The Paragon – Chapter 7 – The New Girl

I’m sure by now everybody’s sick of reading this series. But I’m working on the Wildwood book right now and the blog is on autopilot since last year. Don’t worry readers, the best is yet to come in 2023 in this blog. I’m grateful to everyone that still reads and enjoys Phicklephilly.

More time went by and the winter dragged on. It’s been really cold this season but maybe I’m just getting older. I used to be like a big generator when I was young. I was always warm and actually ran a little hot. I was the one who would give his gloves to his friend because their hands were cold. I was always warm. Not sweaty… just a well-heated core.

But as I’ve gotten older I find I really can’t tolerate the cold weather. I guess that’s why old people move to Florida. They just can’t take the cold winters in the Northeast.

I was out on one of my usual epic walking tours around the city and decided to stop back into a few music stores. I went back to Bluebond Guitars on 4th Street.

This time there was no young lady, only a couple of guys my age working there. I’m assuming one of them was the owner. I looked up at the guitars hanging from the wall and the black Ibanez Gio was gone. Hopefully, some teenage kid got it and was learning to rock. I didn’t feel any remorse because I guess I just wasn’t that into that instrument.

The guy asked me what I was looking for and I told him I had a ’79 Ibanez Iceman and just wanted a cheap guitar I could bang around on and play on a regular basis. He ends up taking a black semi-hollow-bodied Guild guitar off the wall with an $800 price tag on it.

So in that instance, I realized this guy wasn’t listening to me and had no interest in selling me a budget guitar. If I was too cheap to even spend $70 on a long-lost guitar strap there’s no way I’m spending $800 on a guitar. I don’t even want that type! I don’t really know what I want but it’s not that. All I can think of is a solid body, good shape, and lightweight. That’s it. Just something simple that isn’t the Iceman and maybe gives me a different sound and tone.

So I leave and head over to the pawn shop again. I stuck my head inside the shambles of a store and said hello to Eric. Boxes and gear are everywhere and the guys behind the counter appear to be hustling products from the store out on eBay.

I told him I was still looking and hadn’t found the guitar that would light me up yet. He told me to keep looking and at some point, I would know.

I feel like I’ve been on this quest for years now. I’ve been missing the musical part of me now more than ever but have been very content creating my blog and books. I think as long as there’s some creative avenue I can travel down I’m fine. I feel best when I’m creating but I want to begin to split that off between writing and music. Since the blog only publishes once a week now, I should have more time to put my energy into some other creative subjects.

My next stop was back to South Street Sounds. I stopped in and spoke with the owner again. I looked around the store and again told him about my quest. I also asked him about his guitar lessons.

I’m self-taught. I learned how to play guitar by listening to my records and learning the songs by ear. I hear the notes and replicate them on the neck of the guitar. I can only imagine what a musician I could have been had I gotten proper lessons as a child. But that’s another story.

He said he could give me lessons but would want to see what my skill level was before we began. He also told me he would set up any lessons around my schedule. He would only charge me $25 per lesson which seemed like a good deal. I figured even the best ballerinas take a class every day. You can always learn something from a more experienced player. I figured since I never took any real guitar lessons, that maybe if I learned some new things from a teacher I could improve my technique and master the instrument.

It should come to me naturally because I already have all the basics in my head and hands. I can play. I’ve been in a few bands. I can write songs but I would just like to be a better musician. Maybe learn some new blues runs or some cool leads. Maybe some new songs I always liked but never learned how to play. Maybe the reason I haven’t been playing much in the last few years is that I haven’t learned anything new in decades. I just keep playing the same old songs and riffs. Maybe learning some new things would reinvigorate my interest in playing.

When I began my musical journey back in the 70s I was always learning. Every experience was a learning curve. There were always new songs to learn, and write and repertoires to build for the bands I was in. This could be what’s missing from my life now.

I love learning new things. Learning is fun. But for many people, learning is associated with school, which I hated as a kid. I felt that the whole experience was a waste of time. It was just some person regurgitating a bunch of facts about things that had already been created and written by others and we had to memorize them and be tested on them. Nonsense to me. There was almost no place for creativity in school. Just memory stuff and math. I get the math part to an extent but how many times have you needed algebra in your adult life?

I liked science, English, and music class because I felt like there were elements that I could learn. But other than that school was just a prison I had to do my time until I could be released.

I think that’s why in the last couple of years I’ve stopped everything I once did in Philly over the last decade. I don’t go to bars anymore. I don’t go to happy hour anymore. I don’t have a girlfriend or hang out with a gaggle of hot young women at events. That all seems boring and a waste of time now. What can I possibly learn from an attractive 28-year-old beauty? Nothing. She has nothing to offer me but her youth and beauty. I’ve always loved those things but have no interest in pursuing them anymore. Some of it may be due to my age, (which is a relief!) but I just don’t see the sense in it anymore. I’d rather write, work, and watch my shows on Netflix. Just focus on my exercise, health, and creativity.

But I know I still hold certain traits that have been held over from my former self. I still love beautiful things and have an eye for lovely women. But now I love them from afar. I can’t be bothered getting involved with anyone now because I enjoy the simplicity of my life. I suppose because I’ve faced so much drama in my personal life over the years I’m just done with it all.

But I still feel for the beauty of life. I just don’t want any of that in a person. Maybe it’s still alive in me but in another form. Not for a young pretty woman, but for something I can possess that will bring me a similar dopamine joy. Something that won’t hurt or betray me. An instrument I can create something fun and beautiful through without involving another person’s wants or needs. Maybe an inanimate object that I can bring to life that I don’t have to text every day to reassure it I love it. Perhaps something I can develop along with. Maybe that thing has been with me all along and I’ve just been too busy working and dating pretty women to bother with.

Maybe a new, pretty guitar will be my paragon. Maybe that’s what I need. Not a girl, but a guitar. It’s so much simpler. I can be whoever I want around a guitar. I can bring my own joy forth through the instrument without the nonsense. Only good will spring forth from my heart and into my fingers on her strings.

I’m not cheating on the Iceman. I’m just spreading the genes around the musical community.

I run it over in my head again… just to reassure myself. (This is a combat mechanism I’ve installed in my brain to combat anxiety and depression.)

This makes sense why I need to do this now. Maybe I’ll replace all the women and drama in my life with a guitar. I’ve cut loose all of the crazy, toxic people from my life. I barely drink anymore. I eat right and exercise. I think I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my whole life. I’ve beaten all of my vices, crazies, and booze are gone. I’ve conquered my anxiety and depression. It took me most of my life to do it, but it’s nice to finally be free of all of that pain. It’s been an arduous journey but I’ve been able to spank all of my demons and make them pay. I’ve forgiven everyone, and I no longer worry about all of the nonsense most people do. I enjoy living a simple and uncluttered life. This is now an elegant balance I’ve finally been able to accomplish after a lifetime of struggle and anguish.

But despite the ups and downs, I’ve had a good time. It’s been an exciting and colorful life.

How many people do you know who’ve had the blessing to be able to fall in love multiple times?

The rush of new love balanced with the pain and suffering of loss makes you a more complete person.

I’m sure it’s great to meet that one person, get married, and stay with them forever. But that never made sense to me. It’s just not something that was ever right for me. Good for the people that can do it, but I like being free and alone. The next love or adventure is just up around the next bend. It’s been an action-packed trip. I don’t know how most people stay in the same marriage and job their whole lives. Maybe it’s the fear of the alternative. Most people don’t like change or being alone. I dig both. I suppose if you’ve lived in a body that’s constantly wracked with anxiety and depression, any outer changes are just hills you climb to get out from under it on a daily basis.

There’s a certain joy you learn from being free and alone to do what you want, when you want, and not answer to anyone.

Love and attraction occur automatically in homo sapiens. Marriage and monogamy are RULES. There are no rules in the way the heart. The heart wants what it wants. Once you put a price tag on anything beautiful, it’s ruined.

I walked around the store and looked at their latest batch of instruments that hung from the walls.

My eyes suddenly stopped on one particular guitar hanging there among the others.

