Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Ken Johnson died. You probably didn't know him. He was my best friend for almost 20 years. He came home to his apartment last night and fell asleep. His girlfriend discovered him this morning. His little brother just called me. They don't know yet what happened, or what the arrangements will be.

Ken was the guy I'd always go to shows with. The one person I knew in high school who I still hung out with. The first time I ever heard Keiji Haino was at CBGBs with Ken, in 1991. A decade later, Ken next to me at Irving Plaza, watching Ted Nugent, and eventually looked over and asked, "You're not appreciating this on any kind of ironic level at all, are you?" He went to two Ozzfests with me (2004 and 2005). We went to CBGB one night because there was nothing else to do, with about eight bands on the bill, and were standing by the pool table talking when gradually our heads began to perk up and one of us said "What the hell was that?" That was Thinking Fellers Union Local 282; Ken went backstage and bought a T-shirt and one of their albums, on vinyl. We saw Slayer; we saw Fishbone with the 2 Live Crew opening up; we went to the Vision Festival almost every year; we saw an all-night King Sunny Ade gig in 1990. So many more gigs, too, in so many places I can't even remember them all. My wife has always had right of first refusal whenever I decide to go see a band, but anytime she said no, I knew I could invite Ken and he'd be up for it. He came with me to see GG Allin at Space At Chase in 1992; you can see us walking out the door afterward (the show cost us $10 each and lasted 10 minutes before the cops arrived) in the movie Hated.

We met in an art class in high school. He listened to the Cure, and Metallica, and not much else, back then. I gave him Ministry and the Minutemen, and we started exploring other stuff together. Occasionally, early on, I'd talk him into buying something neither of us was sure about, like Diamanda Galas's You Must Be Certain Of The Devil, by swearing up and down that I'd heard it, and it was brilliant. On the weekends, we'd sit on his couch watching Headbanger's Ball and 120 Minutes and Video Jukebox, a real-life Beavis & Butt-Head. We successfully shoplifted an 8-VHS set of Berlin Alexanderplatz from the local video store once, just to see if we could; never did watch the damn thing.

Another old friend, Mike Nuzzo, a guy I'd known since the fourth grade, died a year or two ago. My two best friends from childhood are both dead now. I'm gonna be 35 in December. What the fuck kind of world is this? And who's gonna go to gigs with me now?

1 comment:

Phil Nugent said...

God damn. I can't imagine what it might be like to have been best friends with someone for twenty years. That must have been a nice feeling for both you guys. I'm sorry for your loss, Phil.