Got To Be Free: Why TDOCR is Independent

“I don’t want to be a constructor of highways, a sweeper of sidewalks. I’ve got to do it my way. I’m too ill-equipped for a mathematician, a shrewd politician, a maker of decisions.”

It’s March and that marks another birthday for The Diversity of Classic Rock, a blog that I started as a school project and continued writing because I loved writing so much. Writing has been my escape and release for the past year because I have nothing else to do. Get ready for this blog post where I spill my guts about all the behind the scenes stuff that I was dealing with while delivering some of the most comprehensive content on classic rock on the web. 

Content Warning: discussion of depression, sexual assault, and suicide.

For the most part, I write about the music and the musicians’ stories, but when I write an anniversary post, I like to break up the routine and share my insights and my story and write more meta content – writing about writing. As a writer, I used to refrain from inserting myself too much into my blog posts because this blog is all about the musicians, but I learnt that it’s marketable to have personality in your work because people choose your blog/publication to read, hopefully because of you – the person behind it. Who wants to read something stale and generic? Those two adjectives are the last ones I want someone describing me or my work as.

As well, I started this blog to give my perspectives on music. I’m not an identity politics kind of person. It might come as a surprise since this blog started off as one where I talk about musicians from different walks of life, but this blog isn’t about their identities. It’s telling the story of classic rock. This blog is about musicians and their accomplishments.

I don’t think any of these things about me are important to who I am, but regardless, we live in a world where arbitrary characteristics affect how you’re judged by people. Yes, even ones who don’t know you. Still, I don’t you to read my work because of my identity. I don’t want to be known as Angie the [insert identity label here]. No, I want you to read my blog because you want to learn about classic rock in a different way and diving deeper than most publications will. I want you to like my work because of my approachable, honest, and informative writing style. A person’s heart is what matters most at the end of the day.

I was 20 years old when I started this blog and I’m now 26, turning 27 in August. So that means I was born decades after the songs I loved came out. Classic rockers are old enough to be my grandparents! My dream back when I started this blog was to be a classic rock DJ and I wanted to do that because I loved performing and publicly speaking, especially when I get to talk about things I love. I wanted to show another side of the classic rock fandom, the side you don’t see as much. Generally speaking, women are underrepresented as classic rock scholars/commentators/experts, even more so if you’re non-white/mixed. And then I’m bi and I noticed how many classic rockers are LGBT, way more than you think! I wanted to show that classic rock isn’t straight man’s music.

I was known as the resident classic rock expert in university and all my friends called me obsessed. I was “crazy on classic rock” so to speak. Why not add my voice and knowledge to the conversation on classic rock? I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten praise from readers who said they’ve learnt something new.

I always find it weird when people delegitimise the voices of women and non-white/mixed people in classic rock commentary. Women are some of the most dedicated fans of music and engage the most: making most of the fan art, videos, and fanfictions. In comments sections of YouTube videos, I see a lot of Latin American and Asian commenters talking about how they love the music. Some of the biggest fan pages are run out of Latin America and Japan.

One of my favourite compliments I get on my writing is “you should write for a music magazine!” I’ve had multiple people ask me why I don’t apply to work for a music magazine and further my career that way. Well, I hope this blog post explains it. You might notice a bunch of references to Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround (and some other songs too if I find some fitting reference). I found that album so relatable and The Kinks’ music as a whole has been my rock lately. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and people come and go, but music is there for you no matter where you are. Maybe that explains why it means a lot to me.

Get Back in the Line:

“Facing the world ain’t easy when there isn’t anything going. Standing at the corner waiting watching time go by. Will I go into work today, or shall I bide my time?”

I always was the red headed stepchild in school (and I guess in society as a whole), and for some of that literally, because I dyed my hair red for a long time. I may have been quiet, but I was always a rebel and if you pushed me hard enough, I would snap and defend myself. Eventually I grew a backbone and wasn’t afraid to defend myself. The same school year I started The Diversity of Classic Rock, I met my husband and I knew early on I wanted to live with him and be with him forever. Going back to America was an inevitability and I needed a way to be with him again. I didn’t want to break up with him. We looked at a couple options: working holiday visa… in a country with a high unemployment rate… or I could do a masters degree. 

Me posing with my thesis on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – no really!

Ultimately I decided to do a masters in journalism, the department that stressed me out the most during my study abroad year. What was I even thinking? Before that, I decided to practise writing and write for the school paper and get out of my shell by doing some interviews because inevitably I would be doing that. I’m a shy person, why is this the path I’m taking? Am I a masochist? Even making phone calls scares me! I can’t even make an appointment or order a pizza without feeling panicked and jittery afterwards.

