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RockNotes: Your Lifestyle Rock Sucks!

1. I don't know how The New York Times chooses its lifestyle articles, but I want to believe that they're based on the work of dedicated legions of trend-spotters working in close conjunction with squinting, bespectacled social scientists, together continually scouring the minutiae of daily life to come up with relevant, insightful dissections of which cultural imperatives drive us to do what weird things.

Then there's this week's story of an alleged trend of middle-aged white guys all across the country flocking to their three-car suburban garages to bash out bad rock 'n' roll on expensive musical gear. Unlike the NYT, I'm pretty sure this isn't really a trend, and if it were - keeping in mind the recent Father's Day "holiday" - it would only confirm to me the death of rock. I mean, with ol' Dad hogging the garage to play Doobie Brothers covers with his accountant buddy on the drum kit, no self-respecting teenager would want to have anything to do with this kind of music ever again.

And even if they did, where are the kids supposed set up their gear?

Answer: Not in the garage, but on GarageBand, there to make virtual rock. And so the next generation is lost thanks to the Boomers' inability to ever truly leave the garages of their minds.

Like I said, I'm dubious these "dad bands" are really a trend. But I'm also thinking, well, OK, maybe I'm just not as in touch with the suburban white guy world to know what's going on in their garages (besides the Escalades, of course). And it would make sense that the NYT would know that kind of stuff, since that's its demo. But then comes the nut of the story - some prominent quotes from NAMM, the trade group representing the fine manufacturers and dealers of all those instruments being snapped up by aging hipsters. NAMM's honcho says, hey, old guys are buying tons of gear, and they're having so much fun! Are you sure you wouldn't like to join them? And by the way, we have a great new program where you can do just that:

"NAMM . . . has noticed the increasing numbers of middle-aged rockers, and now oversees what it calls the Weekend Warriors program, a six-weekend series designed specifically for baby boomers to get back into playing in a band - or start playing in one. The program brings would-be rockers into music stores around the country and provides gear, rehearsal space, coaches and, for those in need, additional band members.

bizman2.jpg"Joe Lamond, the chief executive of NAMM, started the program when he was working in a music store in Sacramento and began noticing a change in the store's clientele. 'I started seeing customers coming in who you'd think would have been shopping for their kids,' he said. 'But they were shopping for themselves.'

"Mr. Lamond said the program has burgeoned in recent years, as the rock 'n' rollers of the '60s and '70s become empty-nesters with time and disposable income on their hands."

Whoever NAMM has on its PR payroll, they deserve a raise - maybe the real trend here is they've perfected a way to make the NYT bite on any kind of "trend" story.

And, God, where is this "disposable income" they keep talking about Baby Boomers having? It's not income that they've got - it's debt.

As if these people haven't already mortgaged themselves to the hilt to afford that six-bedroom estate in Lake County, now they're going to be ringing up the MasterCard for a fancy guitar as well?

I guess it's okay because the New York Times says everyone is doing it.

And then what about subjecting the homeowners' association to their caterwauling of some Eagles song? I submit that is grounds for getting kicked out of the country club, and I mean right now.

And then here's the ultimate quote from one of those "weekend warriors":

"'I don't know what has done me more good - Lexapro or Thursday nights jamming with the band,' Mr. Lynd said."

Hmmm. You know, I'm no doctor, but I'm betting Mr. Lynd's depression just might have its roots in that moment in 1980 when he decided that being poor sucked, rock 'n' roll was dead, and voting for Ronald Reagan was a good idea.

The whole thing reminds me of a Bottle Rockets song called "White Boy Blues" from their 1999 album Brand New Year. Of course, it's a song none of the weekend garage warriors have probably ever heard because it came out in the post-Jimmy Carter era. But it nonetheless accurately captures the pathetic quality of old dudes strapping on the tools of youthful rebellion:

Got the best tweed Bassman that you ever saw
He's a down-home, low-down attorney-at-law
He knows his licks so don't you laugh
His beat-to-shit Strat cost ten grand and a half

Have you heard the news?
He's got the white boy blues
Bought himself a guitar that paid its dues
Jam a little when he gets off work tonight
Singing hey hey, the blues is alright

Now the boys from the office are really impressed
When he straps that Strat up across his chest
Stevie Ray videos parts one and two
Studied them both he knows what to do

Member of the local Blues Society
Trying to work his way up to a 12-gauge 'E'
His wife's so proud of how he made it sing
He drank too much but that's a bluesy thing

Wipes down his strings and what's left of his chrome
Throws it in his Turbo Volvo and he heads for home

Thanks, Brian Henneman. You should be in the NYT every day.

