Posted August 2, 2005
OLD BUT POTENT FART IN A YOUNG MAN'S GAME
Riding home from work the other day, I stopped at the lights outside the Enmore Theatre and heard Alice Cooper’s band soundchecking.
They sounded like a suburban metal band playing Metallica riffs. They probably are much like a suburban metal band, only with enough nous to get a paying gig. I didn’t go to the show, though I would’ve liked to – financial reasons, y’ dig? But almost every review I heard and read made mention of the crowd of balding 40 & 50-somethings singing along with "18" and "School’s Out" as if there was something weird about it.
Why the hell should that be weird? It aint, not to anybody that knows a bit about rock and roll and what it’s all about. Rock and roll is a refuge for emotional imbeciles, so it’s been said. I wouldn’t argue with that. I’m guessing here, but I figure most people reading this site are, like me, much closer to 40 than they’d like to be, if not already past it. We have responsibilities now that we never had in our glory daze. We don’t have the capacity for hard partying we once did, we don’t do four gigs a week, sleep four hours a night, work on demo tapes every evening, hit the phone and sort out our rockin' lifestyle.
None of which means we don’t still feel it just as hard and sharp as we did when we were 24. Maybe sharper, cos of the pangs of life slipping by. It’s one thing to have friends drop off the perch due to drugs, or car crashes, but heart attacks and cancer are another thing altogether. So the rock and roll takes on another dimension. It’s always been supremely life-affirming, but it becomes even more so.
Just like some songs take on dimensions never imagined by their creators. "Friday On My Mind", f’rinstance. Knowing what we do about the life of Stevie Wright (Jack Marx’ book is highly recommended) that song has a poignancy and tragedy underlaying the youthful hope and optimism that now renders it a Class A gutwrencher. "Gonna have fun in the CITY! Be with my girl, she’s so pretty. She looks outasite, she is everything to me. TONIGHT! TONIGHT!"
I’ve got to have tonight. Having tonight doesn’t mean what it used to. What was once drugs, filthy loud rock and roll (venues aren’t near as loud as they used to be, eh?) and promiscuous sex is now more like cooking up a good feed, watching a movie at home and slipping out for a late night neon slide on the motorbike. The rock and roll is still with me – promiscuity still rears its glorious head every now and then, too. But the rock and roll counts for more than it ever did, ‘cos it keeps me in touch with those things that made life worth living, back when we were teenagers and prone to all the depressive shit that comes with that time of life.
It’s a young man’s game, rock and roll. And the best thing is that rock and roll now is in great shape. A mate of mine, who has plenty of time to do such things, makes up compilation CDs of what’s happening and, I gotta say, they’re of extremely high quality. Like anything else, rock and roll evolves, and so the bands become tighter, faster, the lyrics sharper, the production harder. Third Eye Blind’s "Blinded (when I see you)" is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard – a beautifully constructed pop song, played hard and fast with a great rhythm and drop dead brilliant lyrics, with allusions to classical Greek mythology that diss Led Zep as well. How the hell did a bunch of 22-year-olds come up with a song that strikes a late-30s cynic as such a perfect summation of how he feels about his latest ex-wife?
I couldn’t say that about The Standells or The Lime Spiders, much as I like them. Yet, as rock and roll ages, its fans grow with it. Well, no they don’t, we don’t grow up, we just get older and rock and roll remains young and vital. That’s why we love it. For all the doubts I may have about bands continuing to recreate their youthful triumphs onstage, I understand completely why they want to do it. And I’m fucking glad they do. I’m even more glad that I can meet kids (in their early 20s, yeah, but kids to me now) at gigs and end up sitting around their loungerooms, drinking, smoking and chewing the fat until dawn. The future is in safe hands. And if they don’t already own Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits, I write it in lipstick on the loungeroom wall so they don’t forget to buy it.
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