The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Sunday, October 6, 2013
Music ... Personal Reflections ...

My brother and I started a new family tradition about a year or so ago; just about every Friday night at 8, we gather ’round a TV and tune into VH1 Classic, to watch a re-run of That Metal Show. For those of you who may not be fans of metal and classic hard rock music, That Metal Show is hosted by Eddie Trunk, a fellow from New Jersey who gained a reputation over the past decade or two as a DJ, VJ, author and impresario about metal bands and their music. Actually, Eddie takes an expansive view of metal so as to acknowledge most any band, old or new, that delivers pure, hard-edged “heavy” rock music, whether “metallic” or not (he also includes Rush and Bon Jovi and John Mellencamp in his circle, despite their tendency to focus more on ballads and story-telling). He’s something of a still-young-looking fellow in his late 40’s, but Mr. Trunk nonetheless pays much attention and tribute to the now-graying musicians who opened up the metal and hard rock scene in the 1970s. (He’s also not at all what you might expect, personality-wise; Eddie Trunk comes across on TV as an extremely pleasant character, a bit rotund and generally harmless looking, a slightly matured version of the good kid from high school who just happened to play lots of Sabbath and Kiss and Priest and Iron Maiden and Deep Purple on his I-Pod between classes and after finishing his homework.)

So, my brother and I usually find ourselves on Friday watching Eddie and his two sidekicks (comedians Jim Florentine and Don Jaimison) interview various rock performers. Eddie’s show is in the classic talk-show format, although there is usually a “musical” guest who will jam a few guitar riffs or a quick drum solo just before a commercial break. What is interesting is that almost none of Eddie’s guests are “spring chickens”. That Metal Show is not for the cutting-edge acts of today like Nickleback or Halestorm or Papa Roach. While many Metal Show guests are still in pretty good shape in their 40’s and 50’s, some of them are way past their prime (such as Lemmy from Motorhead). Eddie also spends a fair amount of time keeping up on what is happening or had happened to the earliest, most venerable bands — and what is happening to them generally is old age and death. Some of these bands, such as Deep Purple, still record and perform, but many or most of the original members are now retired or dying or dead (e.g. John Lord of Purple). It’s not that unusual for Eddie to wish someone to get better after a bout with cancer.

Friday night is generally a time to kick back after a tough week at work, so I tend not to philosophize too much. But still, I can’t help but ponder the irony of seeing aging rock stars trying to keep a toehold in the door of public attention. Rock and roll, especially the hard / metal versions that Eddie Trunk favors, was spawned from the abundant energy of youth. It captured the spirit, the sublimity, and the stupidity of youthful dreams, hopes, fears, sexual energy, and mind-altering transgressions (i.e. drugs and alcohol). It looked right being performed by thin, long-haired young guys who always lived on the edge of the outrageous. It was loud, irreverent, not always in good taste (think Alice Cooper). And now . . . those guys have gray hair and thick, weakening bodies. It’s great that Eddie Trunk and his friends still gives these fellows homage, but it’s also odd to see rock becoming a matter of honor and the preservation of dignity . . . given that honor and dignity were exactly what rock was meant to protest.

Oh well . . . old age happens. We all learn by it. It’s interesting to see old rockers trying to find some nuggets of wisdom in the midst of all their obvious contradictions (like trying to forget some of the silly song lyrics that once sounded so right, e.g. that line by the Who about hoping to die before getting old). It’s heartening to know that I’m not the only one who isn’t doing entirely well with the process, not the only one who could use a bit more grace.

This past Friday night, I noticed that some of the commercials on VH1 during That Metal Show were aiming at an older audience; such as the Humana ad about Medicare-Advantage services. I.e., something that I will be interested in within the next 5 years or so. Ah yes, and I still remember laughing at the Geritol ads on the Lawrence Welk Show, back when I was young. Now old age is having the last laugh on me (hey, young people aren’t sitting home on a Friday at 8 watching VH1 re-runs!). But I know enough not to feel bad, as even the superstar youth icons of rock music from my generation aren’t immune to it. So thanks, Eddie, for being gentle with them, and by extension to all of us who lived the real-life stories for which they provided the soundtrack.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:34 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, I too somehow find the “rock and roll’ers” and the “heavy metal” musicians to be somehow “too old” for what it is they do.

    But then I found myself thinking back to the 1940s, listening to the radio and some jazz. I remember being a young girl, being completely captivated by a person on a radio station (no TV then) explaining how “jazz was a ‘new’ kind of music, something that had never been done before.” The jazz musicians were “making a whole new kind of music”. Well, I’m almost certain jazz was around before the 1940s. But somehow, perhaps with the depression that started in 1929, jazz had lost its touch in the music world. Perhaps in the 1940s it was regaining its hold on the music world. Or perhaps it was a new kind of jazz the speaker was talking about; I don’t remember. I just remember being enthralled by the fact that a new kind of music could be established.

    So it occurred to me as I read your piece, yes, somehow the rock and rollers and the heavy metal-ers somehow seem “old” and anachronistic in a way; but perhaps it is just that these 2 groups have not survived long enough.

    As I see some of these various groups who have branched off from the original rock and roll, it may be that they just have not survived past one generation. Maybe they need at least a 2nd generation to seem “classical”.

    There is some of the various kinds/breaks-offs (so to say) of rock and roll that I think will survive and be played 200 (or more) years from now. There’s no doubt in my mind that these groups that *really* have talent and do not simply put on production numbers and glitzy and outrageous costumes to cover the fact that they have little talent actually *will* have their music played 200+ years from now. Among these groups, surely there is one or two with enough talent to be in the same class as Mozart or Beethoven. Surely jazz will survive for some hundreds of years. Why would not the talented rock and roll – and the various branches it evolved – have someone of such talent? There’s no doubt in my mind that those who have serious talent (and do not know how to play only 3 notes on a guitar) will survive through centuries. They just need more time to *not* “seem old”; they need to seem “classical”.

    After all, there are even a few special folks around who still appreciate Gregorian Chant. MCS

    Comment by Mary — October 7, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

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