Thursday, April 24, 2014

Being Reborn (Sort of)


In some ways I feel like I was born again when I first discovered music as a young child. Although I don’t recall my actual birth, I am quite certain that when I popped out into the world from between my mother’s legs, kicking, screaming and fighting to inhale my new best friend oxygen, that I was pretty damn excited, even amidst the cries and being covered in a bloody mess.

When I was about seven years old I remember my mother exposing me to a variety of bands and artists, with one of the first being Barry Manilow. There was something about the richness of the voice, the melodies of some of the songs like “Looks Like We Made It” and  “Mandy” that made me feel almost intoxicated and alive in ways I hadn’t previously. Around that same time I became obsessed with songs like “Hey, Deanie” by Sean Cassidy , “Baby Come Back” by Player, and “Lido Shuffle” by Boz Scaggs. I had no idea who these bands were, if they were cool, uncool, awful or genius but I was so enthralled by the wizardry happening in and around my ears it didn’t matter. Not long after I discovered Kiss, Pink Floyd, CSNY and the Rolling Stones and my obsession grew much deeper, however it wasn’t until I heard AC/DC for the first time that “Rock and Roll” pretty much became my religion as a reborn child, complete with a fiery red afro.

When I made my way through the “Back in Black” album by AC/DC I was so deeply engaged in electric guitars, bass and drums and howling vocals that it was only natural to make my way through the Foreigners, Styx, Led Zeppelins, Black Sabbaths and Aerosmith…but it was a couple brothers from The Netherlands that had the biggest impact in the early to mid-eighties. Van Halen, the hard rock quartet based in LA, essentially turned me (and my younger brother) into full blown rock addicts that weren’t happy unless every square inch of our bedroom walls was covered in posters, pictures, tapestries and album covers of them and the myriad of other Hard Rock bands we adored. Hard rock lead to Heavy Metal, and Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth and a hundred bands only about three people per state have ever heard of became the Gods I began to worship and for awhile I looked like a Denim jacketed, spaghetti headed devil worshipper straight out of Children of the Corn. Those were good times for the music obsession, not so much for the one I had with females.

Somewhere along the line as I began listening to all those metal bands I realized that, at least with some of them like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, there was actually a lot of great music happening underneath the distortion, speed and shrieking vocals. I was also intrigued that so many of these bands in interviews mentioned that they were fans of very non-metal bands like The Clash, The Cure, Velvet Underground and U2 so, very carefully at first, I started opening my mind and ears to some of these others bands and sounds and I was totally blown away at what I discovered.

Melody. Harmony. Lyrics that didn’t contain “blood”, “death”, “Satan” or “kill”. It was somewhat disorienting but extremely inviting.

Of course there are a multitude of Metal bands that have great melodies and harmony in their music, but much of what I was listening to in the mid-eighties was absent of that, and these new bands I discovered had soul, style, a passionate yet hushed quality to them that wasn’t really even tangible and most of all, fancying myself a wannabe writer, they wrote words and stories I could identify with on a deeper level. It was almost yet again a rebirth of sorts.

As I grew into my twenties and beyond I discovered so many new bands that became my love, my muse and my obsession, all the while never forgetting or abandoning the hard rock and metal bands I first fell in love with. Although I appreciated the talent and impact for its time, however, Barry Manilow and Sean Cassidy never seemed to find their way back into my playlists. :( What did were amazing talents like Radiohead, Jackson Browne, The Beatles, Bon Iver, The National, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Iron & Wine, Tedeschi/Trucks, Volcano Choir, Ray LaMontagne, Gregory Alan Isakov, Porcupine Tree, Marillion, Younger Brother, The Strokes, Alabama Shakes, Kings of Leon,  The Boxer Rebellion, Interpol and so many others. I have written extensively about the notion that “there are no good bands anymore”, and while I understand there isn’t a steady stream of Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith-esque hard rock bands coming down the pike, there is certainly no shortage of amazing musicians and bands out there right now, even within a climate that’s not very conducive to success. For many people it’s just very hard to break free from their comfort zones musically and while I can respect that it’s also very hard to understand. I love pizza, and I love pizza with a variety of toppings on it…but sometimes you just can’t beat Sushi. Try it all…and enjoy it all.

Music is my religion, my God is the guitar and my bible is the pages that so many of the chords, notes and beats are written on. I worship in my private temple, which is often my car or the corner of my couch wearing headphones, and my church is most definitely the live stage that some of the great musicians I adore play on. I was reborn as a child into the world of music, and I am certain when I die and pass on into another it will be with a song or melody in my head. Music has never been a part of my life, it’s been the very fabric and that binds me to feeling what it means to be alive and the place where my soul rests when it’s weary or thrashes when its elated. Music is often the only thing that makes sense in a world with so many senseless things. That same world has more beauty than many people will give it credit for, but at it’s epicenter, at least for me, it’s most perfect, flawless and benevolent force, other than love, will always be music.

It’s never too late to be born again J

-DAA

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