Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Once Upon A Time I Thought That I Was Cool (But I Don't Want to Brag)

early fifteen years ago, I was routinely doing some dumb ass things. Things that I may not be technically "ashamed of", but I'm sure not proud of them, either. I guess that the most appropriate term would be "embarrassed". I am embarrassed my actions at that time.

And there is probably nothing that I am more embarrassed by than my former drug use.

Now, I'm not talking about the good stuff. Not the illicit substances smuggled across borders and sold on street corners.

I'm talking about the sad ass trucker speed cocktails I typically would procure at convenience stores. Boxes of asthma medication, stay-awake stimulants and various weight loss supplements that I'd heard would get me buzzing through my weekends.....never you mind that I was already naturally thin as a reed, and generally wound up tighter than your cousin's skinny jeans. Speed was not at all what I needed in my life.

It was a short period.....six months, max. I received no real benefit from the experience, and I have to admit that I course-corrected fairly promptly (though - in the spirit of full transparency - not until after I mixed Pimatine and Miller Lite one evening, only to lose control of my car on a back country road and drive myself into a speed limit sign that was well clear of where any car should have been).

It's all so embarrassing in retrospect. I had all of these aspirations of being a rock star or a scenester or a local celebrity of some sort....which is so painful to admit now that I'm in my late-30's and too tired for angst. But its the incorporation of fake drugs that really takes the cake.

How foolish. How unnecessary. How insecure. How much more desperate for an image could I have been?

I am still so embarrassed about it all.


And this leads me to Steven Tyler.

Now, this isn't about Tyler's decision to be a judge on American Idol. Because, frankly, by this point in time I don't really know how anyone on earth could feign shock or disappointment at Steven Tyler compromising his rock and roll cred. ("Rocks" was awesome and all.....)

I'm talking about an appearance Mr. Tyler made on Letterman last week, in which admitted that the circumstances of his erratic behavior last year were the result of drug use.

"Drug use?" I mused, as I lay on the couch. "This could be good."

What followed was, indeed, shocking: Mr. Tyler formally admitted that his famous Sturgis flop off the stage was the result of ..... wait for it.... Lunesta.

And not just taking Lunesta pills, but snorting them.


Now, allow me to be perfectly clear about one thing: I'm not proud of my failed attempts to become the Brian Jones of the Cough and Cold Aisle back in the day.

But I sure as hell know that if I had an army or roadies, employees and record company enablers at my disposal, I would have made it a point to step it up well past the pharmacy aisle and gotten something a little more worth wrecking my career over.

(As opposed to wrecking my car. Naturally.).

But that's just me. I was hopelessly insecure and desperate for validation, and doing ridiculous things each and every day so that people would continue to pay attention to me.

I doubt that Steven Tyler would know anything about that, would he?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Greatest Closing Track of All Time

A few months ago, NPR's "All Songs Considered" blog did an entry asking readers to tell them what they thought the greatest closing tracks of all time were.

Now I know what you're thinking: NPR sucks. It is not metal. It is for yuppies. Their news is biased. They speak in monotone, and a large number of their employees have speech impediments.

The fact is that NPR does not suck. Because there is not one media outlet on this planet that does more with less.


Is it for yuppies? I couldn't tell you. I may be on the wrong side of "young", but I'm urban and professional, and there's not much I can do about that.

Is their news biased? Let me tell you something, Jack: All news is biased. FOX and MSNBC are fucking embarrassing in what they cover. CNN is fucking embarrassing in what they don't cover. Cry "liberal" all you want, but NPR does more actual analysis than anyone this side of John-fucking-McLaughlin.

Do they have an unusually high number of employees who are (literally) physically incapable of properly enunciating? Yes. Yes, they do

All of this is beside the point. Because near as I know, FOX and MSNBC don't know shit about music. And NPR absolutely does.

So, when I came across this particular NPR blog entry, I spent a good deal of time poring over the comments section, disappointed at how predictable so many of the selections were...the countless calls for "Sgt. Pepper", "Dark Side" and "Highway 61" from the balding pot-bellies I always associated with NPR listeners....along with the equally predictable calls for the closing cuts from albums by the Afghan Whigs, Radiohead, The Clash, and U2.

My selection? My selection reminds me that no matter how gray I am or how socially liberal my politics might become, I'm not quite the same as these NPR people.

Because I believe that the greatest closing track of all time happens to be"Rocket Queen", which concluded Guns n'Roses' debut album, "Appetite for Destruction".

It certainly wasn't a popular choice among their followers, but "Rocket Queen" was, in fact, a stunning closer for "Appetite". In the midst of a debut album that was more violent, more angry, and more misogynistic than just about anything else that had hit the mainstream (certainly much meaner than anything the Sunset Strip had produced in recent memory), "Rocket Queen" basks in a socially and lyrically filthy, over-the-top sexuality, making bedroom promises that would be fully threatening if they weren't so offhandedly boastful.

"You'd better turn me on tonight," Axl sneers, his bravado and contempt stemming from the power inherent in even having that choice.

It's nearly feminine in that regard....which is an interesting way of thinking about it.

Because out of nowhere, the songs stops on a dime approximately three minutes into what might be the funkiest and most sexual groove in the history of hard rock. And it shifts gears towards a much more classic, romantic, Southern-rock-style conclusion.

Those last three minutes are shockingly tender. They are pleading and vulnerable in a way that dreck like "November Rain" could never be, lacking any traces whatsoever of self-consciousness. Expanding on what I mentioned earlier about a nearly feminine voice for this song, it's not impossible to imagine this as - brace yourselves - a love letter from one prostitute to another.

And I challenge you to sit down with the song and consider that theory.

On one hand, this track would seem to reveal that there's more to Guns n'Roses than Jack Daniels, strippers, groupies and cocaine.

On the other hand, their debut album ends right there, with literally nothing but those three minutes to support such a claim.