Tag Archives: Warren Zevon

ROCK ‘N READ: LOVE AND OTHER B-SIDES

Romance and rock collide in novelist Lisa Peers’ Love and Other B-Sides.  Call me lame, but I’ve always been a sucker for a good love story.  Flavored with musical references and plot elements ripped from the headlines, Love and Other B-Sides reminded me of films like LOVE ACTUALLY…only good and written by Nick Hornby. Peers spins a yarn that touches on redemption, aging, find one’s true calling in life, and starting over.

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The book centers on the relationship between aging rocker Stee Walsh and Connie Rafferty, a new fan who comes to the singer’s attention via a tech-savvy super-fan Walsh meets while signing a deal with a digital music conglomerate. Using a highly intrusive computer program designed to “study” the music habits of the buying public, Walsh becomes interested in a woman half a world away who spent the better part of a year purchasing his entire catalogue one song a day.

What’s great about Love and Other B-Sides, is the way it depicts its protagonists, Peers does a fantastic job creating realistic characters.  Stee, already a complex character at the beginning of the book, deepens as he falls in love (real love) with an ordinary woman.   Connie’s character was the one that intrigued me the most, however. All too often we dismiss the partners of rock stars and other celebrities, but they’re people.  How much it feel to dwell in the shadow of a Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney? While the wealth and trappings of fame are appealing, not being taken seriously simply because of one personal relationship would be very difficult. Connie’s character is grieving the loss of an unfaithful husband and Walsh is a former fuck-up who’s sober but inhabiting the remains of a life ravaged by substance abuse. Unlike many love stories, both characters are doing the rescuing, which is refreshing.

One of the reasons I’d never attempt to write a book like Love and Other B-Sides is because I’m not sure I could come up with believable songs/song titles.  Again, Peers crafts believability into her tale by adding intricate musical details and full-song lyrics to her imagined rock stars songs.  Walsh, who musically seems like a much more fun Springsteen, is one of the world’s top rockstars—I know few people with the stones to write songs that are supposed to be world-wide chart toppers, so hats off to the author.

The book moves at a brisk pace, and the deranged computer hacking fan adds an element of unease to the books otherwise light romance. Overall, I’d say that Love and Other B-Sides is a solid debut from a promising, music-centric novelist.  I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the early Axl Rose reference (like Axl, Stee is a red-head) and a late in the story mention of Warren Zevon.  Also, the book features an amusing running gag involving the piano man himself, Mr. Billy Joel.

You can buy Love and Other B-Sides on Amazon.com and be sure to visit Lisa’s awesome blog, LP on 45.

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The Genius of Warren Zevon Distilled To 48 Seconds

I think I may have mentioned it a time or two, but I really love Warren Zevon.  I’m always trying to convince people that he’s amazing.  I’m like Johnny-Appleseed, but instead of apples I spread my love of Warren’s music.  And instead of walking across America (committing eco-terrorism) I say things like “Warren Zevon is my all-time favorite songwriter” at parties and I write on this blog about Warren, when I can.

Writing about Warren’s music is tricky without falling victim to clichés like: tortured genius.  Clichés don’t do much in terms of convincing people the songwriter they’ve never heard of is worth their time.  A lot of people write funny songs and a lot of people have heartbreakingly sincere ones.  One of the things that made Warren so special was that often his songs were both.

“He was a genius.”

I’ve been trying to figure out what is the track to play for people when I’m ranting and raving about Zevon.  There are so many really good ones, too many really.  The cheap shot or most obvious choice is “Werewolves of London” which, to be fair, was the first Zevon song I ever heard.  But I figure that most people have probably heard that classic rock staple (even if they didn’t know it was Warren) so I didn’t even consider it.  It’s a good song, but most people consider it, wrongly, as a novelty song.  Then there are his really lovely love songs, some of which are so heartfelt they can reduce you to tears…but without knowing the sarcastic-edge of Zevon I find that these songs don’t have the same impact.

