The Lesson in Operation Ivy's 'Knowledge' As a kid growing up on Manhattan's West Side, Win Rosenfeld had a Discman and a little bit of swagger — until some bigger guys took them both away. Now he dedicates a song to having survived a crazy night on the city's streets.
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The Lesson in Operation Ivy's 'Knowledge'

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The Lesson in Operation Ivy's 'Knowledge'

The Lesson in Operation Ivy's 'Knowledge'

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So, speaking of driving, Rachel, what's your favorite road-trip song?


"The Gambler," Kenny Rogers, seriously, the best.

PESCA: Oh, but you've got to know when to fold them.

MARTIN: Totally, and hold them.

PESCA: Well, you know, I guess one of the criteria has to be able to contain itself within the car, but also when you roll the windows down, you've got to, you know, crank it out so everyone can hear it.

MARTIN: It's true, it's true. So, what's your favorite walking-down-a-New-York-City-street song with your headphones on?

PESCA: Yeah. That's a good question. I would have to say that, well, you know, when you're wearing your headphones, you want something that you don't want to sing along to so people won't look at you strangely, but you want it to pump you up a little bit.

And I'm going to think about that for a minute while we play this. This is The Best Song In The World Today, and it's nominated by BPP video producer Win Rosenfeld. He has what he thinks is The Best Song In The World Today, and it got him into a little bit of a rough spot.

WIN ROSENFELD: OK. So, when I was 14 years old, one of my favorite bands was Operation Ivy, which is a West Coast punk band. I mean, I was an Upper West Side kid, you know, sort of middle class, basically a nerd, not particularly cool or rebellious in any way, but Operation Ivy was really like spoke to my angst. You know, they had this song "Knowledge," which is, like, all I know is that I don't know!

(Soundbite of song "Knowledge")

OPERATION IVY: (Singing) All I know is that I don't know! All I know is that I don't know nothing!

ROSENFELD: So, that was like the song that basically guided my childhood rebellion, or lack thereof, but the song was more than just that to me because it was a way of pumping myself up. I would listen to it when I was angry. I would listen to it when I wanted to go out and feel good, when I was mad at my teachers, when I was in a fight with my parents. It was like the song that really got me going, so it was perfect for that night.

(Soundbite of song "Knowledge")

OPERATION IVY: (Singing) All I know is that I don't know nothing!

ROSENFELD: When I was like 14, we used to, you know, try to find things to do because we weren't really - we weren't drinking or doing any drugs, certainly, far too geeky for that. Anyway, we heard that there was this new club for kids that opened up in the Upper East Side, and it was basically the idea was that you would go in there. there was no alcohol. you could just like play pool and hang out with your friends.

So, me and my friends, we went there one Saturday and, you know, as usual, I was like getting psyched up, and, like, I had my like Discman on, you know, and I was like listening to my Operation Ivy. I was like really rocking out. And so we went to the club, and we basically sat in a corner and played pool and talked to each other because we have no social skills whatsoever, and we left probably within the hour.

My parents gave me very specific instructions to take a cab directly home, but on our way out, we hadn't quite gotten, like, all of our like nighttime energy out, and so we decided, well, you know what we're going to do is we're going to go around the corner and get a bagel. So, we come around the corner, and at the end of the block, there's this group of large, menacing, scary, older-than-us, loud guys just posted right there on the corner.

So, the rule of thumb for this situation is that you have two options. You can either cross the street or turn around and leave, in which case you could draw their attention and could come after you and see that you're a target, or you could just put on your game face and walk right through. And I think that that night, because we had been Operation Ivy, and we had been out at the club for kids, you know, we felt like we could just, you know, charge right through them.

Wrong option, lambs to slaughter, and they just took everything. Give me your wallet. Give me your pagers - we had pagers, terribly sad, nerd side note. Give me your jackets. give me your bags. And they just cleaned us out, and we offered zero resistance. I mean, we were just unloading everything onto them. They took everything we had, and then they left. One kid stood around after they had done taking all of our belongings, and he was like you guys got taxed.

And that I'll never forget the sound of his voice. Taxed, you guys got taxed! And this little fat kid mocking us, but we were so - at that point, we were so completely demoralized and humiliated we just sort of sat, the three of us, just stunned, you know, listening to this guy just, basically, sticking around to purely mock us.

So, at this lowest point, you know, a guy walks around the corner with a leather jacket, very like "Miami Vice" looking kind of guy. He's like, hey, what's going on here? We're like, this guy and his friends just stole all of our stuff. They just came up to us, and they just took all of our stuff, and they took off. He's like, oh, yeah? NYPD.

Turns out he's a five, and so he pulls out his badge, and he's like you're under arrest, kid, you know, and so handcuffs the kid. He's like, do you know which way they went? I was like, yeah, they went that way. they went north! Within like seconds, it seemed, a police cruiser came screaming around the corner, the backdoor popped open, and the cop said, come on, get in, we're going to go get them.

(Soundbite of song "Knowledge")

OPERATION IVY: (Singing) All I know is that I don't know nothing!

ROSENFELD: Turned on the siren, boom, shot up Madison Avenue. Sirens were blaring. we were running the red lights, and sure enough, like five or six blocks away, we had come upon them, and I was like, that's them, that's the guys, that's the guys! Cops were like, that's them? I'm like, that's them!

He screeches the car over, you know, and he pops the back. He's like, everyone get down, get down! It was like this crazy scene. All the kids froze, and put their hands up, and dropped all our stuff, and he basically lined all these kids up around the side of the building. So, I got out of the cop car and I identified each one of them.

And I remember just sort of walking down the line and just kind of being like, you took my jacket, and you took my wallet. And so, you know, long story short, basically, you know, the kids all got taken down to the station, and we kind of went down there for a little while and, you know, I spent the whole night basically helping the cops, you know, get these kids in trouble.

(Soundbite of song "Knowledge")

OPERATION IVY: (Singing) And that's fine!

ROSENFELD: Once we had identified them, and we had the notion that we were going to get our justice, it like stopped feeling as good. That night when I finally did get in the cab, I put on my Discman, I pressed play, and that Operation Ivy song comes on. For some reason, I just couldn't listen to it anymore. After spending the night in the police station helping the establishment, putting these kids in jail, basically doing the opposite of everything rebellious, I felt like a fraud.

So, I recently turned 30, and I was going through some of my old stuff, and I came upon that Operation Ivy CD, and I put it back in my CD player, listened to it again, and I'm happy to report, 16 years later, and maybe it's just because I'm more comfortable with being somewhat of a fraud, or maybe it's just cause it's such a rocking good song. It sounds great. And so that's why "Knowledge" by Operation Ivy is my Best Song In The World Today.

(Soundbite of song "Knowledge")

OPERATION IVY: (Singing) I know that things are getting tougher When you can't get the top off the bottom of the barrel. Wide open road of future now. It's looking (bleep) narrow.

All I know is that I don't know! All I know is that I don't know nothing! All I know is that I don't know! All I know is that I don't know nothing!

We get told to decide. Just like as if I'm not going to change my mind.

All I know is that I don't know! All I know is that I don't know nothing! All I know is that I don't know. All I know is that I don't know nothing!

PESCA: BPP video producer Win Rosenfeld, who had me at "we went to get a bagel," with The Best Song In The World Today, "Knowledge," by Operation Ivy.

MARTIN: And that's it for this hour of the BPP. We are always online. We never go away, I'm Rachel Martin.

PESCA: And I'm Mike Pesca. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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