Why Rock Ain’t Easy When You’re 45.

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Wine, Women, and Song!

All are different when you’re in your mid twenties versus your mid forties. Let me explain.

The wine.

OK. On the plus side, as you’ve gotten older and mellowed out, all but the severe problem drinkers have gained a much better appreciation for wine and what it is. It’s an art! –  A beverage to be compared and contrasted with other years, brands, and types of wine. It ruins the “party hard” quality of Rock-n-Roll! Don’t get me wrong, I love wine and all its complexities. But it’s really hard to sing about that. In your twenties, as a rocker, the reference to “wine” is about going out and partying ’till the end of dawn and getting totally smashed. That’s generally what you do in your twenties. Sing about that in your forties, and you end up sounding like an unstable lush who probably still lives with mother, or has been in and out of jail on DUI changes and lives in a halfway house. Maybe that would make a good country song… but rock? Just try singing AC?DC’s “Have A Drink On Me” in your forties and not feel just a bit creepy. Only George Thorogood could pull it off and not be repulsive.

Women.

Let’s just ignore the fact that I’m gay and do what I did in college… pretend I’m not.  Singing about babes, and hooking up when you’re young is fine. Underneath all the macho – for the hell of it, chose any of the David Lee Roth led Van Halen tunes – there is a world of never ending discovery (and debauchery) buried in the songs. At this point in your life, even if you’re experienced with the ladies (nudge, nudge, know what I mean, say no more) our hormones are running wild. Hormones, if you recall, have horribly short memories, and have no idea what you did the night before! Each new conquest “Feels Like The First Time”. And if you’re not a player, and have a no-existent love life? The songs makes even more sense because you’re feeling the unscratched itch just about every waking moment of the day! Maybe you have yet to experience the wonders of “doing it”, but the song paint the picture of how glorious it must be. When you’re in your forties, the hormonal tides have died down a bit. They don’t rule your life in the way they did before. Do you miss it? Maybe, sometimes. But, if you haven’t royally screwed up in the last twenty years, you’ve got a bunch of wonderful and / or interesting things going on in life. You’ve grown up. Sure, these songs bring up a nostalgia for what you used to feel… Ah, those wonderful wild days! But life by the fire with your spouse has a certain low but steady burn to it that makes all the running around in your twenties seem so trivial and cold.

Song.

This is more difficult to quantify. I think the best way to describe the difference is to continue with the direction I was going in in the previous paragraph. Life has changed. Let’s put it this way – Raise your hand if you had a pretty good stereo in your car when you were in your twenties. Hands down please.  Remember how you used to cruise the boulevards blasting your music as loud as you could? At forty, most of us don’t do that anymore. Maybe you have your kids in the car and couldn’t blast if you wanted to. Maybe you realize your hearing isn’t quite as good as it used to be, and you want to preserve it as much as possible. Besides, you probably are doing other things that life requires and don’t have time to drive around blasting your stereo anyway, and when you are driving, you’re tuned into the sports station, listening to Jim Rome, or getting down to some political jujitsu with Rush or Hannity (or listening to classical music on NPR).  When you’re younger, you have a lot of empty space in your life. Music helps you fill that space with the dreams and imaginations of the artists who are painting a picture through music of a different / more exiting life. In your forties, excitement usually means getting a divorce, or getting audited by the IRS. Who needs that!

Even for those of us who are musicians and still fill our lives with song, it’s still different. We still feel the music and its pull of course, but the rules and circumstances I described previously still apply. The most fun / juvenile / debaucherish band I was in has to be Chris Plays Guitar. Granted, I was already in my thirties when i joined the band, and I was already happily attached to the Sonic-Mate, but I was still young enough to remember or relate to some of the songs. When we played “Drunken Mexico Week-end”, I could still remember my trips down to Tijuana (thank God I was a tea totaler back then). When Jason sang the opening lyric “I discovered the meaning of life, on her bare skin” from “Get Lucky”…  yeah, I remember the thrill an evening’s conquest would bring.  Though I would love to have a CPG reunion and play with those guys again. I couldn’t start a new band and perform similar songs. I would feel, I don’t know, kind of dirty, or sad, or dare I say it… old.  It wouldn’t have the same meaning. Tell me, what is the feeling you get when you see clips of the wrinkled, wattled and becombed Mick Jagger strutting around singing “I can’t get no, Satisfaction”? I’m inclined to respond, “Hey, there is such thing as Viagra you know”! Now, that doesn’t mean that the old guys can’t still rock: Sir Paul, Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Aretha, Rush still puts on a fine show. But, even then, it’s simply not the same.

