December brings a lot of annual traditions here at MBIP! On Monday I put up my annual Christmas bar tour with Kevin and Star and today is the day for my yearly tattoo! This all started back in December of 2015 when I decided to get an MBIP tattoo on my arm at I’m No Angel Tattoos on Farmington Road and my friend Matt Buedel took photos. Wanda Harper owns I’m No Angel Tattoo and she did the ink work on my arm and we all had a lot of fun, so we decided to do it again in December of last year. Time has flown by and seeing that it’s December it was time for the Seventh Tattoo!
I can’t believe a whole year has gone by since the last tattoo! Time flies when you do a daily blog and this whole year has flown by faster than an eagle with a bad cocaine habit! Here we are at I’m No Angel Tattoos and as I enter I see a familiar face, it’s Wanda Harper, the owner and tattoo artist at I’m No Angel! Always great to see her and catch up on things. Wanda is not only a talented artist, she’s also a sharp and smart business person. She was the first female tattoo artist in Peoria (and one of four in the country back then) and turned I’m No Angel into the most successful tattoo parlor in this area. Wanda has gotten international press, won a slew of awards and clients have traveled from around the world to get tattoos here. Last year she told me she had started a new business training dogs and this business is called Sunka K9 Training. She said the business has really grown from last year and you can read all about it by clicking here for the website and here for the facecrack page. Check out her videos with the dogs, they’re very entertaining and educational.
There’s the room where the tattoo will happen, but first Wanda has to output the type for this year’s tattoo.
This year’s tattoo is a tribute to another memorable year in my life, 1976. You can read all about that year and why it means a lot to me if you keep on scrolling!
And here’s the guy who does the photography for these yearly tattoo sessions, Matt Buedel! Matt’s a great photographer and you can see some of his photos and read about him right here. I wonder how he got an article about his photography in the PJ Star? I’ve heard you don’t just walk in off the street and get an article written about you at that prestigious newspaper. He must know somebody. Anyhoo, from here on in, all the photos are taken by Matt and they’ll be much better than mine!
Here’s Wanda getting ready to put the ink on my arm and as you can see, I’m kind of lost without the MBIP Camera and I’m wandering around in somewhat of a daze.
Eventually I found my way to the chair and settled in.
Wanda is shaving my arm and has put the stencil on for the tattoo. Time for the ink to meet the flesh!
The whir of the tattoo gun has started and the inking has begun! These are always fun to do because the three of us always end up having a fun and lively conversation about a variety of things. Some of the topics we touched on this year were Caterpillar, the fact that both Wanda and I got tattoos before Matt was even born, drinking, not drinking, drugs, music, children and abortion. And I'll go on the record as saying that I'm all for abortion, in fact I think you should be able to abort a child up to the age of 16, but that's just my opinion!
Wanda’s a real pro and the tattoo was pretty painless and quick.
Ladies and gentlemen, I now present: The Seventh Tattoo! Thanks to Wanda for doing such great work and to Matt for taking the wonderful pictures. This has turned into a fun tradition and I thank both of them for participating and for the fabulous friendship! And now, the story behind this year’s tattoo!
Behind The Tattoo: 1976
Last year I got 1967 tattooed on my right arm because that’s my favorite year of all time. You can read the story behind that tattoo by clicking here. 1976 was another banner year for me. It was a year that kind of brought me back to the way I felt in 1967.
1967 was a year that I had great hope and optimism for the years ahead. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had just come out and it was the year that The Summer Of Love happened. Things looked really bright on the horizon for a while.
Then on May 4th, 1970 it all came to a screeching halt. That was the day that the National Guardsmen opened fire on college students at Kent State University protesting the war in Vietnam.
You can read all about it here, but in a nutshell, the National Guardsmen fired 67 shots at the unarmed protesters and wounded nine of them and killed four of them. Hearing the news of that really shocked me. I was just twelve-years-old at the time and that event made me grow up quickly.
That night is one of those memories that's stuck in my head and it seems like it was just yesterday. I shared a bedroom with my brother Jim and we both suffered from insomnia and used to talk long into the night. That night I remember saying the following words to him: “All that stuff we thought was going to happen isn’t going to come true, is it?”
He thought about it for a minute and then answered me with one word: “No.”
