Categories: Different Matter
Originally Published on: January 11, 2012
Well, actually, I think it is high time you learn to.
I was raised to respect my elders. I’m guessing most of you were too. However, I think that there is some confusion between being respectful and being a sycophant.
When it comes to old bands/musicians, there seems to be an automatic and often unjustified ‘reverence’ for them and everything they do. I guess that is why we refer to them as ‘rock gods’ because some have a fantasy of them being incapable of making mistakes. Well, I have yet to find any proof of that. Is it blasphemy to say that not every single thing that one of these ‘gods’ do is brilliant? Some people certainly act as if it were.
The fact is, very few bands achieve such a heavenly status early in their careers; even if they release an amazing debut album followed by stellar shows to support said debut with a huge push from a major label. Although there are a rare few that break into the stratosphere that early, most build up their cult status over time. Some even break up years, or even decades, before they reach divinity.
Now, let me just clarify, I am not trying to diminish the achievements of any band. I also recognize that there are bands that have made huge contributions either in innovation or plain and simple being kick-ass. I also believe that these people should be held in high regard for these achievements and should reap the appropriate rewards (including respect) for their efforts. However, I do not think that one of these rewards should be the expectation by the band nor their minions that all of us simply accept what we might otherwise consider tedious, sub-standard, lameness as a pious gift.
Just a small example:
I am a huge fan of pretty much everything Metallica released up to and including the ‘Black’ album. But even in that time frame there are definitely songs I like less than the rest. After the ‘Black’ album, however, I was not into what the band was doing… at all. That’s right; I did not like their change in direction. I will even go so far as to say that I think quite a bit of it is purely unlistenable. That does not mean that I didn’t respect their choice, nor does it mean that I think they sold out. I have been accused of both of these things by defenders of the Metallica faith who feel it is unacceptable to say a negative word about their deities.
The thing is, I honestly think Metallica have done exactly what they wanted to do artistically at every stage. It has also proved lucrative for them as although some, like me, have not latched onto their newer direction; they have more than made up for those losses with newer fans. I may not enjoy listening to everything the band has done, and I may not agree with all of their choices, but I do greatly respect them and what they continue to do. Yeah, even the Lulu thing (which I have been warned is horrid).
I could easily make similar statements about any of my favourite bands that lasted more than a few albums and/or have been going for more than a decade or three.
Wait…this just in!!!
As I am writing this, the new Van Halen song “Tattoo” has been posted to Youtube. This will serve to make my next point perfectly. That point being that worship isn’t reserved for the work horse bands that have persisted in plugging away over the years. Sometimes the worship is extended to bands that not only changed styles drastically, but actually disappeared for extended periods of time to suddenly reform in their twilight years to exploit their Godliness. (NOTE: Exploit is not a bad term in the music business. It simply means to use in order to make profit, as any business needs to do, rather than to swindle.)
I was, am, and probably always will be a devoted fan of the original line up, mach 1, Van Halen and those first albums before the miserable switch to the Red Rocker. And as most of the folks like me who loved those early albums, I was thrilled and excited to hear that the original line-up was getting back together. The reviews from the reunion show at a small club in New York last week went to bolster the hopes that the reunification would give us back a little of the magic that we lost in the post ‘1984’ (album) break up. And that magic may still exist in the live performances from the boys, but the video and the new song suck!
Now, the singer of my old band and I happen to have had the opportunity, about 10 years ago, to hang out with David Lee Roth for a few hours. We crashed a press only pre-tour rehearsal he did to promote D.L.R.’s solo all Van Halen material tour. It was amazing. He and his band were truly fucking awesome. Hanging out with him afterward talking about him, Van Halen, our band, and the issues that all bands have to deal with was a real education. He was personable, down to earth, and quite simply the hero and legend I had hoped he would be. Nothing will ever change the way I feel about him nor the appreciation I have for him taking so much of his personal time to hang out with a couple of younger rockers and give them sage advice.
By the same token, with all of my feelings about him and the importance of those early albums in my life, nothing is going to make me say that “Tattoo” is anything but a shit song and bad attempt at rekindling a long dead fire. I still love the band. I still respect them for their contribution. I am very happy that the reunion finally happened as it is always good to see old band mates bury the hatchets and get back to having fun, but none of that is going to make a bad song good. I am just hoping that when they play the old stuff live, they can still manage to pull it off.
One last point:
A few years back, (over a decade actually) there was a huge flood of legendary rock god bands reuniting. Most of them only did a few shows or maybe a bit of touring. Unfortunately, most of these bands should have never gotten back on stage. With some great exceptions* that maintained the energy and skill levels of their heyday, most of these bands came across as either lazy bastards who couldn’t even be bothered to put in a few rehearsals to get up to worthiness of an audience, or more sadly as slowed down, arthritic, has-beens trying desperately to relive some past glory.
Again, even seeing these depressing exhibits that would have better been kept in a rehearsal room if only to mend any open emotional wounds between the band mates, my respect for what these bands had given the world when they were great is undying. I can even appreciate them doing these sad reunions, but I am in no way obliged to like the results.
Indeed, I think it is more respectful to acknowledge their mistakes a band makes and to voice our dislikes as they come along. NOT doing so and giving blanket, blind praise to all things rock god only serves to sully the memories of the true gifts they have given us.
*For me the reunited bands back then that I saw who were good enough to justify charging for the shows were: The Buzzcocks, The Gears, and The Misfits (the 1st tour).