I’ve listened to probably 200 of Marc Maron’s WTF interviews. When you listen to anyone talk that much, you’re bound to hear him come back to the same ideas over and over. And one of my favorites has always been this: “Everyone needs that guy, that guy who introduces you to all the good music. He’s older, he somehow knows about everything before anyone else, he’s that guy.” For me, that guy was Tom Rainey.
I was 12 years old when we moved to Lock Haven, PA. My mom suggested that I join the marching band, and since I had no idea it was apparently some kind of social suicide, I said, “Sure.” Tom was a few years older than me. He was also a drummer, and he was one of the first kids who befriended me. We played a lot of tennis that year, though I’m not sure we ever actually finished a match.
A few years go by and I’m super excited because I’m getting my first CD player. It’s my 14th birthday. My first three CDs were as follows: Paula Abdul’s Spellbound, Amy Grant’s Heart in Motion, and Mariah Carey’s Emotions. I’m not proud of this, I’m just trying to give you a sense of what Tom had to work with.
He knew Pearl Jam before any of us. He had already listened to Ten a hundred times before any of us had heard it once. And he watched 120 Minutes, which I found to be too “weird.” “Not enough Michael Bolton,” I said, probably out loud at one point. He started listening to Phish. I couldn’t believe how incredibly musically talented all four members of the band were. Again, we were band kids so composition and skill mattered a great deal. That’s how you end up being one of the only people on the planet who got into Phish before getting into drugs.
Tom shipped off to college when I was 16, but he came back over the summer. He wouldn’t stop talking about all these British bands like Oasis and Pulp and Blur. This was 1994, I believe. “They’re gonna be huge,” he would tell me. Almost every night that summer, we would drive down to “the dock” on the side of the Susquehanna River. We’d sit outside, smoke cigarettes, and talk about music. He talked about what his freshman year of college had been like; I talked about what the Lock Haven High School marching band was like without him.
We’d talk about The Beatles. We’d try to challenge each other with “Top Three Lists.” (Top three front men. Top three cover songs that are better than the original, etc.) And naturally, like all band kids who are way into music, we started a garage band. That brought more friends into the fold. More cigarettes, more nights at the dock, more conversations about The Beatles.
It only dawned on me a few years ago how very strange it was that we spent so much time together not getting drunk or high. I mean, we were teenagers in a small town. Small town teenagers don’t just sit around and not drink or not get high. But that’s exactly what we did; I don’t think it ever occurred to us to do anything but that. We could talk for hours without ever getting bored and burn through cigarettes like it was the most normal thing in the world. I know I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but it’s pretty easy to see it now. A simple life can be pretty great sometimes.
Anyway, Tom’s the man, Tom was “my guy.” If you’re reading this (and you fucking better be), know that everything I said up there is true. You did a lot for me, just by being you.