Which brings me to “I Need A Truck.”

“I Need A Truck” was not issued as an album track.  In fact, the song is really just a 48-second demo that was recorded during the sessions for his third album EXCITABLE BOY.  I heard the track when it was finally released as bonus material on the 2007 reissue of the album.  There is no music, just Warren singing.  It’s a funny song about needing a series truck to haul away life’s problems.  Guns, women, bad thoughts, Percodan, and gin—all of these things need their own truck.  The song goes from humorous to philosophical when Warren concludes by singing “And I need a truck to haul all my trucks in.”

It’s a tossed-off scrap, but “I Need A Truck” is a perfect microcosm for all the best Warren Zevon songs.  There is no bullshit to the song, nothing to get in between the new-listener and Zevon**. There is nothing but Warren, his wit, and his demons. You want to know why I love Warren Zevon so much?  Listen to “I Need A Truck.”

 

 

** When you find someone to have and hold, don’t let nothing come between you.

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Classic Albums Revisited: JESUS OF COOL

Snarky, sarcastic, New Wave-Brit: Elvis Costello.  Right?  Well that description could also apply to a one Mr. Nick Lowe.   During the mid-1970’s Lowe produced the first five Costello records, including the astounding MY AIM IS TRUE.  Little did many in the listening public know of the power behind Costello’s throne.  In 1978, Nick Lowe unleashed his first album as a solo-artist: JESUS OF COOL.  While many were no doubt caught off guard, those in the know had Lowe on their radar even before he was helping Costello.  During the early 1970’s Lowe was in the band Brinsley Schwarz, a fun little pub-band that quickly made a name for themselves by opening for bands bigger than the bar room circuit. Lowe bailed on them and entered into an on-again off-again relationship with another band called Rockpile.  That band recorded four albums, though they only put out one officially (the others were released as a pair of Dave Edmunds solo records, while another eventually came out as Lowe’s second album LABOUR OF LUST).

It’s not blasphemy if it’s true, people.

So it’s not understatement that Lowe’s a man with a complicated musical pedigree.  JESUS OF COOL has a similarly complicated history.  The album was released in the UK and then issued in the USA as PURE POP FOR NOW PEOPLE.  This is presumably because us Yanks have trouble with cheeky-references to Christ.  It was a gutless move on the label’s part, but for Lowe it was just par for the course.  It was also super-ironic considering the content of the album. You see, JESUS OF COOL is a power-pop record in the finest sense of the term.  Bright, hooky, and fun as hell…but the record is almost entirely about how greedy and petty music industry is.  Lowe’s bite is just as sharp as his pop sensibility and JESUS OF COOL is the kind of record you can’t help but sing along-to.  You can’t help but tap your foot and smile, then you realize  what he’s singing about…and you’re kind of horrified.

The song the best encapsulates this, and JESUS OF COOL as a whole,  is “Shake and Pop.”   The song is a hilarious story-song that chronicles the rising fame (and subsequent fucking) of a band by the music industry.  The best, and most telling, line of the song is:  “Arista says they love you/but the kids can’t dance to it.”  One can almost close their eyes and see a bunch of old, fat, out-of-touch suits saying just that to Elvis Costello…and Nick Lowe.  Besides name-checking a bunch of massive record labels, “Shake and Pop” also pokes fun at the fickleness of music journalists.  And while “Shake and Pop” might come off as brash, it’s tame compared to the biting-the-hand-that-feeds awesomeness of “I Love My Label.”  In an age when musicians were simply not heard (at all) without major corporate sponsorship, Lowe’s first album included this sarcastic love song dedicated to his record company.  There was no Internet or social media for Lowe to embrace or hide behind.

