Bruce Watson: A fan’s notes on the ages of rock
LEVERETT — No, Mick, I never played the Stones much, never liked ’em, mate. You out there struttin’ your skinny arse while Keith OD’ed on guitar licks. But I know a bestselling-book trend when I see one and that’s why I’m writing my own rock memoir.
Now it’s true I never played my scorching John Denver guitar riffs anywhere beyond my bedroom, but I listened to whole crates of albums. Albums, remember them, Mick? And I can get just as nostalgic about My Listenin’ Days as you or Keith or Neil or Rod or Pete or Eric or Country Joe or Patti or Gregg or the Fish or Crosby or The Captain or Stills or Tennille or any other aging rocker can about those Playin’ Days. So start me up.
I was 8 when I first heard the word “rock,” and it didn’t mean the one I was about to throw through a window. Yeah, I was a tough little punk. I’d barely outgrown Pez when The Four Seasons began singing “Shareee, Shareee baby.” Keith thinks he’s tough, well listen to this Ol’ Addict. Eight years old and I heard that crap and I walked over and ripped the record off the turntable and sent it soaring like a Frisbee over the rooftops. My sister screamed, my mother applauded, and I became a candidate for the Rock Fan Hall of Fame. It’s in Des Moines, I think.
Wasn’t long before John, Paul, George, and my good friend Ringo came on the scene and I listened for hours. I’d read all the magazines, listening to “Love Me Do” while my sister screamed. I’ll never forget that time I turned to Paul’s picture and said, “Paulie, would ya be a luv and just never play ‘Yesterday’ again?” And it wasn’t but a couple of years before he took my advice. By then, of course, we were all into Sgt. Pepper and soon we were burying Paul. Tragic, but here’s another clue for you all. The Walrus was this big ugly dude in our neighborhood who used to play “Iron Butterfly.”
Then there was that blind taste test with Led Zeppelin. Me and the blokes used to argue for hours. Cream or Zeppelin? Cream or Zeppelin? And the Cream crowd said Zeppelin sounded like they were playing in a train tunnel so I took a turntable into a tunnel along with a reel-to-reel. My friends failed the test but I knew “Whole Lotta Love” with or without the moan of a passing freight.
Janis, what can I say? I always felt she was shredding her hair and vocal chords just for me. And Jimi? Did I mention the time I walked right over to his record, cranked it up until my sister screamed, and refused to turn it down even when my mother fought back from the living room with Andy Williams? Those were the days, my friend. I was experienced.
Sweet Baby James dropped by one afternoon and stayed about a year, until the record was all scratchy and every guy in high school was into denim. And every girl I knew had “Tapestry” but I did not feel like a natural woman. And by then we were all into eight-tracks and the music had died. I could write a whole chapter called “Eight-Tracks My Car Stereo Ate.” It would start with “Moondance” and go on through other marvelous nights.
Then came Bowie and Blondie, and Boston and then The Boss. And by then it cost a month’s wages to go to a concert and eight-tracks had given way to cassettes, and then CDs, and now it’s MP3s and iPods and no one even holds music in their hands anymore, mate. And listening?
Well, Mick, who has time to keep up, what with 8,000 bands each with their own YouTube station not to mention all you old rockers still touring, still rockin’, and now pumping out bestsellers. No, listening ain’t what it used to be, but what can a poor boy do but to write a rock ’n’ roll book?
Bruce Watson’s column appears twice a month.