2. Now that Tommy Stinson's wrist sprain has healed, Guns N' Roses are on tour in Australia and New Zealand, the first time the band has been Down Under (in a geographical sense, at least) since some infamous 1993 appearances that were debacles for the fans, or punters, as the Commonwealth nations so charmingly call them. The memory of the 1993 GN'R shows in Melbourne and Sydney inspired The Age newspaper to run down some of the greatest live rock show flops to ever transpire upon the Fatal Shore. And it's truly great reading, proving that poor star behavior knows no bounds, and that, indeed, there may be something about Australia that provides an unspoken license to foreigners to really let go, perhaps feeling that its remoteness from the rest of the Western world provides some kind of cover.

Among the items cited by The Age:

"Guns N' Roses tour of 1993 hit Melbourne's Calder Park and Sydney's Eastern Creek - drawing 150,000 rock fans - the result was, well, disastrous. The Melbourne show began farcically when promoter Michael Chugg tried his hand at crowd control from the stage.

"'Oi, you in the black T-shirt. Stop fighting or the show won't go on!'

"'Who me?' replied 70,000 black-T-shirt-clad rockers en masse.

"It was a stinking hot day before the change came and the charming Sebastian Bach from support act Skid Row described it as 'hotter than a five-dollar hooker's c---.' It all went downhill from there. Bon Jovi and Alternative Nation shows at Eastern Creek were disasters almost on par with the Gunners tour. Calder Park's barren 440-hectare site has not been used as a rock venue since that fateful show - with good reason. The bands were great but punters were not allowed to bring in water bottles, full or empty, and once inside water bottles soon sold out. Food was overpriced, the queues were massive, public transport was inadequate, and after the show there was insufficient lighting to help drivers find their cars in the mud before they drove home in bumper-to-bumper traffic."

cat_power.jpgSounds like what rock 'n' roll's all about to me, actually. Don't you really have to expect some amount of pain and degradation if you're going to a GN'R show? I'd say so. But maybe not for, umm, Cat Power, known for being an on-stage trainwreck. The piece calls her out:

"Cat Power has performed some of the biggest 'car-crash' shows this country has seen. Unable to finish songs, hiding behind the piano, giggling like a little girl or abusing her audience are commonplace behaviour for the singer. In 2003, at Sydney's Metro, she took the microphone into the audience, lay on the ground and moaned, wailed and babbled."

Maybe that was part of show, huh? Or is it just that she, like so many other rockers we've known and loved, is merely working out her personal demons in public, charging punters (I'm going to be using that word every day now, so watch out) top buck to gawk at the freak in the meantime? The Age goes on:

"Other car-crash shows of recent years include the Brian Jonestown Massacre's meltdown at the Hi Fi Bar and Evan Dando's infamous gig there with a then-unknown Missy Higgins holding up lyric cards. That may or may not have been the tour during which Dando told two young Sydney female fans who had won a competition to hang out with him for the day: 'I haven't been to sleep, you can all f--- right off.'"

And who in Australia could forget the "Barry White's Too Fat to Cope" 2001 tour?

"Barry White's 2001 tour was billed as 'in the round.' It was an appropriate title on a few levels. He was so overweight and unfit that for the entire Sydney show he sat at the piano with a bucket and a pile of towels, continuously mopping up sweat. No one behind him could see and 4,000 people asked for their money back. For the Melbourne show, the stage was adapted so he could be rotated as if on a lazy susan. Within a few years, the soul star was dead."

