Human Potential,
The TVD First Date

“At a very early age music was an integral part of my life. My pop loves to regale whoever will listen with tales about how I used to sneak out of bed to watch MTV in the middle of the night—or about the time, when I poured milk all over my Muppets drum set after watching the “Centerfold” video for the first time, hoping to mimic the shot of the snare drum exploding with white paint during the fill, just before the coda… you know what I’m talking about.”

“My affinity for music was undoubtedly sparked by my father himself who always spun a lot of tunes around the house. It being the early ’80s and all, the primary source of most of the music we listened to was vinyl. By age four I had amassed what I thought was a not unimpressive record collection—mostly 45s that my pop would buy for me when he had some extra coin.

“Believe it or Not,” which was the theme song from The Greatest American Hero TV show got an extraordinary amount of play as did “Rock the Casbah.” Hall and Oates were in steady rotation along with Toto, and lest we not forget the J. Geils Band’s “Love Stinks” twelve-inch which was a defining record for me. Do yourself a favor and take a listen to, “No Sardines Please.” It’s a bizarre skit in which a man’s wife turns into a bowling ball. It terrified me consistently for a number of years, but still…I couldn’t stop listening to it.

When I wasn’t jamming out to “Maneater” in my bedroom, my pop would treat my sister and me to selections from his stock of well-worn ’60s classics—The Rascals, The Beatles, and Paul Revere and The Raiders were among his favorites. But, there was one song in particular that we listened to more than any other, “Devil With a Blue Dress On”—the Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels’s version. My father absolutely loved that song, and in turn so did my sister and I. As a family it meant a lot to us, but it meant more to my father than anyone. His band in high school used to cover it—it was a cherished part of his childhood that he was now passing along to his kids. It had emotional resonance.

Now, I don’t think I was that much of a prick growing up, but I definitely ran a little hot headed at times. In some instances I maybe let my emotions get the better of me. Did I once push my sister off a jungle gym inadvertently breaking her arm? Yes. Did I once try to run away from home when I was five, but after realizing I wasn’t allowed to cross the street simply stroll around the block, petulantly, until I had to return home for dinner? Of course. But, I think far and beyond the most dick-ish thing I ever did as a child is detailed in the paragraphs below.

My pop, who remains as close to a hero as anyone in my life, worked really hard to raise two kids for a number of years essentially on his own. It was tough for him, and disciplining me at times was, I’m certain, a horrible drag. One particular morning I became extraordinarily angry with my him—why that was, I don’t quite remember—I only recall that I was irate. Now, I don’t exactly know why I did this since it seems particularly cruel for a four year-old, but well…maybe I was fucking prick.

At that time, we lived in a split-level townhouse in Wilmington, Delaware. Basically, you walked in the front door and there was a short flight of stairs that led up to the kitchen…the living room was up another short flight of stairs from the kitchen, and so on and so forth. In my uncontrollable rage, I stormed up the stairs up to my pop’s record collection in the living room and grabbed the “Devil With a Blue Dress On” seven-inch that he adored so much. Then, casually but with aplomb, I descended the stairs to the kitchen where my pop and my sister were sitting. Then, I stood at the top of the stairs that led down to the front door, flagrantly wielding the coveted disk in my hand—almost as if I was taunting my dad.

He knew exactly what was going on in my bratty little brain and he very calmly cautioned, “Andy…don’t you dare.” But, his words seemingly had no effect on my resolution to exact revenge for whatever disciplinary action he had just taken. I remember listening to his stern warning and letting it sink in for a few seconds. Then, I nonchalantly cocked my arm back and with all the force I could muster, threw that goddamned record down the stairs toward the front door. When it hit the hardwood floor, a rather decent sized chunk of vinyl chipped off and the record was immediately rendered unplayable. Basically, I destroyed his favorite piece of music, on purpose. I don’t quite remember my father’s reaction, but I’m positive that it could not have been good—at all.

Following that unfortunate incident, he actually kept that mangled seven-inch in his collection. I’m not sure if he just couldn’t part with it or if he was keeping it for me as a physical reminder of the grief I had caused him—a talisman that would bring decades of guilt for my selfish and deplorable actions.

Luckily, as years passed, I became slightly more emotionally stable and I would like to believe, thoughtful. In college, I had an epiphanic moment during which I conceived of an incomparable birthday present for my father. Yes! I would buy him a new version of “Devil With the Blue Dress On”—on vinyl—just like the one I had callously obliterated during one of my misguided childhood ravings.

But, this being the early 2000s in Northern Delaware, there were exactly two stores at which you could buy vinyl, neither of which had a sizable selection. So, I decided to call some shops in Philadelphia to inquire as to whether anyone in the tri-state area had a copy of Mitch Ryder’s version of “Devil.” After ringing up a handful of spots and getting a series of mystified reactions, I finally hit pay dirt. One record store in North Philly (unfortunately, the name escapes me now) had exactly one copy of “Devil With the Blue Dress On.”

Almost immediately, my girlfriend and I took a drive up to the city and copped it. A few days later I went over to my dad’s house and handed over the gift. It was a heartwarming moment. My pop was palpably happy—touched even. Not only that, but the sheer weight of the travesty I had committed had finally, after all these years, been lifted. But, there was one caveat to this offering. At that time, my pop didn’t have a turntable, so the record was largely symbolic, an act of attrition for blithely destroying the very song he most venerated.

But last year my sister and I decided to buy my father a new turntable for Christmas. I brought down some old records of mine that I had inherited over the years—jams I knew he would like—Vanilla Fudge, Cream, Iron Butterfly, even a live Mitch Ryder record. He was pleasantly surprised by the gift, but most of all he looked forward to sharing his new vinyl collection with my niece and nephew who I’m pretty sure had never seen a record before in their lives.

It’s been a long row to hoe, but after over 30 years, my pop can finally listen to Mitch Ryder’s “Devil With a Blue Dress On” on vinyl. My hope is that he occasionally throws on a little Human Potential every now and then. If not, no worries—as long as he doesn’t throw my record down the stairs after our next disagreement. Although, maybe that’s just the karmic retribution needed to make us square.”
Andrew Becker

Human Potential’s full length release Hot Gun Western City is in stores now—on vinyl.

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PHOTO: ANDREW BECKER

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