It’s 1978, I’m starting my junior year of high school, and I’m best friends with Kenny, Paul, and Tommy. We go nowhere without each other; no convoluted plot to take over the world is made without all of us present. We move like stealth bombers in the night, clad in army jackets and dirty jeans and Genesis T-shirts (before Phil Collins ruined the band, ok?). We are the cutting edge of a white-bread suburb, which really isn’t saying much, but we think we are the coolest people on the face of the earth. We listen to prog rock and punk rock and never pop rock or disco or Journey or Springsteen. We think guitar solos are passé, but drum solos rock the house. We think Peter Gabriel is a genius and Styx and Kansas need to be silenced. We secretly listen to Van Halen, but no one confesses until years later.
We don’t hang out at the mall like the other kids. We hang out in Kenny’s room with the black lights and Emerson, Lake & Palmer posters, or in Paul’s garage, with the drum set and the Ramones’ Road to Ruin playing over and over. But sometimes, we go to the mall to go to Record World—usually, the only reason to get on public transportation or beg someone’s older brother for a ride. We’d pore over their offerings, praying that we’d find 99-cent treasures in the cutout bin. But only Heart and Blue Öyster Cult would be there. (And the 45 of Nazareth’s “Love Hurts,” which got something like 50 spins over the three days after we unearthed it.)
It’s late in the summer, and Kenny’s mom won’t let us hang out in the house and Paul’s mother is having a garage sale. [...]