Another One Bites the Dust

Thump, Thump, Thump, Pap, Another one bites the dust.
Thump, Thump, Thump, Pap, Another one bites the dust.

This was the biggest song of the year when I was a college freshman—1980-1981. This statistic is backed up by billboard charting, but really, you simply needed to be in a college dormitory to know this fact. Another One Bites the Dust by Queen played nonstop in the fall of 1980.

But it wasn’t on my stereo. My scant record collection included Bruce Springsteen, George Thorogood and the Clash. Rocking man-groups you could shout along with while drunk. At this point, you might say, “Another One Bites the Dust is certainly a song to shout-out over beers,” but it wasn’t the same. It was pop music. It was embraced by lovers of Disco. It was too popular to be liked by me. The songs I liked didn’t top charts.

The things I gravitated towards weren’t in the mainstream.  “Springsteen and Thorogood” you ask, “aren’t they pretty mainstream?” Yes, they are, but I was into them while they were still fringe—or so I told myself. Really, what I wanted was to be different from everybody else. If it was popular, I was above it—or so I thought.

My freshman year of college, I didn’t fit in. Not only was I trying to be different, but I was snobby about it as well. Those who conformed, I thought, were sheep—just following along with what ever happened to be trending at the time. Unable to discern for themselves what they liked and didn’t like. Another One Bites the Dust was one of my examples. “That song sucks” I’d say. My most charming traits as a teenager is that I was always willing to tell people what I thought.

~ ~ ~

Here’s the crass part of my story: Another One Bites the Dust is in my head this week because my high school friend Alan died. He’s the third friend my age to die over the past two years. Calling Alan a high school friend is slightly inaccurate. We hooked-up, we started our bromance, on our senior class trip—a week before graduation. Ours was a relationship fueled by drugs. He had some, I wanted some, so we hung out. But we were cut from the same mold; we quickly became close friends.

When John Peters died at the end of 2016. I was stunned. People my age don’t die, I thought. We’re not at that point of our life yet. I hadn’t seen John since the late eighties. In my mind, he was still the good-looking, youthful hippy I used to party with. I couldn’t reconcile that he aged, got sick and died. My sadness lingered for weeks.

When Andy Sibray died six months later I had a similar reaction. Like me, he started his family late. He still had kids living at home, a family relying on him daily for support—financial and emotional. Like John Peters, Andy was long out of my life. We weren’t in touch, but I’m close with several of his friends. I felt like I still knew him. His death left a messy family-situation that would mirror my own if I died.

When I read about Alan’s death (on Facebook) I immediately began to run Queen’s song through my mind. This seemed to be becoming a regular occurrence. Three friends gone, each six-months apart. It’s started.

When my father was in his sixties and seventies, every time I talked to him, he would tell me about an old friend who was dying or died. For fifteen years, they were dropping like flies. Biting the dust. I was always shocked by his casual tone as he related the news. Not a very good friend… I’d think. But I’m starting to understand. The relationships we forge in our youth are strong. Robust enough that they still matter forty years later when we’re long out of touch. But when that friend dies, they become just a little more out of our life—now with an air of finality. And with each death, we become a bit more calloused.

Incidentally, my father is still alive. He’s now in his late eighties. He no longer tells me about his old friends who are dying. They’ve pretty much all died.

Alan and I hung out that entire summer right after high school. We always went to the same small, dark Greek restaurant. We ate fries and drank pitchers of beer (the drinking age was eighteen then). Like me, Alan was well practiced at being an outsider. We had long, increasingly drunken conversations about the problem with America. We talked about how we seemed to be the only nonconformists in a heavily conforming society. Looking back at that young, cocky teenager, I suspect Alan was just as much of an asshole as I was.

16 thoughts on “Another One Bites the Dust

  1. To think I was just a baby when that song was a hit! It is sad to learn about people passing. I know that my own generation has seen some shocking deaths of old friends and classmates- it seems too soon yet. It’s always sad when that happens and it certainly makes you nostalgic. You captured things well in this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard about very few deaths of my high school class, but I’m also out of touch. But I think my brothers, one and two years older than me, would keep me informed if people were dying. I’m happy that I have a lifetime of exercise behind me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, the times in high school, drunk in a basement, singing along to that song. Pat Bentar was a few years ahead of me. She was mostly a has-been by the time I got to college… oh, except for her hit ‘love is a battlefield’ – that one was pretty big.

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  2. Being here in PA, I’ve lost touch with many of the friends I grew up with in New Jersey. I recently learned, sadly through a Christmas card sent by his wife, that one person in the group I hung around with the most was run down by a State Police car in Maryland. He introduced me to my wife one intoxicated Saturday on a Cape May beach, then like friends will, he took me for a round of drinks after a game of miniature golf with him and his future wife. I actually think this was his original motivation. My wife was really bad at miniature golf. We were also the Best Man at each other’s wedding. I hadn’t seen him in a while, but it was a painful reminder that I need to step outside of myself sometimes and just pick up the phone. To be a better friend. I didn’t always think of him everyday, but now that he’s gone I do. Great post Jeff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yet another blogger from Pennsylvania. If that blogging map in wordpress show the states where the page views came from, PA would definitely be the highest. I think about reaching out to those old friends all the time, but I don’t really know what I’d say. We’re not the same people after 40 years, and I worry that I won’t like them. Maybe it’s better to live with the memories and get jolted now and again by their deaths.

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      • I know that some of my current relationships cooled off considerably when I quit drinking a couple of years ago. They weren’t necessarily fuel by alcohol, but alcohol was always present.

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  3. Its a strange thing as the dust biting accelerates. My dad, who is 88, keeps a list now, as he can’t always remember who has died and who hasn’t .

    I don’t many HS contacts, but do from college, and its is indeed strange as people keep falling off the map. As you recognize, its not as though we are in each other’s life on a regular basis, but there is a felt sense (to me at least) of their presence in the background. I’m a bit older than you, started college in 73, so a few more have dropped off.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Assuming many of your college connections are women from the dorms, I’m sure breast cancer took at least a moderate toll in their forties and fifties. My crowd is now hitting the heart disease stage… although my college roommate had a heart attack at 45. He’s living a healthier life now

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  4. “But I’m starting to understand. The relationships we forge in our youth are strong. Robust enough that they still matter forty years later when we’re long out of touch. But when that friend dies, they become just a little more out of our life—now with an air of finality. And with each death, we become a bit more calloused.” I like that. I have also lost a couple of friends. And when I hear of their death, it is a finality – because the last time I had ever encountered them (outside of commenting on their lives on FB) was growing up with them in some way. Out of all the friends I still have from my past on FB – I probably will never encounter them again. We aren’t making any new memories. Death is just the end of our story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I first got on Facebook a few years ago, I was enthralled. All these old friends to reconnect with. But in time, it just depressed me because I didn’t actually feel connected to anyone, just reminded of our past together. Now I only get on every few days to make sure no one has messaged me. And that’s when I saw the Alan message. I wonder how many others I’ve missed.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. My first high school friend to die was a year after we graduated, one of those services attended by scores of people, including me, because it was a “taken too young” car accident, before we all drifted to our own separate lives. This year is my 20th reunion and I am in touch with virtually no one since my departure from social media. I know I’m entering the years when it will no longer shock me to hear someone had a heart attack or a cancer treatment didn’t work but I’ll probably just shake my head and carry on when I do. Our mortality is inevitable. As an aside, I love me some Freddy Mercury, but I always hated that that song was played at wedding receptions over and over like it was some kind of witty joke.

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