suffering the sadist
Growing up introverted and of slight stature, I had my share of childhood encounters with malicious intimidation, perpetually on the receiving end — from one agro neighbor, in particular. You might understand then, as a young man out in the world, I developed a strong aversion to tyrants, oppressors and loud-talking, strong-arm boors. Now as then, I have no time, respect, or sympathy for bullies.
In my Michigan college days, for a period of time, I shared living quarters with one such creature. Roommate X would regularly leave campus Friday after classes to return Sunday night with sordid tales of conquest from the disco floors and apartment bedrooms of suburban Detroit. He delighted in a cruel kind of human sport, fancying himself a 1980 Don Juan — a melter, breaker, and heavy-footed trampler of female hearts. His pride was a trail of weeping victims.
To my shame, I can’t say that I ever reproached Captain Cruelty. But neither did I honor any of his relayed (and likely exaggerated) exploits with anything more than an eye roll or smirk. In plain terms, I found his braggadocio repulsive, nauseating and less than human. I was affected, but felt powerless and timid.
A few years later, in Dayton, with organized higher learning and the forced socialization that comes with it (plus a failed marriage) newly behind me, I felt free — no, compelled — to give full expressive license to the insistent voices in my head and the night-devils in my heart. To do this, to exorcise demons real and perceived, I immersed myself in lyric writing and the kind of cathartic howling one can best find in basements, garages and on nightclub stages with a raucous, exploding drums-and-guitars rock band. In retrospect, I’m not sure anyone would, with any degree of confidence, categorize what I was doing as “singing," but it did serve a psychologically strategic purpose.
Along with Jim Harper (guitar), Kevin Fennell (drums), initially Paul Payiatas and later Paul Comstock (bass), we billed ourselves as B Pictures. True to the phrase, we were not quite premier-attraction material, but we did possess the sort of raw, rough-cut quality that earned “B" movies a degree of street interest in Hollywood’s 20th Century heyday. We were not polished, but we were visceral. We showed up, we were loud, unafraid, and we teetered on the edge.
Among our songs — if I remember accurately, it was one of last we wrote — was a forceful, hard-driving composition fit with a set of words meant to portray a kind of revenge fantasy — specifically, to act on those very feelings of helplessness toward X’s callous and wanton emotional demolitions. I can’t fathom why or how, but the idea was triggered by a random and tremendously unsettling sight:
On a drive to Cincinnati from Dayton, I-75 crammed with traffic precariously barreling along at 70-plus MPH, like it does, me in the fast lane, captive to the flow, I saw a dog, lost and trapped in the impossibly narrow median against the concrete divider. The poor thing was in a state of hopeless panic, circling and dodging, no evident escape in view. It was a spirit-crushing, disturbing sight. The kind that leaves a gaping hole in the pit of your being. The sort of awful vision you can't really be sure you saw, but that stays with you forever.
The song was called "Pocketful of Sadism." Its intent was a manifestation of evil-on-evil retribution. There was nothing cozy or redeeming about it. Its lack of humanity mirrored the subject. It's mission was to send a vicious, if imaginary, arrow through the diseased heart of every single ruthless, domineering asshole that has ever walked the earth.
Admittedly, the vast majority of pop and rock songs are impotent arrows, at best. And the target was and is beyond wide. But as the punk days showed us, surfing a wave of roaring guitars and pounding drums can have redemptive qualities for those in need of healing — for those in desperate need of a vehicle for assertion. It’s a treacherous line to ride. Wipeouts can be damaging or fatal. But in the art of rock, there can be no pussyfooting around.
So, here we go…
Resurrected from the original 1985 4-track recording, restored, finished with a new vocal track, caressed with moderately modern production touches, retitled (more accurately, I think), and aimed squarely at the bullseye, here is "Suffering the Sadist" — razor sharp and updated for 2020’s game of fools.
It demands you play it LOUD.