It was like walking through Spruce Street Harbor Park on a summer evening. The place is full of people. It’s dusk and not quite dark yet. Lanterns hang from the trees and people are sitting on the grass, and lying in hammocks. Music and laughter fill the air as people eat and drink as they celebrate the warm weather of the evening. I walk along the path with a friend sipping a beverage when I encounter a group of women. They’re all standing together looking lovely.

But there’s that one in the group who stands out from the others. The best one. The obvious queen of the group. There’s something about her that makes her shine a bit brighter than the rest. That’s when I saw Sarala for the first time.

I said to my friend… “I have to meet her.”

That was what I saw on the wall at the music store that day. 

I think I found the guitar I want.

To be continued next Tuesday…

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO GO BACK IN THE WATER…

COMING THIS SUMMER

The long-awaited book about what it was like spending every summer in Wildwood, New Jersey in the 70s!

The Paragon – Chapter 6 – DiPinto Guitars

A month or so later I was chatting with my coworker at my job, (The one who’s a musician and knows more about guitars and rock than I do) and he and one of the other guys, (Who’s the drummer in a local band called, Mesh) and they told me I should visit Dipinto Guitars up on Girard Avenue in Fishtown. I decided that on one of my epic walking tours around the city, I’d stop in there and check it out. They both said it was a great store and the owner was really cool.

A month or so went by and it was one of the rare warm days, and I was off and decided to make the journey up to the store. I went in and met the owner. I introduced myself and gave him a little of my history. This store was probably the best music store I had set foot inside in Philly. He had lots of great guitars, basses, and amps around the store. He had a nice collection of vintage instruments and effects pedals.

I had been out walking for a few hours and asked if I could use his bathroom. He obliged and took me to the back room that led to a flight of stairs to the basement.

Even this guy’s bathroom was cool.

Just the coolest bathroom in Philly by far. It was like stepping into my past 40 years ago when I owned a few of those posters and rock band mirrors that I had won on the boardwalk in Wildwood as a teenager!

We chatted about his history and it was quite impressive. He’s played in several bands throughout the years and still played locally when he could. He also made and customized his own line of instruments. Like Paul McCartney and Jimi Hendrix, Mr. DiPinto is a lefty. He’s supplied guitars to some other left-handed guitarists over the years. He’s also built and sold guitars for several other famous musicians, like David Bowie, Jack White, Elliot Easton, Rick Neilson, Dick Dale, Kurt Vile, and LA Guns.

Mr. DiPinto played in a band called Wastoid and opened for Judas Priest at The Electric Factory back in the early 2000s and I told him I saw his band because I was at that show!

I also noticed he had a nice collection of vintage effects pedals in a glass case under the counter. So overall this was a very cool store run by a really talented industrious guy. Most of us musicians at one time had the dream of making it big and being a famous rockstar but this man has definitely had a taste of that and now runs a successful business. So good for him!

We chatted a bit more trading stories and I wandered around the store looking for the next instrument that would maybe light me up. I really liked some of the guitars he had made himself because they all had a unique surf-rock vibe to them and had some interesting lines and aspects about them.

He has some regular stuff like these Squiers and Strats…

Some crazy heavy metal type guitars… (very cool and flashy but I already have a cool guitar. I want something that’s nothing like my Iceman.

Here are a few of his custom-made designs. Bright, fun colors with classic vintage 1960s retro lines. Those groups of 4 dots are little buttons/switches you can hit with your fingers to change the sound. They control which pickups are on or off at any time. Looks cool, but in my opinion, less is more on a guitar. Still… they’re really nice guitars. But the biggest point that would stop me from buying one would be the price. They’re custom-made. They’re going to be expensive. Most are over $1000, so I won’t be getting one of those.

But there was this one guitar that was hanging up on the wall that really caught my eye. Not so much by its red color, but the way it looked and its pedigree.

That one… second from the left with the black pickguard.

It was a Tokai which is one of several Japanese guitar makers. I don’t think they make that model anymore. It’s a used 38 Special from around 1984. I liked how it was in decent shape, had a cool body, and was from around the period when the Iceman was born.

He let me take it down from the wall and play it a bit. It played just like my Iceman but was different in appearance. It was vintage and a rare guitar. You don’t really see these models anymore. I don’t know anything about the guitar’s history but it had been taken care of. Good shape, some dings here and there, and almost no buckle rash on the back.

But here’s the thing… the guitar was over $300 and a 30-year-old instrument. Another thing that struck me was that the volume and tone knobs on it were gold in color. They looked out of place. They appeared to be the knobs from a gold top Gibson Les Paul. Why were they gold, and why were they on this guitar? What else isn’t original on this guitar?

I looked up the model later on the internet and all of the pictures I saw had black knobs that looked more appropriate for this type of guitar. I know this may seem like a small detail for an old used guitar, but I think if I purchased it I’d never be happy with it. They just looked out of place.

But it was still a cool guitar and out of all of the guitars I’d looked at and played over the last three years this one did speak to me for several reasons. The shape, the color, the vintage and it played like my own guitar. So this guitar became the frontrunner in my musical quest. But I still had a slight problem with the knobs, the age, and the condition of the guitar. Oh, and $300+ for an old guitar that wasn’t one of the famous brands, sort of left me a bit cold. But, I’m sure if I had really shown interest in buying it, Mr. DiPinto would have replaced the knobs for me.

I told him I liked the axe but I’d have to sleep on it. Years ago I was a bit reckless with my money. I was compulsive in many aspects of my life and my youth. But as I’ve aged I’ve gone the other way. I’m super thrifty now. I don’t make impulsive decisions about anything anymore. Although I’m the same man I’ve always been in spirit and heart, I’ve literally gone in the opposite direction in my personal life. My core traits and talents remain but I’m different now. I rarely drink alcohol, no longer smoke cigarettes, eat nutritious food every day, and keep myself in healthy shape through proper diet and exercise. I’m no longer a young guy anymore. I’ve finally matured and take care of myself rather than feed my compulsive needs with frivolous things.

But I’m still a bit shallow when it comes to beautiful things. I love beauty. If the guitar doesn’t please me visually I’m not interested in it. I think the same thing goes for my romantic life. I’m 60 years old. I’m out of the game. I don’t have a girlfriend, and I no longer date or even want to date anyone. I like being alone. I want to come and go as I please and not answer to anyone. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s happiness but my own. It just wouldn’t be fair.

The type of woman I like and am attracted to all want to get married and have kids. I’m way past that. It wouldn’t be fair for me to get involved with a beautiful younger woman because she’ll eventually want those things. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand it, but it wouldn’t be fair to her to be involved with me. So although I’ve enjoyed all the love and romance that has filled my past, I’m just done with it now.

I know it may sound a little shallow or picky, but if the old Tokai is a little worn and doesn’t have the right knobs on it, I just don’t really want to blow $300 plus tax on something that doesn’t please me every day. I need to feel that thing that Eric at the pawn shop told me about.

I was about to leave the store after having a lovely hour with Mr. DiPinto and his wonderful store when something caught my eye.

Over on the back wall were several guitar straps hanging together. But there was one in particular that I had never seen in real life.

Yes… the long-lost black guitar strap with the lightning bolt on it!

I maybe saw one once in Gilday’s music up in Northfield NJ back in 1980, or maybe in a rock magazine somewhere but I haven’t seen one in real life for a very long time. I always thought it would be the perfect strap for the Iceman to complete my look but I never could get my hands on one.

But here it was hanging on the wall among a variety of different types of straps. I walked over and touched it feeling a connection to the item. I could smell the leather as I checked the price tag.

$70! What? $70? for a strap? That seems outrageous. I told Mr. DiPinto the story about how I always wanted one and he told me I should get it. He makes his living selling things in his store and I really want to support local businesses but $70 seems like way too much for me to spend on a guitar strap. As much as that item means to me from a teenage fantasy perspective I can’t fathom spending that much on something like that.

So I left the store and thanked him for his time and told him I’d seriously think about the Tokai .38 Special.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

The Paragon – Chapter 4 – The Pawn Shop

I started to think about maybe getting an inexpensive electric guitar that I could play more often. Something different than the Iceman. But I didn’t want to spend much money. Just something I could bang around on. The Iceman was now 40 years old and a valuable antique. It’s still in mint condition because I always took good care of it, but it’s worth thousands of dollars now. I thought that if I could find a cheap electric guitar that was a bit more present, I’d play it more. I started to do some research and decided to shop around locally in search of this cheap guitar.

