Dear Bill Stevenson,

In the early 90s, there were few better places to discover music than the used cassette section of Record Connection. At $3 a pop, this was a cost-effective method to keep your ears busy in the pre-streaming era. I managed to dig up Fugazi Repeater, Bad Religion Against the Grain and NOFX Ribbed before finally stumbling upon one that really clicked: Descendents’ I Don’t Want To Grow Up.

After my first listen, I was hooked. A single and love thirsty teenage girl, I nearly always flipped to side two and started with “Silly Girl” and fell in love with Milo before “Good Good Things” ended. I listened to him in the morning on the bus, on the way home from school and eventually in my car. Milo was the perfect counterpoint to my nerdy, somewhat angsty art girl persona. He sported the thin, bespectacled, slightly disheveled emo look long before it came into fashion. He was in a really cool band yet somehow managed to seem accessible. AND HE SANG ABOUT GIRLS.

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“I think about you every night and day, and when I could have asked I let it slip away. I’ve got to get to know you, but I’m so afraid. Well it’s so hard to be a friend and be in love this way.” COME ON! How could I resist? Maybe someday, I thought, a guy like Milo would fall in love with me.

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So why is my letter to you, Mr. Stevenson, and not to Milo?

Descendents are one of those bands from which I never felt compelled to disassociate myself (I’m looking at you, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy). It’s a badge of honor to be a fan. People who like Descendents like them with all their heart—not only nostalgic gals such as myself but actual punk dudes.

I’ve always wondered why that was the case, and a recent viewing of Filmage answered my question. You are the man behind the magic. It seems almost obvious that someone with your passion and energy would produce music that stayed with me for decades. You poured everything you’ve got into the music and are deserving of all your loyal fans (and particularly the one who brought you back to health). My fandom has reached new levels, and I even bought my baby girl (and a friend’s baby boy) an I Don’t Want To Grow Up onesie.

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So, now that I have your attention, here’s a quick anecdote:

In 10th grade, I participated in a class trip to see Macbeth at a local playhouse. Jackie sat next to me on the bus. Jackie was captain of the soccer team, tall, thin, peppy and blonde—everything I was not. Did she want to talk? Even though I was weirdly excited someone actually wanted to sit next to me, my walkman and trusty I Don’t Want To Grow Up cassette were waiting for me.

Jackie didn’t exactly want to talk, but asked if she could listen to my music on the way back to school. Considering the contents of my walkman, I politely warned her that it might not be her thing. My warning lead to her increased curiosity so I set it up for side two (of course) and reluctantly handed it over. After side two ended, Jackie seemed a bit nonplussed and asked “Do you really like listening to stuff like that?” Perhaps she thought I was pretending in order to be different. I was not, and I’d let her into my world exactly long enough to feel exposed, embarrassed and wondering why I didn’t bring a different cassette with me. What about the Cranberries—something I enjoyed that was safe, feminine and mainstream?

I could feel my face getting red and my self-consciousness increasing by the second. Would she tell people what happened, ensuring that my classmates continued to see me as an outcast? Most likely yes, and although it stung like hell at the time, the very thing that made me an outcast as a teen makes me special(ish) now. A Milo bobblehead sat on my corporate desk for years. Everyone who came in asked who it was, and I was delighted to tell conservative men in dark blue suits all about the Descendents.

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Descendents are a reminder of how happy I am to be unlike everyone else, and for that, Bill Stevenson, I owe you a great big thanks.

Much respect,
Christine

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Silly Girl

In Love This Way

Good Good Things

17 thoughts on “Dear Bill Stevenson,”

  1. I share that love and appreciation for the Descendents as well. Great post and awesome story.

    I’ll have the balls to share a cover I recorded of one of my favorite Descendents songs (off of a different album though).

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  2. When I was around 13 or 14, I found a shoe box of cassettes in my brother’s room. Livage was one of those tapes. So were Rancid, Bad Religion, Samiam, and a number of others that I still have. I still get to listen to them in my car.

    A number of years later, I went to a local used record store, Plastic Fantastic (where I later learned The Ramones played early in their career). I found Next Year’s Model for $3.99. While purchasing, I explained to the owner that it was the first thing I would own of Elvis Costello, and I was buying it without hearing anything first. He was so excited for me, which I thought was weird. Looking back after all these years, and times seeing Elvis, and reading his book, I wonder if that guy even knew what transpired that day.

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    1. The used punk cassette: a thing of beauty! It sounds like the record store owner DID know what transpired and therefore was working in exactly the right place.

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  3. I Don’t Want to Grow Up was technically my first punk rock cassette. I was 13 in 1988 when I first heard it. I wore it out until my mom heard “Pervert” and threw the tape out. I made a copy so I was fine with it.

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  4. I got bless to see them in Buenos Aires last November was amazing , and if Milo is one of my favorite persona, Bill is kind of my hero, and when a was a punk and live in the state my ost while I was skating was descendents , and for that I’m grateful. Hope to see more shows , and by the way Bill your Spanish is OK.

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  5. OMG, that’s so beautiful! I love Descendents, all of them, but Bill is definetely my hero too! And Silly Girl was always my favorite song until I met him in person and he explained me the story: “bill”, “billy”, “silly”. It was about him and his 1st girlfriend. Then I liked it so much more.

    I’m really touched by this post and this baby and this little Milo on your desk. I’m sure Bill will be flattered and happy as well! <3

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I might have been a little bit young for the bulk of Bareville’s run. Managed to get there once to see Hellbender and became slightly obsessed with “Footprint of the American Chicken” shortly thereafter. If memory serves me, the first time I heard them was actually on the All Roads to Bareville comp so there’s some irony in there somewhere. (My roads clearly did not lead to Bareville?)

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