gonna have a party when the bouncers leave

3/28/06

As I am wont to do every once in a while, I’d like to single out one of my old friends who is still doing tremendous things after all these years. You’ve heard me rattle on about Salem and Ann and Bud, Chip and Jon among others, but it’s time to say a few words about my buddy, the Id of New City, Jamie Block.

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me and Jamie, 1988

Everyone gets monumentally depressed their junior year of college, which is why most people spend it abroad. I was about to sink into my own post-parental-divorce saturnalia when Block showed up with a giant jug of wine, a guitar, and a cover band that played U2 songs for screaming chicks at Granville Towers. We proceeded to spend every waking moment together, convinced we could bed any woman willing to listen to our heartstring-yanking version of “April, Come She Will.”

We participated in some crazy shit: misty, weird parties in the Hamptons; breaking into every hot tub in Chapel Hill; even an aborted trip to California, where he had to fly back to NYC after being in LA for three hours. I was one of the few people who met his mom, a vivacious, wonderful woman who helped up put together flyers for our shows.

She passed away suddenly the summer before our senior year, and it threw Jamie in the kind of tailspin I can only imagine. When we graduated, we both stayed in Chapel Hill, but it was no place for a folksy musician, so he began his Lost Years up in the East Village, headlining the “anti-folk” movement of the early ’90s (a genre I still don’t quite understand, but was happy to go to the shows). He lived in a room on 5th Street that was six floors up and no bigger than a double bed.

As his songwriting muscle strengthened, he began to write some of the most incredible music: “To Alice in Thunderland” (a tortuously beautiful ballad about his mother) and “Reuben Says” freaked my shit out. It was no surprise that by 1998, he signed with Capitol Records and released Timing is Everything, getting on the soundtrack for “Never Been Kissed” and “Rounders” in the process.

I was living in Los Angeles by then, and we tore the town apart every time the tour came close. It was amazing fun, but of course, the music business is an unbelievably cruel clusterfuck, and for the want of about 20 grand, Capitol wouldn’t send him on the MTV Spring Break tour. And that was that.

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late 2000 at Arlene’s Grocery

In 2000, he started over and created another band, this time with me playing keyboards and violin on select numbers. There was nothing riding on it, just for fun, and the music is a total blast, veering into strong dance, then backing into some beautiful, contemplative solo voice-and-guitar. Loopy, eclectic, sunshiny, dark, surreal pop. It’s a little tour de force that he’s been working on for five years, and as of today, it’s available on Amazon. And you should buy it, not because I’m on the album (although that’s a damn good reason) but because it’s a run for the home team, and if we can get it jumpstarted, good things will happen.

Here’s the thing about Block: in the midst of the Capitol Records debacle, he looked at his family (the amazing Susan, and their two daughters Johanna and Sophie) and had a conversion experience. He quit touring and became an investment banker. His training day occurred on September 11, 2001, a few feet from the World Trade Center in Manhattan. When the planes hit, he had to dodge falling bodies in order to actually jump onto the last ferry pulling away before the second tower came down.

He was one of the only trainees who stayed with the business after that, and in five short years, has become the wunderkind of Morgan Stanley, in charge of more money than he’s allowed to say. He’s the funds person for ASCAP, and has carved out a niche as every musician’s broker, since he knows from experience how to be an “artist” and keep finances flowing.

We’re all capable of rebirth, but Jamie has had to do it, dramatically, several times over. I’m beyond proud of him. Shuffling millions by day, and singing by night, he accidentally became the Sustained Artist, the very person we wanted to be when we were still trying to get that chick Lisa into the hot tub by singing “Mozambique.”

0 thoughts on “gonna have a party when the bouncers leave

  1. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Dear God, that is some story (stories). Jamie, I don’t know you, but I wish you the best! Congratulations on your successes!

    Reply
  2. Beth

    Okay, I’ll bite. The samples on Amazon sound terrific (and is it just my ears today–I have a cold–or do I hear a little bit of early Trent Reznor in “Sweet Potato Pie”?). What an inspiring story, too. Ian, I went back and read the Ann and Salem stories and was promptly very wistful that I haven’t had your experiences. You have a rare ability to encapsulate time periods, even negative ones, in a compelling way (and you also clearly have some rare friends). Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. CL

    I love hearing about your talented friends. Please share more of those stories some day!
    I’ll second what Beth just said: “You have a rare ability to encapsulate time periods, even negative ones, in a compelling way.”
    You have the writer’s gift for remembering every single thing that happened to you.

    Reply
  4. xuxE

    i agree and not just interestingly (is that a word?) written but also really visual too, i think.
    i keep craving it as a graphic novel or alternative comic. in my mind it’s like a cross between hate and epileptic. also sometimes like blankets.

    Reply
  5. wyatt

    Ian– I jettisoned my cassette collection when we left Fairbanks in ’04, an offering to the reuse/recycle station regulars, to be taken in by a curious audiophile that snowy night. Among them was my Jamie Block tape, ca. 1989, that I think Jamie handed me on Franklin Street one sunny afternoon. So, at latitude 65 north, there may be a growing Jamie Block following. (I still have my Johnny Quest tapes, though.)
    I remember seeing Jamie and John Schultz (my G’ville 2nd West hallmate) perform as the Highlanders at the Cradle, Jamie possibly in a leather shirt with a lace-up collar? They called me “Sparky” then, and a bunch of us were at the show. Nice to hear about someone from those days; thanks!

    Reply
  6. John Schultz

    U2 cover band? I resemble that remark.
    Block is a straight shooting, stand up guy. It is no surprise to me that he is successful in business.
    We spoke last week. Even though it has been years, we picked right back up and he had me howling in no time.
    We spent a lot of time together at Carolina. I am thankful for that time and the friendship we developed.

    Reply
  7. wyatt

    John Schultz! Gotta be kidding me. I’m working on a geology PhD at South Carolina, married to another Tarheel, with two Alaska-born future Tarheels to make it that much more fun. What about you?

    Reply
  8. Annie

    B-lock,
    You know you have saved my arse financially and many times by just jawing with me about my silly, though myriad, troubles. I am as official (or unofficial) a member of the Jamie Block Fan Club as they get.
    Let’s chant it, y’all–BLOCK ROCKS.
    A-rock

    Reply
  9. kent

    Ian doesn’t remember everything that has happened to him. The gift is to remember the things that make the narrative of his life compelling. Jamie Block is a righteous dude though.
    Now we need the profile of his friend from UNC, the Punk Rock girl who works as a rodeo clown, and wears the Beetlejuice striped tights. I forget her name but she’s every bit as bodacious as Block.

    Reply
  10. eric g.

    Hey, Ian,
    Great nostalgia today. I used to love going to see Jamie play at places like the (lamentably gone) Hardback Cafe. He and Sarah Levin (was that her name?) did a wonderful “Mozambique,” too.
    “Independence Day” from the Block EP is still one of my favorite songs.
    Grib

    Reply
  11. John Schultz

    Ian- please send me an email. I was digging through my basement and found something you might like to have. Thx- John

    Reply

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