I met Jeff Breeze in either 1995 or 1996. I had grown up with my parents’ and grandparents’ record collections. Lots of classic country, bad 80s country, and 1950s-1970s pop and rock (thanks to my dad). My own collection began when I heard The Kinks’ “Do it Again” in 1984. I bought the single at Wal-Mart (still have it) and wore it out. I ended up a metal kid, who then morphed into a punk rock and hardcore kid, who then got into out/noise and other brutalities. I mention this solely because it makes our first meeting seem perhaps a bit like a harbinger of things to come.
While watching MTV’s “120 Minutes” after our weekly Sunday night Simpsons watch party, I was blown away by the Pizzicato Five’s “Twiggy Twiggy.” If you know it, it has what could be described as a Blade-Runner-meets-James-Bond-theme vibe. Not my usual fare at the time.
The following day I made my first trip to Whizz! Records and purchased the EP containing “Twiggy.” The man behind the counter was, of course, Jeff, and his comment was “this record is so much fun.” We had a brief, pleasant conversation and that was that. The next time I was at Whizz!, I bought god only knows what 90s noise/racket record that had come out that week and at checkout Jeff hands me a cassette. On the spine it said, “Compiled from the limited resources of Jeffrey W. Breeze.” I have included some of the songs that were on that tape in this playlist (within the limitations of Spotify: turns out “Bopalina” by Ronnie Self hasn’t yet made the leap to digital). It was all over the map, and while I didn’t like every song, I was blown away that one person could be so deep into all these different things. This was just the tip of the iceberg, I was soon to learn. So many evenings ended up at his house on University, playing records, drinking terrible beer. His collection even then was pretty robust. In the past year, we had been video chatting and when he showed me what his collection had grown to I WAS SPEECHLESS. My record collection is modest by most measurements, but he had easily way more 78s than I have LPs. A LOT more. He was never precious about it though. He would loan you any record, book, whatever he had, if he saw you had an interest in it. There were no prizes. Every record got played, every book got read, and he would never make fun of the dumb things that would be playing when he got in my car. What blows me away the most is that so many people have some version of this story.
I have to be done with this now. I have worked way too hard on this playlist, I wanted it to be perfect. I’ve stuck mainly to rock and pop, but Jeff hipped me to so many great things. I can’t in good conscience put Pendercki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” or a Tony Conrad jam on a Spotify playlist and expect people to endure it. Striving for perfection is missing the whole point though. Jeff was never perfect. nor would he allow you to pretend to be. The only criteria for being his friend is that you had to be REAL. You had to be yourself. Seeing the wonderful things people have written on this page and on social media, it is clear that Jeff meant a lot of different things to many different people. People who would never have known each other. Their only commonality being they loved Jeff. Just as with music, Jeff only saw people as things he liked or did not like. He was friends with all the punk rock kids, the music snobs, the college radio DJs, artists, the guys playing D&D at The Heidelberg. Profoundly different experiences, but profound to be sure. He was my best friend for 25 years and for a lot of those years we lived in different states. We still talked just as often as when we lived 2 miles away from each other in the 90s. I have too many memories to recount: the time we drove from Columbia to Boston non-stop; the time we got snowed in to his apartment; made an abortive trip to Gumby’s to get pizza and ended up drinking a bottle of dry vermouth; the time we read a crazy-ass, non-objective Donald Barthelme story in the middle of his radio show; games we saw at Fenway; and a million others. I have lost a friend, a brother, and honestly, I don’t know what I am going to do.