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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Want Ads: Part II

This post continues the train of thought from the last; who would make the best king of rock? Obviously, all of my rock heroes have something in common; they were/are all rogues, pioneers, revolutionaries, eccentric, and outlandish. Nothing is too dramatique or strange for any of my heroes of rock.

D) FRANK ZAPPA: Frank Zappa, like my other heroes, was born in 1940; he died in 1993. It is funny that all of my heroes mentioned so far were born in the same decade. I guess good things did come out of the 40's. Usually, I think of the 1940's and associate it with Nazism/Communism/Biggotry/Isolationism/Racism. In Frank Zappa's case, the 40's produced a musical genius, a madman euphonic savant. He was able to create fusion between the genres of rock, jamband, jazz, classical, psychedelic, doo-wop, blues, and avante-garde. In his lifetime, he released 60 albums with his band, The Mothers of Invention, who joined together in 1965. They produced their first album, Freak Out, in 1966. What's more insane, is that he didn't only have his own music project; Frank Zappa produced and worked with: Grand Funk Railroad, Captain Beefheart, the London Symphony Orchestra, and Jean-Luc Ponty to name a few. This man live, breathe, eat, sleep, and shit music 24-7! Frank Zappa also challenged the idea of living the lush lifestyle of an artist. He also pushed for independent recording labels beginning Straight and Bizarre imprints in 1969. He later created the DiscReet, Zappa, and Barking Pumpkin labels as a way to give more power and autonomy to artists. Frank Zappa isn't known for Billboard hits (except for 'Valley Girl' really) or for making music for popular culture. He did things on his own terms; he beat to his own drum. People always ask me, woah, how many drugs did he do? The thing is though, he didn't ever do drugs. He actually disagreed with his band mates because they were doing too many drugs. He was all about the music, man. His genius created songs like: 'Don't Eat the Yellow Snow','Muffin Man', 'Valley Girl', 'Brown Shoes Don't Make It', 'Trouble Every Day', 'Jewish Princess', 'Dancin Fool', 'Willie the Pimp', '200 Years Old'. Frank Zappa really didn't give a shit about being foul or offensive. He mocked middle-class values, racism and inequality, disco, new-age, religion/Judaism, and elitist materialism. Zappa wrote a disclaimer on one of his records to protest the music industry's usage of warning labels on offensive and obscene content. His mock-warning goes like this:
"WARNING! This album contains material which a truly free society would neither fear nor suppress. The language and concepts contained herein are guaranteed not to cause eternal torment in the place where the guy with the horns and pointed stick conducts his business. This guarantee is as real as the threats of the video fundamentalists who use attacks on rock music in their attempt to transform America into a nation of check-mailing nincompoops (in the name of Jesus Christ). If there is a hell, its fires wait for them, not us."
Truly a proverbial 'fuck you' to the music industry capitalists. What's more, he HATED rock journalists. Zappa was once quoted as saying that music journalists are 'people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.' Frank Zappa completely pushed boundaries and tested limits with his music. His songs are organized chaos, a brilliant cacophony of dissonant yet harmonized sound. And all of it was done drug-free. Frank Zappa stood out against American stupidity, zombified ignorance, and consumerist greed. Truly a rogue, truly my hero!

Frank Zappa talking drugs:

Frank Zappa on Charlie Rose (1988):

Frank Zappa's 200 Motels (1971):

(~) sources
(=) further reading

~Rock Hall Frank Zappa bio

=Official Frank Zappa site

E) DAVID BOWIE: When you ask about rock icons, who is it that stands out for every teenage boy and girl? Who defies sexual boundaries and continues to make musical brilliance? David Bowie. I really don't know anyone who dislikes David Bowie and his music; if they do, then they're a twat. Seriously! How can you not like David Bowie, even if you don't like what he represented. His music is halfway in this world, halfway in the next. It's like he really did channel it out of a different universe or plane of existence. He created a character, Ziggy Stardust, who came to earth in order to save the human race through music. He had a whole genius storyline where Ziggy gets distracted with earthly delights and has a fall, ending up the epitome of epic/tragic heroes. Before Nicki Minaj and Lady GaGa, David Bowie was the original multiple personality rock star. Before Madonna and Prince, he was the gender bending glam superstar. He admitted to being bisexual, sleeping with both men and women. He made teenagers dealing with their angst and sexuality feel okay in their skin. What's more is that he had actual madness running in his family. His brother, Terry, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He used music as an outlet. Born in 1947 (another 40's generation baby), he started playing the saxophone at 13 (just like me actually). He joined bands with names like the King Bees, the Konrads, David Jones and the Buzz. He had to change his name, however, as there was already a rising star by the name of Davy Jones (of The Monkees fame). Then, enter Marc Bolan, of the band T. Rex who helped give Bowie ideas to fuse elaborate costumes and make-up into his act. Bolan also introduced Bowie to Tony Visconti, a producer. It wasn't until 1971-72 that Bowie came up with the brilliance behind the storyline of Ziggy Stardust. He is known for hit songs like 'The Man Who Sold the World', 'Changes', 'Space Oddity', 'Hunky Dory', 'Fame', 'Heroes', 'Ashes to Ashes', 'China Girl, 'Let's Dance'. His music spans five eras; it is timeless. Every teenager should know David Bowie; he is a fundamental piece of rock/music history. I would even go as far to say that I'd name a high school after him. David Bowie High would be a school for 'misfit' and 'broken' toys, a place where misunderstood kids could be themselves and shine through the arts. David Bowie will always be, hands down, the coolest mother fucker to grace a stage anywhere.

