Five years and three days ago, Mick Hargreaves was one of many musicians on the East End who devoted his days to writing songs, woodshedding, collaborating and devoting his life to a craft that he loved.
But on July 31, 2011, after he was the victim of a brutal attack after a gig in Bayport, he woke up in Brookhaven Memorial Hospital with a new identity as “the musician who got attacked,” the focus of intense media attention and support and sympathy from around the country.
The morning of the attack, Mick and pianist/composer Joe Delia were working on a demo of a new song called “Crystal Ball.” It’s been five years in the works, but yesterday, Aug. 1, Mick released a free download of a beautifully produced, full-band version of the song on his website, along with a PDF of the story of what happened to him — a story that he is hoping now to put behind him.
“It’s a song about not being able to see into the future. I didn’t see it coming. It was an act of good samaritanism gone bad,” said Mick over the phone Monday from his Manorville recording studio, Lantern Sound Recording Rig.
The night of the attack, Mick had reluctantly agreed when an ex-girlfriend asked to come see his new band’s debut show at the Grey Horse Tavern. He says after the gig she was passed out at a table at the bar, and he’d taken her to a diner to help her sober up, rather than leave her alone at the closing venue (which still remains one of his favorite, friendly places).
When they returned to her car, one of her former boyfriends, who’d been following them in a Crown Victoria, leapt out and attacked Mick with a crowbar, beating his head to a pulp and leaving him, bloody and bruised all over, in the parking lot.
His story says a lot for those out there who have suffered trauma — about memories that have disappeared that suddenly return, of the process of painstakingly going over the details of what happened to him, trying to put together the pieces, trying to make peace with the brutality that can exist in the world, of the humor and relief that comes with each year he is still alive.
His circle of trust has shrunken, he says, and he no longer suffers fools gladly. He has quietly built a massive body of work, and he’s less likely to hesitate to speak his mind.
“I am insanely work-oriented now; I wish to leave a mark in this world, and would rather create, or help others create, than simply consume,” he writes. “Originality is paramount; my metaphor/mantra is that I find a printing press to be infinitely more interesting than a photocopier.”
But sometimes the littlest things are all he can focus on.
“It’s beautifully paralyzing,” he said. “Every little thing you do, you think, ‘you might not be doing this now.’ Last night I fell asleep with a fan blowing a breeze on my face and it was the most wonderful thing in the world.”
“You can go down the rabbit hole pretty quickly, and start thinking, this is a vintage fan and the people who made it in Canada 50 years ago are probably dead,” he added. “The heightened consciousness gets ridiculous. I don’t know how you get to that without going through something like this, unless you climb the mountain and talk to the Swami and become incredibly enlightened as a result.”
Mick has devoted much of his life, in the years since the attack, to putting together his recording studio as a space where people can feel comfortable relaxing and taking their time to make great, well-produced, original music.
He volunteered to produce last year’s “One Guitar” CD to benefit the Maureen’s Haven homeless shelter network, and is now working on organizer Don Bracken’s sequel project.
I ran into Mick earlier this spring at a vigil to honor the memory of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who was murdered in a hate crime on the street in Patchogue in 2008.
When I asked him what had brought him there, his answer was pretty simple:
“Everyone was there for me.”
That statement blew me away. It was the first time in the years in which my path had occasionally crossed with Mick’s that I realized that he might be one of those rare people who not only recovers from trauma, but also uses what he’s gained from the experience to make the world a much, much better place.
“I might never make total sense of it all, but there are a ton of good things that I can hold on to,” he said in his account of what happened to him. “I try to focus on those things, but the memories of some people, and what they did, is annoyingly powerful and hard to throw into the trash bin. The anger lessens as time goes on, and even though I was blessed with many supportive friends and family members, my faith in humanity is not what it used to be. That alone is incredibly saddening to me.”
“For now, the song “Crystal Ball,” a gift, an instance of art imitating life, then life imitating art, then art imitating life again, has fulfilled a cathartic need more than I could have predicted, even though it was completely written more than 24 hours before I was ambushed,” he wrote.
A free, limited-edition download of both “Crystal Ball” and Mick’s story is currently available online here. Mick says it will probably be available for free download through the summer. He’s also working on a film noir to accompany the song, shot on the runway at the former Grumman property in Calverton.
“Today’s a turn the page and close the book kind of day,” he said.