 In a way, JESUS OF COOL is a bit preverse–after all why would someone make a record if the music industry is so awful?  From the sound of it, Nick Lowe is a huge masochist.  Speaking of twisted sensibilities, there’s nothing more twisted than “Marie Provost.”  The song is about a famous silent-film starlet who died alone, a shadow of her former glory–a victim of alcohol and talkies.   She’s also famous partly because her pet dachshund Maxie was discovered to have nibbled on her bloated corpse.  Such a sad tale…of course Nick Lowe had to write a hilarious pop song about it! With lines (cheerily sung) like “She was a winner/Who became a doggie’s dinner/She never meant that much to me.”   There’s dark, and then their’s Nick Lowe-dark.  The only other person who comes close to this type of shiny-happy-horror is my idol Warren Zevon.

Not everything is dark and twisted on JESUS OF COOL, there are a number of straight-up rockers: “Heart of the City” and “So It Goes.”  Both songs are about as normal as Lowe can get and should have been Top-40 hits, of course they weren’t.  One can’t help but wonder if they didn’t chart because Lowe did some much poking fun at the music industry big-shots.   The UK album includes a live version of “Heart of the City” while the US version has the studio version.   Both are good, though the live version’s frantic energy (and double length) wear a bit thin.   It pains me to agree with the label, but I think the studio version is what belongs on record*.

“So It Goes” isn’t Lowe’s most famous song**, but it’s his best in my opinion.  “So It Goes” is a perfect, sugar-rush of a song.  The chugging, thundering drum beat and the rapid-fire lyrics (seemingly about evil concert promoters and diplomats) are about as great as power-pop gets.  It’s the kind of song you think you can sing entirely after hearing it once, even though you’ve only deciphered about 1/3 of it.  I guess that describes JESUS OF COOL as a whole.  More than just being a manifesto against his corporate masters or a clever pop record, JESUS OF COOL is a phenomenally entertaining record from a true pop master.

Still not convinced that JESUS OF COOL is worth your time?  What if I were to tell you that Lowe out-Bay-City-Rollers The Bay City Rollers on “Rollers Show.”  I remember back in the 1990’s, when The Backstreet Boys hit it big, thinking to myself “These songs suck, I could do that!”  Well back in the 70’s Nick Lowe felt the same way about The Bay City Rollers (kids: go look them up).  Unlike me, Nick actually went out and recorded what is ostensibly the greatest Bay City Rollers song of all-time.  Part hilarious parody, part serious-deconstruction of a horrible fad–“Rollers Show” actually works as a respectably awesome song despite itself.  I defy you listen to “Rollers Show” and not:

A). Smile

and

B). Cheerily sing along.

It’s one thing to attack faceless suits and thick-necked show promoters, but attacking helpless children  is taking it a bit too far…right?  Maybe you think Lowe should pick on people his own-size/talent?  Well how about this: on the same record he skewers The Bay City Rollers he also out-McCartney’s Paul McCartney. That’s right, SIR Paul McCartney*** 

The first time I heard “Nutted By Reality” I nearly choked on my Coca-Cola.  A truly strange song, on an album of strange songs, “Nutted By Reality” parodies Wings-era Macca.   Specifically the BAND ON THE RUN song “Mrs. Vanderbilt.”  Even after a causal comparison between “Mrs. Vanderbilt” and  “Nutted By Reality” it’s hard to deny that Lowe was taking the piss out of one of the planets all-time greatest songwriters.  Just like Paul’s “Band on the Run,” “Nutted By Reality” starts off like one song before hard-shifting into something else entirely.  Beginning as a bouncy song about Castro (?) the song then turns into a jangly-song about visiting his sister.  It’s so bizarre it’s downright divine.  The parody of McCartney is so spot-on it stops being a send-up and damn near becomes a love-letter to the former Beatles-solo work.

If you’re at all pop person you owe it to yourself to check out JESUS OF COOL.

*God did that hurt.

**That honor belongs to “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” or “Cruel To Be Kind,” though most people don’t realize he wrote those songs as they’ve been covered ad nauseum.

