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.

Just gotta get out, Just gotta get right outta here

I was pulling my car into the garage this morning, after taking my daughter to her insanely early school bus. The semester ends this week, so progress is being made on her education, but I’ve never been–and will never be–a morning person, so getting out of bed so early certainly does suck.

Anyway, I was listening to my long-time radio station, the Loop in Chicago. The Loop is like an old friend to me, and even if I turn to other stations once in a while, I always come back to 97.9 FM. I hope that everyone has a station like that in their lives.

Back in the late 80s, when I was in college and new to Chicago, there were really only two radio stations I could listen to: the aforementioned Loop, and WCKG, which was the “Classic Rock’ station at that time. Today, unfortunately, that station is no more. Well, it does still exist technically, but it’s the sister station to the local news station, the one that gives the traffic reports every few minutes. You probably have a station like that where you live, too.

Every few minutes, the news station will repeat its call letters and frequency, for both the AM and FM stations, and it’s a bit jarring to hear the one-time “Classic Rock” station now grouped in with the AM news station. But change is inevitable, and life always goes on.

All of which makes the Loop that much more remarkable. They’re still where they are, playing the music that I’ve loved since I was a teenager. Stability is important, and the Loop has certainly given me that.

Why do I bring this up here? Well, because Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was playing on the Loop  after my daughter’s bus arrived, and pulling the car into the garage gave me a chance for a “Wayne’s World” moment. Here it is, in case you want to have one for yourself. Enjoy!

First things first

Yesterday morning I was awakened by my alarm clock, which makes all sorts of noises but can also play the radio. Since I had the radio function set, Queen got me out of bed with the familiar stomp stomp clap that begins “We Will Rock You.” It was as good an entry song as any day can hope to have.

But as I was listening to the lyrics, and getting into a song that I’ve heard hundreds of times before, I started to think about the progression of the song and its well-known companion piece “We are the Champions.” When Queen released this music back in 1977, “We are the Champions” was intended to be the song that got played on the radio, and it did very well on the British charts this way.

In the United States, however, the songs were coupled together, meaning that there wasn’t a B-side like there typically was with 45 singles in those days. Radio got into it as well, always playing the songs in the familiar two-part sequence that I heard on the radio in the morning.

If I were to hear “We are the Champions” on the radio today, I would assume that I missed “We Will Rock You” being played before it. I wouldn’t think to put either song apart from the other one. They fit together like yin and yang, and any other tandem you care to think about.

There’s a logical reason for this. Nobody just gets to become the champions of anything, without doing the stomp stomp clap part first. You begin by rocking your opponents and then, if things work out, you get to claim the big prize. That’s how it always works.

So the people who are watching the Cubs being torn down and made anew on Theo Epstein’s watch need to keep this thought in mind. We’re now entering the stomp stomp clap part of it, and once the guitar solo hits at the end of the first song–after two or three seasons, hopefully– we’ll be in a position to win the championship. But it won’t happen outside of this sequence. Just enjoy the rocking part first.