type o negative
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc
I was making so much progress in my early 20’s. I’d gotten into a band. I’d made new friends. I was hanging out in the city. I had been introduced to punk rock that extended beyond Raw Power and Fun House.
Things were really looking up for me and my legacy of loving bands that no one else could stand.
But then along came Type O Negative. I firmly believe that my 3+ year fascination with that band of meatheads may have cemented it for those who managed to look past the years and years of embarrassing musical loyalties I’d harbored.
To be fair to myself, Type O Negative had a moment when they were doing just about the most interesting thing in the mid-90’s metal scene. “Bloody Kisses” was a borderline tour de force when it came out, introducing underground goth sensibilities from influences including the Swans and the Sisters of Mercy, into a Brooklyn-styled Sabbath-core...And the production was so damned lush, with so much reverb and echo and creative synth work, to say nothing of the ultra-corpse baritone vocals.
And it was all accompanied with what certainly seemed to be a smart sense of humor. One could never be certain if the guys in the band actually subscribed to the self-hate, violent nihilism, suicidal thinking and scene-bashing that runs throughout the album, but it came across as a very potent form of satire.
Of course, I also was always a sucker for a well crafted image, be it Bowie morphing himself into a German Shepherd or Lionel Richie with his Fedora in the “Running with the Night “ video, or
Judas Priest looking so totally cool in their tight leather pants and shades Elvis.
And Type O Negative was no exception. The first time I saw them opening for Danzig in support of "Bloody Kisses" I was absolutely awestruck: The guys all look like they’d rolled out of a gutter. They were filthy. They were ugly. They spit on the stage, drank and chain-smoked throughout the set.
And despite the gay porn moniker, Peter Steele - pale, muscle bound, 6'6" and dressed in a wifebeater with his hair covering most of his face - cut the image of a first rate front man for this particular type of morbid fare. From the balcony of the Tower Theatre, I hadn’t the slightest idea whether this man was hideous or beautiful, but I knew that I wanted to look at him.
This, of course, leads me to the other rather obvious reason that people were suspicious with my obsession with this band. I was a weird, screwed up individual in my early 20’s. And I don’t mind going on record as saying that I was sexually confused. I knew that I liked women. But I also knew that for a number of years I resented them on a level that makes me uncomfortable to explore to this day.
And I knew that the fact that I'd resisted all dating efforts had led no small number of people to begin questioning my sexual preference…or even all too regularly make rather insulting assumptions about me.
(I can’t really tell this story without remembering all the time when my mom – a retired librarian - went on a odd, rollicking monologue during a family dinner about what she would do to entertain herself should my father ever pass away. The conversation concluded with her thoughts about how her three sons could support her:
“Well, Joseph [a collegiate librarian] and I could attended the annual American Library Association meeting together, and Kevin [an accountant] will manage the finances, and Tom and I………can go shopping together!!”
I honestly can’t relive this conversation without experiencing that same Molotov cocktail of anger, self-loathing and shame that was probably the spark for the more foolishly dangerous moments of my young life. But it does make me chuckle just a little, too.
Sort of. A little. When I’m not crying and downing entire bottles of cheap Cabernet.)
The point is, most everyone at one point or another at least suspected that I liked men. And this didn’t make matters any less complex. I knew I wasn’t interested in men. I was positive of it. And the fact that so many people – especially women – were convinced that I was, only made me more hostile and resentful towards the ladies.
And that was not helping matters in the least.
The irony of this all was that I didn’t immediately fall in love with Type O Negative after that first seeing them my senior year of college. It wasn't some massive man-love infatuation - even though I did find them fascinating.
It would, in fact, be maybe a year before I actually bought the CD. And I bought it specifically because after months upon months upon months of watching a friend date other people, I’d finally found the courage to tell her how crazy I was about her....only to be sweetly informed (by e-mail) that it would never happen with us, and that she was suddenly very uncomfortable with our special friendship.
("Special friendship." That's a quote - straight from the e-mail. Those words still make we wince).
Seeking something I could listen to as a moped over things, I picked up my copy of "Bloody Kisses" at the old Tower Records on Rockville Pike. And THAT was were the obsession really took off.
Not because I was gay for Peter Steele (well, maybe a little....).
Because of a girl. A girl I liked lot and who I desperately wanted to be with. A girl who didn’t like me back and who didn’t want to be with me. A girl - and a friend - who I never saw or spoke to again after she turned me down. Never even looked her up on Facebook.....in fact, never even considered it until this moment.
That experience - and my subsequent wussfest - made a lot of that album’s content seem a lot less ridiculous. The lyrics about watching a loved one die. The lyrics about suicide. The lyrics about freezing to death. The lyrics about hate and rage. Lyrics about it being "too late for apologies." The lyric about how "loving you was like loving the dead”. (How many ways did I chew over that phrase in the next several weeks?)
No doubt it was goofy, but it was also what I needed at that point.
Now, I know how utterly sophomoric as it all sounds for an adult male to immerse himself in over the top music in order to cope. But that is precisely was drew me to this band: I felt rotten inside. I felt utterly foolish and naked and embarrassed and angry and worthless. And having a big tall dude with lots of bad tattoos sing dirges to me about dead loved ones was comforting in a way that Michael Stipe never could have pulled off.
But it was essentially the same thing. Everybody hurts, indeed.
On to the show....
This was one of my first shows at the "new" 930 Club. Went alone. (Surprised?)
They were touring off "October Rust" - an album that was far more lush and beautiful than "Bloody Kisses", but which lacked the teeth that the previous albums had. It arguably made up with it with superior songcraft and texture. And far more vulnerability in the lyrics, which made it all the harder for me to man up and put the fucking band to rest.
That tour went on forever, but this was towards the beginning - part of the annual Halloween mini-tour. If I remember correctly, a big toilet paper war broke out between crew, crowd and performers at the end of the show, and Steele threw a gigantic pumpkin into the stage for the money shot.
Set list included (not in order):
Too Late: Frozen, Are You Afraid?, Gravity, My Girlfriend's Girlfriend, Cinnamon Girl, Light My Fire, Love You To Death, In Praise of Bacchus, Black # 1, medley of Aqualung, Dazed & Confused and My Sharona, followed by an encore of Pain/Prelude to Agony, Wolf Moon and Christian Woman.
I'm think I'm going to need to lie down for a sec after that one.