In our new monthly series I Was a Teenage Music Fan, we’re asking our favorite funny people to tell us a story about how music forever changed them … or made them just ridiculously awkward. This month: Jon Glaser.
Growing up in suburban Detroit, I was lucky enough to go to a handful of great concerts. At a few of these shows, I bought the subsequent concert t-shirt to commemorate the experience. But not always. After seeing U2 on The Unforgettable Fire tour, I bought a shirt, just days later, at a store that was two times too small for me. It was super tight but it was all they had. And it looked good with my corduroy Op shorts. I guess I should’ve bought one at the actual show, but I didn’t, and settled on something that just didn’t fit.
That was better than when my mom took me to see the Jackson 5. This was the mid-‘70s. Michael Jackson was still a little kid, as was Janet Jackson, who made an appearance at the show. I was in third grade; there was no mania in my mind about teen idols or anything like that, but I thought it was really cool. The next day, at school, during “Show and Tell,” I talked about the show. I also lied and said I got a Jackson 5 t-shirt. My friends, of course, wanted to see it, and asked if I would bring it in next week. I told them I wasn’t allowed to take it out of my house. I think I even might have said it couldn’t come out of the dresser, in case anyone came over and wanted to see it.
These instances speak to the bigger issue surrounding my music fandom: my own laziness. I remember seeing the B-52s perform “Rock Lobster” on Saturday Night Live in 1980 (look it up, it’s so good). I thought it was amazing. I loved the way they danced, I loved the guitar player, I loved their clothes. But it didn’t necessarily inspire me to change my own aesthetic or even search out similar sounding music. But I rationalized it. Being a fan was harder then. Everything was on cassettes, you couldn’t just download everything. It took effort.
But there was one instance where I wasn’t lazy; I got a shirt at the actual show I was at. I was 11 and my father took me and my cousin with him and his friend to see the Doobie Brothers at this gorgeous outdoor venue called Pine Knob. There were two college guys next to us who were having a great time, smoking weed, slapping each other five and genuinely super psyched about the show. When the band played “Black Water” and got to the part where they sing “Mississippi Moon, won’tcha keep on shining on me,” the third time they sang it, they changed it to “Michigan moon.”
Michigan moon won’t you keep on shining on me.
The crowd went fucking crazy. “I guess,” I remember thinking. “He said Michigan, that’s our moon, we should cheer.” Even as an 11 year old, I didn’t see what the big deal was.
In any case, I got a concert T-shirt — one of those three-quarter sleeve baseball tees, which were very popular in the late ‘70s. This one was real nice, with maroon sleeves, a heather grey front with a really nice airbrushed painting of wild horses running across the plains and “The Doobie Brothers” written in elegant cursive. On the back, a large, emboldened block number – ’79 — and then the tour dates and cities beneath it. That summer, I took it to Camp Tamarack, the Jewish summer camp I attended for 6 years. This detail usually wouldn’t be part of this story, except for the fact that the following year, the photo on the cover of the brochure for Camp Tamarack was of me, wearing that Doobie Brothers shirt and some sweats, leaning up super posed against a tree. So, as a young boy, I had the presence of mind to wonder not only what the big deal was that a band said “Michigan moon” instead of “Mississippi moon,” but also to think it odd that a Jewish summer camp chose a photo of a kid wearing a Doobie Brothers t-shirt to promote itself.
Sadly, I didn’t save any of the t-shirts, and my mom didn’t save the brochure or the letter where I said I hated camp. (I didn’t. I just had the nerve to get upset because my counselor yelled at me for calling him a cocksucker.) I cried as I wrote the letter and shook my face so the tears would hit the paper, at which point I circled each water drop and wrote “tear,” with an arrow pointing to each tear stain. But that’s another story. I do have some U2, Jackson 5 and Doobie Brothers songs on my iPod. And a B-52′s song just came on my iPod dock as I write this — their great cover of Petula Clark’s “Downtown.” I think (hope) I may actually have the cassette tapes of their first two albums somewhere in storage.
Jon Glaser is the creator of Adult Swim’s Delocated and a former writer for Late Night with Conan O’Brien. His first book, My Dead Dad Was in ZZ Top, is out now on Harper.