***Though back in the 1970s he was “just” Paul.

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LouFest 2012: Day #2 Wrap-Up

The second day of LouFest was almost dangerously-loaded with bands I wanted to see. Not that I wasn’t stoked about seeing the Day 1 bands, but the second half of the festival was wall-to-wall acts I was dying to see. Taking many of the lessons we learned from Day #1, my wife and I headed down to Forest Park with folding chairs and a change of clothes. Change of clothes? Yep, despite the bevy of awesome bands before us there was darkness literally looming on the horizon. With a 50% chance of rain, we knew we were gonna get wet…little did we realize just how wet we were going to get.

Day #2 started (for us) around 2-ish. We skipped the first two bands and started the day with fellow Missourians Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (SSLYBY). I have SSLYBY’s first album, BROOM, but I don’t consider myself to be a huge fan. They do have a very pleasant indie pop-rock sound somewhat akin to something off the early Weezer albums. As we set up our little chairs, we also popped in ear plugs. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I used ear plugs, but after standing close to the (way too loud) Dinosaur Jr. stage the day before, I still had a lingering ringing in the ears. When given the choice between looking/being cool or retaining my hearing, I’ll choose my hearing every time. Still, it felt like a very old man thing to do. My friend Mark randomly stopped by and made me feel better about using them*.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

SSLYBY were about as good as they are on their records, which isn’t really a compliment or a criticism, it’s just a fact. I wish I could muster some feeling for them one way or the other, but I can’t. They did play my two favorite songs of theirs, “Sink/Let It Sway” and the uber-fantastic “Pangea.” Up next was a band I’d never heard of, Wild Nothing. The band, who hails from Virginia, has a pleasant, slightly 80’s-ish pop sound. We didn’t move over to their stage, but what I heard wafting across the field was pretty good. They’re definitely a band I plan on checking out on Spotify.

The day’s first disappointment was Cults. I was really looking forward to seeing the guy-girl rockers. I was hoping they’d show up with White Stripes-style two-person set-up, but instead they came with a full band. And while that made them sound fuller (and more like the album) it kinda bummed me out. They played, among other things, their most popular song “Outside” and a pretty cool Leonard Cohen cover, “Everybody Knows.” Lead singer Maeline Follin was cute in her little white dress, and the music was solid–but they just didn’t do it for me. I was hoping they’d show some chutzpah, instead I felt Cults played it pretty safe.

Cults & Crew

After Cults it was time for Dawes, a band I was really looking forward to seeing. Dawes hand’t even shown up on my radar until a few weeks ago when I was messing around on a message board for Warren Zevon fans where they were mentioned as having Zevon-like qualities. Dawes has a vibe that’s closer to Jackson Browne in my mind than his friend Zevon, but they have some Zevonian tendencies. What I really like about them, though is that how they have that carefree, California sound but also seem really down-to-Earth. When the band took the stage, the storm clouds that had been threatening us all day somehow managed to get even scarier. Living in tornado country, summer thunder storms are taken pretty seriously here, so it was both a relief and a bit unnerving when the band announced they’d play until “they were told to stop.” Call me crazy, but I always think it’s a bad idea to trust money men/bean counter’s with my life. Anyway, it started to lightly rain during Dawes’ set, but we still got to hear a lot of really good tunes. My favorites of the set were “Fire Away,” “When My Time Comes,” and my personal favorite “A Little Bit of Everything.” The set was good but cut short by a downpour of rain.

Evil clouds lurked behind the Magical Mystery Horn.

Running across the field in the rain, my wife and I were able to take shelter under one of the few picnic table umbrellas they festival had mercifully set up. We found ourselves huddled with a handful of young (but grizzled) festival goers. As we watched the rain fall, they enlightened us on the art of sneaking drugs and alcohol into concerts. One particularly devious trick they shared involved using hot water to reseal a vodka-filled Dasani bottle. Checking our iPhones, we saw that the festival had been “postponed indefinitely.” With $70 (a piece) tied-up in the day’s tickets, and nowhere really else to go, we bravely waited for the rain to stop. When it did, we were all thoroughly drenched. The umbrella had become so thoroughly drenched that the water was able to pass right through it. There were kids slip n’ sliding through the mud and chicks going sans shirts. It was actually pretty rad.