It seemed that in the last few years, I was always talking to people I’d met about music and playing rock. To me, this was a signal that I needed to not only play again but maybe try to become an even better musician. Maybe learn how to play some leads and learn some new songs to reignite my interest in making music again. I felt that it was always a part of me and was lying dormant in my mind for many years while I worked at my job.

I think when I started writing this blog back in 2016, my brain was calling out to me to create again.

A guy who was a former musician who ran the company that washed the windows at a restaurant where I worked would always come in and chat about music with me. He was a retired school teacher and loved the same rock I listened to. He eventually ended up giving me a Fender G-tec amplifier for free!

I was surprised and very grateful but also saw this as a signal that my heart was calling out to me to rock again. This was a few years ago around 2018. The Fender was a cool little amp that you could program bass and drum sounds into. I could hit a button and it would play a bass and drum track and then I’d play along with it. It was really fun to jam along with but I was still playing just small bits of songs I had known for four decades.

I think maybe one of the most exciting parts about playing guitar for me in the late seventies was writing songs and learning new songs from other artists. There was a certain rush that occurred when I’d figure out the riff to songs by Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. I felt like I was getting better if I was walking in the footsteps of Jimmy Page or Joe Perry. I wanted to feel that way again.

The great thing about music is its purity. It will never hurt you and only bring you joy. It can give you a great high when you play and perform and doesn’t give you a hangover. Your music will never betray you or break your heart. It’ll comfort you when you’re sad, and energize you when you’re happy. It truly is the rhythm of life itself.

I decided to look into some of the local music stores in center city. This was about two years ago. I began with visiting my friend Eric down at Society Hill Loan which is a pawn shop down at 6th and South Street.

The place is a cluttered mess with boxes and amps everywhere. There are several guitars hanging from racks around the store and some of the better ones are in cases behind the counters. The place has been there for years and actually does brisk business on eBay. I spoke with Eric about what I was thinking about and how now that I’m older I was thinking about an old used Fender telecaster. Springsteen plays one and so does Keith Richards. It’s a versatile instrument and good for rhythm. I saw a few in the store but they were copies made by Jay Turser. He makes decent low-priced guitars, but I wasn’t feeling it. I also don’t know if I feel good enough to own or invest in an original guitar. I had to focus on my objective. A cheap electric guitar I could knock around on and play on a daily basis.

Eric said to me that I should shop around and when I put on a specific guitar I’ll just know that it’s the one. From one musician to another I think that was good advice. He told me to stop back in occasionally because they were always getting new stuff in.  There was always something about that pawn shop that made me sad. In the front windows, they had some old TVs and radios but mostly musical instruments. Just seeing those horns and guitars made me sad. Instead of seeing several guitars at rock-bottom prices I only saw the failed dreams of other musicians. I always imagined the guy who owned the guitar and for whatever reason had to pawn his instrument. The thing that he may have built his hopes and dreams on. The road of rock ‘n roll is littered with the detritus of millions of failed musicians, but seeing these artifacts held out for everyone to see knowing where they came from just made me sad. I was a failed musician/rockstar but I wasn’t broken up about it. I’ve had some lows in my life like we all have, but I never got so low that I ever wanted to part with my Ibanez Iceman. It had brought me so much joy and I had worked hard to acquire it, and I loved it so for what it did, I could never part with it.

So  I went about my business of working and writing and slowly thought about my next guitar. There was no rush. Weeks went by and sometimes on my walks on my days off I would stop in at the pawn shop and chat with Eric. He’s a cool dude who still plays in a band, but each time I went in there I didn’t see anything I liked. Probably because deep down I had no idea what I wanted or if I even needed another guitar.

My daughter said to me I never do anything for myself. I tell her it’s because I don’t want anything. I’ve had tons of material things in my life in the past and none of them made me happy. It seemed the more stuff I had the more responsibility and stress it brought with it. I think many people fill their lives with stuff in an attempt to fill a certain emptiness inside their hearts. Sadly material things like cars, jewelry, vacations, homes, and designer apparel all seem silly to me. I suppose it makes them feel affluent, successful, or more attractive to other people. But it’s just stuff. All of the greatest things and life can’t be bought. If you can purchase it… it must not have any real value because anybody with money can get it. Some of the greatest things in life can’t even be seen. They must be felt or experienced.

I’m so in tune with myself now that if I want something out of the ordinary I always ask myself why I need it and if I really need it. Am I depressed? Am I missing something? What’s wrong? Do I need to fill an emptiness inside myself? Obviously, that’s not the case with me because I rarely buy myself anything at all now, but that’s just how my brain works after living with the darkness of depression and the rollercoaster of anxiety my whole life.

But I’m fine now, and I think another guitar would be neat to have and play. Maybe give me a fresh start to kickstart my heart about music again. Not just playing music, but writing some new songs from my older more experienced self.

One of the guys at the store where I work is a musician and he’s the only person I’ve ever met that knows more about rock music than I do. That’s an incredible feat to me and I admire him for his musical ability and mental prowess on the subject. I think chatting with him at work and listening to all of the playlists he’s created for the store on Spotify has inspired me to return to my first love.

Last year I started my own Spotify account and I love making playlists, listening to all of my favorites, and discovering new music. It’s reignited my love for the art form.

I’m getting a guitar!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

The Paragon – Chapter 3 – South Street Sounds

Two years ago I bought a little amplifier from a local music store. It was a Roland Cube. Just a little amp with a loud bark. It was only $100 but has plenty of power and all of the cool effects were built into it. Technology really has made some leaps in the last four decades. Electronics are smaller, faster, and better than ever.

CUBE-20GX | Guitar Amplifier - Roland

The owner of South Street Sounds is a local musician who’s been in the industry for many years. He played and recorded in a band called Tall Trees. He’s got tons of gear crammed into the little store and it’s a bit cluttered. There’s so much musical stuff packed in there that there’s almost no room to sit down and try out an instrument. But he’s got a little bit of everything at reasonable prices.

In the basement, he has a complete recording studio and rehearsal space. He also gives guitar lessons and rents out the studio to musicians looking to record. He’ll run the board and mix the songs down for you. The Dead Milkmen have recorded there. When he’s not playing or fishing he’ll pick up gigs at local watering holes like Bob and Barbara’s or McGillan’s here in the city.

He’s been married to the same lady for around 25 years and they run the business together. His wife usually is behind the counter and operates the store on a daily basis. She’s a fit, pretty Asian lady with a peppery personality. She has a certain intensity in contrast to her husband’s laid-back, easy-going nature. Maybe that’s why it’s worked for so long. I’ve found that she’ll start talking about some subject or person that irritates her and then will become so intense, you actually feel like you’re the one in trouble with her!

I kind of dig her because she’s attractive and a little bit mean. I think this goes back to my Junior High days when I was hated by everyone. Being an ugly outcast, I was the object and target of my classmate’s scorn. Especially the girls. I think somehow in my formative years when girls were mean to me my subconscious at least enjoyed the attention even though it was negative. I think this may have manifested itself into me enjoying a woman who’s a little bit mean. I end up liking women who are a bit cruel in general. I don’t understand it but it’s definitely there in me.

I would stop in occasionally and chat with her but her corrosive personality compared to her very nice husband kept me away. That, and there was just no room in the small space to really check out their collection of guitars.

But I was still looking. I was thinking I may want a Fender Telecaster but still wasn’t sure. All I had was the little amp and my Iceman. But something was still missing. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but probably the fact that I wasn’t learning any new songs or writing and composing anything on my own. My energy was focused on the blog, but the itch to play again was getting stronger.

I would drag out the Iceman and jam on occasion but something was missing from the whole experience. I sold my Marshall amplifier years ago simply because it was just too big and too loud to play in my apartment in Rittenhouse. It would have melted the paint off the walls before I would be thrown out for violating local noise ordinances!

Something was coming but I didn’t know how or when. I would just keep thinking about music and ideas for songs and just let it develop naturally.

