Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Listen; there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go."

If you meet them at the right point in your life, certain people retain a sort of permanent cool. Reality be damned, a strong first impression can forever shade the way you think of another person.

For me, Scott Burroughs will always be one of those characters. He was, literally, my big brother’s cool friend -- a scarecrow of a teen, months away from daring the 1979-era Tacoma, Washington population to not stare at his mohawk. Scott was a triple threat: black, punk and disarmingly sweet.

Wig Out! magazine would run a tiny cartoon of “Reverend” Scott Burroughs sometime around 1984, with text reading, “often imitated, never duplicated.” They were referring to his skateboarding skills, but those words could just as easily apply to the man himself. Even with the ‘80s in full swing, daring to be different along the Seattle-Tacoma corridor still had shock value, and Scott seemed ahead of the curve in that regard.

In the mid-‘90s I saw him in person again for the first time in years. We were crowded on the floor of a now-defunct music venue watching the first “reunion” performance of The Specials. (Still no Terry Hall, but nobody was taking any chances.) With his giant dreadlocks, colorful clothes and wide grin, it made perfect sense to see Scott there. That first Specials album can’t be separated from my appraisal of Scott Burroughs and other things that remain unimpeachably hip.

His life was not without troubles, though I know little of those. To me, Scott remained a sort of superhuman presence thanks to the power of memory. Of course, he performed in numerous bands, most recently playing bass and singing in Thankless Dogs.

The last time I talked to Scott was at a wake, oddly enough. He genially tolerated my aging father’s bad jokes and loud conversation. He was nothing if not a gentleman, and I’m sure, entirely human, no matter what I think. But I still think Scott Burroughs is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met.

Good-bye, Scott.

Kris Kendall didn't know Mr. Burroughs would be going so soon, or he might have told him this in person. Well, you never know.