After an adolescence of drinking beer, smoking dope and attempting to deflower every hot girl I could find, I naturally went on a Mormon mission.
And I didn’t go on just any mission, I went to Colombia, the drug capital of the world. We’d pull a handful of coca leaves off of the trees and use them like chewing tobacco. It’s amazing how much energy you have with a wad of coca leaves between your cheek and gum.
But the mission is also where I got serious about music. There were two main reasons for this: First, listening to anything but classical music or the Mo Tab (Mormon Tabernacle Choir) was against the rules, so you had to do it on the down low. Second, at the time, quality music was very hard to find in Colombia.
Guys who’d been listening to Styx, Journey and Foreigner at home were now listening to Creedence, the Stones, Zeppelin and The Who. The reason was really very simple; with limited resources, you buy what will give you more satisfying pleasure for the longest time.
Whenever we went through Bogota (population eight million at the time), we would always go to the basement of the Marriot Hotel, where they sold all things American. You could buy Budweiser (but Colombian beer was better) and Jack Daniels. I’d always buy both Newsweek and Time magazine and read them cover to cover. We would then pick through the racks of cassettes just hoping to buy something solid.
And then John Lennon got murdered and all of the new missionaries were sneaking in Beatles cassettes.
To get this last part, you need to know that every Colombian in the country closes down their stores and shops from noon to 2 p.m. If you knocked on their door, you’d piss them off big-time, and make them downright hostile.
Not long after I became the Senior Companion, I got transferred to Bucaramanga, one of the hottest cities on the face of the earth--117 degrees F with 100 percent humidity was fairly common.
I met my Junior Companion who had only a few weeks in country. He was looking at me all stiff-like, just hoping and praying I didn’t turn out to be some fanatical, uptight asshole.
I said, “I only have a couple of basic rules here. One, noon to 2 p.m. is used solely for reading and/or sleeping. And second, I need to know what kind of tunes you brought.”
He looked at me kind of strange for a couple of minutes, and then finally said, “I’ve got everything the Beatles ever recorded, a live bootleg version of The Average White Band’s Pick Up the Pieces, and other great odds and ends.”
We both smiled and I said, “Excellent.”
After two months I had every word of the Beatles' White Album’s four sides memorized just from listening to it for so long. Colombia’s where I got to know and love the Beatles, and got to know and love them well.