Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages website.

Walking to work today, I passed the theater where this godawful show is playing! "Featuring the music of Styx! Journey! Boston! REO Speedwagon! Pat Benatar! Night Ranger!..." et al. OK, I'm sure it's a fun show, but to me the names of those bands just conjure up a time period when I thought I would NEVER be able to find any pop music that I liked or connect with many other people over what music we liked...

I graduated high school in 1983, when the bands above were all the rage. (I can't remember what our class song was exactly, but it was something by Styx.) I'm proud to say that I never bought an album by any of them! (Well, one by Journey, but that was EARLY JOURNEY, not stupid '80s Journey!)

In the DFW area where I lived at the time, there were only Top 40, Country, and Album Rock stations. Punk had already broken in the States by then, and New Wave was about to -- and I'd read about both -- I was supposed to hear it? Nothing on the radio, and I lived 45 minutes away from the nearest record store. (Not that record stores in Fort Worth malls would have carried anything British or startling.) So I listened to my Beatles, and Kiss, and the Knack (the most "modern" band I was able to find)...and suffered through most of the stuff on the radio while my classmates were busy ROCKIN' OUT! (I remember being at a pizza place one time and trying to find songs to play on the jukebox...there was NOTHING I wanted to play!)

Then, sloooooowly, after some hits by New Wave-y Americans like the Cars and Gary Neuman and Blondie and The Go-Gos started making their way onto the Top 40 stations, the format began to open up a bit for the Brits: The Police. Culture Club. Eurythmics. U2 (only after their 3rd album, "War"). Squeeze. The Vapors. The Clash. And one album rock station started a Sunday-night show after midnight, "Rock 'n' Roll Alternative," which was on for only a couple of hours, but played the newest stuff from England... My record collection started to fill out at last! There was new stuff coming out that I loved and got off on, that reflected exactly how I thought and felt...

Come to think of it, the same goes for late-night talk-shows: In the early '80s, there was just Carson. I hated him. I hated Ed McMahon. I hated stupid guests like the retarded-looking Buddy Rich. (For some reason, I remember seeing Buddy Rich on Carson CONSTANTLY! I hardly ever watched the show, but every time I did...there he was!) I hated all the dumb old-guy guffawing at borscht-belt jokes. From reading, I KNEW that Carson was a very big deal, yet... I didn't find him funny or interesting in the least. Occasionally, I would watch an entire show or two, just to try to MAKE myself discover what it was that made him so popular...I never, ever got it.

And then...LETTERMAN! The Top Ten List. Stupid Human Tricks. Monkey-Cam. Freaky staff members like Larry "Bud" Melman and Chris Elliot who appeared on-camera. Not sucking up to guests. All of that kind of thing is the norm today on late-night shows (Conan and Craig Ferguson are just off-shoots of what Dave initiated over 25 years ago), but at the time, it was completely bizarre and revolutionarily hilarious. I couldn't believe how happy I was at what I was finally seeing on the screen.

To stretch a point, I guess that New York City is just now doing for me what New Wave/Letterman did for me 25 years ago: Finally making me feel at home mentally in my own culture! When one is disgruntled, there exists partly the superior feeling of "I just know better than everyone else! They're just not on my wave-length." But then there's also the niggling, depressing idea that..."Maybe it's just ME! I'll NEVER be happy!"

After 2-and-a-half years in the NYC area, I can safely say that the city makes me happy. 95% of the time. Maybe not always ECSTATICALLY happy, since I'm still looking for permanent work and I haven't found a mate or a group of friends... But happy in a content sort of way.

Today, for instance: I got up around 1pm (my shift at my temp job is 3:30pm - midnight, several days a week). Goofed around the house. Caught the bus at 3pm. Was in Times Square (where I work) by 3:20pm. Had time for a smoke and watching the tourists before going 30 flights up to my office in one of NYC's most well-known buildings. The building's so tall and the windows so large, you can see both the East River AND the Hudson from my desk. (And my co-workers are sane and down-to-earth and nice to work with.) For dinner at 8, I walked across the street to a 24-hour deli, which was nearly deserted at that hour. Had the whole seating area upstairs to myself while I ate my salad and chicken and watched passers-by through the window. Once back outside, had another smoke and watched more tourists and gawked at more city lights. At the end of the evening, because it was midnight, the company paid for a car to take me home. I was home in 17 minutes. I didn't even feel like I'd BEEN "at work."

Everything about today/tonight made me content. Like first listening to the Eurythmics made me content. Like first watching Letterman made me content. So I suppose the lesson, for me at least, has been: "I was RIGHT to be dissatisfied! I just had to LOOK and LISTEN and WAIT a bit..."

1 comment:

u.v.ray said...

1983 was when I left school aswell. Music was in a bad way at the time. But I have to tell you Gary Numan isn't American. He is from England. When I first heard his "Are Friends Electric" in 1979, I have to tell you there had been nothing else like it. It was an amazing moment. Those middle of the road rock bands you mentioned were prominant at the time. In their denim jackets. Disco was still all the rage; all hair, teeth and sun-tan. And then appeared Numan. Face white as a sheet. Black eye-liner, standing completely still at the mic. Evil as you like. And don't forget Kraftwerk. Along with Gary Numan they changed the face of music forever. And of course, in 1984 along came one of the most influencial British bands of the 80s, The Jesus And Mary Chain.