We didn’t talk any more that night and I remember just feeling horrible about everything. I felt a loss and I couldn’t comprehend what it was that I was feeling. From that day forward I had a longing for something but I didn’t know or understand what it was.
Six years went by and the dream of the sixties was long dead to me in 1976. I was 18-years-old and was thrilled to be getting out of high school. I didn’t know where my life was headed after that and I didn’t really have any plans. I had been accepted at Drake University for college and I planned on majoring in art.
By this time I had discovered drugs and was pretty much high on one thing or another all the time and while I was excited to be out of high school, I felt a little lost and wondered what my future was going to bring me.
Then in May something happened that really changed my direction and outlook on life. I can’t remember where I read the review of the debut album by The Ramones, but I remember one line of the review, it said that The Ramones sounded like The Beach Boys on speed.
This intrigued me because I loved The Beach Boys and I also had developed quite a fondness for amphetamines. In fact, I was probably high on speed as I ran out and got in my mom’s car and floored it to Co-Op Tapes and Records on Main Street. I parked the car, ran in and asked the kid behind the counter if they had the album by The Ramones. He said they did and pointed to the back wall. I went back and took a copy of the LP off of the wall and looked at the cover.
The cover was a somewhat grainy black and white photo of four guys who looked like a combination of hoodlums and mental patients. They all had on ripped jeans, tennis shoes and black leather jackets. I thought they looked like the coolest guys in the world.
I bought the album and sped back home and put it on the record player in the same bedroom that six years ago I had sunk into a bad depression over the whole Kent State shootings.
From the first few seconds of the first song on the album, “Blitzkrieg Bop,” I fell in love and got so excited over this music. It was like nothing I had ever heard before but it also sounded somewhat familiar and comforting to me.
All the songs were short, the longest clocked in at two minutes and thirty five seconds. There were no guitar solos and it was like listening to a rapid-fire musical machine gun going rat-a-tat-tat at ninety million miles an hour.
I became obsessed with The Ramones and started reading anything I could find about the band. I found out they were from New York City and they started playing at a bar in downtown New York called CBGB’s. That same month that I bought The Ramones album, I discovered a magazine called, “Punk” at a local head shop next to Co-Op Records on Main Street.
The publication was like a combination of a comic book and a magazine. As I read it, I discovered that there were just a few people who put this thing together. The editor was John Holmstrom and he also did a lot of drawings and illustrations in the magazine. Legs McNeil was the other writer and had the title of "Resident Punk."
There was lots of stories about New York, The Ramones, a band called The New York Dolls and it was fun and exciting to read. I was amazed that this was done by just a few people living in New York.
I read in the magazine that The Ramones had no musical training and the total cost for their first album was just a little over 6,000 dollars. While listening to The Ramones album that summer and reading Punk magazine I came to the realization that you can do whatever you want to in life.
If you want to be in a rock and roll band well then get a fucking guitar and just do it. You want to write and publish a magazine, well get a fucking typewriter and start writing. It’s not that tough to do, you just have to start doing it.
I really felt good that summer and looking back now I can see that I had found something I had lost back on May 4th, 1970. What I found again in 1976 was optimism and if you ever lose that, it’s a beautiful thing to rediscover.
I ended up flunking out of college and went to work at Fleming Potter. Eventually I started writing and taking inspiration from Punk magazine, I ended up putting out my own magazine for three years here in Peoria. The magazine was called People of Peoria and through that and writing for the Pekin Daily Times my writing led me on a journey to New York City where I lived for 19 years.
While I lived there I ended up meeting The Ramones at a book signing. I also wound up meeting the two guys from Punk magazine, John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil. I started publishing and writing another magazine in New York called fishwrap which made fun of and reported on magazines, books and the media world in New York City. Through the years I interviewed John, Legs and Marky Ramone which ended up in the pages of my magazine. I saved the cassettes and you can listen to the interviews here: John, Legs and Marky.
In 2011 I went to the annual Joey Ramone birthday party at Irving Plaza and ran into John Holmstrom. I bought him a beer and told him how Punk magazine and The Ramones had inspired me back in 1976. I told him that without those two things, I probably wouldn’t be in New York City and I sincerely thanked him.
He told me that was one of the coolest things anyone had ever told him.
A year later I moved back to Peoria and started this blog.
Funny how things go round and round.