I  can’t remember what month it was, but I know there was quite a bit of snow on the ground when we took off for Montreal in a 1984 Mercedes Benz 300 Turbo Diesel that had not been registered yet that year.  There was a guy named Nick in the back seat eating tuna fish with hot sauce right out of the can.  He was in a band.  The band’s motto at the time was “Why use two chords to write a song when you can use just one!”  We had whiskey and eggs for breakfast.

Jamie Lincoln was in the passenger seat.  He was the type of friend that was already ready to go before you asked him.  Several times throughout college, and even a few times after, I’d say “Let’s go drive to New York City and drink 40’s  by the pier.  And then from there we can drive straight to Montreal for no apparent reason!” or some other nonsensical adventure and before I’d finish the last sentence Jamie would be lacing up his shoes.  This time was no different.  I can’t remember the premise of this trip other than none of us had been to Montreal lately.  We were probably drinking, listening to punk rock, and bored.

Nick tagged along too.  The only other thing I remember about Nick is one night he was smoking a cigarette in my dorm room.  He saw how my roommate and I stacked our beds into bunk beds to make more space.  We brought in a couch and a TV with a  stand, and a chair and a coffee table.  Nick was jealous and left to go talk his roommate into this.  Ever determined, he did so, proven by his story the next day when I saw him, his face a terrible color of black and blue.  He apparently forgot in the morning that he decided to sleep on the top bunk and when he rolled over to shut off his alarm for class, fell 5 feet to the floor.  “Luckily”, he said through a bloodied smile, “my face broke my fall on my desk.  Other wise, this could have been bad.”

Somehow Jamie and Nick met and became friends.  These are the people that Jamie stuck to, the interesting ones, the ones “normal” people would consider crazy, the ones who drank too much, smoked too often, and talked in loud voices.  Jamie himself was not much different.  One time, during my freshman year, Jamie knocked on my door, and said, “I’m taking a week off of school.  You can stay in my room if you want.” And handed me his keys.  At the time I was living in a triple and space was cramped.  I took the keys and tried to say thank you, but he was already walking down the hall.  I grabbed a few things and headed to Jamie’s room.

He was a music fan too.  Rancid, The Bouncing Souls, The Misfits, Black Flag, and all sorts of classic rock, hip hop, reggae, soul, jazz, and everything in between was fair game.  His room was a feast of cd’s and mp3’s on his desk top.  I devoured nightly, smoking pot and balancing on a practice board for skateboarders and snow boarders.  I drank all his beers the first night, all his booze the second night, and hid up there all week.  I told no one where I was.  This was my refuge.  My little vacation from my cramped life in a triple.  Jamie’s roommate had dropped out earlier in the semester and told no one.  Jamie didn’t tell anyone either.  I went to a few classes that week but for the most part stayed put, listening to all the strange bands that I had never heard of, the ones I had, and thinking I might have a future in snowboarding for money.

This is where my love for 30 Foot Fall came from.  I had never heard of them before my week of refuge in Jamie’s room, but I have listened to them regularly ever since.  Part of the 90’s punk rock revolution, 30 Foot Fall slowly started to gain popularity out of their hometown of Houston, Texas.  They toured mostly around Texas self releasing EP’s and playing shows until they were signed to a small label.  As their album lengths grew so did their popularity, and after a few more years of touring they finally had a full length album that put them on the map.  Ever Revolving, Never Revolving put 30 Foot Fall in the same category as The Vandals and they toured with them into 2000.  They were never a rich rock band on a luxury private jet, but rather a good old fashioned American rock band traveling by van at first, and then later by bus.

On our way back from Montreal, everything turned to absolute shit.  My patience and endurance hit the ceiling and then the floor just as the wipers and head lights stopped working in a torrential rainstorm that was starting to turn to ice as the sun slipped behind the horizon.  We were still hours from home.  I literally couldn’t see anymore, as much from exhaustion as from frustration and bad driving conditions.  I pulled over suddenly and told Jamie he had to drive.  Anybody else would have contested, but Jamie simply got out of the passenger side, into the driver side, rolled down the window, wrapped his face in a scarf, put on his sunglasses and said, “You watch that line, I’ll watch this one.”  And started driving.

We made it home alright after all, with a collage of swearing, close calls, laughter, shouting, and overall recklessness.  I think Nick pissed himself.  It was a genius night and one that we will all never forget, ignited by boredom and alcohol, fueled by punk rock, and quelled only after the rains.  Much like the 90’s era punk rock bands themselves, and lots of other bands, who’s motivation was ignited by their own sense of urgency, fueled by pride, and only quelled after they became a name and nobody cared anymore.

The 90’s, home of some of the greatest bands this world has known, was also known for a few boy bands and some pop stars or what I like to refer to as “The Swedish Stifle.”  The Swedish Stifle does not consist of bands touring in vans and beating the streets for beer and a buck. The Swedish Stifle is not band at all.  It was the beginning of all our precious radio waves and frequencies being taken over by one single man from Sweden.  He has forever altered the landscape of music as we know it, and not for the better in my opinion.  If you would have brought him to my attention in 1995, I would have waved the man off as a mere muse, a tiny ripple, a blemish on music’s amazing career of chasing out the frauds.  I would have simply thought that The Swedish Stifle is just this era’s brand of disco, and would have seriously thought that it would have gone away just as fast as it came.

I was wrong.  I was very wrong.  Instead, we have been inundated with the sounds and stylings of Swedish composer Martin Karl Sandberg. Or as the American music industry knows him, Max Martin.   Martin has too many top Billboard Hits to name.  In fact, he only trails Paul McCartney and John Lennon for the most number one hits of all time.  Yup, The Beatles.  Go ahead.  Go back and read those last few sentences again.  They are really hard to handle.  He is responsible for the Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and pretty much everything else you hear.  There is only one other person who could come close to his success and that’s Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald, or Dr. Luke.  He is responsible for some of the songs for the same groups previously mentioned , just not as many. But he falls in line behind Martin as number two.  And I don’t mean in rank.

Martin and Luke used to be the outsiders.  They had a few songs out there during the mid 90’s as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera popped up and made us watch their hips gyrate, they had the Backstreet Boys and N Synch as well. But for the most part the radio waves were shared by thousands and thousands of writing credits as bands wrote their own music, sitting in studio’s or even garages, littered with beer cans, ash trays, and fast food wrappers.  The voices you heard on the radio were dripping with pain, envy, lust, and love as they belted out emotions that were their own.  They were individuals, who sang individually from the emotions that lived at the bottom of their guts.  This, to some amount, an amount I believe to be immeasurable, promoted individuality, it helped create individuality, it was individualistic.  But the mere fact that most of the songs you hear on the radio only come from the mind of two people really bothers me.  I think about it so often, that I imagine I could be considered quite mad.

I really miss Jamie Lincoln.  We don’t see each other as often as we’d like because of career obligations and family life and what not.  I miss his spontaneity and his individuality, I miss discussing why we liked different bands, why we didn’t like different bands, why we would have to agree to disagree.  I miss midnight trips to Montreal for no reason.  I miss guys like Nick, who I don’t think I ever saw again after that particular semester.  I miss 30 Foot Fall and Rancid and The Bouncing Souls, Sublime, STP, and Nirvana.  I miss individuality, or at least what I perceived as individuality.  The Swedish Stifle is here to stay.  It’s been over 20 years.  Disco didn’t last that long.

“It’s opposite day and that’s why I’m smiling.”

Want to see how many top hits Max Martin has been a part of?  Here’s a list of 58 of them from an article on Billboard.com compiled by Gary Trust.  

Never heard of 30 Ft. Fall?  What’s wrong with you, man?