20 years: Jeff Napier's fuzzy memories 

Mama didn't raise no fool - perverted idiot, maybe; droolingly inept cretin, absolutely - but, certainly no fool. My lust for the recorded form of rock and roll music started at the tender age of 10 when my mom brought home a box of old records and gave them to me. Hidden in a Percy Faith cover, I found a pristine copy of Led Zeppelin's fourth album and I never really looked back after that.

Maybe it was fate or providence but whatever it was, when I dropped the needle of the old Magnavox console stereo/color TV onto the mysterious record with the weird symbols on it and Robbie Plant exploded into my young cranium with the words, "Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove," there was no way my life was ever going to be the same. Or turn out normal.

Eighth grade came around and a buddy and I skipped school and hitched a ride to the 3D department store in Noblesville and bought Pink Floyd's The Wall the day it came out. We got us some grass and went back to his house and cranked it up on his Dad's Pioneer component system. As the album ended, I said something like, "Man... this album makes Animals sound like fucking Donny and Marie." My buddy busted up and said, "Hey man, you should write that down!" So I did and I never stopped.

I continued through high school and college, reviewing and writing, eventually making my way to the offices of NUVO Newsweekly on the Broad Ripple Canal. NUVO was barely half a year old at that time, we could smoke in the office and the high tech hardware consisted of maybe 5 or 6 Mac Classic II's. I was tutored and mentored by giants among men in that building - Will Higgins, Charlie Sutphin, Bill Craig and of course, Kevin McKinney.

From them I learned what parts of my college journalism degree were worthless and what parts were useful. I learned the importance of the all-mighty deadline. I learned what it was like to be in a group of people who were, against all odds, building something that would enlighten, entertain and enrage our community. It's 20 years later and I'm still doing it. I still make about as much money as I did then but I don't care, because I still feel like I'm a part of something that I helped birth and nurture and that is now as much a part of Indianapolis as Monument Circle.

I saw the grunge explosion come and go, and subsequently saw Indianapolis' music scene go from hair-farming cover bands to gritty original acts determined to make their mark on the world. I traveled the world and made great friends and even greater enemies. I made NUVO a little money and cost it a lot of money. I had sex on Harrison Ullman's desk and rolled doobies on Scott Hall's. When I was really desperate, I'd steal quarters out of Kevin's desk to walk over to the VP to get a pack of smokes.

But one memory stands clear. Kinda sums up what my days at NUVO mean to me. The late, great Merle Griggs, of such bands as Bitch Head and Helen Shields, would come get me every week or so and we'd take off and go get ribs and smoke dope for the afternoon. It started as a way for Merle to get ink for his bands and turned into a weekly ritual that ended up lasting for years.

One afternoon I was worrying about a certain program director at a certain "modern rock" radio station with a dumb-ass name like Edsel Mercedes or Pinto Ferrari or something like that. I had called him a "Ball-less faggot" or something to that effect and had somehow managed to slip it into print that week. McKinney and the editorial staff were being threatened by the Fall Creek Mafia's best lawyers and were understandably a little upset with me.

As I'm fretting in Merle's filth-ridden, dog-chewed living room, he loads the bong and says, out of the blue, "You gotta tell it like it is. So fuck it man. Fuck it. It's a Thug Life. And the thug truth will set you free."

Jeff Napier came out of a central Indiana cornfield to create NUVO's music section soon after the paper started. He was responsible for creating a much needed critical voice for the Indy music scene and was a tireless champion of local musicians. After leaving NUVO, he volunteered for the International Tibet Independence Movement, got high with Meat Loaf in Brentwood, pissed off Gary Coleman and drove a Dodge Neon for 10 years. He is currently developing Uncle Flounder's Devil Jelly, a line of hot pepper jelly made from peppers grown organically in his backyard.

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