Friday, January 22, 2016

Rodney Speed

Rodney was a janitor at the BB King Blues Club, whom I worked with in my short stint there. For my first few days there, I only knew him as the guy who listened to music on his headphones while he swept, working to the rhythm of whatever tune was quietly escaping into the outside world, and sometimes humming and mumbling along to it. One day, I made out the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B."

"Rodney, are you listening to Pet Sounds?" I asked.

He took off his headphones.

"Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys is one of the greatest albums of all time," he said. "For the 40th anniversary, they remastered it in mono and in stereo. And they added a DVD."

"That's great!"

We talked about music nearly every day after that. I found out he'd worked in venues all over New York City, including CBGB, and we mourned Hilly Kristal together. I'd always ask him about what he was listening to, and whether it was R&B or punk or classic rock or blues or jazz, he could tell you anything about it.

One day I walked in hurriedly and past Rodney, as always, on his headphones. "Hey Rodney."

Rodney took his headphones off. "I had a really bad day, so this morning I'm listening to Manowar, Warriors of the World, and now I feel like I'm bulletproof."

I stopped in my tracks. "Rodney, you listen to Manowar?"

"I love metal, anytime I have a bad day it makes me feel like Superman. I especially like stuff from Megaforce Records, like Manowar, Anthrax and Me-tal-lic-a. This kind of music makes me want to hit somebody. Figuratively! Just hit somebody figuratively."

"Me too." I smiled.

For Rodney Speed, 1962-2016.

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