Continued next Tuesday…

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

The Paragon – Chapter 2 – The Past

Back in 1978, I was the singer in a band called Renegade in Northeast Philly. The musicians were already playing together when I joined the band. It was a huge leap for me and was the beginning of my life as a musician. I’ve written about this time in my life and it’s all pretty well documented.

We played the song, Draw The Line by Aerosmith, and Gerry the guitarist asked that I learn and play the guitar part when he did an extended slide solo during the song. I leaped at the opportunity to play guitar so he brought in his old Silvertone to practice and showed me how to play the three notes I needed to play.

Larry, Mike, Chaz, and Jerry

I eventually acquired the guitar from him. He played a blonde post-CBS Fender Stratocaster. He needed money to buy a Valentine’s Day present for his girlfriend and he sold me his old Sears Silvertone for $15. He even threw in the amplifier that came with it. He was a great guitarist and had a cool Stage amp and a Univox Super Fuzz distortion pedal. The equipment he was using became the model of what I wanted to do musically even though I could barely play.

I found this pic on the internet and it is the exact model I owned into the early 80s.

Time went by and I continued to practice every day. Learning the notes on the fretboard and pouring through my sister’s old piano songbooks to learn songs. I would forgo going out to stay in and practice my instrument. My main focus was to learn the basics and then start writing songs. I wrote my first song called Get Lost on that guitar. I had only been playing the guitar for a couple of months. I always had a good ear and a sense of music in my head. I loved rock music since I was a kid, and leaned more toward the harder acts like Steppenwolf rather than The Beatles. I really dug hard-hitting powerful guitar sounds. The heavier the better.

Let’s jump to 1980 and I’m living in Wildwood, New Jersey with my family. My dad had decided that once my older sister went off to college, we’d leave Philly and live at the seashore. Wildwood back then was an absolute wonderland in the summertime. But in the winter it became a desolate awful place for kids and teens to live. There is absolutely nothing to do. It’s a resort/retirement town and only exists because of its location, free beaches, and a boardwalk full of amusement rides.

But I survived the winter and actually thrived when I met a kid who played guitar. We started jamming and later joined a few other guys to form the Union Jacks. My buddy said I probably needed to buy a “real guitar” if I was going to be taking music seriously. I thought this was a great idea and started looking through magazines to see what my favorite guitar heroes were playing.

The one instrument that really struck me as the guitar that was right for me was the Ibanez Iceman. It had to be black and would represent the cool heavy metal/glam image and persona I wanted. I guess once I learned how to play guitar and write songs I didn’t really focus on being a great musician. I just wanted to write good catchy songs and be a rockstar. I remember reading once that the artist, Sting once said, “I saw the Beatles and I wanted to be in a band. I saw Jimi Hendrix and I wanted to be a musician.”

You can read about my whole music saga in my upcoming book, Down The Shore: Stories from my summers in Wildwood, NJ

But for this story, you can click on the link below to get the backstory of this musical instrument.

The Ibanez Iceman

When I saw the film Hard Day’s Night I wanted to be a rockstar. A cool job playing rock music and being hounded by throngs of girls wherever I went. So I always liked being in a band but my focus was on becoming a famous rockstar on my songwriting merits. I figured I could always get other musicians to bring my poetic and musical vision to life with their musical prowess.

So now I had the Iceman and I loved it. I referred to it in the feminine sense like men name their boats female names. It’s a term of endearment. Even though the Iceman had the word MAN in the name, and had sharp edges, an angular body, a hook, and what looked like a stinger I still regarded the instrument as female. She was beautiful and loyal and brought me hours of joy. She was far better than most people I knew. But the instrument still had a very heavy metal masculine image to it. Look at the photo. That’s a metal guitar. You don’t come out onstage with a black Iceman and a Marshall amp behind you and play ballads. You crank hard rock and metal at a loud volume.

I remember seeing a picture of a guitarist playing guitar in a music magazine and he had a black guitar strap with a white lightning bolt on it. I had to get one of those to complete my look. I had the cool Iceman, but my strap was plain black leather and I put neat buttons on it. Buttons were popular back then and my guitar strap was covered in buttons. Buttons with images and words like, I want complete control, I want it all, a picture of Alex from Clockwork Orange, a photo of Farrah Fawcett, etc. Just stuff I liked and thought was cool at the time.

But I wanted that lightning bolt strap to complete my rockstar look. But couldn’t find one anywhere. It was 1979, and I lived in a ghost town so music choices were limited. There was a TV repair shop owned by a guy who had a few guitars and gave lessons, a music store called Back to Earth, and a place called Gilday’s up in Pleasantville. Not much else. It was even difficult to find good music down the shore. All they had was one crappy radio station broadcast out of Atlantic City and if you wanted a cassette by a specific band the store had to special order it for you. I was probably the first person on the island that owned Def Leppard’s first album, On Through The Night, and Some older Judas Priest albums because there was just no call for any of that music where I lived. When I think about how sparse and talentless the population was in Wildwood in the wintertime I’m surprised to this day that we all actually came together and created a viable rock band.

I spoke to my father about the black strap with the lightning bolt and he said he’d see what he could do. He had always come through for all of us on anything we wanted when it came to Christmas, so why not ask Santa himself to procure this elusive item for me? He was great at locating things and bringing them home. I was sure he’d find one for me.

But as time went by, he came to me and said he wasn’t able to find the strap I was looking for. Was it a custom item that the guy I saw wearing it had specially made for him? Maybe. I eventually let it go and continued to play wearing my plain leather one covered in buttons.

The Ibanez Iceman had taken the place of the Sears Silvertone. The guitar that I learned to play and started my songwriting journey on. The guitar looked like a slender Stratocaster, but once you got close to it or held it realized it was one level above being a toy for a child. But it was a great guitar to learn on and it meant a lot to me.

But it eventually started to have electrical problems and spent more time in the closet because it had been replaced by my new girlfriend. My best girl. My beautiful powerful black Iceman. I had a tendency to do that with women back then too. I would have a girl I liked and I would spend time with her. Let’s use Anne as an example. Anne was my little girlfriend at the end of the summer. That lasted into the winter and she would come down and visit with her mom during the winter and we would hang out. I was 17 and she was 14. But I was immature and she was the perfect girlfriend for me. But once I was enrolled in Wildwood High and playing in a new band, I started dating a local girl. She was tall and blonde and I was digging her. New and shiny like the Iceman. Anne slowly became the Silvertone. I thought less about her and enjoyed my time with the girl who was new. I was fickle even back then. I didn’t even feel bad when I dumped Anne to be with the new girl. Anne was a better match than the new girl, but I wanted what I wanted. As the song says, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” The new girl won out because she was available. But because of who I was at the time, once the summer of 1980 broke, I cut them both loose to enjoy all the fresh tourist girls who would arrive in droves each week on vacation.

That was 40 years ago and none of it matters now, but I noticed some interesting parallels in my life lately. The Ibanez Iceman is the only guitar I’ve purchased in the last 40 years. I thought about getting a Gibson Explorer as a second guitar back then, but they were expensive. I had the Iceman and that was enough. I could only play one guitar at a time anyway. The Gibson Explorer would have been a vanity purchase not because of how well it played but because it looked cool. Pretty much why I wanted the Iceman. It looked cool. My decision to spend all of my busboy earnings on a $500 guitar back in 1979 was simply because it looked cool. I wasn’t about the ease of play or tone. I got it because it looked sharp and I had never even played it before I bought it. I just wanted that look. Pretty superficial and shallow thinking. But I’ve always been that way. I’ve put up with so much from so many women because they were beautiful. I was always very forgiving of beauty, mistaking it for sophistication and kindness. When normally beauty is the opposite.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about getting another guitar. Just something simple, inexpensive, and functional. I don’t want to have to drag the Iceman (which is now a valuable collectible antique) out from its case underneath my bed, get it hooked up, and jam. I’d rather just write.

I had spoken to a musician who worked as a delivery driver at the last restaurant where I worked four years ago. He said he would buy blank guitar bodies and necks and build guitars himself. He’s a really talented guitarist but I think it’s more of a pet project than something he was thinking about turning into a business. We chatted about it on a few occasions but nothing ever came out of it.

To be continued next week…

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

The Paragon

What better time than Valentine’s Day to write this love note

Initially, I wanted to call this post, About A Girl, but decided against it.

