Rock & Roll

May 29, 2009

(Pardon the generational nature of this oneÖ)
†† I search through the radio these days desperately trying to find some music I can listen to. Itís almost impossible. I canít abide todayís stuff, and I find myself sounding more and more like my father about ďthat damn noiseĒ coming from my bedroom after I got a record player.
†† Nope, fact of the matter is, Iím a relic, raised on rock Ďn roll. At least, mid-70s on up. Itís hard to find the good stuff now. Iíve got a rock and roll heart, and old time rock and roll is firmly at the heart of the matter when it comes to music suitable for listening. Itís not so much the peace of mind I get from rock and roll, that peaceful, easy feeling, itís also the memories resurrected from that long and winding road of my life.
†† But here I am, steadily reeling in the years, thinking back to the days I was cruisiní on a Sunday afternoon through downtown Franklin. Seemed we were the champions of the world then, and with a little help from my friends I just knew there wasnít a mountain high enough to stop us from reaching our stairways to heaven. In those days, it was way much more than a feeling, it was a lifestyle. Eight-track, cassette and of course 45s and LPs, rock and roll was here to stay. Or so we thought.
†† I wore out more copies of Queenís ďThe Game,Ē AC/DCís ďBack in Black,Ē Pat Benatarís ďCrimes of Passion,Ē Bob Segerís ďAgainst the WindĒ and the Eaglesí ďHotel CaliforniaĒ than I can recall. Those old albums brought me to an audible as well as visible place, a paradise theater, a grand illusion permeated by living color. There we were, all those young dudes, with mega-watt sound systems in our cars, most of the time running on empty because we couldnít afford more gas, and from living life in the fast lane. What could have been better? We were at the top of our game, young, healthy and rocking in the free world. We cruised and parked with Jane, Barbara Ann, Angie, Eleanor, Brandy, Sally, Caroline, Daisy, Gloria, Layla, Lola, Peg, Roxanne, Jenny (whoís number, I seem to recall, was 867-5309), Maggie MaeÖit goes on and on. Rock and roll took us aboard that long train runniní to Chicago, Boston, Katmandu, Kokomo, Alabama, the USSR, Kashmir, Ventura, China Grove, California, Mississippi and more.
†† Think Iíve finally lost my marbles? You ainít seen nothing yet!
†† But the satisfaction was doomed, eventually the magic carpet ride ended and we were tied to the whipping post of jobs, car notes, mortgages or rent. Life may be a highway, but it doesnít always lead to little pink houses if you donít play by the rules. Some of us made it, became successful, followed the yellow brick road and spent our nights in white satin dreaming of bank accounts and mutual funds. Others, like me, were a generation lost in space, and we kept our heads in the clouds, sailing, and still havenít found what weíre looking for. We never amounted to much, some say, but hey, in the midnight hour when the purple haze of the past comes to visit me in dreams, they span a bridge over troubled waters that even today makes me feel like a modern day Tom Sawyer, a sharp-dressed man in cheap sunglasses who may not have much, but I got a name.
†† So here I am, forty-mumbley-mumble years old. Iím a lucky man, by a few accounts, a little dazed and confused sometimes by the changes Iíve seen. Iíve seen paradise by the dashboard lights, and today when I listen to the radio, I canít find a thing to make it all right now.
†† Being raised on rock was a journey, a wheel in the sky, living like a roundabout, a rambliní man, a desperado, a low rider. It was all about counting the bricks in the wall, searching for the smoke of a distant fire, the Shambala of adolescence and young adulthood. In those days I thought I could see for miles and miles and could fly like an eagle.
†† But Iíve grown older, and the highway song is drawing to a close, but I still canít get it out of my head. My world isnít a vivid Kodachrome panorama anymore, itís turned a whiter shade of pale and begun to fade like dust in the wind, replaced by grunge, hip-hop and God knows what other noises pass for music these days.
†† Itís been such a long time since the music industry has produced anything to take us eight miles high, across the white cliffs of Dover, over the hills and far away, since Iíve heard it in a love song. Iíve seen all good people turn their radios off and buy CDs with good music to return them to that time of the season when we could imagine that we could, in fact, work it out. Todayís music is hopeless...rock and roll lifted us higher and higher, sent us for a walk on the wild side, made us believe in magic.
†† I donít know what day it was the music died, sending me and rock Ďn roll into the pages of history. Abracadabra! someone said, and it was gone. If Iíd known when it happened, Iíd have driven my Chevy to the levee to see if it was dry.
†† Iíd love to change the world, make it turn, turn, turn back into one with music that makes passersby pause, cup their hands around their ear and say, ďStop. Hey, whatís that sound?Ē It was the sound of greatness, of young Americans, when we was fab, when we stood arrow straight, like a rock. Our music defined our generation and others, us and them, taking from Vietnam to the dark side of the moon, leaving us wanderers, taking it on the run and riding out the storm.
†† But itís all over now. Rock and roll has died, oh, my sweet Lord, I donít know how to find my way back closer to the heart. Come together. Day after day, I muddle through my CDs at home, seeking yesterday, comfortably numb in my aqualung. Donít look back, I remind myself. Go your own way. Donít fear the Reaper. Itís not that me and modern music are at war. We just disagree.
†† Do you feel like I do? If so, get on the telephone line, mail me the letter, call the operator but donít lose my number. I got the deacon blues and am ready to mosey on down to Baker Street for some brass or take a stroll on Broadway for some scat. Iím lost, show me the way, carry me on, wayward son, to the point of no return. Theyíve killed the music and the lyrics, but I still got the soul.
†† Here. Just a song before I go:
†† I met a girl who sang the blues
†† And I asked her for some happy news,
†† But she just smiled and turned away.
†† I went down to the sacred store
†† Where Iíd heard the music years before,
†† But the man there said the music wouldnít play.
†† And in the streets: the children screamed,
†† The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
†† But not a word was spoken;
†† The church bells all were broken.
†† And the three men I admire most:
†† The father, son, and the Holy Ghost,
†† They caught the last train for the coast
†† The day the music died.
(Don McLean)
††