Dawes…please excuse the crappy photo but it was scary outside.

Then word got out, via Facebook, that the last two musical acts would indeed play, and there was much rejoicing. We set-up near the Dr. Dog stage, determined to finish the festival. I really loved Dr. Dog’s debut album, but a lack of funds kept me from really getting into their music when I was in college. At the time they came out, the band seemed poised to follow a path to breakout success much like the Kings of Leon. Alas, that breakout never came and I always wondered why. Though I wondered, I never really caught back up with the band’s output, to see what they were up to. Dr. Dog’s sound is a throw-back to classic rock bands with a backwoods sensibility, like The Band and Gram Parsons. I had high hopes for the band’s LouFest appearance, but the deck was stacked against them: we were soaked and Wayne Coyne was on the other stage periodically rushing out and confetti-bombing the crowd while the band’s crew set-up. As I watched Dr. Dog play, I kept seeing people turn and look over at The Lips’ stage. Once the The Flaming Lips techs were testing the band’s laser, there was a small exodus over to where The Flaming Lips would play at 8:00. I’d never seen a Flaming Lips show, but I knew the legends–and I knew we had to abandon Dr. Dog so that we could get as close as possible.

I changed into some dry clothes, took a piss, bought a beer, and then hunkered down in the hippie-fest that is a Flaming Lips crowd. Though it was dark and drizzly, it was impossible to miss the cloud of pot smoke hovering near the stage. There were kids dressed like X-Men and Astronauts, chicks with balloon animal hats, face paint: basically all your typical Flaming Lips freaks. The show started, the clouds parted, and The Flaming Lips bombared the crowd with streamers, confetti, massive ballons, and super-trippy music. Oh, the music was trippy. The band opened with “Race for the Prize” which was so sun-shiny-super that it banished all memory of the terribly cold rain. The band’s stage show is the stuff of legend, and I’m here to tell you: it’s all true. The confetti blizzard, the strange characters (giant rabbits stalking through the crowd), Wayne climbing in the plastic ball and running over the crowd, the lasers…it’s all true.

Wayne in a ball.

Do you remember that scene in MAN ON THE MOON when Jim Carrey (as Andy Kaufman) has that big show at Carnegie Hall at the end? The one where he keeps up-ing the sweetness ante, until by the end of the show he has Santa Claus come out and everyone gets on a bus to enjoy milk and cookies? That’s what a Flaming Lips show is like. It’s much, much weirder, but the band projects that child-like joy/everything is possible feeling. The Flaming Lips are one of those bands that somehow never got the memo that irony is “in” and sincerity is “out.” I truly believe that Wayne Coyne thinks that all one needs is peace, love, and drugs. He could just be a really good actor, but I doubt it. In today’s musical clime I find that sincerity to be very refreshing.

The Flaming Lips perform “Laser Hands.”

The band played the awesome “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and everyone was feeling super-groovy. I expected them to continue playing light, cotton-candy festival fare but things took a darker, more obscure turn. The band played a couple of gloomy songs back-to-back. Well, they were gloomy for The Flaming Lips…which means there was still giant foam hands that shot multi-colored lights at a massive disco ball. Their newer stuff is more creepy electronica than it is trippy psych-pop, which is what I expected them to play. The band ended the dark part of their set with a strange song called “Drug Chart” which I had never even heard of. Things became more upbeat as the band finished up with “What is the Light?” before closing with the awesome “Do You Realize??”

“All You Need Is Love” and huge balls of confetti.

“Do You Realize??” is The Flaming Lips version of “All You Need Is Love” and “Hey Jude.” It’s a simple, but powerful, song that manages to walk the line between very happy and very sad. I did not expect them to play this song (even though it is so popular) because they seemed to be digging a bit deeper than the typical festival setlist of “hits”. It was a tremendously upbeat way to end a 2 day festival mired by by weather. It was awesome seeing The Flaming Lips live and I would recommend to anyone reading this: if you get a chance to see them do not hesitate, do it. You will not regret it.