I remember I always liked you and others like you. I didn’t know anything about any of you, but there was always an attraction. Especially when you were the focal point. You became very popular in my youth. I always watched from afar as you and the others were in the spotlight. 

I always wanted to become better acquainted and learn more about you. But I never was allowed the opportunity. But still, I yearned for years to meet you. I liked you the best because you were so unique. You could do what all the others could do, but you always looked better doing it.

Alas, you were always in the arms of another man.

When I was around 16 I met one like you. I was introduced by a friend. But it just wasn’t the same. However, I was just happy to be learning more about you. Like the song says: “If you can’t be with the one you love. Love the one you’re with.”

It was a learning experience for me. I tried my best to gather as much information about you and those like you. I knew if I could be better I’d somehow win your heart. But I figured I’d cross that bridge when I got to it.

I was happy for a while, but there was still that yearning in my heart. You always want the thing you can’t have. It sounds nuts, but it just makes you want it more. 

A few years passed, and things were getting better for me in my relationship with the other, but it just wasn’t you. It wasn’t tearing at my heart or anything, but you were always there. No point to string it along.

I got very busy in my teenage years just growing up and exploring life. I worked through the summer and had a good time at the seashore. I started hanging out with a more experienced group of people and I felt that if I wanted to fit in and tune into my own identity, things needed to change.

So I spoke to an older guy I knew from the community and explained my plight. He was good at fixing things. I suppose you could call him, a machine head. He told me he knew how I could finally meet you. I listened intently and being the wiser man with more experience, I followed his advice. It was time to make a switch.

I’ll never forget the night you finally came down from New York. I’d seen photos of you, and you always seemed to be living such an incredible life. Usually held in the passionate embrace of some rockstar.

But here you were. I went nuts for you.

Even on the walk home together to introduce you to my family, I had to stop and look at you. I’d never seen anything so beautiful.

I took you in my arms and told you I’d never let you go. I was surprised at how willing you were to join me on my journey. I had worked so hard on my own to be better, and I felt that I had earned the right to hold you in my arms.

There were others like you. But you were mine, and I loved you for that. When I introduced you to my friends they actually seemed surprised that I could win such a prize as you. But I knew in my heart I had earned the right to be with you. I worked hard on myself and with other people to have you in my life.

I felt so much cooler just having you by my side. Especially when we went out together. That was always a blast. I was surrounded by beauty, but you never got jealous. You knew we were in tune with each other. You knew I wouldn’t bolt, I’d always come home to you.

You were so good to me. The afternoons in my room communicating with each other for hours. You really brought out the best in me. I don’t know if you could say the same, but I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. But you seemed like you enjoyed it. You always went along with whatever I wanted without protest. 

I mean, sometimes I was a little sensitive to your feedback, but for the most part, you were always sweet to me. I appreciated your input.

Don’t fret. I love you unconditionally and promised to never leave you.

I’d seen others like you, and some even better discarded by others or broken, and I promised I would never let that happen to you.

We had some of the best times of my life together back then. I’ll never forget them, or you. You were always so loyal. You always stayed by my side even after the party was long over. You never took from me. Only gave. All I needed to do was take good care of you and protect you. And I did fiercely. 

There were times another man would ask to dance with you. Even just for a minute. But the answer was always no. Find your own, I would say.

But time passes and life changes. I always loved you but things started to get in the way. Adult things like work and family. But I never neglected you. I know we couldn’t always be together doing the things we enjoyed most in the past, but you were always near. The distant sound of your voice was always with me.

You were never sad. But if I was sad you’d reflect that through your voice and somehow make it beautiful. You said it was a minor thing but it meant a lot to me. You were always a major influence in my life growing up. 

Even when I was away from you I was thinking about you. The more we were apart the more I missed you.

I remember I came home one night and found someone had broken into my house. The only thing I cared about was that you were okay. You were fine. They never knew you were there.

I’ve loved a lot in this life. People have come and gone. I’ve had a great time, but you were always there. I could write volumes about you.

I know as time has passed you’ve become more desirable. So many people want you, or something like you. But you can’t put a price on your pretty head. You’re priceless to me. I know initially, I loved you because you were sexy and cool. But like all great relationships they grow and the things that mean more come forth. What you gave to me and helped bring out in me are some of my greatest moments.

You never cheated on me or ever betrayed me. I wasn’t as loyal to you as you were to me, but I needed to take care of other things in my life that mattered at the time. But I never forgot about you.

You always fed my creative spirit all the while making me look good. But you always let the light shine on me. As lovely as you are you simply reflect your beauty onto me. I’ll never forget you for that. 

I’m growing older. We’ve been together for over 40 years now. We’re aging as time goes by each year. My hairline recedes and my waistline expands, but you remain as sexy as ever.  

You’ve always retained your lovely figure and lovely tone of voice after all these years. I know I did the right thing by keeping you in my life and taking good care of you. You look just as gorgeous as the day I brought you home for the first time back in 1979.

I no longer have the speed and agility I once had in my youth but you’re always ready to get up and go whenever I want. I can always rely on you. You never made me sad. Not one day in my life was I ever sad if you were in my arms.

Just to hold you is magic.

Just to be together alone with you. Our own private conversations. Those moments belong only to us.

It’s been a while, but lately, I’ve had more free time and I’d like us to have fun together again. I know it’s been too long, but you’ve always been so patient with me. I can’t say that you miss me, because maybe you too needed the rest. But you never minded sitting by and waiting for me to come back to you. 

It’s been too long. I want to hold you in my arms again. I love you, and I always will.

I’d love to dance and sing with you again.

Not the wild days and nights of our past, but in homage to what we can do when we’re together.

I want to hold you gently in my arms again and caress your lovely neck.

Think of these words as my first love song to you, dear. 

1980 – 17 yrs old – Morey’s Pier, Wildwood, NJ

2013 – 50 yrs old – Philadelphia, Pa

2023 – 60 yrs old – Philadelphia, Pa

Thank you for 43 years of joy, Ibanez

A paragon means someone or something that is the very best. The English noun paragon comes from the Italian word paragone, which is a touchstone, a black stone that is used to tell the quality of gold. You rub the gold on the touchstone and you can find out how good the gold is.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibanez_Iceman

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Bully

In the spring of 2021, I decided to write stories from my past. Covid had put so many restrictions on us that many of us couldn’t go out and socialize as much as we’d like to. Since I couldn’t go out and hang out with people I turned inward for content for this blog.

One of the things I did was to write stories about my childhood growing up in northeast Philly and my summers in Wildwood, New Jersey. One of the stories I wrote was about a bar band from back in 1980 in Wildwood that I liked. They were called the Dead End Kids and had a profound effect on me back then.

I had been doing some research on the subject and had come across a tribute page to one of its former members. He had gotten cancer and passed away a few years ago. When I finished the article and posted it on my blog, I decided to place a link in the group on Facebook that was a memorial to him.

This garnered a huge positive response from its members and fans of the band. It also brought this blog a truckload of traffic. So when I started to write the old stories about Philly and Wildwood I found groups on Facebook that enjoyed those subjects. In those groups were many people from my old neighborhood and classmates of mine from the past.

Again, the response was overwhelmingly positive. I liked being a voice for my peers from our collective childhoods. I think that was the first time I felt like Phicklephilly had any real value. I know I provided a lot of dating and relationship advice and stories about my own dating life, but it always seemed cheap to me. But when I wrote these stories from my heart and memories of this innocent time in all of our lives it changed something in me. I knew that I’d eventually be able to write the stories I wanted to tell from my life where the goal wasn’t to get traffic, subscribers, or ad revenue.

One of the most wonderful aspects of writing these stories was from people from my past reached out to me in the form of comments, likes, stories of their own, and phone calls. It was nice to connect with people I hadn’t spoken to or seen in over 40 years!

I realized that this blog had a greater value than I ever expected it to have when I started writing it back in 2016. Here was a forum where I could touch the hearts and minds of people from all over the country and the world. It was exciting. My heart beats in the past as a boy, beating now in the present at 60 years old, but beating just a bit faster as I shared in the joy of others through my words.

I got calls, comments, and emails from people I knew and some I never knew. It didn’t matter. We all shared the same memories and experiences.

