Saturday, February 20, 2016

Here We Are Now....

SO.  I have no idea what made me start a blog about music, but here it is.  I generally wax poetic about the horror genre, in my long-running blog, Fascination with Fear.  But lately I've been having a lot of thoughts about music that I just wanted to get out and figured it would be fun to ramble on (see what I did there?) about my devotion to one of my other great loves. 

[And yes, the name of the blog, the catch-prase under the name and the title of this opening post are lyrics from the angsty yet exalted Nirvana album: Nevermind.  You'll be hearing a lot about that record and the band itself here in these pages, because well.... I can't help myself.]

I'm a Rock (with a capital R) fan, through and through - so if you are looking for 'country' you will find very little mention, if any, to the tear-in-a-bucket tunes that permeate the airwaves in a nauseatingly saccharin way.  That said, I love all styles of rock - and that means I wander into folk, soft, metal, grunge, pop, alternative, classic, punk, new-wave, roots, blues, indie, disco, shock, progressive, psychedelic, experimental, funk, glam, garage, college, southern, reggae, rockabilly...well, you get the picture.

Music has helped me through the worst of times and been there during the best as well.  I can't think of too many scenarios in my life in which there isn't music in the background.  Even sleeping at night is so oft interrupted by a song I can't get out of my head.  I know there is a medical term for that but I just chalk it up to my life's soundtrack. 

My other great love is soundtracks, and I'll definitely be touching on that.  Being a horror fanatic, I have amassed a downright vast collection of horror scores and soundtracks, so there's no way to get around that!

But for now, I want to focus on my personal rock journey...

The picture at the top of this post is a page from a scrapbook I just ran across when cleaning out my den.  It's from my high school days, and is a testament that I spent entirely too much of my parent's hard earned money attending rock concerts.  But if I'm being honest, it shaped my entire youth and I have absolutely no regrets.  I grew up in a rock-n-roll household, with my dad playing 8-tracks of Pink Floyd and ZZ Top and my mom listening to ABBA, Gordon Lightfoot, The Beach Boys and everything in between.  My mother did not appreciate my love of Black Sabbath though, and at age 13 when I had played Iron Man about 50 times in a row, she confiscated my album and told me to listen to something else for awhile.  That something else was Led Zeppelin II, and it will forever be my favorite album of all time.

When I was 15, my friend Tracy and I were lucky enough to attend our first rock concert.  It was April of 1984 and the band's name was Judas Priest.  I don't think anyone can prepare a 15 year old to see Rob Halford in head-to-toe leather, drive a Harley Davidson out onto the stage and sing "You've Got Another Thing Comin'".   With blue-haired grannies in front of us sporting chain wallets and smoking fairly thick joints, it was an awakening.  Not that we were about to get hooked on maryjane, but when they opened the roof of the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa., to let that all that blue smoke out - it was like the northern lights right above us.  Priest rocked the house, we left in a complete and utter rock and roll trance, and my love of rock was cemented.

The concert tickets above aren't my only experiences, just one page of them.  I saw many many bands from my 15th year through my 19th.  I saw Pittsburgh favorite Donnie Iris back in '85.  You know who opened for him?  Bon Jovi!  Back in his "Runaway" days.  As luck would have it, he got insanely popular and I saw him once again in '87 - for his wildly successful "Slippery When Wet" tour.   I traded tickets for Kiss to see Journey's last tour, and am still convinced I made the right decision.  Hearing "Lights" (one of my fave Journey songs) and Steve Perry's amazing voice trumped Gene Simmons' tongue, at least for me.  I saw a lot of great opening acts as well - some were bands that had had their previous glory some years prior - like Bachman Turner Overdrive, who opened for the Sammy Hagar incarnation of Van Halen in '86.  And the ill-fated Great White, riding high on the success of their smash cover of "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", who opened for the Judas Priest Defenders of the Faith world tour and then went on to accidentally start the 2003 Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island that took the lives of 100 souls, including one of their own band members.  And lord knows I won't forget seeing Ted Nugent singing "Cat Scratch Fever" live back in 1986 when he opened for Aerosmith.

At times, I waited months for a band I love to finally tour, and those tense moments waiting on the phone (yes! this is all before the wonders of the internet!) to scarf up tickets were the stuff of nightmares.  What if they would be sold out?!?  Luckily, I've never not got tickets to a show I wanted to see.  But like I said, this was before the world wide web, where tickets are sold out in mere seconds.  It doesn't matter, as I wouldn't spend my hard-earned cash on a $200 ticket to see anyone....not even Led Zeppelin.  (Well, that was a lie. An outright lie.) 
I've also went to concerts on a whim.  My friend Amy and I got tickets to see Bob Seger about 90  before the show - and it takes an hour to get to Pittsburgh from home.  But we made it, and it was truly amazing.  Especially 'Turn the Page'.  Sublime. 

Another thing I vividly recall about all my concert experiences is that YOU HAD TO BUY THE SHIRT!  Having a concert t-shirt to wear to school the next day was a given.  I recall the complete sense of pride I had, going to school the day after the Judas Priest concert, wearing a t-shirt that would now require a kid to change or go home.  I do believe I still have that shirt, albeit the sleeves are cut off and I'm sure it's seen better days...but for a shirt that is 32 years old....not bad!  My Foreigner t-shirt from the 1985 Agent Provocateur tour is going for $99.95 on eBay!  Not MY shirt, but one that looks just like it.  Vintage is where it's at, apparently.  I remember buying a really nice long-sleeved tee at the Aerosmith concert and it set me back 25 bucks!  That was pretty outrageous then!  Now you probably couldn't get a key chain for that much cash. I wish I'd have kept all my shirts...not that I would have sold them off, but just to reminisce.  My Aerosmith shirt is still kicking around here, but truth be told I think is lining a cat bed in the basement. Don't shoot me!

If asked what concert I liked best, I would probably say the Judas Priest one because it was my first. But all the bands I saw were just fantastic.  And that isn't just the alcohol factor.   I did see a few bands without the added effects of stimulants.  That was not the case when I went to see The Firm.  For those who don't know, The Firm was a British supergroup that brought together the talents of Bad Company (Paul Rodgers on vocals) and Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page). The mere thought of musicians from two of my favorite bands being on stage together gave me goosebumps and I would have sold my soul to the devil to get those tickets.  Thankfully that wasn't necessary but on the day of the concert I did sell my soul to a bottle of grain alcohol, split between 3 friends and I.  So most of the concert is a blur, but I remember key moments and of course, I got the shirt! 

I saw a few bands more than once, including Bon Jovi and John Mellencamp (one of which still had "Cougar" attached to him the first time!).  I saw Foreigner with Lou Gramm, Journey with Steve Perry, and Stevie Nicks without benefit of Fleetwood Mac but with benefit of their song catalog.  My Van Halen thankfully had Sammy Hagar (vastly superior to Roth), and my Lynyrd Skynyrd was made up of a combination of the original band members and Ronnie Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, as the lead singer.  (Half the band including the lead singer Ronnie were killed in a plane crash in 1977.) It was a poignant moment when they played but did not sing "Freebird"....they set an empty chair in the center of the stage, put a guitar on it and dimmed the lights. 

This time in my life was peppered with a lot of teenage angst and worry....about school and grades and whatever the hell I had planned for after....about boys and boyfriends and lack thereof.....about parents who loved me unconditionally but just didn't GET me.....and about music.  Music was the bow that tied all these things together and yet was the answer to any prayer I could utter.  It always made me feel better and helped put things into perspective.   When I got a D on an Algebra test, that Black Sabbath record was waiting for me when I got home from school.  If the boy I liked flirted and teased my best friend, putting Comfortably Numb on through the headphones would make it all better. And when I had no car and nowhere to go on a Saturday night, I knew Kashmir was going to transport me away.

I don't expect anyone to read my ramblings, and I'll admit to doing this mostly for myself - part memories - part journal.  But if anyone out there feels a kinship to my scribblings, I'm all the better for it. 

Music rocks my world.  Does it rock yours?