Mentally, doing this degree was a mistake. Sure, the classmates I met were great and I got to speak to some really great people, but the authority figures and powers that be were something else. I have talked about this in a video, but I find that I express myself better when I’m writing.

They should have a No Weenies Allowed sign in every newsroom and journalism classroom.

Journalism is a field of work that is fast paced, cutthroat, and ruthless. No weenies allowed! If your mental health is less than optimal, then it’s not the field for you. My low self esteem, depression, and anxiety made this the worst possible move for me. I already was full of cracks from previous traumas, imagine adding stuff on top of that.

I made the mistake of suppressing who I am to impress teachers and industry people. I suppressed the rock and roll attitude because I just wanted to get a job afterwards. Isn’t that the point of sacrificing years of your life for vocational training? Workplaces don’t like rebels. They want someone that will fall in line and I wanted to show I was capable of that. I did well in the coursework portion, getting all As and a few Bs, so clearly I was doing something right, even if professors didn’t like me much on a personal level. Well, not according to industry people. The industry is a round hole and I’m a square peg. 

“He’s the man who decides if I live or I die, if I starve, or I eat.”

Nothing traumatises me more than a job interview. Sure, scoff at that. I’m a wimp, right? What could I have possibly been through in my life? At 15, I was stalked and threatened and it drove me to have suicidal thoughts. In the end, I got punished more than my stalkers did. The police took me away to a holding cell at an institution and my stalkers didn’t even get a stern talking to. I was afraid that my whole future was taken away from me, all because I wanted to die so I could escape from the hell I was experiencing at school. Luckily, I got out of the cell after 8-10 hours of my parents pleading and was spared from being taken to a mental hospital far away.

I had to keep going to school even though I didn’t want to. Somehow though, I kept my head up and my eyes on the prize, to get out of that conservative small town. I graduated from secondary school at 16, the youngest in my graduating class and with straight As throughout all of secondary school.

Me some hours before I was assaulted.

My adult years had a traumatic beginning. A month before my 18th birthday, an abusive friend of mine coerced me into sex. A month after my 18th birthday and just before my second year of university started, someone I thought was a friend assaulted me in a hotel room, assuming that because I hung out with him all day and he treated me to dinner that I’d want to shag him (well let’s just say he wasn’t my type). That was one of the scariest moments of my life. I thought I was going to die that day. Before that day, I thought of myself as a fighter, but when the guy jumped on top of me, I was paralysed from shock, crying, hoping he wouldn’t kill me. That event resulted in me returning to the US after the school year was over and I wanted to stay in Canada so badly. But that, somehow in my mind, wasn’t as scary as a job interview. See the quote above from the song “Get Back in Line”.

Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism… a girl can dream, right?

At this time, we’re not living in fully automated luxury gay space communism. You need a job in order to survive. So much value is put on what you do for a living and how much money you make. The poor are treated like pariahs and the rich are treated like royalty. Now how do you get a job when you have hardly any experience? In the job search you can’t win! You’re either not experienced enough or you’re overqualified. Walking into that office is a scary, dehumanising experience. Your heart pumps fast, thoughts run through your brain at supersonic speeds and you wonder if your mouth can keep up or will you stutter and clam up. There’s a power imbalance between you and the person on the other side of the desk. With every question asked, you feel like you’re being x-rayed or examined under a microscope, every nook and cranny being examined to deem if you’re fit to work for this company. They’re the one making the decision of whether or not you live or die, if you starve or you eat. Sounds hyperbolic, but you need money in order to live and you get money by doing a job. That’s the system we have. 

Because my whole being is put under a metaphorical x-ray in an interview and the person on the other end is making a judgement about me based on just a 15-30 minute long chat, determining if I’m worthy of life, you see why that’s more traumatising to me than what I went through when I was 18. I look at everything with humour, that’s just how I roll in life. Having depression and probably PTSD from past traumas, I have to have a distraction. In a sick, weird way I felt more desired when I was assaulted than when I was rejected from who knows how many jobs. I know that’s not a normal thought, but in therapy I was taught that my thoughts can’t be wrong or right, they’re just there and denying them will only hurt me. This is just how I view my life, not anyone else’s.