Just to prove my point, I dug out one of my notebooks that contains a smattering of lyrics I wrote when I was younger. Most of the things I wrote was really really bad, horrible, which is why most has never seen the light of day…  Until now. I wrote this when I was about seventeen, listening to tons of AC/DC… And it shows!

? “I could tell that you’re evil
You’re Satan’s sole heir
Could hear the howling
As I crept to your lair…

Celia, you’re the queen of the dead
I hear you calling my name
Celia, your people are never unsaid
I know the games tat you play” ?

“Celia, your people are never unsaid”… Uhm… WTF does that even mean???? I wrote it, and I have no idea! That’s the point though. You can write and sing that at seventeen (or if you’re Brian Johnson or Ronnie James Dio) and kind of be a bad mother fletcher! Except of proving my point on this post, I would NEVER admit that I wrote anything like that. Again, at 45, it just doesn’t work.

Going back even further, here’s the first lyric I ever wrote:

? Fortune,fame, and friends
it seems it never ends
Then I took a fall and it seems I lost it all
But now I see
It’s not them
It’s me…

Hello’s
Why bother
Why try
You always have to say good-bye, and it’s driving me insane… ?

So, when you’re thirteen, and have just moved from Dallas Texas, away from all your friends, to a tiny little Central Valley California town that has no beach, no bowling alley, no movie theater, or even a stop light – the lyrics to that song make perfect sense in that peculiar teen-angst sort of way. If you’re 45 and writing that… Son, there’s an institution in your future!

Let’s find another example… Reading…. Reading…

? When she’s cold she’s hot
She’s everything she’s not
She makes me love her… ?

Ugh! Good Lord! Some of the crap I wrote back then is truly awful!!!! But it’s seventeen awful, reflecting on the thoughts and images conjured up from my fevered adolescent dreams, or nightmares. It does get better by my mid twenties, when you start really contemplating the world around you and what other people, real people mean to you:

? If the ties that bind break or fray
or prevailing winds should break away
and we veer off course, begin to stray

I’ll be right behind you
You’ve been a friend of mine. ?

Better. I wrote that about my best friend in my twenties. I had every intention not to ever lose touch with him. Yet, here we are, some twenty years later, and, after ten years of having absolutely no contact with him, I’ve only recently sent him a “Hey.. It’s been so long…How are the wife and kids…” type message to him via Facebook. I didn’t intend to lose contact. He was my best friend. But that’s life. It moves to it’s own beat. And I accept it as such. That, I guess, is the difference between 21 and 45 years old.

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Which leads me to the reason I wrote this post in the first place. I wanted to post this Split Enz song from 1975. “Maybe” is about the longing to meet “the girl”, the one that captivates you and makes you want to settle down. I LOVE the song. There is an innocence in both the lyrics and the music itself that shines through. And this is what inspired the topic of this post. A song like this just doesn’t translate well when you’re 45. Too much life has been lived to remain innocent. I was only ten when this came out, and didn’t even stumble upon the glory that is Split Enz until long after they had called it a day.  I know that, had I heard this at that time, I wouldn’t have gravitated to it as I was still in the Stephen Bishop / Gordon Lightfoot / ELO phase of my musical preferences. Yet, odd that one of the few regrets I have in life is that I never got the chance to see these guys in concert, especially during this period, when they were blindingly creative in all aspects of their art. Yeah, they we’re odd and eclectic, but they were brilliant! What a show they must have put on! Enjoy.

And if you all had rooms
Would you still have room for me?
Making the way for you and your dear `ol family tree
Like a stormy sky, it's a sad song
It's just a point of view, but a true song

And if you all looked up
Would you still look down on me?
I'm just a country boy, can't you see that I'm still green
Raising finance for the day we meet
Gazing headlong down some empty street

Maybe, she'll come along
Knock me right off me feet
Maybe, please don't be long
I need all the help I can get
Maybe we'll get it on, ooh lala

And when the day breaks
In our stately home we'll sit
Remembering those nights before our hearts were set
Hoping is not enough to live upon
Such a far far cry, I can't go wrong

Maybe, she'll come along
Knock me right off me feet
Maybe, please don't be long
I need all the help I can get
Maybe we'll get it on, oh lala

PS. NOTE: I highlighted the term “no idea” twice in this post. Why? I have “no idea”.