But one of the people who reached out on Facebook was a guy I knew as a child. Now a man with a wife and kids. I wasn’t friends with him on Facebook and hadn’t seen him in over 40 years. I was never friends with him in real life either. Because back in the mid-seventies he was an arch-enemy. A bully that picked on me as a kid.

I had been picked on for years in the neighborhood and school. Happily, this all ended when I entered high school, but before that, it was a living hell. Fel’s Junior High and my neighborhood were nothing but battlegrounds to me. I wasn’t safe anywhere. Well, maybe in my room or back in the woods at the edge of my block.

The teacher’s scorn. The bullies and animals at school. My father. I was terrified of them all. All of them contributed to my anxiety and depression. (I didn’t even know what those things were back then. I was just scared and sad inside all of the time) Instead of lashing out at society I turned inward, and made art and created things. The pain was so powerful that most people that don’t have it won’t understand what it feels like. It can be a lifelong thing. But I always turned my pain and suffering into some sort of art and found solace in comic books, music, art, and sadly later…alcohol.

Alcohol is a lovely temporary bandage for suffering. It can never truly heal you, if anything, it does the opposite long term. What once makes you feel better and makes your problems vanish for a few hours, later comes back to undo all of that pleasure and turns it into pain.

I’m not writing this piece to talk about my history of self-medication. If anything my will and sense of identity never allowed it to truly own my soul. I just did it because I liked the way it made me feel and was a welcome repose from the constant pain of my life. (Mostly self-imposed by my own poor decisions) I rarely ever drink now and have lost almost all of my desire to drink even socially anymore. I’ve fixed all of the flaws in my character and feel clearer and stronger than I ever have in my life.

But getting back to people from my past, this one guy reached out to me one day on Facebook with a simple question: “Hey Charlie. Do you remember me?”

Based on my experience with this man as a child in my past, I think that most people would block a person like that. The memories are too sour to ever even speak to a person like that ever again. There’s a reason people are gone from your life. That goes for any time in your life, past or present. But social media can bring forth people from your past that you may not be prepared to ever deal with again.

Back in my day, when people were gone, they were gone for good. There was no way to ever get in touch with them again. That was fine, but with the advent of Facebook that all changed. Now you could reconnect with people from your past… good and bad.

I don’t think we’re meant to be able to do that but I could be wrong. I’m sure many people have been happily reunited with families, friends, and loved ones thanks to social media and the internet.

I waited a couple of days and thought about how I would respond to this man. I even spoke to my daughter about it. She is in her 20s and said she would immediately block a person like that and make sure they stayed banished from life forever. I agreed with her, but she didn’t know the full story of this person.

I don’t have all of the details but have gotten the story from a very reliable source.

This guy as a kid picked on me and found joy in torturing me daily. He hung out with some bigger kids on the corner and just enjoyed hunting me for sport.

I’ve lived a long time and experienced so much in my life. Happily, I’ve learned from all of my experiences. Especially the bad ones. You learn to not touch something hot when it burns your hand. I’ve known many people like that in my life. In some of the relationships, I’ve even chosen to be close to them for the wrong reasons.

My family moved away from that neighborhood back in 1979 and by then we had all grown up a bit and no one bothered me anymore. Many of the kids went to different schools for high school and many simply grew out of that bad behavior.

But not all of them. This one guy fell in with the wrong people as he got a little older. There was some sort of altercation between this man and another group of outlaws. Whatever he did or they assumed he had done against them deserved swift and brutal retribution. Now the hunter had become the hunted. They exacted their revenge upon him with a baseball bat. They beat him brutally and had I witnessed this as a teenager I would have applauded their brutality against my aggressor. It would have felt like sweet justice for the endless days of torture I had sustained at the hands of this guy.

But the beating he sustained caused some sort of catastrophic brain injury. The guy was never quite right again. As far as I know, no one was ever brought to justice for this assault. So the ultimate victim was this guy. My bully. His lifestyle had brought on his demise.

Now, at 60 years old, I had a different view of the world and its members. I thought about how  I suffered at the hands and wrath of my father and suspected this boy’s life was probably far worse than mine. My dad was a nice guy. A peaceful man who never addressed his issues, but not an inherently violent man.

But what if this kid’s dad was a monster? What if he beat this kid all the time or got drunk and did worse things in his household. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors in any home in this world. In some form, there is heartbreak in every house on the block.

I had survived the pain of my childhood and come through it a better and more evolved man. This guy on the other hand had been altered forever because of a single incident.

But was it a single incident? What happens to a child that makes him a bully? Bullying isn’t something you’re born with. Bullies are created by adults. Mostly toxic men who are emotionally and morally bankrupt as people. They’re mentally broken and download all of the bad data into the heads of their sons and make more of themselves. It’s a vicious cycle of violence and suffering.

I thought about all of this information some more and concluded.

I would respond to this man with kindness. I had forgiven people in my adult life that were far worse than anything he ever did to me as a youth. I wrote:

“I do remember you. You used to hang out with the guys up at the corner who played ball and hockey in the street. Hope you’re doing well.”

This man may remember me, but in his current mental condition, he may not remember any of the details of his past with me due to his injury. But maybe he does remember the past and what he did to me. Maybe he reached out to test the waters and see if everything was okay with me and if I remembered. I remember it all in great detail, but he doesn’t need to know that. I’m sure he’s suffered enough in this life for his choices. I’ve had a wonderful, colorful life full of joy. He may struggle with some basic functions for all I know.

I forgive him. Forgiveness is hard and that’s why most people struggle with it. But look at it this way if you can…

During the second world war, Japan flew its planes to Hawaii and bombed Pearl Harbor. Just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base, where they managed to destroy or damage nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 airplanes. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

We later dropped not one but two atomic bombs on two of their cities to make them surrender. On August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion immediately killed an estimated 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”

That’s an absolute nightmare when you think about it. But here’s the thing… during the war, our automobile plants stopped making cars and made planes like the Mustang to fight in the war. A car company in Japan did the same and developed the Zero to do battle against its enemies.

You’d think after killing 120,000 of their people in response to killing 2,400 of ours would be unforgivable.

But after only 40 years, Chrysler and Mitsubishi manufactured automobiles together in the same factories on American soil.

So if nations can forgive on such an incredible level, I think I can forgive some kid for knocking my books out of my hands and pushing me over some hedges for a couple of years. I’m sure what made him who he is was far worse than anything that ever happened to me as a kid.

Forgive. Don’t drink the poison hoping your enemies die. You’ll only be hurting yourself. I’m not saying to make friends with your enemies. But for goodness’ sake… let it go! Life’s too short.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tales of Rock – Who’s Opening For Iron Butterfly?

Philadelphia, PA – the Late 60s

I remember as kids we’d sometimes hang out in the basement with my dad in the evening after dinner. He would teach us to read and also read the entire book, The Hobbit to us. It was amazing. We’d sit on the carpet in our sweaters and he’d read it with feeling and do all the voices. I envisioned Bilbo and Frodo and the ring.

I remember him telling me, “you can’t hide behind a ring.”

Learning to read and being exposed to the arts and literature at a young age put us far ahead of our peers in school. The fundamentals I learned have carried me through my life.

Of course, there was music. My parents loved music. My mom listened to Andy Williams while she was ironing upstairs and my dad would be listening to classical music, The Who, and opera in the basement.

The first time I ever heard The Beatles, (Meet The Beatles and Hard Days Night, come to mind) The Who’s, Tommy, Steppenwolf, and Jimi Hendrix, from the soundtrack of the film, Easy Rider,  David Clayton Thomas, Frank Sinatra, and Iron Butterfly all happened in our basement at our house in Lawndale.

My dad had some younger friends he’d met through the bank where he worked. They turned him on to some great music and also marijuana.

Iron Butterfly was from California and was a psychedelic rock band. Their most memorable song is In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. I loved listening to that song! 17 minutes of rock! I loved how it began as a traditional rock song and then went into two great guitar solos by a then-17-year-old, Erik Brann. Doug Ingle was the keyboard player and singer, Ron Bushy on drums, and Lee Dorman on bass. The song would then settle into a dark keyboard piece and then a cool drum solo. (Who didn’t bang that solo out on their desk in school as a kid?)

