Reno’s Rant: Musical Influences Vol. 5 Best Of Friends

So over the past year, I’ve been recounting all of the people and times in my life that influenced the music I listen to, to this day. I had no real plan for this, just a few people and ideas and I figured that I would see where it took us. I’m thinking that I have one more left after this and I’ve saved the most important ones, to me, for last.

I met Tyson in Mrs. Munson’s first-grade class. I don’t remember the exact moment that we met, just that we connected instantly because my only memories are of us being thick as thieves. At that age, we connected more, over our love of drawing, superheroes, and science fiction. It would later be revealed that we had a connection with music as well.

One of my early memories of Tyson is of him and I sitting in his bedroom on a Saturday afternoon listening to 45’s. Genesis, The Police, Men At Work, etc…Neither of us, at the time, had MTV so we would sometimes act out and lipsynch how we thought the videos should be.

When the mid 80’s hit and we were in middle school, that’s when we hit our stride as music fans and hair metal was our jam! Even though we liked a lot of the same bands, Tyson really opened my eyes to a broader horizon as to what I was listening to. I liked bands like Poison and Ratt because they were singing about chicks. Tyson liked bands like Cinderella and Guns N Roses. I remember him telling me that he likes the bluesy notes in Cinderella and how GNR had a “jazzy” quality to them. This didn’t mean as much to me at the time. I was like, “that’s cool…let me get back to Talk Dirty To Me.” But it planted the seed that there was a lot more to music than just what the song is saying or the badassedness of the guitar riff.

My family moved to North Carolina in August of 1989. It was a great summer because, in spite of there being a short period between finding out we were moving and the actual move, Tyson and I hung out all summer long. Even more so than usual. After the move, it was the worst time of my life. My best friend, my brother was 500 plus miles away. We talked on the phone all the time and we wrote letters…because you still did that sort of thing back then. I would also come up for a week with my family in the summer. Through phone calls, letters and visits we would always talk about the new bands we were listening to. While I was still very much rooted in hair metal, Tyson was always a little more progressive when it came to music. He was always looking for something new. It’s a lesson he taught me without knowing it and now I’m always on the lookout for something new to listen to.

One of the bands I started listening to while in NC was Dangerous Toys. Tyson bought me their debut album for Christmas, which I still have, on cassette of course with nothing to play it on. In 1991 when their second album came out, I bought it and couldn’t wait to play it for him when were came back to PA for summer vacation. There was one song that I told him he had to listen to. It was called Best Of Friends. The song is about two childhood friends who grow apart and the one friend finds out the other has died years later. The song is about remembering those childhood days. We listened to the song in silence and there was an awkward pause long after the song was over. I imagine, like me, Tyson was pondering the horror of that happening to us.

Later that summer I got to go with Tyson and his family to Daytona Beach for a couple of weeks. We went to see White Lion at a little club there. Tyson was starting to listen to more alt rock and grunge. He introduced me to bands like Saigon Kick, Sisters Of Mercy and Nine Inch Nails. It was a summer of music, chasing after girls, getting run out of a 7/11 for trying to buy cigarettes underage, and just hanging out pondering the mysteries of life. The summer of 1991 was truly the best time of my life!

The next summer we came up was the last summer I’d see Tyson. It was a summer of realizing that we were changing in our ideals and realizing that we were growing up. That was the summer Tyson introduced me to bands like Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Temple Of The Dog. He was into bands like The Beastie Boys, Fugazi, Jane’s Addiction, Primus, etc…he opened my eyes and my ears to more music than I can count. And while I haven’t listened to some of those bands since those days, I still remember all of that music and remember it fondly because that music was a part of what made my best friend who he was.

We graduated in 1993 and I remember the last time I talked to Tyson. There was a misunderstanding I think because, at the time, I couldn’t articulate what I was trying to say. The call didn’t end badly, just awkwardly. We visited PA later that summer. I was going to surprise him and call when I got there but there was no answer when I called all week. I think we may have been up in PA the same week his family went to Daytona Beach again (they went yearly). Fate can be cruel that way.

We started college and neither of us took the time to call. I’m sure, like me, he was overwhelmed by new people and new experiences. Then my parents separated. My mom took my brother and moved out. My dad decided he was moving away and I was left, in college with a part-time job at a record store, to find a place to live because I couldn’t stay at the house we were renting. I bounced around for a little bit, from place to place. Never thinking to just make a call to my best friend. The one person I knew I could count on to be there, just like I would be there for him if he needed me. But I didn’t. It’s funny how you mean to do something like call a friend and you put it off because you’re just so busy or lost in self-pity. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn to months. Months soon become years.

Then on the morning of February 8th, 1996 I got a call from my dad. Tyson, along with another good friend Tracy, had been killed in a car accident. I was crushed. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn to months. Months soon become years full of the pain and sometimes numbness, the loss and the loneliness, the regret and missed time that I’ll never get to share with my best friend…my brother.

It’s been 23 years since Tyson left this world and even though I deal with the loss much better than I used to, I still feel that loss every day. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him and come to realize how in ways great and small, he affected my life and the person I am today. Working in music as I do, I’m reminded every day of how much Tyson influenced the music that I love and how I listen to music. Some days I think back to that day in Tyson’s bedroom, listening to Dangerous Toys – Best Of Friends and think of how I wouldn’t let time and life get in the way of a simple phone call if I knew then what I know now. Hindsight is always 20/20 and always a bitch. And sometimes, on special occasions, I’ll dust off Dangerous Toys – Best Of Friends. Give it a listen and think of Tyson. These lyrics ring so true to this day:

Friends like him don’t come very often
You never treasure them while there’s time
And if they slip away
You gotta somehow say
You’re still on my mind
So your memory’s all I have left now
These words are all I can give
And from time to time I turn back in my mind
To the place where you’ll always live
Playin’ pirates in the school-yard, singin’
Soldiers in the fields
We were dreamin’
Brothers in blood ’til the very end
Tyson was my best friend, the best I ever had. He was my twin brother from another mother. I wish I had the time and the words do his life and his friendship justice. I wish I could tell him how important he was and still is to me. All I can do is turn back in my mind to the place where he’ll always live.
Until Next Time…Cheers