WRITER, MUSIC BLOGGER, FATHER, MEDIOCRE GUITAR PLAYER
Hey there, and thanks for finding your way here, a one-stop shop for all things Matt Fogelson—my essays, music blog and memoir project.
My essays, many of which explore the confluence of music and parenting, have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, literary journals, online magazines and on NPR.
I started my music blog, Fine Tuning: A Site for Sore Ears, to nudge classic rock fans like myself who were stuck—albeit blissfully—in the deep ruts of the 1970s into the twenty-first century musically. Although the blog focuses on new bands, it's also a vehicle to brood about weighty topics that consume me—such as the tragic extinction of the ticket stub.
I'm currently squirreled away in my windowless basement working on a memoir. It's dark down here, but I'm finding darkness has a way of conjuring light. Check out drafts of the book jacket blurb and Prologue below.
For almost twenty years, author Matt Fogelson didn’t recognize how deeply the early death of his workaholic father affected him. Then he had a son of his own, and the floodgates opened. In his memoir, tentatively titled Never Mind The Movie, Here's The Sex Pistols: A Memoir of a Rock 'n Roll Soul, Fogelson explores the realization that the wound left by his father’s death was small compared to the wounds inflicted by his absence while alive.
Set to the soundtrack to his life, Fogelson’s memoir explores insecurity, teen angst and regret, and the power of music to make it all bearable.
Follow Fogelson through the 80s as he combs through vinyl at Greenwich Village’s Second Coming Records, bumbles through interactions with girls, and struggles to connect with the only other kindred spirit in his family—the rebellious Aunt Wendy who quotes Bob Dylan at every turn. Join him in the 90s as he discovers a new side of himself in the Alaskan wilderness and later searches for meaning in the Chilean desert. Then watch him become a father who sings to his son every night for 14 years.
Told with humor, grief, and hope, it’s the story of a passionate music lover’s desire to break free of the real and imagined constraints standing between him and his best life. And this writer’s road is paved with the kinds of revelations that can be found only in the glory of rock and roll. If Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild had a book baby, it would be Matt Fogelson’s moving, funny, and deeply honest memoir
Check out the Prologue below.
NEW YORK CITY
It’s a cold and grey New York winter day. I’m twelve years old and flipping through record bins at Crazy Eddie on Third Avenue. I’ve ducked into the store to keep warm before meeting friends at a movie theater a few blocks away and am hanging out way in the back, mostly trying to get away from the freezing wind that blows in every time the front door opens. In front of the S bin, I unzip my overstuffed Michelin Man parka and rifle through the records, most of which are by artists I’ve never heard of: Status Quo, Shalamar, Carly Simon. I’m not really even shopping, just trying to blend in as best I can with the adult customers, not wanting to draw attention to myself. Talking with grownups who aren’t my parents is something I try to avoid. Actually, I sort of feel that way about my parents, too. “Don’t speak unless spoken to”—makes sense to me.
Keeping my head down, I shuffle through the records with the speed and rhythm of an assembly line worker. I stop when I see Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger; I’d just seen Rocky III, and the soundtrack is all over the radio. But I don’t pay attention to it for long. Even at twelve, and though it has that badass tiger on the album cover, I can sense there’s something not very cool about Survivor. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly. Sure, the singer’s high pitched voice kind of annoys me, but I’m a big Journey fan and love how Steve Perry can break glass when he really gets going. Maybe it’s the lead singer’s beret in the “Eye of the Tiger” video. The only dudes I’ve ever seen wear berets are the Guardian Angels who patrol the subway looking for bad guys. Why is the Survivor guy trying to look like an underground crime fighter? It’s confusing.
I keep flipping through records until I land on the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. What does twelve-year-old me know about the Sex Pistols? Not much, other than they seem . . . well, kind of scary. They wear studded black leather jackets, have crazy hair dyed in odd colors, and always seem to be flipping someone the bird. As a straight-laced kid from the Upper East Side, I’m pretty sure those aren’t the only things we don’t have in common. I kind of know that the Sex Pistols play “punk” music, whatever that means, and now I’m really curious about them, in part because of their name. Does it really refer to, you know, a guy’s dick? If so, that’s pretty damn cool. Seems like that probably breaks some kind of rule. I definitely like the idea of breaking rules. And what kind of word is “bollocks”? It sounds like “buttocks,” which is pretty funny. Whatever it means, my guess is it’s maybe not supposed to be plastered on an album cover for a twelve-year-old to see.
I take the album out of the bin and check out its salmon-colored cover and block letter graphics. “Sex Pistols” is written across the bottom half of the cover in letters of all different sizes, a mix of capitals and lower-case. The text looks kind of familiar, but I can’t think of why. Wait, is it supposed to look like a ransom note? Cool.
As I inspect the album art, a store clerk in a ratty, short-sleeved-despite-it-being-freezing-outside Led Zeppelin T-shirt comes up behind me and says something that decades later I’ll still hear softly buzzing in my ears, like tinnitus. He says,
“That album will change your life.”
He speaks with the authority of Moses imparting the Ten Commandments, but my only thought is, Huh? If I listen to the record, will I suddenly get the urge to ditch my overstuffed parka and score a studded black leather jacket? Will I want to dye my hair orange? Will the record re-wire my brain so that whenever my parents ask how school is I’ll tell them to fuck off? Oh man, would my mom freak out if I did any of that.
But still, this dude’s crazy-ass prediction fascinates me. Maybe he knows something about my life. Does he see some potential in me that I don’t? Some coolness lurking underneath the lame parka? What if I bought the record, you know, just to see if my life changes a little? I mean, my life’s okay, but sometimes I feel like other kids have more fun than me.
I dig around in my pockets to see how much money I can scrape together. Shoot, not enough for both the movie and the album. Not wanting to stand up my friends and figuring I can come back and buy the record some other time, I explain to the clerk I’m on my way to a movie and don’t have enough for both.
“You’ll never remember the name of that movie,” he says, as certain about it as Lexington Avenue running downtown.
He turns away, leaving me feeling like a musical poser, a private school kid who just doesn’t get it.
Feeling like maybe I’d screwed up big time, like I’d let down not just the Crazy Eddie dude but in some weird way I don’t quite get, myself too, I put the album back in the bin, zip up my overstuffed parka, and head off to the movie, the name of which I now can’t remember.