Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Testing The Limits

Maybe we should have been emphasizing the "roll" part of "rock and roll" more. In the past few weeks, things have become very dangerous in the arenas of the world for guitar players. For the record, I'm not talking about heroics like Pete Townshend type heroics where he played until his fingers bled. Or Keith Moon who used explosives to blow up his drum kit. Back in the day, there was a whole lot more willful destruction going on out there on tour. Jimi Hendrix set stages on fire when he used to play, and that was metaphorically. And every now and then, he would take it to a more ridiculous extreme.
In the late seventies, the punk rock scene gave us all kinds of self-inflicted punishment. I'm looking at your Iggy. And you Sid. Battered and bloodied, these guys took their performance to weird new levels, making us all wonder what would come next. What we all kind of knew was the lyrics of Neil Young were written about this very thing. For so many, it is better to burn out than to fade away. Jimi and Janis. Jon Bonham, and Brian Jones. Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. It may not have been better for them physically, but it sure didn't hurt album sales. Ask Ray Manzarek, who lived about three times as long as his former lead singer, but never managed to sell as many records as he did with that flash in the pan.
And then there's Dave Grohl, who continues to record and perform and sell music by the ton, but still everyone wants to know about his old frontman: What was Kurt really like? Maybe it was a fit of pique for being left out of the Cobain documentary, "Montage of Heck," but what does a guy have to do to get a little attention in this post-Nirvana world? How about fall off a stage, break your leg, and then come back from the hospital to finish the show in a cast? I suppose a real rock and roller would have skipped the trip to the emergency room, and there are still those who will roll their eyes at Dave for putting the x-ray on Twitter.
These are the same people who giggle at the video of the Edge living up to his name during "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." If he was looking for the front row, he found it. His lead singer, having recently put himself back together from a not-too-rock-and-roll bike crash had the correct response: just keep on singing. Because that's what it's all about, in the end. You never know when you're going to drive off that cliff. Or fall off that stage. Maybe if they had been wearing their bifocals.

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