I’m listening this morning to one of the great albums of the early 1980s, Jim Carroll’s Catholic Boy. Vastly better than his Basketball Diaries, it doesn’t let you go. There are no slow spots, no filler songs, and its most well-known song isn’t even close to its best.
I joke about this frequently, but this is my roots music. Directly descended from the Velvet Underground and Patti Smith, straight-up New York City punk, about a Catholic boy whose financial circumstances were quite different than mine (and who is closer in age to my parents than me) but with all the baggage that comes along with growing up Catholic in NYC. I skipped the heroin and the prep schools, not to speak of the basketball stardom, and none of my friends died when I was in high school, but in the end, that’s not what Catholic Boy is really about.
And they can’t touch me now
I got every sacrament behind me
I got baptism, I got penance
I got communion, I got extreme unction*
Man, I’ve got confirmation
I was a Catholic boy
Redeemed through pain
And not through joy
And now I’m a Catholic man
I put my tongue to the rail whenever I can
*”Extreme unction” is the sacrament of last rites, the one you get when you die. He certainly didn’t have that sacrament then, and I doubt he has it now, but the way he sings that line is perhaps the best moment on the entire album.