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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fan Letters

Deep breath.

This is a big moment for me.

When I started this blog, I imagined someday writing this--there is no other word for it--confession.

I want to tell you about the only fan letter I’ve ever written.

It happened on a Saturday afternoon in 1983 in Moline, Illinois, my hometown. I was fourteen years old, and I’d just come home with an album from the record store.

I’d been reading about this artist for at least a week, and I couldn’t wait to hear him, this Swedish virtuoso careering over the American music scene--or perhaps flying in on a dragon--leaving nothing but a scorched land and blown away ax slingers in his wake.

The artist was Yngwie [pronounced ING'-vay] Malmsteen.



The album was Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force .

The cover of the album featured Yngwie’s white Stratocaster and a hand, presumably Yngwie’s, reaching up and clutching it from a bed of flames.



Classic D & D stuff.

The music was as other-worldly as Yngwie’s impossible-then-suddenly-easy-to-pronounce name. Of the ten tracks, eight were instrumental, and each featured Yngwie’s blistering, classically-influenced leads. It’s hard to explain the effect of his signature lick, which is called “stacked fifths,” but when hearing it I always imagined a million little bubbles floating to the surface of water. His technique was “bubbly,” easy to understand, impossible to emulate.

I was so blown away I did something I’d never done before. I searched out a pen and paper, sat down on my bedroom floor, and while the album played, I wrote Yngwie a letter.

I don’t know why exactly I needed to do this. I’d been blown away by music before, but this artist was somehow more important, more monumentally life-changing, and I had to tell him about it. I also wanted to commemorate the moment, and all I could think to do was to write Yngwie a letter.

(His record company must have seen this coming; Yngwie’s fan club mailing address was on the back of the album.)

I don’t have a copy of that letter, but I imagine I told Yngwie how much I thought he laid down the law, how totally pumped I was about his music, how much I looked forward to going to one of his concerts one day. I also probably had some disparaging words for Yngwie’s contemporaries: Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, and Joe Satriani.

Unfortunately, I can't do justice to the best Yngwie story ever told. That honor belongs to Peter Lubin, former A & R man of the Refreshments and unmatched reconteur. If you ever run into Peter at a bar, don’t ask him, force him to tell you his Yngwie story. Then, buy a beer and sit down. Make Peter start with his record company's president wrapping his arm around him and saying, “Peter, why are you fighting me? I’m trying to make you a rich man.” Then, tell the bartender to have a bar rag ready, because beer will come spurting out your nose at some point.

So, that’s it. That’s the one and only fan letter I've ever written.

To Yngwie.



Do you have an earnest if somewhat embarrassing fan letter in your past? Share it with all of us in the comments section. I’d love to hear about it.

Art

11 comments:

Dave said...

I was tried to write a fan letter to a band called Scatterbrain (Dude, Don't Call Me Dude). My girlfriend and I were such big fans I felt I had to write them. When I was I done even I realized it was just the ramblings of a teenager and tossed it away. I haven't been able to write or talk to a celebrity or rockstar since. Until now...maybe I'll just erase all this...

Art Edwards said...

Oh, Scatterbrain. Kind of the Quiet Riot of their day. That's a good one.

Thanks for not erasing.

Art

Chris said...

I've never written a fan letter, but when I approached ex-bass player Danny White of the Peacemakers in Denver, I was all set to enter into what in my mind would be a very engrossing conversation. I strode up confidently and said, "Dude, you guys kick so much ass it's ridiculous!" While I meant every word of it, it was obviously not the initiator of light hearted bantor I had hoped for. He stared at me, then pointed at the hat in my hands as if to say, "You want me to sign that." I took my autograph and crawled away.

Art Edwards said...

Chris,

I once approached David Lowery for a picture and felt like a complete idiot afterward. Nothing he did, really. Just awkward and nothing communicated either way.

Art

Edmond said...

Art,

I still remember writing you a fan letter back in 1995. I think it was on the back of a match book that I handed you at Gibson's. I think I scribbled something like....keep playing....the crowds will get larger and screams will get louder. I knew you guys(the refreshments) would explode. It was just a matter of time. Your lyrics and sound kept me and all of us coming back. You guys were the shit and became exactly what I travelled so far to find. I still have my copy of Wheelie by the way.

