacations to places that play HOOTIE, JEWEL, and BOBBY BROWN full blast in their cocktail lounges), and I almost ran out of gas on the way home. When I got back to my crib, I hung my ticket on the wall behind my stereo, next to the nail that held my headphones. Then I stuck LIVE RUST in the tape deck, turned the volume up to TEN, and kicked out the ELECTRIC version of NEIL YOUNG’s “Hey Hey My My (Into The Black).” Freedom? Plant that bell an’ let it ring...
ROUND THE DIAL’S TOP TEN SIGNS YOUR STEREO IS TOO LOUD:
10) All of your stupid knick-knacks—like “exotic” beer bottle caps, shiny rocks, and tiny rubber Gumby dolls—shimmy, shake, and quake their way off the edge of the speakers and onto the floor.
9) That off-beat bass drumming you hear in the mix isn’t really just a bad indie rock album after all—it’s your 86-year-old downstairs neighbor pounding frantically on the ceiling with his cane.
8) You walk by your answering machine and realize that 36 calls have come in since you started rockin’ out, and you haven’t heard the phone ring once.
7) You think you smell smoke. Curious, you look out your apartment window to find the building’s other 150 residents gathered in the courtyard—apparently, they’ve actually heard the screeching, blasting caterwauling of real fire alarms while you’ve had the Ohio Players’ “Fire” cranked to 10.
6) Between songs, you do hear the phone and pick up. It’s the apartment complex manager. Apparently, someone from the DNR is here to see you. It seems several rare species of birds have been found dead on your balcony, and they suspect your cruel sonic assaults. Fines range from $10,000 to $100,000.
5) While cranking up an eclectic public radio program, you experience a bizarre personal revelation as Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” segues into Ethyl Merman covering “I Want To Be Loved By You” and you realize you actually prefer Ethyl.
4) After finding a cassette of bad ’80s radio hits, you find yourself absolutely mesmerized by the “long-play” version of Taco’s “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” and began blasting it over and over at top volume. Your collection of wind-up army toys marches away from the shelf next to your speakers on its own—and lays down covering-fire from tanks and mortar when you attempt to follow.
3) Your mom sends you an e-mail from half a continent away telling you to TURN THAT SHIT DOWN!!
2) You look up after a serious head-banging session with the latest addition to your ska collection to find a Dear John/Jane letter from your significant other and a clipping for 50 percent off hearing exams at a local clinic on the table in front of you.
1) As you’re tackled by squadrons of black helmeted, badge-wearing, gun-toting goons, you realize that it wasn’t just that Replacements song hollering, “This is the Minneapolis police—the party is over!”
That’s it for this week, kids. Tune in again for more record reviews, blarney blasts, and trippy tales. Until next time—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you'd like to see listed in this column, or you'd just like to fess up to being one of the CRETINS playing HOOTIE that day on your stereo, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.