I Was the Pete Best of MySpace

28 05 2008

Before Web 2.0, before broadband, before the dot bombs exploded, when grunge ruled the airwaves, I, Michael Bourne, was friends with Tom Anderson, the co-founder of MySpace. Tom is the first “friend” you make when you join MySpace, but he’s unknown to most MySpace users personally. His smiling face greets you when you join, but it’s like the face on a milk carton, amorphous in space and not tied to reality.

But I knew the real Tom when he sat across from me in our English Lit honors thesis class at Cal Berkeley. He had an aura even then, a confidence that was conveyed from his strong stare and impressive intellect. Tom read Nietzsche and understood him. He was writing about Superman, and not the cartoon. Tom spent hours under the pedestrian bridge in Sproul Plaza strumming an acoustic guitar and singing Beatles tunes. So I asked him to join my band, he said yes, and together with crackerjack guitarist Justin and funk bass man Lenny, we formed Meathead.

The name was a joke. A riff on the fact that Lenny and I lived with vegans in the hills of Berkeley. Our first real gig was at Meat Fest, a celebration of red meat at a local co-op, and the name just stuck. (I can’t make this stuff up.) We played the Bison Brewery and some open mic nights, and even cut a demo. I recall one day at a sushi buffet when we sat down and drew a poster for a concert we were putting on. We stapled them to every lamppost near campus. In some respects, MySpace has done that for bands on a broader scale.

I had no illusions about the future of this band. I knew that we’d split up once I moved to Japan and Justin pursued his advanced degrees in mathematics. But I had a feeling back then that Tom was destined for greater things. Like all great front men, he had the swagger, the look, and the charisma. Even if he didn’t pursue a music career, I knew that I’d see him again.

Fast-forward 14 years. Tom has cashed out to Rupert Murdoch and is following his bliss on various projects that keep him ridiculously busy. The last time I spoke with him was to congratulate him on the sale of his company. We’d exchanged some snail mail over the years, and he took care of my guitar while I was in Tokyo, but we definitely lost touch. Now, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, et. al are making it impossible for people to lose track of their friends. Social networking has made a lot of people very rich in the process, and the world is a better place for it.

Me? I’m in PR promoting some great brands. It’s been a long time since my beats set the rhythm for Tom’s on-stage moves, and the lyrics of my songs came out of his mouth. It seems that everyone in the marketing world wants a piece of him, like little screaming schoolgirls at a concert. And marketers have been trying to have Web 2.0 pioneers dance to their beats and say what they want to those teeming masses. They’ve had some hits and misses in the process. I think successful marketers will join the bands of the Web 2.0 masters and make beautiful music together, and strike out on their own to create masterpieces of their own. One thing is for sure: if we don’t do it, we’ll all need to find new gigs.

Original MySpace Tom Anderson Gig Poster