I believe I have related these anecdotes before, in somewhat different form, in different venues. I hope that given their ostensible relevance to topics being touched on in the thread for the post below this one, I might be forgiven for repeating them.
In September of 1977 Sire Records released Blank Generation, the debut LP from Richard Hell and the Voidoids. I purchased this later-to-be-termed "seminal" document, and, as was my custom at the time, pored over the album artwork for long minutes on end. Of particular interest was the collage that took up one whole side of the inner sleeve, which contained a lot of pictures of Hell preening in sunglasses, a reproduction of Voidoid guitarist Robert Quine's old Berklee College of Music ID card, and at least one photo of Jean-Luc Godard. And a picture of a neon sign of Godard's name, torn in half and placed on far-apart positions in the collage, with "GOD" close to the middle and "ARD" in a corner.
Sometime in late '77 or early '78, the Voidoids played at The Show Place in Dover N.J., a strip club by day that became a rock-and-roll club on weekends. It was a convenient out-of-town gig for CBGB groups that didn't have a Manhattan booking on a given weekend, just a 45 minute drive from the city. By then an enthusiastic Voidoid fan, I took my 18-year-old self to the show (as none of my Chicago-and-Journey-loving high school buddies wanted anything to do with such music). It was highly enjoyable, although I was a little confused that Hell and his band chose to cover "I'm Free." What happened to no more Beatles and no more Stones in 1977? I was later able to suss out that this was hardly Hell's own position but at the time I was thrown for a loop. Anyway, as was also my custom, I hung out after the show to have a few words with the band, because at the time I truly believed (among other things) that punk rock was all about destroying the false hierarchies that separated the artist from the audience and creating an environment of revolutionary unity, motherfuckers! What an idiot. Anyway, I got "backstage" (a long room right next to the men's room entrance, and there was Hell on a couch, flanked by two bottle blondes in fishnets. He was ready to get his something on, it looked like, but first a word with a fan or two. A quick word.
So I asked him about the Godard connection—what it was about what Godard did/does and what Hell did that made him feel an affinity of sorts. Only I didn't put it that way. I put it more like, "So, why do you like Godard so much?" To which Hell just grinned and shrugged and said, "I dunno, man, I just think he's a cool guy!"
Well, all right then. Hell and the bottle blondes kind of tittered at me as I fumbled for the next thing to say. Eventually I fell into chatting with Quine, who took pity on me and couldn't have been nicer. We discussed Berklee ("the only thing I learned there was how to use my pinkie;" also, "everybody there just wanted to play in the Tonight Show band") and Coltrane (it was from Quine that I learned of the existence of two separate issues of Ascension). From this encounter I learned that sometimes people make "references" "just because." Interestingly enough, many years later Hell became a film critic of sorts, for Black Book; in this respect he wasn't really much better at explicating the reasons for his enthusiasms than he had been decades before. He did manage to get across on proclamations of authenticity, however. (Funnily enough, there was one time when I was listening to the Hell compilation Spurts on my iPod as I entered the Sony screening room, and there, as I was hearing Hell yowl "Love Comes In Spurts," there sat the much older Hell himself! Neat trick, I thought; I'll have to try conjuring another musician thusly. Next screening I went to I had Wayne Shorter on as I came in; Mr. Shorter, alas, did not turn out to be in attendance at the event.)
This taught me that sometimes people make references not for any pedagogic or otherwise instructive reasons, but just 'cuz. This next story, more to the point at hand, is about a reference that wasn't a reference. January of 1998 I'm at the big ballroom of Caesar's Palace with David Foster Wallace, Evan Wright, and Nathaniel Welch, watching that year's Adult Video News awards. I am downing the Jack-and-Cokes, as was my custom (for his piece on the awards, Dave would make that Grand Marnier and Coke, which, it strikes me now, would have been a good drink for the Erotic Connoisseur to tout), and looking around the room, and on the walls there are various posters and banners announcing upcoming events at this very ballroom. One of which events is titled, as it happens, Kontakte. I don't know why. But I tap Dave, and I indicate the poster, and I say, "I didn't know they were big on Stockhausen in Vegas." And Dave looks at me blankly and says, "What are you talking about?" And I say, "You know, Stockhausen. The German composer. Kontakte, he wrote that. You name one of the characters in an Infinite Jest footnote after him." Dave reflected for a moment. "Oh, that's the name of a composer? I wasn't aware of that. I had just heard the name somewhere and thought it sounded cool." I expressed some incredulity. "But it works so perfectly in the context of being an actual reference to the guy, I can't believe you really didn't know who it was." Dave was hardly coy or disingenuous about this stuff: "You know, it's funny, but if you are in the habit of making references in that way, sometimes things can just fall into place without your necessarily being aware of them." At which point we went back to looking at all the pretty girls getting awards and stuff. In any event, it just goes to show: you can be too sure. But you can never be too unsure.