Thursday, May 17, 2007

Growing Up Philly Style

I grew up in Philadelphia, a city with a beat all its own. This beat pervaded the whole city. It seemed like everyone walked to that beat when I was a kid, bouncing along to a rhythm no one could hear. It was the rhythm of passion, and it was contagious. It was the beat of the heart, and we all moved to it. It made Philly this electric place, a place where people thrived or died, but never just survived. Philly was my home: it created me, hook, line, sinker, and I became addicted to the energy that made Philly great.

People who came into the city just heard noise, the deafening noise of millions of voices and screams in the night. The bullets of mafia drive-byes, the pounding of hundreds of kids pushing over cop vans on South Street on a Friday night, the thumping of the poor kid who walked into the wrong neighborhood as hundreds of locals kick him, even the clickety clack of the typewriters that fueled one of the largest commercial districts in the country.

The noise was also the fiercest sports fans in the country, cheering on the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, and 76ers, throwing snowballs at Santa and cheering injured opponents. It was the hundred people lined up around the block at Pat’s cheese steak, waiting for the best sandwich in the world. It was the clanking of the nightsticks of the mob thugs hired as cops to keep order in the craziest city in the world, and the boom of the thermonuclear “entrance device” that burnt a city block to the ground when residents took on the law.

And it was the music! Great music was coming out of Philly in the 70s and 80s. Philadelphia International Studios was producing some of the best R&B in the country, with acts like The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, The Whitehead Brothers, and a ton of other bands that made up the traditional Philly sound. Plus, there were the rockers: Bruce Springsteen was right across the bridge, George Thoroughgood was playing clubs every weekend night, even Hall and Oats were producing awesome music before they sold out.

Yeah, visitors thought it all made up a deafening noise, but anyone from the city heard the rhythm, bounced to it, grooved to it, felt it in their bones. The city was electric with that beat, ready to explode from it at any moment. That charged the whole city, amped it up like crazy, and supercharged anyone who spent any time in the City of Brotherly Love.

I loved the rock, and Philly was just brimming with it. There were these two radio stations rivaling each other every step of the way, always trying to outdo the other. They set up these amazing concerts, where the best musicians in the world came into Philly and put on these amazing shows.

The Jams at JFK each went over 12 hours with bands like The Who, The Stones, Santana, and so many more. 110,000 people going crazy to incredible tunes. On the art museum steps would be shows like 3 Dog Knight, CSNY, and Aretha Franklin. And the Spectrum would have bands like Derek and the Dominos, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was awesome!

The city created a type of passion that pervaded every person I knew and everything they did. The passion is contagious! It was all about heart; the city would embrace anyone who showed that heart, and would never forgive anyone who lacked it. From the lowliest janitor to the athletes that played for our teams and the musicians who graced our stages, a little bit of heart went a long way in Philly, and I was brought up valuing heart more than anything else.

Ever wonder why Rocky has always been considered Philly’s favorite son? It’s because of the heart he showed against such amazing odds. You don’t have to be the smartest or the best, in Philly, just the most passionate. In everything you do. And that’s what I aspire to as well. With my radio show, when I play guitar, in my work, in everything. I hope that passion is contagious; I hope you feel it too. The way I figure it, that’s the way it ought to be. Passion and heart, Philly style. Hope you like it.

Posted by Scottage at 12:54 AM / | |