David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, Under Pressure':

David Bowie with Queen playing 'Heroes':

David Bowie in 'Labyrinth' (1986)

~Rolling Stone David Bowie bio

=Official David Bowie site
=Bio Channel on David Bowie
=David Bowie fan site

F) STEVEN TYLER: The master of freaky deaky and wild child antics. Sadly, it is only he and David Bowie who are still alive of all my rock idols. I think I would just about keel over if I ever met either Steven Tyler or David Bowie face-to-face. Part of the reason I would NEVER try out for American Idol, besides the fact that I don't want to be a Billboard pop/rock/country star, is that if Steven Tyler told me I sucked at singing, I would be crushed. By the way, I can sing and I am very musical, though I would be way too gun shy to ever perform in front of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. Aerosmith opened the Pandora's Box to the world of rock n' roll for me when I received their Get a Grip album for my 12th birthday back in 1993 (thanks Deborah). I fell in love with Alicia Silverstone because I would watch the videos for 'Cryin', 'Amazing', and 'Crazy'. Those videos launched her career until the 1995 movie, 'Clueless'. I digress.

Steven Tyler (Tallarico), the 'Demon of Screamin' is known for his outlandish style and crazy ways. In fact, if he weren't a judge on American Idol, I really wouldn't give a shit about the show at all. I started reading his biography 'Does the Noise in my Head Bother You?'. I had to stop reading it though because the more I read, the more I realized that we were soul brothers. Seriously! He grew up around the music scene of 1960's Greenwich Village. He hung out with all of the cool cat rockers and songwriters; he was an original scenster on the East Coast counter-culture hippie scene. He is the original and true 'hippie' free spirit in my book. Steven Tyler wanted to be a musician so badly that he lived that lifestyle. His idols and rock heroes were Mick Jagger, Jimmi Hendrix, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Bob Dylan to name a few. He loved the strangeness of NYC. He would peruse record shops and used clothing stores to get inspiration for both music and fashion. You have to read his memoir, which I need to finish. Seriously, I had to put his book down because I found we had so much in common. He constantly makes asides in the book about how the reader probably cannot follow his seemingly random train of thought. However, I found it very easy to follow him and even vicariosuly lived through his stories of growing up in the 60's.

Thank goodness that Steven Tyler found his bandmates, Joe Perry (who lived six miles from Tyler) and Tom Hamilton (who was in the band Jam Band with Perry) while playing gigs in Sunapee, New Hampshire. He had been playing in bands since junior high with acts like Chain Reaction and William Proud. Tyler then got together with Joey Kramer (who went to the same high school in Yonkers) and with Perry and Hamilton, they all lived in Boston together and began to early stages of Aerosmith. Brad Whitford joined them all in 1971. In 1972, the boys of Aerosmith signed with Columbia Records for $125,000. Aerosmith released their first self-titled record in 1973. They followed this up with Get Your Wings (1974), Toys in the Attic (1975), and Rocks (1976). Their early hits were songs like 'Dream On', 'Sweet Emotion', 'Toys in the Attic', 'Mama Kin', 'Big Ten Inch', and 'Walk this Way'. At the end of the 70's, at the height of success, and into the 80's a motorcycle accident, drug abuse, internal fighting, and bandmates leaving (Joe Perry and Brad Whitford) almost tore the band apart. They had some hits into the 80's like 'Janie's Got a Gun', 'Love on an Elevator', and 'Angel'. However, it was really with Get a Grip that they made a huge comeback.

For me, Steven Tyler and Aerosmith represent the epitome of success. He has fallen down and gotten up so many times that you can easily question how he is still alive. He has battled drugs, divorce, depression, alcohol, and tragedy; any other person in his shoes would have given up. He, however, has reinvented himself and his career a hundred times over; he is the cat with nine lives! Instead of going on a tangent, I will just end with saying that Aerosmith is one of my all-time top three favorite bands. Steven Tyler is probably my biggest rock idol (of all the living legends). I feel like I'm his long lost son! Does that sound crazy!? What is crazy? My crazy feels on par with Steven Tyler's. If one day I meet him, I might have to check into a mental institution because my mind would melt and then explode.

If you think this post is long, you're only scratching the surface, my friend. I have actually already written a whole other blog post just on Steven Tyler and Aerosmith. You can find it here-

=Another blog post on Steven Tyler

~Rock Hall Steven Tyler bio
~Stephen Tyler and David Dalton. Does the Noise in my Head Bother You? A Rock 'N' Roll Memoir. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2011.

=Official Aerosmith band site
=Official Aerosmith fan site
=Steven Tyler site
Steven Tyler on The Ellen DeGeneres Show:

Cryin' from Get a Grip (1994):

So, I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my own rock idols. Hopefully, you can find inspiration from mine.

Rock on,


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