I'm sitting here tonight writing and alternately watching a Guns 'n Roses concert from 1992. Axl Rose was all of 29 or 30 then. (In other words oh-so-young.) I often wonder how he could belt out tune after tune in concert and still have any kind of voice left by the end of the night.
And to think he's doing it all over again now at age 54 with back-to-back concerts with GNR and fronting for AC/DC as lead vocalist is truly amazing. Most of the rock legends have lost their edge after thirty years, but apparently Axl gets better with age. He's four years younger than me; that fact alone is stunning. I can't imagine how tired he must be afterward.
I don't really know how I ended up being a heavy metal fan. Growing up with older parents; Mom was 38 and Dad 45 when I came along, let's just say their music was definitely not rock and roll. They listened to a lot of talk radio and polkas, with a bit of Eddy Arnold, Dean Martin, and Tennessee Ernie Ford, especially hymns.
My parents couldn't stand Elvis 'the pelvis' as my father derisively called him, and absolutely detested The Beatles, too. Truth be told, Elvis was a little old for my taste in the '60's and '70's and since my parents didn't like the Fab Four, I went along with their sentiments.
"Look at those stupid idiots screaming," my dad commented one night when Ed Sullivan had the Beatles on his show. "What the hell's wrong with them? Look at their haircuts! I've never seen anything so damn dumb." (Yes, my father was a harsh music critic.) The Rolling Stones were another Non-Dad Approved Band.
Being a shy kid enduring a lonely, semi-abused childhood, I spent a lot of time with a tiny AM transistor radio my mother gave me for my thirteenth birthday. I still have it, even the box it came in; bright pink with one 9 volt battery required. I would hold the radio while riding my bicycle no-handed up and down the road at night after chores. I still remember the day I broke the antenna by accident when pushing it back down. Even though I could still get a signal, I was devastated, I loved that radio; it was my lifeline. I used to feel so bereft when the stations would sign off at night.
Does anyone remember the sign off?
"WXYZ Channel 6 now concludes it's broadcast day. With 50,000 watts of power, WXYZ is owned and operated by........" and then nothing but dead air.
Doesn't it seem like a lifetime ago? I guess it was.
I have always loved the night. In the cover of darkness I could do whatever I wanted and there would be no one to criticize or poke fun of me. If Dad was home I spent a lot of time outside as I disliked the tension in the house. I've never feared the darkness, it always felt like an old friend, a cloak for my misery and true self. I suppose that's why I never shook the nightowl habit even though it's not great for my health.
But back to rock and roll, the sheer audacity of the music and the anger and misery in the lyrics spoke to me. I didn't exactly want to rebel but I was too afraid to let my alter-ego show; too invested in trying to get good grades and please everyone. Everyone but me.
But let the chores be done and the sun sink out of sight and I was gone. Gone on my bike with The Eagles, Bread, Kansas, Van Halen, Aerosmith, AC/DC, KISS, Foreigner, Kansas, Styx, Whitesnake, and Motley Crue singing songs of disobedience and all about life in the fast lane. As the years rolled by, angry rock stars howled out the rage I dared not express.
I lost touch with music of all kinds when I was raising our sons for about a decade, from 1986 to 1996. We'd had a very nice stereo system but the woofers (the bass) went out on our JBL speakers. (Apparently I'd been a bit too zealous with the volume in my earlier years. ) With the advent of raising infants, heavy metal didn't mesh with bedtime, I couldn't hear a baby wail over Steve Perry and Journey or Bon Jovi. So the stereo was silenced.
I remember the first time I heard of the band Guns 'n Roses. Joel was just over a year old and strapped in his car seat in the back. We were driving home from Christmas shopping and had the radio tuned into a 'cutting edge rock station' at the time. At the ripe old age of 29, I thought the new rock and roll was 'for the kids'. I was too old for such nonsense.
But then the opening guitar strains of 'Sweet Child o' Mine' started up on the car stereo. And I was hooked. To this day I listen to GNR every chance I get. Sometimes I hate when a song replays in my mind, over and over, but I often fall asleep with 'Welcome to the Jungle' or 'Sweet Child' playing in my head.
My sons introduced me to Metallica, Alice in Chains, Drowning Pool, Marilyn Manson, Disturbed, System of a Down, and Slipknot, among many others, oh, and Rammstein. I don't speak German, but the music speaks to me.
A few years ago, Joel took me to my first live concert. My second all-time favorite band, Van Halen, was playing in a hayfield. It was surreal. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed that night. Eddie Van Halen plays the guitar like none other. I'll never forget hearing 'Eruption' played by the master of all guitarists in person.
I do listen to other artists, too; but I've never cultivated a taste for country at all. I know, how un-American.
'Sweet Child 'o Mine' never fails to bring me comfort.
"She's got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
Now and then when I see her face
It takes me away to that special place
And if I'd stare too long
I'd probably break down and cry."
I'm older now, so much older, but heavy metal is still my music of choice. Gray-haired grannies aren't supposed to like to head bang, but this one does.
I just wait until the sun goes down, no one is the wiser.
The darkness is still my friend.