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  • Writer's pictureMichael Lenzi

(Re)Collection: Introduction

Hello. You navigated here and found this blog. You would be correct to ask why it needs to exist in the first place. It doesn't need to exist. But I want it to.

First, a little background about me. I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. My mom had high hopes for me.

I wasn't meant to be a musician. I sang in musicals at Gonzaga College High School, but I was buried deep in the chorus. The music I listened to was what was on the radio. Then I found David Bowie through high school friends Pat Padua and Dan Parker. From Bowie to U2. U2 to Iggy. Iggy to Black Flag. Black Flag to Minor Threat and the whole D.C. hardcore thing.

On and on. I daydreamed of one day being in a band. I had many ridiculous, romantic ideas about what that was like. I didn't know how you did it. It seemed absolutely impossible.

After graduating high school in June of 1984, my best friend Ben Smith encouraged me to try out the drums. We could play Black Flag songs. My mom thought playing music was a bad idea. She forbid me from having a drum set. She was probably just protecting her own sanity. I bought a rickety set and hid it in my friend Sarah's basement.

I was terrible. I couldn't get through a song. I gave up on it. I went to Dickinson College. It was the one school that accepted me. I studied German. I did college radio. I went abroad to Germany for my junior year. I played a little drums there. I was still awful. When I returned to my senior year at Dickinson, I went back to college radio, and there I met Dave Brower. He was the station manager at WDCV. I started playing drums again. You guessed it, really badly. Dave, Al Finkelstein and I formed a band and played two shows under the name Meatless Moussaka. Oh boy were we incompetent, but it was awesome. People hated us. But I had played in front of people!

I graduated college in 1988 and got a file room clerk job in D.C. and saved my money. I moved to Chicago on January 19, 1989, in my blue Honda Civic hatchback. If I recall correctly, it was snowing, windy and really cold. Typical. I had no place to live and no job. I had $1,000 in my pocket. I stayed with my girlfriend, Stephanie, who was studying at the University of Chicago.

I ended up living in a group house in Hyde Park. The house had a decent basement. A place to put a drum set. I got another rickety set and started playing again. I went to graduate school and dropped out after 2 terms.

I found WHPK, the U of C radio station, while I was failing out. I had a graveyard shift there. I was a pretty bad but earnest DJ. It gave me access to all the good records. I also met a number of really nice and supportive friends there. Ben Evans and Stel Valvanis ran the Friday night music show Pure Hype, which featured local as well as national touring bands playing live in the record library. Through that show, I met John Huss and Jon Greenfield. I joined John and Jon in the John Huss Moderate Combo. We played shows. Then I met Joy Gregory through a mutual friend, and I joined her, Laura Eason and Rick Karr in Tart. We played shows. In 1993, I met Pat O'Connell and Seth Cohen and joined Number One Cup. We played shows. We played the legendary Lounge Ax. We toured in the U.S. and Europe. My life was changing. A dream was coming true.

Along the way, I tried to figure out how to write songs and sing. It seemed beyond the realm of possibility. Fortunately, I got very generous encouragement from my bandmates. I ran with it. I wrote my first song, Strange & Silent Staircase, and then another, Apple Cider. Both were released on the Number One Cup LP Possum Trot Plan. That was the beginning. After Number One Cup came The Fire Show, Resplendent, Lenzi and Tough Solar. I still can't believe it all happened. It is still happening. Seth and I are finishing the first Nil/Resplendent LP. I am working on another Tough Solar LP.

When it comes to being a writer though, I never wanted it. I didn't feel smart enough. I sucked at it in high school and college. Music was my only artistic interest. Not writing. So why start writing now?

I realized I have some things to say about some things. I needed to try it out. I never thought I would sing a song that I wrote in front of others. That happened. So maybe this could, too.

This blog will contain ideas for a book I plan to write. I will tell a good bit of my life story through the lens of my record collection and explain how and why certain songs and records fit in to my life. The idea is not groundbreaking, but I want to do it.

So here goes. It will be something. Better than nothing.


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