The second day was quite the adventure. I had a lot of fun at LouFest 2012 and hope the organizers can continue to grow this fledgling festival into something with staying power. If the line-up next year is HALF as killer as this year’s I’ll definitely be buying tickets. If the bands aren’t as good I think I might volunteer and see it for free. Anyone want to pour water or sort through recycling with me?

*My friend Mark is a bit like Gandalf from LORD OF THE RINGS in that he tends to show up only when he is truly needed. And like Gandalf, he can never stay for very long. There is no doubt a trilogy’s worth of material on what the hell he does when he isn’t  in the main tale.

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Hindu Love Gods: Warren Zevon & REM Cut a Record

I’ve made no secret about my love of Warren Zevon.  As a song-writer, Zevon remains unmatched in his ability to combine heartbreaking sincerity and with a vicious sense of humor.  Warren’s career, like the roots of a gnarled tree, is a rat’s nest of odd choices and strange left-turns.  One of the stranger oddities in Zevon’s catalogue is the HINDU LOVE GODS album.  The Hindu Love Gods was basically Warren and alt-rockers REM sans-Michael Stipe*. The band had “existed” for a couple of years before finally coalescing around Warren’s 1987 album SENTIMENTAL HYGIENE.

The story goes,  after playing a smattering of live gigs in the early 1980’s with Zevon (as The Hindu Love Gods) REM agreed to serve as his back-up band on the his latest record.  Zevon, a notorious party-animal/man with a serious substance problem, got soused with REM and in between recording the “official” record also wound up recording a collection of covers.  Eventually, this raw, unusual collection of mostly blues covers was released by Giant Records as HINDU LOVE GODS.

Hindu Love Gods: Peter Buck, Bill Berry, Mike Mills, and Mr. Warren Zevon.

The band recorded two two tracks by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson  (“Walkin’ Blues” and “Traveling Riverside Blues”), a song by Muddy Waters (“Mannis Boy”), and  a Woody Guthrie cover (“Vigilante Man”).  The songs are all really well done, and Zevon’s growly voice is perfectly suited to the blues.  The album’s country number, “I’m A One-Woman Man” is probably the album’s biggest joke (Zevon was a well-known womanizer), but it’s also a solid-cover.  All-in-all, HINDU LOVE GODS is a faithful blues record recorded by two unique musical entities.

“The End”

Except that’s not “the end.”  You see, in the middle of all these odd-but-logical blues numbers, Zevon & Co. also cover Prince and The Georgia Satellites(?).  Even if you’re not a fan of the blues (shame on you!) HINDU LOVE GODS is something you should check-out just for “Raspberry Beret” and “Battleship Chains.”  I‘m not a huge Prince fan, by any stretch, but The Hindu’s version of “Raspberry Beret” is pretty badass, taking the slower-groove of the original version and injecting what can only be described as “drunken urgency.”  There’s something to be said about the art of the cover song:  it’s one thing to do a song justice, it’s another thing to completely change the way the listener regards the original.  I also think that a truly great cover will renew or add to your appreciation of the original.  And that’s just what The Hindu’s cover of “Raspberry Beret” does.

The band’s cover of The Georgia Satellites’ “Battleship Chains” doesn’t re-invent the wheel nearly as much as the cover of “Raspberry Beret,” but has a charming bar-band intensity that the original southern-rock version lacks.  What on Earth made them choose Prince and The Georgia Satellites? There couldn’t be more diametrically opposed acts (at least in my mind).

These two songs lower the album’s seriousness and raise the screw-ball factor.  Instead of a reverent, back-to-our-roots blues tribute (á la late period Eric Clapton), these two songs clue the listener-in on just how wild and wooly these recording sessions were.  No doubt Zevon and REM have a reverence for classic blues, but HINDU LOVE GODS is really just a couple of dudes having tremendous fun in a recording studio.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander: HINDU LOVE GODS is an entertaining curiosity.

