Oh, Wondrous Facebook!


One day early in September, 1970, my brother drove me to Andover, Massachusetts, helped me unload my stuff and left me standing on the sidewalk outside my new home – a dormitory. I wore shoulder-length hair, an olive Mickey Mouse tee shirt, bellbottom jeans and black PF Flyer sneakers. I spent three riotous years at that school, a place that I’ve since come to describe as a “five-star playground for the mind and body.”

A good number of people I met during those years are still very close friends today. But there were many more who I haven’t seen since the day I left, June 10, 1973.

Now, it appears, they’re all coming back into my life. Two events occurred yesterday that provide a poignant example.

First, I had a brief FB chat with Peter Currie, a class behind me and member of the Foxcroft Posse with Peter Anderson, Scott Coates, and Tony Hobson. Ironically (as you will see), Currie is the former CFO of Netscape and financial advisor to Facebook. Curried signed off the chat on his way to making a perfect Old Fashioned by warning me to “stay away from the Internet, it’s a dangerous thing.”

I’m glad I didn’t take his (tongue-in-cheek) advice.

One of my pursuits at school then was Rock & Roll. The music building, Graves Hall, had several large basement rooms where the rockers were stuck. Upstairs, there were dozens of sound-proofed practice rooms for pianists, cellists, horns, etc. The rockers got the basement. No sound-proofing, either. And painted brick walls. We bought cheap old rugs from a thrift shop and pinned them on the walls, and it helped some, but a Fender Twin Reverb can do an awful lot of damage in a small room, and we let it.

One day, we discovered some construction work going on in the room across the hall. One of the upper class dude, a fellow named Jocko MacNelly, was outfitting the walls and ceiling with acoustic tile. The next week, he moved his jazz band in.

Jocko was an amazing musician, and jazz was something I listened to but never, ever dreamed of playing. I couldn’t read music, didn’t understand theory or any of that stuff. I was purely an ear-and-seat-of-the-pants plinker of twelve bar rock. But he did let us sit on the floor when his band was practicing. Miles Davis. John McLaughlin. Joe Pass. I don’t remember much more than that, except for a brief time when he lost his bass player and asked me if I could try to fill in. After two nights, it was clear to me that I was in over my head, and despite Jocko’s encouragement, I stupidly took a pass. That was in 1971. Aside from one summer night in a jazz club in Richmond, VA, circa 1976, where his trio was playing, I haven’t seen or heard of him since.

Last night, I received a message on Facebook from a member of another Andover posse, John Rieger. He was a daily contact, part of a crowd from the class of 1972 that I hung around with. We ate meals at the same table in the Commons, sat around Joe Christy’s dorm room, listening to Jimi Hendrix or  Jack DeJohnette or Cream, whatever. Anyway, I haven’t see Rieger since spring of 1972, until he ended up on my friends list a few weeks ago.

His message was this:

John H Rieger January 21 at 10:51pm
So are you still a guitarist, along with everything else? I remember Joe Christy and me crowding into a Graves Hall practice room to listen reverently to you and Jocko playing “Devotion” (quite loudly, if memory serves). 40 years later I’ve managed to pick it out on the fretboard myself, and to figure out that it’s in the phrygian mode, like so many of McLaughlin’s tunes from back then.
How about that! I thought hard, though. No, it couldn’t be. I punched up Devotion on Youtube, listened. Not possible that I would have tried that, especially in the presence of Jocko, much less with him. No, Rieger must be thinking of someone else.
Pete Morin January 21 at 11:15pm
Phrygian mode? You speak a foreign language, John. And you must have snuck into Jocko’s practice room (he did the soundproofing himself, no school involvement at all) for one of the two days I played BASS for him, after which I humbly told him that I couldn’t possibly hold up the bass end of the bargain (who could with him anyway). Anyway, I am quite certain that I NEVER played Devotion with Jocko – it’s funny what your memory does! I played some Miles Davis stuff with him – Freddy the Freeloader, All Blues and So What. Freddy and All Blues I still play as blues.

Mr. Rieger wasn’t to be pushed around.

John H Rieger January 21 at 11:49pm
I know what the phrygian mode is, but I don’t read music for the guitar, and I’m not a good player either. However, you and Jocko, both on guitar, played Devotion in my presence. You had a wah-wah pedal, and played more loudly than the cerebral Jocko preferred. He made a wincing face. The rest is cloudy.

Stubborn fellow, he.

Pete Morin January 22 at 12:03am

I’m happy to let you cherish the memory, but I assure you it never happened. I never played a guitar with Jocko – only bass. You’re projecting my face onto someone else. I’m listening to Devotion right now. It’s simply impossible for me to have attempted it, then or now.

I’m trying to think who else it could have been, but no one else comes to mind.

Hey – let’s ask him, he’ll remember!

See? Jocko was on my friend list also. So I trundle over to his mailbox.

Pete Morin January 22 at 12:12am

Jocko, I’m having a dispute with John Rieger. He is adamant that he and Joe Christy were present in your practice space at Graves Hall while you and I were playing John McLaughlin’s Devotion, and even insists that I was playing a wah-wah pedal and you were wincing at the extreme volume.

Now, I am quite certain this is hallucinatory, since (a) there is no way I would ever presume to play Devotion, (b) nor would I do it with you as two guitars.

My simple recollection of the only time we played music together was when I auditioned for two nights playing BASS, and felt that I was so far out of my depth I couldn’t do it. I do remember having a lot of fun with So What, which I could handle okay.

I’ve informed John that I am quite positive that you’ll remember all this vividly and can set him straight. So stand and deliver.

My conversation with John obviously had an impact on him. His last message of the night:

John H Rieger January 22 at 12:26am
I will say this, Pete: It’s a glorious future we live in where we can instantaneously dispute the events of forty years ago after having met not once in the intervening period. Woo-hoo!
Indeed. Jocko’s reply was in my box this morning:
Jocko MacNelly January 22 at 1:59am
I dunno Pete, that really rings a bell, and we WERE rather ambitious – bless our hearts – those days. I’ll bet it happened, except for the part of me wincing at the extreme volume – THAT was probably just me “soulin’!” :o)

2 Responses to “Oh, Wondrous Facebook!”

  1. 1 Rome Arnold

    I was in Pete’s dorm and still remember the enthusiasm with which he introduced many of us to a new band called The Allman Brothers. Time flies. My son is now a “Junior” (i.e. freshman) at Andover and loving the place. On the topic of Pete’s blog, however, I do wish the internet were not written in ink, (paraphrasing the comment in the movie).

    • Look at the bright side, Rome – perhaps kids will eventually learn to think before they speak.

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