Crying is For Writers… or how I was on the edge of suicide:

“Reaching for his pen, he then commenced to try to write the story of his life. Working all day and sleeping all night, what was there to say, what was there to write. Loving is for rich men, hating is for poor men, money is for fighters, crying is for writers. Living in the centre of his own little world, his face never seen, his voice never heard. An endless stream of sorrow flows, a victim of the life he chose.” – July (1968)

Working on a postgraduate degree, you’re only delaying the inevitable: the dreaded job search. No one looks forward to it. It’s already hellish enough if you’re normal, but I’m not normal. I am on the autism spectrum and hell is cranked up to 11… million, in high pressure social situations. Even worse when the interview consists of multiple people throwing questions at you, even more of a power imbalance.

I took every opportunity I could to get experience in journalism and network with people. I volunteered at a convention to write stories and make videos and that was one of my first encounters with nasty people from the industry. I’ve already talked about this a few years ago, but in a nutshell, I have difficulty with eye contact, people know this, but for the most part people don’t treat me poorly for it. Well, this one woman got angry at me after I interviewed her and acted like my lack of eye contact was disrespect to her and that I should have disclosed my disability to her. Who does this woman think she is? I don’t care if she’s the Queen of England. Why should I have to out myself if I don’t feel safe to? I’m not going around and introducing myself as disabled to every person I meet. If they have a problem with that, well that’s their problem. Also at that convention, this one guy who worked for the New York Times and even worked as an adjunct professor at NYU asked me while I was filming why my hair was dyed such a strange colour. It was reddish brown! And sure my roots were grown out a little, but I’m sorry, I was a broke and stressed student! Pardon me for not looking like I’m going to be on the cover of Vogue.

Me at the convention. During a photography walk, a bunch of photojournalists used me as their model.

Not long after that, I interviewed at a national paper and got rejected, the start of a long pattern. Of course, I asked for feedback since I genuinely wanted to improve and they couldn’t say anything. Was it that I was really just second best or did they have implicit biases? Could people see that I’m mixed as soon as I walk in? Is it obvious? Am I obviously gay? Do I come across as mentally challenged? I read somewhere that a lot of people here have prejudices against Eastern Europeans and those who descend from them. If you look up my surname, you’ll find that’s where my dad’s family were from. Could that be a factor too?

Or am I overanalysing everything? When you’re from a marginalised group and trying to talk about inequalities you experience in society, everyone suddenly becomes a cop or a judge demanding you have an airtight case. No one takes you at your word.

Do you think I gave up after one interview? No! I tried again and again, at a local paper in my college town, and another publication in Dublin. In the former, I was asked my age in the interview and worse yet, they took everyone else in as unpaid interns, but not me, and they sent me a condescending rejection letter saying I’m young or whatever. At that point in my life, I was planning my wedding and honeymoon. I was almost 23, for fucks sake! At the paper in Dublin, they asked me to come up with ideas and they shot them all down no matter how good they were, always criticising me. I broke down and cried. I guess July were right… Crying is for writers! I had enough. Rejections all over the place. I was never good enough for anyone. Not even a music magazine, who thought I was too inexperienced even though I’d been writing for a couple years at that point. Who’s inexperienced now? It’s not me.

The Moneygoround

“Eyes down, round and round. Let’s all sit and watch the money-go-round. Everyone take a little bit here and a little bit there”

Every creative industry has a Moneygoround of sorts. Anyone who does creative work be it art, clothing design, makeup artistry, cosmetology, graphic design, music, writing, poetry, photography has experienced people asking them to do work for free or people telling them “how dare you charge so much.” Anything creative is undervalued. People act like they can do it themselves, but when they try, it doesn’t always turn out great, which is why you hire a professional to do things if you need them done well. Generally, this scene from We’re The Millers is how capitalism works. Everyone who has worked an unpaid internship can relate to the line “you guys are getting paid?”

In a newspaper, the owner is David (making $500,000), the editor is Rose (making $30,000), a digital desk journalist is Casey (making $1,000), and the unpaid intern is Kenny (you guys are getting paid?).This is why we need unions.

On top of that, there’s a “Moneygoround” of sorts in journalism and lots of unethical practises. Bylines being changed, stories being stolen, writers not getting paid for their hard work or having to chase editors down and harass them to get paid, publications flaking on writers, unpaid internships, all the work being done by freelancers. It’s capitalism, everywhere you look there’s exploitation. No ethical consumption under capitalism. Journalism is an incestuous industry and there’s a reason for that. Who can afford to go so long unpaid? We all gotta eat and pay rent! Can’t pay for that in appreciation or experience! George Carlin said it well that in the elite parts of society, it’s a big club and you’re not in it. Fat chance they’re gonna let the riffraff in. About as likely as Oasis reuniting. About as likely as The Kinks reuniting. About as likely as Simon & Garfunkel reuniting. You get what I mean.