I also liked the 5 songs on the other side of the record. Especially, Most Anything That You Want, and Flowers and Beads. I would sit on one of the barstools and read all the liner notes on the back of the record jacket while listening. They were such a great band. I still listen to their songs today on YouTube and Spotify.

Iron Butterfly never really made it that big nationally or globally after that. But I think they were a major influence on many hard rock bands of the era. I think they would have sustained their career a bit longer had it not been for the arrival of a new band on the scene.

Iron Butterfly was headlining a show in California. A couple of little know acts opened the show and then the warm-up act came on to do their set before the headliner, Iron Butterfly.

The warm-up act went onstage and sonically burned down the stage. No one had ever seen anything like it. They were a blues-influenced rock band from England that supercharged the genre. The crowd went wild over the sound of this new band. The sheer ferocity of the music was overwhelming. The caterwauling by the flaxen-haired singer, the blistering solos of the guitarist and the rumble and thunder of the bass player, and the bombastic power of the drummer blew the audience away.

This band wasn’t psychedelic. They were feral.

Doug Ingle from Iron Butterfly stood backstage watching this band apply their craft to the frenzied crowd. He spoke with one of his friends about what was happening.

“My god. They’re incredible. We sound tame compared to them. How can we even go on after that set?”

“They’re an amazing band for sure.”

“Who the hell are those guys?”

“They’re the New Yardbirds. They call themselves… Led Zeppelin.”

And that was the beginning of the end for Iron Butterfly.

Jimmy Page had been known to be a thief in his early days in music. The story of their name goes back to a conversation someone was having with The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon. He said that Jimmy Page’s New Yardbirds would probably take off like a lead balloon.  Jimmy heard about this and decided to name his band Led Zeppelin,  with the word “Lead” spelled Led, so that stupid Americans wouldn’t pronounce it as “lead with a long E”. He liked the name because he wanted his band to be heavy but also light at the same time regarding their sound.

But I think he stole the idea for the name Led Zeppelin from Iron Butterfly. If you look at the liner notes on the back of Iron Butterfly’s record you’ll see that right at the beginning they break down what the name of their band means.

Iron – Symbolic of something “heavy” as in sound.

Butterfly – Light, appealing and versatile. An object that can be used freely in imagination.

I always liked when my father said it. “Iron Butterfly.” 

At this moment I can hear the tone in his words. The exact sound of his voice. He sort of held the word butterfly as if he had caught that beauty in his net.

Then he’d put the record on and I’d live the next 17 minutes enthralled as I spun on the chair in our basement in Lawndale. The sound of eerie keyboards and growling guitars, tribal beats, pterodactyls, and psychedelic energy poured forth from the Columbia speakers on the windowsill and mantle.

I thought… I’d love to make that. If I ever learn how to play guitar, that’s the kind of music I want to make. The Beatles are nice and all, but this just feels different. Like it’s calling me to step into the Garden of Eden.

We’ve all heard the stories of Jimmy Page blatantly stealing from other artists early in his rock career. They opened for a band called Spirit. There are claims Jimmy stole the riff from one of their songs to create Stairway to Heaven. There have been lawsuits about this.

Jimmy was determined to build the perfect hard rock band. But I don’t think the Kieth Moon story is the real origin of the name. I think Jimmy simply stole the idea and made a variation of it for his band.

Look at the name Def Leppard. That’s an obvious nod to Zeppelin. Thieves or not, I love all of these bands, and rock n roll is one of the greatest bastards in music. They’ve all been influenced and stolen from each other. This has happened in every sector of music in the world.

Besides… It’s only Rock n’ Roll.

I guess I always liked when my dad said the words, “Iron Butterfly”… because now I realize he was describing me.

On a final note… “Led Zeppelin is clearly the better band. But Iron Butterly is a way cooler name for a band than Led Zeppelin.” – Chaz

My Wildwood book is coming out this summer! Stay tuned!!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Happy New Year – 2023

Happy New Year!

What a year it’s been! A lot has happened and I’m going to touch on the highlights of 2022.

I’ve been writing this blog for over 6 years now. 2022 has been a great year with many changes. The pandemic rolled on and as more people got vaccinated it began to slow down. I was laid off from my hospitality job back in March 2020 and was unemployed for a year and a half. Normally that would sound sad but it was a spectacular and creative time for me and my daughter.

For a whole year and a half, we weren’t slaves to horrible jobs. We both vowed that when things returned we’d never work in the hospitality industry again. The one thing people love in this city is going out to dinner and drinking. But working in that industry is the absolute worst place for anyone to be as a vocation. It not only attracts the worst people and those who lack the skills to do anything else, but the hours also suck, and the clientele is impaired.

Just awful.

But I’m glad we both did it because we knew what we never wanted to do again, and it gave us the means to file for unemployment and collect on the government’s dime for a year and a half.

It was like getting a grant to create and make music for over a year. If you leave artists alone, they’ll have the time and money to simply work on their art.

During that time my daughter composed and produced an EP of original songs and put them out on YouTube and Soundcloud. I continued writing and publishing my blog but didn’t have any new stories for content. So I decided to turn inward and write stories from my young life growing up in Philly and my summers in Wildwood.

They were all wildly successful. I dropped the links into groups on Facebook that liked that sort of nostalgic content and the members loved them. It brought me a lot of fresh content and traffic. The best part of it for me was reconnecting with people from my past and realizing what my next two books would be about.

2022 saw the release of my fifth work of non-fiction, LAWNDALE, a collection of stories from my childhood growing up in Northeast Philadelphia. It continues to have brisk sales on Amazon.

I had the honor of being a guest on Tom Krantz’s podcast, Type. Tune. Tint. It was a great experience and helped promote my book. You can check it out here.

Regarding numbers on the blog, we’ve had another good year. We hit over 380,000 page views since the blog’s inception.

Here are some of the 2022 YTD data:

Page Views: 55,000

Visitors: 44,000

Subscribers: 2,400

I’m really happy with how much the blog has grown organically since I started it with just one post back in the Fall of 2016. I appreciate everyone who reads, likes, comments and subscribes to Phicklephilly.

Phicklephilly began as a place for me to tell my stories about dates I went on, past and present girlfriends, and friends. I later added dating and relationship advice which was popular and brought me tons of traffic. I had grown tired of it all back in 2020 and wanted to stop doing the dating and relationship advice because it just became too hard to generate and maintain. But I kept it going because people liked it and it brought me traffic. But back in 2016, I prophecized that there would come a day when Phicklephilly would become nothing more than stories from my life and nothing more. I’m at a point with this blog where I’m writing for myself.

After doing it for 6 years and cranking out 7 published books I’m hungry to create something of real value. But I don’t want it to publish every day. It’s too much work and not my ultimate vision for this blog. I make a nice living now doing freelance commercial writing for companies across the country. It’s a challenge to create and the money is decent. I love the idea of making a living doing something I created rather than working in some job with a bunch of no-talent mooks. (which was my life in corporate America for the last 30 years)

I went from working in sales in my professional life to a guy who makes his living writing. I love to create. Nothing brings me more joy than making something and publishing it.

Starting back in January of 2022 Phicklephilly no longer provided any dating and relationship advice. I’ve been doing it for over 3 years and I’m tired of it. I feel like I’ve covered every aspect of it and it no longer interests me. People can still read all of that stuff because it will live in the archives on this blog forever. My traffic for the site is still solid despite the changes made last year and the lack of new content.

I only publish once a week. I put out something new and different every Tuesday. There will be no notice and each piece will stand on its own. Think of the quote from Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never what you’re going to get.” That’s what Phicklephilly has become. Every Tuesday you get a new story but it will only be about things I want to write about or stuff I did.

I like the idea of the absolute freedom to create the stories I want to tell. But fear not… these are all interesting little stories about cool topics. I’m finally making the blog I want to make with no interest in page views, likes, revenue, or stats. Will I cash all the checks I receive from WordPress and Google for the ads I allow them to run on my site? Of course, I will. Why not? I provided all of this content and this ad revenue helps support the site. But it will no longer drive why I generate content. I’d rather write something heartfelt and meaningful than just crank out dating and relationship advice.

