Shine On You Crazy DiamondPosted: July 9, 2013
Several weeks ago, I got the unhappy news that an old friend, whom I had been in communication with on Facebook, and had spent a lot of time with back in High School, had suffered a stroke and was basically brain dead. It took some time after this fact, to pull the plug, and let him pass into another aspect of existence (if there is one.) News like this always is provocative. But where Glenn Leslie was concerned, there is a little bit more. As I keep getting likes on some of the stories I told on FB on Glenn’s page, I thought it would be good to share them here for better posterity.
My friend, Glenn Leslie, was the key figure during our senior year in High School, to introduce me to a world of music that I am still very much enamored with. That music, which we knew as “Avante Garde” rock or progressive rock was mostly hard to come by, as much of it had no radio play back in those days, nor still does. It is omitted from many rock histories, even though many of its’ protagonists are still around and composing music.
Some of these bands got radio play: Genesis and Pink Floyd. But many that did not: Hatfield of the North, Henry Cow, King Crimson, Gong, Egg, Brian Eno, Mike Oldfield, Kevin Ayers, Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt and on and on. For these unheard bands, there was Glenn’s basement, where he had the best stereo system among us, and record collection that seemed to span two walls.
In his later years, Glenn never married. He was obsessively devoted to music, had been a Roadie for the likes of Lou Reed, and then later as a booking agent for some progressive acts (he worked with Neal Smith, former drummer for Alice Cooper. Interview here)
When asked, I provided some stories about my old friend. He was a character. We remember him as a the guy who could jam an entire apple into his mouth which he would do with an intense growl.
When in HS, Glenn used to get an allowance. We never really understood his living set-up. It seemed his mother was never around, and his father had died years earlier. so he lived in a house with his sister (who we also never saw), near school. He had this allowance that was supposed to be for food and such and he spent a large portion of it on records. He fancied himself a reviewer. He would buy everything and then listen to it. He once told me that while doing this, he had a new J Geils Band album, which in the middle of listening to, he ripped from the turn table and tossed it out the window. that was his review. He would troll thru Melody Maker Magazine for reviews on progressive music, which is how he discovered many of the groups he later turned the rest of us onto. We would spend a lot of time filing through the British Imports section at Korvettes.
When I spoke to him on the phone about a decade ago, just around the time my son was born, he told me of the goings on in his life. Mostly stuff about Fred Frith and music he was involved with. But then he asked me about some of the girls we hung out with in Alley Pond Park, none of whom I had a clue about what happened to. I said Glenn “surely most of them are married with kids by now. Is that what you really want?” He was locked in a time warp. But recently when I worked on the $100 Guitar Project with Nick D, I asked Nick how he knew Glenn. And he had some very positive things to say about Glenn being very helpful and caring for outsider musicians. Glenn was an advocate for creativity in music. And you see how rare this is. Everyday I see stuff from people “this is my new band” and they churn out the same riffs, the same rhythms, the same tempos, the same hooks, as have been rehashed a million times. Glenn opened us up to music that took a risk. That exercised intelligence. Music that had a quest. He hated the Grateful Dead because they represented a kind of “nod your head” in complete blissful boringness. He wanted to see the creative in the music. He cherished inventiveness.
One last story I will relate. One time while driving in Glenn’s car, we were talking about creativity and music. I had just taken up the guitar a bit more seriously. I had begun to teach my self music using the Carcassi Method of classical playing. I told Glenn why I was doing it.
“I hear music in my head. Although I love a lot of these bands, I still cannot hear what it is I want,” I said. “Then what is it you want to hear” Glenn asked. Then I began to create the most ridiculous composition out of my mouth. It included all kinds of spitting noises, mouth farting in rhythm, high pitched screaming mixed with some humming. “you can’t do that” Glenn exclaimed.
I said, “I just did.”
Rest in Peace.