Fine, let’s broaden the horizons on the job search and look elsewhere. Journalism is dead. So I looked into other jobs. One place told me I was “overqualified”, but with “very strong writing skills”. I don’t get that “overqualified” cop out. Imagine you have an average rock band and Jimi Hendrix tries out to be your guitarist or Neil Peart tries out to be your drummer. Are you seriously going to turn them down? I may be autistic and nearly sent to special ed because of it (I don’t get it, I got excellent grades in school), but I know one thing, you don’t turn down someone who is overqualified! Once again I applied for another journalism adjacent position, and when I asked for feedback, the interviewer said I needed a life coach – completely unprofessional! I must have the world record for most rejections of anyone! And this isn’t even all of the crap I went through, just a fraction. Lots of time wasters. Lots of disrespect.

A job listing came up and it was my dream job, working in the library. I taught myself to read when I was 3 years old and this was the perfect job for me. I applied and went through the whole process: getting the top score of anyone in the placement test. But when I got to the interview, I was treated like a number, rudely interrupted, treated horribly, and not given a chance to demonstrate why I would be the best choice. Since it was a three on one interview with 3 people shooting questions at me rapid fire style, I was anxious. I was strung along for months during the application process, only to be told I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t have adequate communication skills. Bloody hell! I have a bloody communications degree, which you could clearly see on my application form! Morons! What a tease.

“Putting down his pen, he turned and said I want to live but I wish I were dead”

At that point, I had it! I wanted to die and so I tried to hang myself from the doorknob, but I felt I owed my husband a goodbye, so I called him and said goodbye with a flood of tears falling from my eyes while there was a drawstring tied around my neck. My husband didn’t take a chance and he rushed home. I guess this was my White City 1973 moment (for the uninitiated: that was the concert where Ray Davies announced to the audience that he was calling it quits and attempted suicide by overdosing backstage). The date of my attempt? June 2018. If you look back at what I was writing then, I was starting to buckle down and take writing seriously and views were taking off: I interviewed four musicians that month, reviewed a lot of stuff, and wrote one of the series I’m proudest of, a two part series on LGBT related songs dating from the 50s all the way to the 80s. Even at rock bottom, mentally, I was still powering through and writing. But I felt like a failure. Like the July song lyric above, I wanted to live, but I wished I was dead. I wanted to be free from suffering and people’s expectations. I knew there was prejudice related to that hiring decision and I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. When I die, I want to die knowing that I stood up for myself and didn’t let anyone stomp all over me.

Powerman… or I Fought The Law and the Law Won

“I know a man, he’s a powerful man. He’s got the people in his power in the palm of his hand. He started at the bottom and he worked his way up. Now he’s never going to stop until he reaches the top”

I decided to go via the legal system to fight this. What did I have to lose? I was already in a bad place. Might as well give these people a piece of my mind. And so I did what I know how to do best, spilled my guts and wrote a heartfelt speech about the injustice and discrimination I faced. And you know what they did? Made me out to be crazy. And had the nerve to condescendingly call me articulate. You think? I only was involved in theatre throughout my childhood. My bread and butter is writing. And I only have communications and journalism degrees. A rigid marking scheme doesn’t tell the entire story – it doesn’t take into account passion and compatibility with others. When a workplace are a team, you want a complementary team. Why have all generalists, when you can have all the bases covered with everyone being good at different things. A 20 minute chat doesn’t tell the entire story. Recruitment should be holistic and take into account the person’s entire being. If you’re married, you definitely didn’t know that your spouse was the one just 20 minutes after talking to them. And the worst part… Two things. They told me I should have outed myself as disabled. Oh, so I don’t get called for an interview? Can’t win if you’re disabled! You out yourself and you don’t get called. You keep it secret, then it’s “we didn’t know”. News flash, ableism is ableism, whether or not you know the person is disabled!

The second one was when I brought up my ethnic background as a reason they could have discriminated against me, the woman on the other side told me ‘You don’t look mixed’. I lost it at that point and shouted at her, that what she said was racist and that mixed race doesn’t have a look and it’s clear as day that I don’t look like everyone else in that room: my skin has a yellowish undertone and my facial features are some cross between my Native side and my Spanish side. I’m clearly ethnically different from everyone in that room. And my legal last name is clearly Jewish.What if they didn’t like Jews? No one gets to tell me what my background is or what I look like. And these people weren’t even the people who interviewed me, they were some other people. So who is to say those people aren’t prejudiced?

