Start Choppin'

"Do you want to hear the best song in the world?" Jake asked. "Listen to this." 

I just wanted to get out of there, but a small part of me wondered if I'd regret not listening to the best song in the world. Through dim shadows, I caught his long curls glinting near the speakers. He pressed a button on his stereo.

"I recorded this off the radio last night." He crouched down, waiting for the recording to start.

BOOM! Hiss. Crackle. Hiss.

A loud Deejay's voice ran through the stillness.

"This is Lover's Hour on Live 109. Valentines wishes are pouring in from listeners already... and it's only just past midnight! You guys are crazy! Anyway, here's our first message, and it's from Jake to Sarah. He says, 'Sarah, I'll never, ever let you go. I would die without you. I love you babe.' How sweet is that? This is Live 106. This one goes out to Sarah, from your lover boy, Jake. It's Dinosaur Jr."

"That was me!" Jake exclaimed! "That was my message!" He spun his head around and guffawed, pushing long strands of hair off his sweaty forehead. Rhythmic strumming filled the room. Light glinted off his glasses.

"That was for Sarah." he cooed. "This is the best song ever. Just listen. Jay Mascis is a fucking God." He guffawed nervously again, and stood up, swaying to the song as the singer's lazy drawl drifted over the strumming, which then became a series of noisy, crunchy, distorted chords.

Sarah was his ex-girlfriend. I knew her. She'd been trying to get away from him for a while, without success. He stalked her day and night. I was there under duress. She'd asked me to do three things: come over, get the CDs, and then tell him to leave her alone. I'd done the first two, and now all I wanted to do was leave. Problem was, I felt in thrall of the song, caught up in its discordant vacuum.

Jake and I had been good friends once, but he got way too weird and too prickly and sensitive around everyone. He tried starting his own record label the year before. He had no business model, other than culling together bits of free advice from random people and leaving the rest on faith that he had no unoriginal ideas. He wandered from place to place, jobless, waiting for people to make eye contact with him, and asked every one of them - his stoner friends, his bartender, random people in his film class, random people on the street - the same question, over and over, if they could tell him how to start a business. He treated everyone like they had special knowledge, and if they didn't give him advice, he reacted like they'd purposefully withheld the information from him.

"Well, fine! Be that way then." he struck back. "At least I have original ideas."

Jake and his buddy Ron started up a music co-op called 'Pro Lab' where they tweaked sounds using chipsets and pilfered parts from old synthesizers and really thin RCA speaker wire. It was a mess. As a hobby it was sort of neat, but Jake hated that no one wanted to help subsidize his million dollar idea.

So there Jake was, swaying in the middle of his apartment as the Dinosaur Jr. song, Start Choppin', really got started. It was a barn burner of a tune, messy and muddy and careless and drenched with attitude. Mascis's vocals were boosted way up in the mix, and the thin wall of distortion underneath felt like it was going to give way under his sliding drawl.

I aint' telling you a secret
I aint' telling you GOOD-BYE!!!!!

At goodbye, the vocals turned falsetto and the guitars didn't seem to know what to do anymore, so they just carried on. Jake was just getting started. His started spinning around the room. His arms were outstretched and he was speaking loudly to himself, his eyes shut.

The extended solo kicked in, and it was like a mad storm of angry Africanized bees had stormed the place. It was pointed and relentless and sent Jake into a frenzy.

"I love you Sarah and I'll never let you go!" he cried. "I love you Sarah and I'll never let you go!!!"

As he spun, his arms got tangled up in a lampshade and it knocked to the floor. The solo went on, and Jake knocked over a potted plant, them one of the speakers, which then got disconnected from the stereo. Unfortunately it was the left speaker, which held more of the guitar in the mix. So now, Jay Mascis's voice, already dominating the song before, just completely took over the room, louder than ever.

I ain't telling you a secret
I ain't telling you GOOD-BYE!!!!!

Jake, like the song, began a downward slide into hopelessness. His front room was like a mobile home park after a tornado. A bag holding an ounce of weed suddenly appeared on the carpet, probably having slipped out of his front pocket while he spun violently about the place. Now, he was just crawling around on the ground, covered in sweat, mumbling to himself. A second extended solo started, this one had Mascis tied up in knots, stabbing each note like a surgeon.

"I gotta go, Jake.." I mumbled.

"Wait!" he screamed. He stood up and popped the cassette out and handed it to me. "I know she told you to come here. I know you still talk to her. Give her this." I wouldn't take it, so he dropped the cassette on top of the pile of CDs.

"What?" he snarled. "You got something to say, loverboy? Huh? Take her shit and get out!"

He grabbed the cassette again and threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. He smeared the tape entrails all over the floor.

"There. You happy? Get the fuck out." he said.

"Leave her alone." I said plainly. "Don't bother her again. I mean it."

"Or what?" he sneered. "You're a joke. Get out."

And I left.


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