I recently came across someone who has had an impact on me for years. There’s a lot of history there, and he doesn’t really know he’s a part of it. I tried to tell him not too long ago, but he said his memories were hazy.
This is my version of our story.
We lived at the Wonderland Records practice space in high school. All of us. One legendary winter night, Mighty Purple played a show in New York City, where they met Jaymiles. They liked him a lot so they brought him home with them. He never left.
The day we found Jaymiles should be established as a national holiday.
Jay brought with him pure and uncensored insanity. He also brought Ugly. One day Jay innocently opened the tape deck, inserted a copy of a demo, and started a chain events that began with a painfully beautiful song, climaxed with a surreal show in the Little Theater, and ended with Charlie Post dropping his pants in a roomful of 16-year-old girls.
But before Charlie did all that, we loved him blindly.
Jay told us, “This is my friend Charlie from D.C. and he has a band called Ugly.” From the first note of the first song, Ugly had us. Jay passed the tape on to the rabid throng of us, and the audience grew. I got a copy. I made copies. We made copies of copies of copies. It was a rough, single-track recording with talking between some of the songs. The quality was awful to begin with, and got progressively worse. But Ugly’s music stayed beautiful.
There was the acoustic guitar, sometimes biting and aggressive, sometimes bright and sweet. The hand-drumming. The irresistible rhythms. But it was the vocals and lyrics that got me. Charlie’s voice was rough and sweet, like wood and wine. Deep soul belly sound. He caught me in the throat, in the heart.
In the morning before school, I drove to the beach in the rain and parked at the edge of the water to listen, because being late and getting in trouble was a fair trade for a few more minutes of Charlie Post. “Daisies” was my favorite:
It kicks my ass to wonder
what goes on inside
where the darkness meets the light
did I tell you
when you wore my boots
well it makes me cry
And though I’m talking about my favorite sex position
I’m dreaming of you and your fingers
And your smile and the light
and the way the darkness holds me when
There’s no one to hold me left
No one to hold me when you’re gone.
His song “Tired is a Man” became my anthem in high school. I got it. Struggling with the meaning of self, trying to stay your own person. Feeling alone because of it. Jon Rodgers played it at open mic nights on the patio of Dakota J’s downtown and made it his own.
We became convinced that the name “Ugly” was meant in self-deprecating irony, and that the whole band was drop-dead gorgeous — and wouldn’t that be such an amazing thing when we finally met them? I told Jay earnestly that I was going to ask Charlie Post to marry me. He suggested I hold off until I met the guy.
So we mobilized our mission. It would be quite and undertaking and it would involve a lot of coercion and planning. But we convinced Jaymiles that Ugly had to come up to New Haven and play for us.
The night of the Little Theater show, in November of 1994, we were unbearably excited. I sat in the parking lot of the Little Theater with Ula, waiting to go in, butterflies in my stomach. When we finally crowded inside, the was dark and cool and smelled like an old church.
The songs lived in our blood and when Ugly began, everyone jumped up from their seats, singing, dancing, and smiling. Charlie later told us how amazingly bizarre it was to look out at the crowd, playing an album that had never been released in a city to which he’d never been, and see everyone’s lips moving to the words of his songs, turning in the music, losing themselves in the sound they knew like their own name. He was trying to figure out how all these kids had heard the songs he recorded on a four track in the garage.
There was no irony to their name. The band was not pretty. And they were at least ten years older than us. Our teenage hearts forgave them beause the music was just too damn good.
My expectations were exceedingly high, and Charlie’s voice fulfilled every hope I had about the magical show. Watching him on stage, I decided I was indeed going to ask him to marry me. I’d met him as Jaymiles suggested, right?
Elated and buzzing, we piled into vehicles and flew back to the Space, where all of us, the band included, were staying. We madly awaited the arrival of the boys who were loading out of the Little Theater. They were taking a really long time.
We were sprawled about the room, on the couches, smoking and chattering. Jon was stumbling around wearing a kilt and drinking Bailey’s Irish Crème out of the bottle. Dave Kone was wandering around with electrical tools installing locks on the filing cabinets. Victoria was provoking Christy, who was sitting on a stool next to the autographed life-size cardboard cutout of the band James from the Laid tour featuring Tim Booth eating a banana. Everyone else was sprawled on the couches, the chairs. I could feel the warm happiness on my skin, the satisfaction of the show, the excitement of the impending bonding session that would begin when our favorite musicians finally arrived.
I was in the room, sitting quietly in the corner like I always did, my magenta hair covering one eye, taking mental notes so I could write about it ten years later. I heard crashes downstairs as one person fell into a drum kit and another fell into a garbage can. There was shrill cackling laughter, and the raging voice of the man who just an hour before had been cradling our melodramatic dreams.
He was swearing like a truck driver and drinking like a fish. And Charlie Post tripped up the stairs into the loft and dropped his pants in greeting.
My little heart broke. I wanted my dear, sweet Charlie to put his clothes back on.
He tossed himself on top of us on the couch and tried to get the girls to make out with each other. When he’d had his fill of pseudo-lesbian tongues, he began to detail his photo album of nipples he kept from each show they played. He asked if anyone would agree to participate. I extracted myself from his surly grip and crawled back to the corner of the room.
Christy offered to strip for him if he would play “Salvation.” So they went downstairs and she took off her clothes for Charlie Post in the dirty practice space, by the red light of the Exit sign at Wonderland Records, while we sat upstairs listening.
The demo eventually disintegrated because everyone played it to death and the actual tapes broke apart. But they released some of the songs on the CD Round Boy Laughing. I hadn’t heard it for years and while at Victoria’s not too long ago, the topic of Charlie Post came up, and I told her I’d lost Round Boy Laughing. So she gave me a copy, and I went home and listened to it with new ears.
I understand him better now. Life is not black and white. I was a little girl, and I wanted to believe in the fairy tale. The poor boy had a lot to live up to. I was shy and his passion frightened me. I see now how much more alive the world can be. The world where you swear and fight and cry, you act selfishly and love carelessly. The world that makes the singing sweeter.
That album still gives me shivers when I play it. But I think it’s for a different reason now.
Deep down I don’t think I ever got over Charlie shaking up my view of blind love. He personified that intolerable conflict between the chaste and the vile. Simultaneously exquisite and grotesque.
For years it drove me mad and I didn’t know where to put it. I couldn’t believe that someone that crass could make such tender music.
I figured out how to resolve this Charlie Post conflict last month. I put him in my novel.