Meet Me at Count Five Place
By Gary Singh
SINCE the San Jose Rocks Hall of Fame project continues to spur all sorts of ideas, allow me to add one more: The renaming of streets after local musicians who've gone big time. You see, with San Jose's harebrained hick-town penchant for naming buildings after politicians that aren't dead yet, they at least owe us a little rock & roll. Imagine Doobie Brothers Boulevard or Count Five Place. If that sounds implausible, then let me give you a few examples from progressive, forward-thinking communities like Oklahoma City and Bakersfield where similar things were recently done.The legendary Oklahoma City band the Flaming Lips have been known for their surreal neopsychedelic costumed rock madness for over 20 years now, so the city—apropos of the band's career—took a dirt-filled back alley littered with dumpsters and renamed it Flaming Lips Alley. Debates raged for a year about whether it was a tribute or an insult. The band's singer Wayne Coyne, who still lives in that city, overwhelmingly dug the idea.
"Any time you've got an alley with dumpsters and trucks loading beer out of the back, I thought about that—maybe that's a little better," he said. "I like to think that, in fact I almost prefer, that we're one of these great little secrets—that people sort of stumble upon us—while looking for something more obvious."
And he applauded Oklahoma City for stepping up to the plate and acknowledging the band's accomplishments. "It's not just a typical, 'Give them a street, give them a statue, give them a handshake,'" he said. "It's like some little secret special thing. So many bands despise their hometowns. I guess we're just lucky or it never felt that way to us. Oklahoma City never rejected us." Hallelujah.
And then there's Bakersfield. Legendary '90s heavy metal band Korn hails from that community and in 2006 the city showed its appreciation by naming a back access road to Rabobank Arena after the band. The street was designated Korn Row and the sign sits spitting distance from the railroad tracks behind the arena. A few hundred folks showed up for the unveiling ceremony, which, like the equivalent scenario in Oklahoma City, received national attention, with both MTV and VH1 covering the event.
Korn singer Jonathan Davis was teary-eyed about the whole affair. "This [city] was a place that I dreaded as a teenager because there wasn't much stuff to do, but it's always going to hold a special place in my heart," he said. "It's a little bit too much to handle. Like, what are these politicians doing here saying they like us?"
I can probably guess the answer to that question and I recall desperately suggesting in this space in 2005 that San Jose should do something similar. In that column, I reminded folks that a few years earlier New York City had renamed the corner of Second and Bowery Streets Joey Ramone Place. It's located right near CBGB where the Ramones and much of New York punk rock began. Since there was probably never a rock band more inherently "New York" than the Ramones, officials in the Big Apple had enough class to rename a corner in Joey's memory—even if they had to go down to the Bowery to do it. That's what a real city does. Thousands of fans filled the streets for the dedication ceremony.
Obviously, one would expect no less from a world class city like New York, but even in a town like Bakersfield, the politicians can at least temporarily ditch the farmer's town overalls and do something to show that their city a rocking place. The only remaining question is, can San Jose?