Ed

Art Edwards said...

Thanks for the kind words, Ed. I know the Refreshments were special to many. They were special to me, too.

Some serious law was laid in '95.

Art

Kathy said...

Art..."Buddy"...haha! I don't recall that I've written a fan letter, embarrassing or otherwise. But IF I did, it would say...thank you so much for the wonderful music and memories of "The Refreshments". The chemistry, the voice of the times, the music that spoke to my soul and that I listen to DAILY even now, well, it means more to me than I can say. Thanks for this trip down memory lane and for reminding me how much that music speaks to my heart. I'm gonna get my FFBB and blast it now as we speak, or type as it were.

So, how was my first fan letter ever? :-) ~ K

Art Edwards said...

Shucks. What can you say ot that, eh?

Our pleasure, Kathy.

Buddy

ironheart said...

I can relate to the story about talking to Peacemakers/Refreshments bandmembers in person, having been to many shows and said hi to the guys in the band after the show. I dunno, Art might appreciate this. It's fairly embarassing and embarassingly recent.

P.H., when he doesn't head right for the bus, is very down-to-earth and has an amazing memory. He said in 2002 he remembered me from getting kicked out of Long Wongs in '98 because I was a month short of 21.

Roger, very nice but for some reason I have a hard time conversing with him. He seems so deep, maybe I worry I feel like a maroon talking to him. These days, people line up like he's Jesus and I just can't bare to wait my turn and think of something witty to say like an uberfan. He does seem to recognize me since I've been to every NJ/NY/Philly show the Peacemakers have done, and says hi when I happen to walk by, lol.

Steve Larson has a lot of great stories and thinks I like look Joe Perry. In fact, that's what he calls me whenever he sees me at a show. Probaly doesn't remember my real name, lol. At shows, Steve is like Jupiter, only the moons orbiting him are hot girls.

Nick and Danny were/are both personable but seemed/seem to get ignored the most by fans after the shows. Poor bassists.
;-)

Brian I've had the pleasure of getting to know more personally in the non-concert-world. Only run into or talk to him once every few years it seems, but he's always happy to offer a place to crash.

Art I've never met in person but he's nice enough online. He's a hella good writer, too. And was pretty impressive playing the bass behind his back during the old Refreshments shows. :)

As for actual fan letters, I once sent a really embarassing fan letter to Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula when I was a kid. I even drew a crappy picture of him and enclosed it. Dear Lord. I believe I got one of those pictures with a stamped signature back that might as well have said, "Thanks, Scott never read this." -Universal P.R.

Art Edwards said...

I keep trying to write with the computer behind my back, but the effect just isn't the same.

No one there to go, "Buddy, Buddy, Buddy..."

Art

DaisyDeadPetals said...

Well, I never wrote a fan letter, per se...But I have had some brushes with fame. One notable one was the time I pissed off Dr. John. Yes, I pissed off a legend. Anyway, I saw him at this jazz club in Cambridge (MA) and after the show he and his band were hanging out by the bar. It was a small venue, but real class, you know...Anyway, I go up to him and he shakes my hand. Now, I don't get starstruck, really, but I admit, I was honored. And I told him so. Said how amazing the show was and how lucky I felt to be shaking such a talented hand, blah blah blah...Then I made the mistake of telling him that the onyl thing I thought to be a bummer was that he didn't play Tiptotina, which is my favborite song of his. I realized what I had done and quickly tried to correct myself by adding "But it doesn't matter because the show was brilliant!" which it was. I meant it. Well, Dr. John gets this attitude (which I have heard he is somewhat notorious for anyway) and says "Well, I played Tipotina at the LAST show...YOU shoudl have come to the last show!!" in this really super-snotty tone. Well, I have a bit of a temper at times and instantly retorted with "Well I didn't hve another fuckin' hundred bucks to spend on tickets to THE LAST SHOW!!!" He left, went up to his hotel room and didn't come back down. Meanwhile his badn is still at the bar, motioning for me to come over and laughing their asses off. They all bought me Jameson & gingers and told me not to worry about it at all. I did ask that they apologize to him for me...but secretly...I hope they didn't! Still think Dr. John is a genius and an absolutely sick pianist and I meant no disrespect or anything, but you don't fuck with a Boston chick! :-)