I’m getting older now. (60!) I don’t work in corporate America anymore. I’m so glad I left the rat race behind. I don’t go to happy hour anymore. I eat better and rarely drink alcohol. Going out to bars and burning money with a bunch of drunks seems like a waste of time. I haven’t been on a dating app in over two years. I just don’t care. Those sites are all filled with leftovers and losers anyway. Sad lonely people looking to replicate the love of their lives that’s long gone and can never be reproduced.

I’m glad I lived all of these adventures and don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a great time in this city. But it’s over. I’m done. There’s absolutely nothing I can learn from hanging out or dating young women. Other than their youth and beauty, they bring nothing to the table. Let the young people find their way with each other. I don’t belong out there anymore. To me, it’s just boring.

Don’t get me wrong, It’s been a great year. I will write about all of the adventures I’ve had in 2022. They’re stories best told in the coming year. I assure you, they will be interesting.

However, Tales of Rock will live on in 2023. It will happen when I think of something interesting and then write a piece about it and drop it on a Tuesday. That’s it.

I’m looking forward to how the blog will evolve and change as time goes by. I continue to evolve so why not my work? You should always be evolving throughout your life. If you’re not, you’re stagnant. I’m happy that I’m always growing and changing, even at this point in my life. There’s always new cool stuff to do and experience, and I want to share those stories with you.

I’m grateful to everyone who has taken the time to read Phicklephilly and bought my latest books over the years, but the best is yet to come!

I hope to publish my 8th book, Down The Shore around Memorial Day this year. This will be a book about my life in Wildwood during the 70s.

Health and Happiness to all in the coming year!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Here’s the wrap-up from Tom’s podcast.

Holiday Odyssey – Part 1

This series is a review of last year’s holiday season.

Tree Lighting – December 2021

For the last couple of years, my daughter and I really haven’t been into Christmas. When she was little I would get a tree and cover it with lights and ornaments, but after a while, she lost interest and so did I. For so many years as a kid I had so many incredibly great Christmases I felt like I was over it now. It all just seemed like a huge cash grab and stress creator for the masses. That anxiety of having to go out and spend a bunch of money on a load of gifts for everyone. It all just seemed so commercialized after a while.

We’re tired of all the Christmas music that starts right after Halloween. We’ve all heard all of the Christmas music ever made over the years. How many different people can sing and play the same old songs year after year? Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is great. So are birthdays. But they’re great for little kids. To me, Christmas is when I hop on a train and go to my older sister’s house and meet up with the rest of my siblings and other families. It’s one day in December and it’s a time for us to all gather to eat, drink and chat. I love it. It’s a wonderful time. But beyond that, I’m over Christmas. Last year I didn’t watch one Christmas show or movie. I didn’t listen to any Christmas music either. I felt fine. I embraced what was important and left it at that.

My daughter and I exchanged gifts and it was nice, but that was enough for both of us. But this year I’m going to try to get into Christmas a little more. I’ll probably listen to Christmas music on the train down to my sister’s and of course, I’ll get my daughter something even though I have no idea what she wants.

I’ve lived in Philly for over a decade and I’ve never gone to the annual tree lighting ceremony at City Hall. I’ve either been busy doing something way more fun, or it just felt like something that would be too crowded and full of undesirables. But this year I saw that it was happening and it wasn’t a cold night, so I asked my daughter if she wanted to walk over with me and watch as they lit 4000 lights on a 40-foot tree. Could be interesting, right?

I mention it to my daughter and she agreed to go with me. So I know it’ll already be better knowing that she’ll be there and we can share it.

We had dinner so we wouldn’t be cranky and starving while we were there. I read that the tree-lighting event was happening at 7 pm. So we decided to head over around 6:30. I had no idea what it was all about because like I said, I’d never gone to this event.

But here’s the thing… before we went we sparked up a joint and I took two pretty big hits. I figured it would just give me a light glow to further enjoy the festivities. I’m a lightweight when it comes to weed and my tolerance is really low. Growing up I never liked weed because the high came on too fast and it made me feel anxious and paranoid. Booze on the other hand was my favorite and a perfect lubricant for my mind for decades. I hardly drink alcohol at all anymore and don’t see the point, but I’ve begun to really enjoy a little grass in the evening after 10 pm. It feels good, makes everything funnier and more interesting and I really like it now. I’ve beat my anxiety and depression issues so when I take a little hit from a glass bowl it just gives me a nice little lift. But this evening, I took two big hits right off a fatty.

We headed out and started our 15-minute trek to City Hall. I started to feel the effects within about 10 minutes. Normally I only smoke pot at 10pm, at home in my bedroom, and go to bed shortly thereafter. I never go outside and smoke pot because it’s just too much stimulus for my mind. I am very disciplined with what goes into my body now and control everything I do to stay level. But tonight, I figured what the hell, let’s see what 4000 lights on a giant tree look like when I’m buzzed.

We get to City Hall and there were a lot of people there by 7pm. The crowd was a bit unnerving but I was with my daughter and didn’t feel too high so it was cool. But after a while I noticed that those two big hits created a stoner wave in my mind as I stood there in a sea of strangers waiting for the tree to illuminate.

We were on the western side of the building and had a good view of the tree. But what we didn’t know was that all of the festivities were really happening on the Broad Street side just north of where we were standing. I’d never gone to this event and I didn’t know where to stand to maximize the experience.

We couldn’t hear or see what was going on on the north side so we were oblivious to the whole thing. We just stood around with everybody else just waiting. I figured it would happen in the next 20 minutes and that would be it. They’d light the tree, we’d all clap and cheer and then go home.

But now it was 7:30 and nothing was happening. I was feeling pretty stoned and it was a bit unnerving to be in this place, outside, at night, surrounded by so many strangers. If I had been drinking it would have been a totally different vibe, but I was high AF by now.

My daughter says she’s really thirsty and tells me she’s going to get something to drink. Off she goes and I’m left there alone in the crowd. I’m not freaking out, but I definitely feel weird and really high. Not scary panicky high, just pretty well stoned.

As people walk by I notice all the Santa hats, people dressed as elves, lights, illuminated swag, and the voices and conversations of everyone around me. For some reason when I’m high my hearing and eyesight become more acute. So I’m feeling everything. As people walk by and push through the crowd I feel like I’m watching my life in Philly pass before my eyes. Many people look like people I’ve interacted with or met while living here in the city. It was really weird. It was like being at a weird Christmas circus filled with people from my past. I would see moms with their kids and families that even by the look of them I could tell where they were from. My mind started to pull from my imagination and create backstories for the people around me.

What was taking my daughter so long to get a drink and get back here? But that was all in my mind. She was probably only gone 10 minutes by then. I saw groups of young people moving through the crowd that resembled people I once knew or dated as a teenager. I was somehow one of the oldest people there and I was pulling all of this imagery from my past and bringing it into my mind’s eye before me. It was bizarre and I started to feel like I needed to stand with one foot in front of the other to steady myself. I wasn’t messed up or afraid in any way, I was simply immersed in the experience. This is why I don’t go outside if I’m high. It’s too much of a visual and aural overload for my imaginative brain.

My daughter returns holding a hot cider. She seems pretty content and I’m glad she’s back. She tells me she came back earlier and saw the tree wasn’t lit yet and decided to find a bathroom. That’s what took her so long. She also tells me that the spiked cider and bottle of water she drank ran her $17. What a tourist ripoff. We’ve been out here for almost an hour now and I’m thinking the ceremony starts at 7 but the tree lights at 8. Never been here, didn’t know.

8 pm finally rolls around and we had a few laughs and a pretty nice time just hanging out together and doing something at Christmas. The tree lights up and everybody cheers. Once that occurs after all of this time, the crowd begins to disperse. We agree that it wasn’t so bad and at least it wasn’t cold outside and begin to walk home. It was a strange experience and I think I’ll do it again next year, but I’ll probably know where to stand and maybe have a drink and no marijuana. Too weird.

Okay, maybe pregame with a few drinks and then a little toke off a weed vape when we get there. That would make more sense. But, like I always say… good or bad, at least I’ll get a story out of it.

More tomorrow!

Happy Holidays!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

%d bloggers like this: