There is no true escape, I’m watching all the time

Judas_Priest_-_Screaming_For_Vengeance-front

Chicago has its annual Pride parade tomorrow, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to go. When I lived in the part of Chicago where the parade takes place, it was always a highlight of the summer. I’m sure that it still is, too, but since I don’t live in Boystown anymore, it’s not the same as it was for me. I have a feeling that the Supreme Court’s decision this week to strike down DOMA will add a little bit extra to this year’s festivities, too.

I’ve come a long way on gays in my lifetime, as many people have. And one of the markers on this is Judas Priest. I remember listening to Screaming for Vengeance my freshman year in high school, back in the early 1980s, but never suspecting that frontman Rob Halford was gay. All I knew was that the leather and studs look he introduced into the heavy metal genre was not the way I would ever dress, but it looked sufficiently badass and was therefore cool. The title of this post is taken from a line in the song Electric Eye, which seemed to be about 30 years ahead of the NSA curve.

When Rob Halford came out in the 1990s, I realized that the leather and all of that was not quite what I thought it was. But he had the same amazing voice, and the same kickass songs that I listened to as an angry and confused teenager. Nothing was any different, except that he told the world about who he was.

The social pressures that once prevented Elton John from coming out, and kept Freddie Mercury and George Michael and Johnny Ray and who knows how many others in the closet–or worse, forced them to present themselves as ladies’ men–have greatly changed through the years. And this is a good thing, because great music is great music, no matter who makes it.

Happy Pride to everyone reading this, in June of 2013 and every month after that as well.

It’s time for me to try

image

Today I got some shocking news about my older daughter’s first caregiver. I hadn’t seen her in more than a decade, but the news of her sudden passing over the weekend brought memories flooding back to me. Her name was Amy, and I am grateful to her for taking care of my daughter once upon a time.

I’m just a few days away from a birthday myself, and for the first time I’m thinking about the possibility that it could be the last one I’ll ever have. I suppose that’s  also been the case for every birthday I’ve had, but this is the first time that I’ve ever contemplated that possibility. I doubt that Amy knew her last birthday wouldn’t have any more to follow, but that’s how it turned out. I wonder how we would react if we had that knowledge in advance. It would be much better to act as if a birthday could be the last one, than to know this for certain.

I’ve written several posts ruminating on the deaths of people I don’t know: Clarence Clemons, MCA, Darryl Kile, and probably many others. Last fall I also reflected on the murder of one of my former students. And today I think about the passing of a person that I hadn’t seen in a very long time. I’m reminded that my own time will come some day. Everyone’s will, whether we choose to think about it or not.

The age that I’ll get to, hopefully, in a few days will be the same age that Freddie Mercury was when he died. And the same age that Natasha Richardson was when she died from a skiing injury. And many other people, known and unknown, who made it to 45, but not to 46. With this in mind, I’m going to suspend writing any new material for this blog. Maybe I’ll come back to it someday, and maybe I won’t.

So why am I walking away from something I enjoy so much? The short answer is I had a flash of inspiration today, and I want to follow that to see where it leads. Otherwise, I’ll never know for certain. Following a voice is one way to put it, but I can verify that there will be no ball fields built in the corn (and I couldn’t resist the Field of Dreams reference, either).

In a little less than two years, I’ve created–and essentially donated–hundreds of images and a few hundred thousand words to the digital archive that we call the Internet. And I’ve loved doing it, too. Now I’m going to see if I can parlay that into something else. And in case it matters, I’ve always wanted to use the word parlay in this space, and now I’ve accomplished that.

The Rolling Stones once told us that “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.” So now’s the time to try. All the best to anyone who reads this.

Don’t try suicide, nobody cares

Back in 1980, I could count the number of vinyl albums I owned on one hand. I was 12 years old, and the only way I had of listening to music was an ancient turntable in the corner of my family’s living room. I had a number of 45s at the time, but only a handful of vinyl albums: The Grease soundtrack, Billy Joel’s Glass Houses, Queen’s The Game, and Steve Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy. If you wanted a window into my life as a pre-teenager, there it is.

On the Queen album, I liked “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust” and rather than buy two singles from the same album, I went ahead and bought the entire album. And I’m ever so glad that I did, because one of the songs on side B just may have saved my life.

The song in question is “Don’t try Suicide,” and I thought of it when I learned that former big leaguer and Cubs player Ryan Freel killed himself at the age of 36. Anytime somebody ends his own life it’s a tragic situation, because that person throws away any chance of having good things happen to them ever again.

As the Most Awkward Kid who Ever Lived, I had thoughts about doing myself in. But after listening to Freddie Mercury’s counsel, I decided against it, and I’m glad that I did. Missing out on high school, college, and everything after would have been a real shame.

It’s too bad that Ryan Freel, and everyone else who lets these thoughts get the better of them, didn’t have a Queen song, or an REM song, or anything else that can act as a deterrent. That’s what a person in that situation needs to find, and then hang onto as a metaphorical life saver, because that’s exactly what it is.

Freddie Mercury isn’t around anymore to offer my thanks to, so I’m going to do the next best thing. Consider this an invitation to listen to the song, in all of its cattiness. It carries a serious message, but is delivered in a nonchalant, off-handed way. I think that’s what worked for me, all those years ago. Listen to the song, think about its message, and then get on with your life, because it’s the only one you’ll ever get. And the gawky 12 year-old that’s helping me write this thanks you.

Are you happy, Rock Hall?

Word of Axl Rose dissing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, just days before the induction ceremony, struck me as vindication for what I wrote last year about the band not being suitable for induction. I stated, at that time, that Appetite for Destruction was worthy of Hall of Fame induction, and the “November Rain” video was, as well. Both are achievements that I’d be hard-pressed to find a parallel to.

With that being said, the band itself has been a dysfunctional mess for almost 20 years. Or at least the lineup that produced those great achievements is a mess. Without Slash’s guitar, there is no Guns n’ Roses. As far as Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, Steven Adler, and Matt Sorum are concerned, it would be nice to have at least some of them involved in the induction, too. But the head member, the one who apparently owns the band’s name all to himself, is the one I can do without.

Rock bands have tended to operate on the opposite principle. Journey somehow soldiers on without Steve Perry. Boston is going on tour without the late Brad Delp. Judas Priest got by for a decade without Rob Halford. And Queen without Freddie Mercury is about to become a reality, too. There is lots of precedent for this sort of thing.

But Guns n’ Roses  (i.e., Axl Rose) has turned that on its head. You and I could be in Guns n’ Roses, if that’s what Axl wanted. And Slash and the others can play together, as they have in Velvet Revolver, but they can’t use the name that Axl controls. So you have the mess that now exists: Axl wants Guns n’ Roses to be thought of as the band he leads, while if they tried to show up and play at the induction ceremony, nobody there would know who any of them were (besides Axl, that is).

If the Velvet Revolver contingent showed up at the induction ceremony and played “Paradise City,” with Kid Rock or anyone else on vocals, Axl would feel pretty stupid (if he can even feel this way at all. I have my doubts). His letter states that he doesn’t want to be inducted in absentia. But for this one moment, he doesn’t have control over what Guns n’ Roses is. He could have issued this statement months ago, and the people who are planning to be in Cleveland to see them perform on Saturday night may or may not have gone ahead and booked the flights, reserved the hotel rooms, and made other necessary arrangements.

Would the ceremony still be sold out, as the website claims it is, if Axl’s intentions were made known last winter? We can’t know that for certain. But just as Axl routinely disrespects fans by starting concerts hours later than they’re supposed to start, he also disrespected, I have to believe, the fans who were planning a trip to Cleveland this weekend. I’m hoping that Slash and the others who once made up Guns n’ Roses show up instead, to deliver a pointed message to Axl. He sure has left himself open to getting one, in my view.

I’ve written about how the ongoing exclusion of KISS from the Rock Hall is wrong, in my view. They wrote the rock anthem that everyone knows, judging from the reception they received on Dancing With the Stars this week. That song is Hall-worthy all by itself, but it’s looking like KISS might not ever get in. RUSH is worthy of getting in, too, but they’re also on the outside looking in.

The Rock Hall people–apparently not embarrassed enough by the spectacle of Van Halen’s induction without any actual Van Halens being present–have upped the ante with Guns n’ Roses this year. We’ll see how it all plays out, I suppose, but there will be lots and lots of awkwardness in Cleveland on Saturday night. Welcome to the Jungle, Jann Wenner.