Lastly, no catalog of Aussie rock disasters would be complete without the "Perry Ferrell Beaten By a 'Roo" incident:

"Touring with his band Jane's Addiction in the early '90s, singer Perry Farrell tried to pat celebrity marsupial Eric the Boxing Kangaroo at a wildlife farm. After copping a sharp jab right to the chin, a petrified Farrell ran into the nearby woods and was found two hours later curled up in a fetal position."

Yes, that's pretty good, but can't you find pretty much the same thing at some point backstage during any Guns N' Roses concert?

3. I cannot believe Sammy Hagar is still saying it's not about the money. Just weeks after he made $80 million by selling his personal tequila label to a multinational corporation, the guy is imploring people to trust that he's still (??) an artist. "Please don't hate me because I'm rich, I can still rock 'n' roll, and . . . and . . . Oh yeah, Hello St. Louis!!" (Glug, glug).

Apparently they love this kind of thing in St. Louis, where Sammy is inexplicably worshipped. This month he was there debuting a concert DVD that was filmed in the city last year, was a "special guest" at a Cardinals game, played a sold-out gig at the Pageant Theater, was given the keys to all the city's liquor cabinets, and worked the phone banks for the local homeless shelter (OK, just kidding on those last two). But I mean, for a guy who basically spends most of his concerts boozing it up, fucking around onstage and signing autographs, all the while belting out the most boring kind of soulless blues-rock, he's got the city eating out of his hand. But he's misunderstood, see, and people can't see the sensitive artist underneath all the jingoistic bluster. Or so he tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

"Q. What's it like having 'Hall of Famer' in front of your name?

"A. It's really exciting, being there and standing next to Keith Richards and people I looked up to my entire career. That puts my name in the same light as my heroes, and that really affected my self-confidence and how I feel about where I am and what I did in music. It was a feeling like I'd arrived.

fat_sammy.jpg"Q. After all you've accomplished over the past few decades, how can you talk about arriving and self-confidence?

"A. You'd be surprised. There's always somebody criticizing me, ever since I reinvented myself in 1996 after I left Van Halen and stopped being that heavy metal rock guy to become the lifestyle guy. I got heat from critics and fans who thought I was too mellow and sold out. I'm always taking shots. Now you can shoot all you want, but be careful. You might hit Keith Richards."

Oh, I see. He's a lifestyle guy now. No wonder I didn't get it. Yes, it is all about lifestyles nowadays, especially of the rich and famous. I think what the deal is, is that if you get really, really smashed on Sammy's Cabo Wabo Tequila, you can enjoy that special kind of county detox tank lifestyle shared by drunks all over America. So maybe you should only do it in Mexico.

And now I also understand that to take shots at Sammy is to take shots at the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, hell, rock 'n' roll itself, thanks to his ill-advised inclusion into that dubious Hall of Fame thing. Thanks for clearing that up, Sammy. It's kind of like not being allowed to take shots at George Bush because it's the same as "criticizing the troops," right? But in case you didn't get the point, just because Sammy's rich doesn't mean he wants or even likes money.

"Q. Is it true you sold a major interest in your Cabo Wabo tequila brand for $80 million to Skyy Spirits?

"A: It's true. I took on some partners who are some of the biggest distributors in the world. I needed someone to take it to the next level, so I made the deal for worldwide distribution. They gave me so much damn money it's stupid. But I've been a rich rock star for so long money doesn't mean that much to me. It ain't about money, and I wish everyone would believe that. I already own everything I want. And if Jimmy Buffett woke up with my money he would file Chapter 11."

Because we all know Jimmy Buffett is a guy who's worth every cent he's made due to a faithful devotion to his compelling artistic vision.


Comments? Praise? Hagar-related hate mail? Send it to Don Jacobson. Please include a real name to be considered for publication.


Previously in RockNotes:

* U2 vs. Styx
* Bowzer vs. the Replacements
* Sammy Hagar vs. Les Paul
* Kill Category


Posted on June 18, 2007

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SPORTS - A Fall Without College Sports.

BOOKS - How The South Won The Civil War.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Speak At Your Own Funeral.

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