Saturday, September 6, 2008

Only the Lonely

Sitting at home on Saturday night watching some tube, I find myself with an itch. I’ve been watching a concert on PBS. Yes, I’ve turned into one of those cerebral dupes that enjoys watching Channel 13. As a child and adolescent, I found this station “Oh-My-God-Boring!!!” I now embrace it as an old friend. It certainly far surpasses the late night soft core porn on the cable movies station for entertainment, especially when you’re home alone.

I remember in years gone by I would look forward to Saturday night. In my youth it meant going someplace to listen to live music. Sometimes this meant a concert in the city. Sometimes just some bar where the local talent played for tips or drinks, and always ended the night with a rousing rendition of “Johnny Be Good.” Somewhere along the journey into senior citizenship, I lost this most cherished of activities.

The concerts became uncomfortable as I grew in age, and girth. Thousands of screaming, drunk or high, fans in a stadium or other large venue became irksome, and unwanted. Finding recovery dampened the drive to visit the local venues. My first sponsor tells people all the time that if alcohol is a drug, then the bar is a dope house. Makes sense to those of similar mind and desire as I. I’ve gotten to enjoy waking up and knowing what happened the night before. I watched Chuck Berry on the Tonight Show the other night, and as soon as he finished performing a rather mild version of his classic, I turned off the television. Maybe it was out of disappointment in watching how slow both Chuck and myself have gotten, or maybe it was because I had to go to bed and get up for work. In truth, I recorded the show, and watched it in the afternoon. Right before I took my daily nap.

But I digress. This evening I watched “The Who at Killburn.” It was the next to last performance prior to the death of Keith Moon. “Back in the day,” the Who was my favorite band. I remember buying the “Live at Leeds” album and having my mother continuously tell me to turn it down. “Tommy” changed my life. The message of rebellion and the pure power of the sound combined with the unadulterated and savagely perfect talent of the band spoke to my idiotically naïve adolescent soul. “My Generation,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Baba O’Reilly,” and the ultimate anthem of all anthems…”Pinball Wizard!” These were the sounds of my spirit, and drove the plan for my life. I would rebel no matter what it took. The best I ever got to rebellion was to sneak away with one of my cousins to Woodstock where I nearly caught a piece of one of Keith Moon’s drumstick when they destroyed the set. I was on crutches in a cast up to my hip and the crowd let me get close to the stage. I was visiting my father, and he thought I had gone to the New Jersey Shore for the weekend. I never told my family, and got away with it. Then again, there are many things my family never caught me at. Now, its all just stories for holiday’s and family gatherings. My Dear Sainted Mother would have a fit if she knew. I am sure that if I get to go where she is now, I’ll have a lot to answer for. Hopefully, while she’s cooking me chicken and noodles.

I think I drifted away from music because of the complexity of how it is done now. Big fancy stages with light shows and bombs going off, and dozens of people on stage at one time making it near impossible to figure out who the star is until they sing a slow song with a spotlight on them. Frenzied crowds of scantily clad dancers perform gyrations and whirl about with seemingly perfect coordination with the legion of musicians and synthesized sounds. No equipment in sight, electronic keyboards like you can buy at Wal-Mar and lyrics that are unrecognizable and meaningless. Pageantry at its best…or is it?

I spent some of my misspent youth as a roadie. I never had the licks to learn to play. Being a roadie was as close as I could get to that insurgency I vowed would be the work of my life. It was a time when there were thousands of pounds of equipment for even the smallest of bands. The Who led the pack with banks of Marshall Amplifiers, and a drum set that had to have had thirty or thirty-five pieces. Basically, everywhere Keith Moon put his stick down (actually slammed) some kind of thunderous sound occurred. As to the dancing, Peter Townsend out danced the best of the best, all the while playing a Les Paul and never missing a note or chord. Wires everywhere and never a slip or fall, except those nights when they were too drunk or high to maintain. Even when that happened, they made it part of the show. Roger Daltry swinging a microphone, on a long duck taped wire in a way reminiscent of David launching the stone at Goliath, only he never let go, and never missed a verse. Loud, annoying, irreverent, caustic, and absolutely soul stirring rock and roll at its utter, unreserved, unconditional, total best, and all for about ten dollars. Tonight it was free…well at least all it cost was the effort it took to work the remote in my comfortable living room with the big chair and a glass of tea next to the ashtray where I can aggravate my COPD as I wish, instead of missing some of the show because I had to go outside to smoke so that I wouldn’t give somebody the gift of my emphysema through the secondhand smoke drifting in the air.

Do you know how I know that my music is better? I have a cockatiel who is my current housemate. When newer music is playing she squawks and complains until I turn it off. This evening, she sat and watched while chirping in time with the music. As I finish this piece, I am listening to another concert on PBS, Roy Orbison and a bunch of other famous old guys. She is asleep.

So what now? Well it is 1:00 AM, and this old guy needs to go to sleep. What am I trying to say with this piece? I believe The Who said is best…I hope I die before I get old!