In the end, I lost. Because of course they don’t care about right and wrong. It’s all about who has the power and money. And just because I’m a (atheist) Jew doesn’t mean I can pull a lawyer out my ass. What even is the point of these equality laws if it’s easy to discriminate against people because you can always make up a reason. Or if you have a prejudice, just learn the origins of surnames and chuck the CVs you don’t like out, and none will be the wiser.

“I needed money ’cause I had none. I fought the law and the law won”

Got To Be Free:

“We’ve got to get out of this world somehow. We’ve got to be free, we’ve got to be free now. Got to be free to laugh when I want, think what I want, and cry if I like. Got to be free to do what I want, say what I want, and swear if I like.”

I have to end this therapy session of a blog post on a happy, positive, wholesome note. After that point, I’d had enough of authority. I thought about my closest friend in my masters – Cillian, who had passed away earlier that year, and he always believed in me and he encouraged me to do things on my terms and to not give a shit about authority and what they think because that’s how all the rock stars I looked up to lived. He was right. He always pushed me to do more with my music blog and I would hope that he’s proud of how this journey is going. 

I don’t write The Diversity of Classic Rock to get rich. I write it because I love classic rock more than anything in this world and I hope you can tell through my writing how passionate I am about the subject and that I write about it with a smile on my face. Classic rock is my escape from the boredom and the cruelty in this world. It makes me feel safe and happy. I don’t want anyone telling me how to talk about what makes me happy and what I know most.

Better yet, being independent and free from the constraints of controlling editors and corporate puppet masters feels great. I can’t be myself when I’m not in charge. I found a writing style that works for me and the readers. I am confident about my abilities to judge what good content is and how to promote it. I work best when everything is on my terms: deadlines, topics, aesthetics. Maybe my parents were right when they said I’m just like my grandfather, an independent person who doesn’t like being bossed around. I’ve written for other music websites and I didn’t like being bossed around and dealing with rigid standards. One publication didn’t pay, but demanded writers come up with 5 pitches a month. That publication has since folded and doesn’t publish anything new anymore. I hated editors telling me what to do and how to write and that my ideas aren’t good enough.

One of my biggest influences is Kyle Kulinski, a left wing political commentator, and one thing that he said in his podcast is that he has no price, there is no amount of money he’d accept from the mainstream media to work for them. Not even tens of millions. He doesn’t care about fame. He loves what he does. He doesn’t care about being filthy rich. He just wants to live comfortably. He wants his listeners to trust him and he cares about having a reputation for being honest. And that’s how I feel too. I admire him for his sincerity and his principled approach to everything. I know what he stands for and he’s incredibly honest. Those are things I value in a person – some of the most important things to be in my opinion. 

Sure, that job at the library would have been great money wise. Maybe I would have travelled to some awesome places, but then I wouldn’t have been writing amazing blog posts for you guys. Perhaps I would have been laid off due to this pandemic I would never have foreseen in 2018. There’s really no way of knowing and it’s no use mourning what could have been, advice given to me by Victor Moreno, a musician from Mexico I interviewed a while back. Instead, let’s celebrate the many awesome opportunities I’ve gotten to speak to musicians through this blog and learn even more about classic rock and learn from the readers too and hear some of your stories. Who said I’m useless or that my life isn’t fulfilled?

Thinking about it, a lot of my favourite bands were shafted and done dirty by the industry. What does the music establishment know? Nothing. What does any establishment know? The establishment are all idiots. Money and a title doesn’t make someone smart. What does any of that really mean? At least when I die, I will have a clear conscience that I didn’t screw anyone over and I left behind a comprehensive body of work all about classic rock.

I’ll leave you with one more song lyric quote, and yes it’s another Kinks song (we get it Angie, you’re gay!). Lately, I’ve been turning to this song to pump me up when I feel bad. Maybe I wasn’t meant to live an ordinary, grey life.

“I don’t want to ball about like everybody else. I don’t want to live my life like everybody else. I won’t say that I feel fine like everybody else, ‘cause I’m not like everybody else.”

I looked through some old emails and saw some kind words from people from Tumblr, where I made my foray into the classic rock fandom as meanwhileinthe60s. To sum it up, they’ve said I’m talented, one of a kind, genuine, down to earth, super knowledgeable, and with incredible dress sense to boot! On the off chance that anyone who knew me from Tumblr is reading this, thank you so much for your kind words! I needed to hear it then and I needed to hear it now after writing this.

I started this blog post with a lyric from “The Contenders”, only makes sense to end it with another lyric from the song to bookend the post.

“I don’t want to be like a fascist dictator, a saint, or a sinner. I want to be a winner”

Shoutout to Patrick and Jeffrey from Maryland for supporting the blog!

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