Brantford Sound - My Introduction to Local Music, and How It Shaped My Life
Part One :: The Glowing Locker.
Tim Ford, August 24, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioSt. John's College in Brantford, Ontario, the beginning of Tim Ford's origin story. Stock Photo.
The year was 1996. I was frantically searching inside my locker. Given its condition, the locker was probably as old as St. John’s College, which was built in 1941. I was desperately searching for the English homework I knew I hadn’t done. After conceding that the homework gods would not grant me this one magic wish, I slammed my locker shut and pulled out the discman from my “World Famous” canvas knapsack. I made sure the bass boost was armed and pressed play. As I watched the CD start to spin through the cracked window of what was the newest in portable audio technology, the piano of Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ began to weep in my ear. I half tucked in my Catholic school boy shirt, and I shuffled my uniform code violating chucks down the hall, through the teenaged hum of students and into second period class.
Tim Ford's starting inventory in 1996. Stock photo.
Billy Corgan did as he had always done and eased whatever end-of-world freshman tragedy I was suffering through that week. When I took my seat, I unsheathed a sharpie and began to draw the Smashing Pumpkins heart on my knapsack. By the time I was scolded by Mrs. Cameron for being homework-less, my entire knapsack was graffitied with devotion for my favourite band of all time ever. There was a “I heart D’arcy” stencilled on the pocket. A “James Iha B Mine” down the straps. On the flap there were artistic interpretations of my favourite lyrics and meticulous portraits of each member. I had never been prouder of anything in my entire 15-year-old life. I couldn’t wait to turn that cafeteria into an art exhibit at lunch and piggyback this masterpiece I’d created.
Maybe the art teacher would see it and grant me a full scholarship to the artiest of all art schools. Seemed plausible. Maybe that cutie with the nose ring and Pink Floyd shirt I had been too shy to talk to, would see it and confess their love for the band as well. The possibilities were endless. Of course, aside from a few “Smashing Pumpkins suck”, I was forced to endure the devastation that my masterpiece went largely ignored. Defeated, I kerplunked myself at a lunch table and carefully laid my bag for all to see/ignore. Immediately, I was joined by classmate and the first punk rocker I ever knew in real life, Chad Chabot.
Chad had just formed his band El Kabong and was trying to convince me to come to his house after school and watch one of their jams. I just shrugged a maybe, a little annoyed he didn’t compliment me on my knapsack. “Pumpkins’ suck, man. You should buy my friend’s 7-inch record. It’s way better than that whiney bullshit” Chad audaciously sniped. After I pulled my jaw back in place from the table, I sat in shocked silence. I had a choice to make. Keep my loyalty to Corgan or let this blue and red-haired guide lead me to unknown territory? Not wanting to look soft in front of the only punk rocker I knew in real life, I immediately agreed to the purchase. Obviously shocked I said yes, Chad’s face mooned as he jumped up pulling me by the arm. He cascaded me out of the cafeteria and to the direction of the twelfth grade lockers. Unknown territory. I’d only heard rumours of that wing of the school.
“[Smashing] Pumpkins’ suck, man. You should buy my friend’s 7-inch record. It’s way better than that whiney bullshit”
Tales of cigarette smoking in forbidden zones and necking in plain view of teachers were ever whispered in the grade nine hallway. It seemed like hours to trek down that corridor where I was barraged with spit balls and snarls of “who let the niners in?” and “Pumpkins’ suck” from every angle. I don’t how I found the courage to journey on through such a treacherous path. I was intrigued by that pot of gold and felt it would be worth the perilous travels to the end of the rainbow. We managed to survive and met a lanky twelfth grader standing beside an open locker which, believe me or not, was shining like a lighthouse. Chad put his arm confidently around this mysterious lad and barked an introduction. “Hey Jan, this is Tim, and he wants to buy your 7-inch.” With the same shocked face Chad had previously made at me, Jan Rudy, later to be known as Thomas and the Evil Computer, perked up and squeaked out “FIVE BUCKS!” while he excitingly plucked the most beautifully blue record from his locker. On the cover were the words CARTOON KHAKI printed in red. I pulled out $5 and let the coins chime in Jan’s palm. The exact moment he handed the vinyl to me, the third period bell rang, and I yelped as it scared the absolute snot out me.
Local Brantford band in the 1990's - Cartoon Khaki. Photo credit Rob Michalchuk.
Not very punk rock of you, T Bone. Looking back, that thunderous clanking bell was a perfect metaphor for what was about to happen. I was about to be fucking schooled. I spent the rest of the day staring at the artwork and reading the liner notes. It never occurred to my young mind that someone in Brantford could release their own music. The fact that they also walked the same St. John’s halls as me was staggering. For fear my mom is reading this, I will say that I went to every class for the rest of the day and when I got home (from not ditching school) I ran to my basement and pulled out the old plug and play record player that we had in the crawlspace. I carried it to my bedroom and shut the door. Amongst walls wallpapered with magazine cut-outs of Smashing Pumpkins I laid the needle on what would be the first, and hell knows not the last, vinyl record I ever bought myself with my own money… And it would change absolutely everything.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Ford is freelance hobbyist who lives in his twelfth home in Brantford, Ontario…so…yeah, he knows a thing or two about aluminum siding.
You pimpin’ records in Grade 9 Chad? ;)
All hail Kabong
I have vague memories of this particular moment, but it seems on brand for how brash I was around music back then. I have far more clear memories of jamming in my parents’ basement – in particular that hilarious time where the band quickly stopped playing and you happened to shout “F$$$!” just as my dad came in the room and you turned around to face him. He was quite displeased.
Though I think “he was quite displeased” might fit my father’s mood a lot of the time back then.
Great read, Tim! I remember your school bag, haha! I would have been too shy to say anything to you in Grade 9, but I regularly ate lunch near your table and I remember seeing it :)