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Homer Simpson, smiling politely

May 30, 2013


On my way home from work, I heard a song on the car radio. Bullet with Butterfly Wings by the Smashing Pumpkins. Remember that song? That song always reminds me of this little story.

When I was a teenager, my brother was in a rock band, a little rock band. They played all-ages gigs and shitty bars around town. Rock stars they were not. But they were having fun. That’s what mattered.

One day, one of the guy’s in my brother’s band was going through his (parents’) garage and he came across an old microphone. He grabbed the mic and showed it to his bandmates. They all thought it looked pretty neat. It didn’t work, but it looked pretty cool. They kept it around for show.

Then one day, the Smashing Pumpkins put out a new record with a new music video. Bullet with Butterfly Wings was everywhere. For a little while, that song was everywhere, including the music video stations. They ran that song into the ground. Not that it was any good, but it was popular, that’s for sure.

In the music video, the Smashing Pumpkins’ lead singer Billy Corgan is seen singing into a microphone. As my brother and I watched that music video, we both noticed something familiar about the microphone. That’s just like the microphone my brother’s bandmate found in his garage.

First chance my brother had, he took that microphone to the music store to see if he could get it repaired. He wanted to use it on stage, for real now.

The local music store, the good one, had this technician/engineer guy who did all the instrument repairs. To picture him, you have to imagine the radio station engineer character from the movie Airheads but with a thick Jamacian accent. Everybody in town who tried to take music seriously knew this guy. If you had a blown speaker, you went to see him. If your guitar couldn’t hold a tune, you went to see him. My brother had a neat-looking, shot microphone, we went to see him.

Okay, you have to imagine his words being said with a Jamaican accent, “Why do you want to fix this old mic?”

My brother’s response: “It’s the same mic the Smashing Pumpkins use in their new video.”

“Who are da Smashing Pumpkins, mon?”

I will never forget those six words. There is more wisdom and teachings in those six words than any other six words I’ve ever been told.

It may be that this guy never heard of the Smashing Pumpkins. That’s possible. But I like to think that there is much much more to be learned from those six words.

It could mean more than just who are the smashing pumpkins. It could mean who cares about the Smashing Pumpkins. They’re just the band, the act, that’s popular today. Tomorrow it will be somebody else. Don’t copy what is popular because you can never keep up. It changes too rapidly. In fact, don’t copy at all. Be yourself. Be your own artist. That’s the only way to be true to yourself, to your own art.

Here is this guy, he sits in his little lab everyday fixing other people’s musical instruments. Instruments people need, or think they need, to make their own art. However, the instrument doesn’t matter. The art will find it’s own medium. A microphone is just a microphone. What’s being sung or played into the microphone, that’s the art. That’s what matters.

I believe that’s the lesson this guy was trying to teach us that day. He was really saying “Find your own voice and don’t hide behind a microphone.”

He could have fixed the microphone and given my brother the bill. Instead, he taught us a lesson. He’s been around. He’s seen more musicians than I could ever name. He took two minutes from his day to teach a pair of teenagers a lesson they needed to learn.

A teacher isn’t somebody who stands in front of a classroom and lectures a lesson found in some book. A teacher is a person who imparts wisdom, experience and advice to those in need. Some people teach, not because it’s their job, but because they are the right person with the right experience in the right place at the right time.

I went to a music store to see if an old microphone could be repaired. I left the music store with a shot microphone and a lesson. My brother still has the microphone. It’s a trophy. It’s a gold star for a lesson learned in the school of life.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2013 10:01 am

    Very deep!

    But what if the guy had really not heard of the Smashing Pumpkins?


    Or maybe that’s the point. To him they were nobody so why copy a nobody.

  2. May 30, 2013 10:16 am

    Great story, WIGSF. Very good wisdom here. Too bad he didn’t fix the mic for the aesthetic of it, though.


    I think it’s beyond repair.

  3. Bob permalink
    May 30, 2013 2:05 pm

    Awesome story. I am surprised I never heard it before.


    Really? After all those times listening to that shitty smashing pumpkins CD in your car, I never told you that story?

  4. May 30, 2013 8:43 pm

    It’s like something Buddha said. (Approximating:) “Don’t walk in my footsteps, for at the end of that path you will only find me. Follow your own path to find yourself.”


    But Buddha didn’t have a Jamaican accent.

  5. May 30, 2013 9:19 pm

    I like this post. And the title.


  6. May 30, 2013 11:18 pm

    I liked this a lot.


  7. May 31, 2013 10:54 am

    What a provocative story to start my day. And I just popped over here from Rock Chef’s to see who this wigsf guy is…


    Well thanks for stopping by

  8. June 3, 2013 5:54 pm

    What a couple of smart teenagers you were. Most teenagers would insist on the mic repair and continue to ape The Smashing Pumpkins just to get laid.


    Have you seen the teenage girls who liked the smashing pumpkins? Two words: ugly lesbians.
    Aping the pumpkins weren’t getting any guys laid.

  9. June 11, 2013 12:43 am

    What a great story! Like you, I like to believe that he was imparting a certain wisdom. And if he wasn’t, you were still smart enough to find the wisdom in his words.

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