Andreas Economakis

Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer (Rock in Athens, July 27, 1985)

“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?”

by Andreas Economakis

July 27, 1985. Day 2 of the big Rock in Athens concert. S. and I squeeze our way through the excited crowd and sit down on the white marble seats. We look around the open-air Kallimarmaro Stadium, home to the 1896 Olympics. The Clash are playing tonight and the place is packed to the gills. I mention to S. that I finished the marathon in this stadium when I was twelve years old. I remember being so very upset that the local newspaper misspelled my last name in the article the next day. My mom, feeling bad, whited-out the mistake and carefully wrote in my name. It was nice of her but it didn’t take the bitterness away.

I pull out a can of smuggled Amstel beer and crack it open. I hand the can to S. and she takes a swing. She hands the can back to me, her eyes smiling, flirting. Things are finally warming up between us. The mythical woman on the pedestal is finally becoming human, approachable. I’m so infatuated with her.

The lights dim. The crowd starts whistling in anticipation. Suddenly, S. takes my hand in hers. My heart skips a beat. My mind travels to the night before. There we are, seated in the same marble seats, but things are so very different. No smiling, flirting eyes, no heart-skipping looks or touches. Almost like an anti-climax, Boy George of Culture Club steps on stage. His hair is gelled high over an overly made-up face, the eyeliner around his glazed eyes giving him an almost macabre look. He’s wearing a strange and not too flattering green training outfit with shiny reflector strips and he’s sweating buckets in the hot Athenian air. Like gasoline tossed on fire, the crowd up front, mostly punks, start heckling and jeering. Before long they start throwing pebbles and water bottles at Boy George. He leaves the stage in a fit of disappointment. After several rollicking minutes of uncertainty, an announcer comes on stage and chides the crowd. A few more awkward minutes pass by and Boy George steps back on stage, inflamed eyes scanning with crowd nervously. He walks up to the microphone, takes a deep breath, and starts singing “Do you really want to hurt me?” The crowd roars “YES!!!” in unison and pelts him with more pebbles and bottles and insults. Remarkably, Boy braves his way through the song, hips dancing and swaying melifluously around the flying detritus and hurled invectives. When the song ends and the mayhem and impending carnage becomes fully apparent, Culture Club decides to flee the stage. My last image of Boy is a frightened flurry of green fabric and black face make-up, the stage’s probing spotlights making him look a like a fugitive zombie from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Outside the stadium, petrol smoke, black as night, billows up to the darkening orange-blue sky. Word gets around that punks outside the stadium have set fire to Boy’s tour-bus. In reality, several concert crashers have set a car on fire as they are upset at being kept out of the stadium by a beefed-up police force. The stadium is rolling in confusion and smoke, everyone unsure if the concert’s going to be cancelled.

The lights dim and then, suddenly, Joe Strummer walks on stage. Back to today. The crowd explodes in applause. A hero’s welcome. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” he bellows. “STAY!!!” the Greek crowd roars. I swear, I’m so happy to see Joe that tears well up in my eyes. A smiling S. turns toward me and kisses me on the lips. Joe finishes the song and dives into the crowd. He’s hoisted up, swirled around over people’s heads and thrown back on stage. He grabs the mic for the next song. That night S. and I become boyfriend and girlfriend. I owe it all to the Clash. Thank you, Joe Strummer. Thank you.

–Andreas Economakis

This piece is part of a collection of stories on blindness entitled: The Blindness of Life.

Copyright © 2010, Andreas Economakis. All rights reserved.

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