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.
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.