*Stipe would appear briefly on SENTIMENTAL HYGIENE and did play with The Hindu Love Gods live.

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“You’re A Whole Different Person When You’re Scared”

Let me start off by explaining two things: firstly, this post is not my long-gestating epic on Warren Zevon.  Warren is my all-time favorite songwriter and I keep meaning to write a long, rambly essay about why he’s so awesome but I’ve had trouble finding the words.  So this is not that post.  Secondly, this post is not “about” the Colorado shootings that took place recently at a midnight showing of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.  That unfortunate event was the impetus for this post, but I don’t want to cheapen that tragic event by talking about it on DEFENDING AXL ROSE (which is just a shitty music blog).

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother listening to, obsessing over, and writing about music.  God knows it doesn’t make me any money.  But the older I get, the more I feel this terrible compulsion to disappear into music, where I’m able to float off into another place.  In college I was trained to not just read books, but write about them when I finished them.  I guess that explains why I feel the urge to write about albums after I’m done listening to them: I’ve been brainwashed by the educational system.  So in a nutshell, this blog is just an itch I have to scratch, and even though it feels like a waste of time, I indulge myself.

But every so often, something will happen that will really make me question all of it.  Usually this is a terrible, tragic event.  In the face of death, mass death of many innocent people, I can’t help but wonder “what the fuck am I doing with my life?”  What does it mean? Is there a point to any of this obsessive listening, or am I just wasting my time? Does art, specifically music, offer anything other than a fleeting, masturbatory escape from brutal reality?

I’ve been asking myself these (and other) questions all week.

Whenever a violent tragedy occurs, I’m always baffled by all the macho assholes who immediately step forward to let everyone know what “they would have done” had they been there.  I really can’t stand people who do this, but I was never able to articulate what it was exactly that was wrong with their braggadocious bravado.  Then a few days ago it hit me.  I was talking with my wife about recent events and the subject came up about thick-necked jerks who think they’d have stopped 9/11 had they just been on those planes…and then BANG! I instantly remembered Warren Zevon’s song “You’re A Whole Different Person When You’re Scared.”

“You’re A Whole Different Person When You’re Scared.”

That title is ridiculous, isn’t it? But it sums up everything nicely so it gets a pass in my book.  The thesis of the song, co-written by famed-gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, is that we’re not ourselves when we’re truly, deeply afraid.  The song is both groovy and goofy (because that’s how Zevon rolled) but at it’s core, “You’re A Whole Different Person When You’re Scared” is 100% true.  I’ve only been terrified one or two times in my life, and I can tell you–when you’re scared you don’t act like yourself.  You don’t act like yourself because human beings are animals, and when animals get scared, survival instincts kick-in.  It’s easy to say that in the face of extreme danger you’d “step up” and be a hero…but the the reality is something else entirely.  Can any of us really say, with anything approximating certainty, that we know what we’d do in the face of death? I don’t think so.

I’d been struggling to find the words, to sum up my position on the whole matter, when Zevon’s song suddenly sprang to mind.  That a song helped resolve my feelings about a very serious matter shouldn’t be a surprise to me, but it was.  Once I got to thinking about it, I realized that a life surrounded by art is more than just pretty things and cute sayings.  It’s more than just a good beat and fun time.  Music, good music, is more than just superficial beauty, it can enlighten us, and put into words what we know but cannot say.  I’m no mental-slouch, but I was having a hard time coming up with the exact reason for why I was so pissed at these tough-guy jerkoff’s–but Hunter S. Thompson and Warren Zevon knew what I was trying to say and gave me “You’re A Whole Different Person When You’re Scared.”

This whole experience has done nothing but affirm to me that I’m not wasting my time, there is something to be gained by enjoying music and the world of art.  Rock ‘n roll ain’t noise pollution, to me it makes good, good sense.

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