Van Halen is on tour again – David Lee Roth at the mic. And Black Sabbath is back in the studio with Ozzy out front. The Stones 50th anniversary tour looks like it could be a go for next spring – if they can keep Keith alive that long. So you just know that our there somewhere, Robert Plant is humping a new thigh-master and oiling up a pair of thirty-year-old leather pants. Medic!
I was fourteen years old the day Dad walked into my bedroom with REO Speedwagon’s High Infidelity album. I had borrowed the LP from a friend at school, and mistakenly left it on the family turntable. “What the heck is this?” Dad said, pointing to the racy cover. “You do know what infidelity means?”
“Uh… I think it has something to do with stereos,” I offered.
“Something… to do with… yeah, right. Well, seeing as you’re a little slow on the English language, maybe you can explain what this means? His Dad-size digit thumped repeatedly at a silk-sheathed inner thigh splashed left to right across the cover.
I shrugged, bracing for the inevitable storm.
“Well, let me help you then.” He slid the borrowed black vinyl from its case – vinyl I had sworn on my tightest pair of Big Blues not to scratch – and snapped it into a dozen pointy pieces. Next came the cover, shredded like a Doberman dining on my homework. “It means you forgot the golden rule, mister. No. Crap. In. My. House.”
If life is about the rock & roll moments, that was mine – sitting on the end of my bed, broken shards of vinyl piercing my hormone-drenched heart like shrapnel. I didn’t even have pubic hair yet when the question of going or staying began to fuzz my brain like a Jimmy Hendrix guitar solo. Yet the sonic youth of the moment rang clear. As blurred as the path ahead might be, it would most definitely come with a soundtrack. Goodbye, Abba. Hello, Motley Crüe.
It’s funny thinking about that now – how a lifetime can be summed up in a handful of power chords. The night I left my parents’ home forever: Young Turks – Rod Stewart. My first big time girl experience: Modern Love – David Bowie. My divorce: Laid So Low – Tears for Fears. Life in Prison: Cold November Rain – Guns & Roses. I might not remember what year the Berlin wall came down, but I can sure tell you who played the concert. Pink Floyd, and Shine On You Crazy Diamond opened the set. Talk about a skipping record.
In a pitiable and recent attempt at family bonding, I asked my 23-year-old son what he thought of Skrillex, the 24-year-old DJ that grabbed this year’s Grammy factory by its short and curly moments and shook it down for all its spare attention.
“I don’t like him,” said my step-spawn, and when I asked why, he set sail on a pseudo-intellectual diatribe concerning the musician’s personal grooming. I was surprised. While I admit that the whole Martin Scorsese – Marilyn Manson lovechild look isn’t exactly my thing either, whatever happened to the days when scandal chic was a slam-dunk for winning youthful hearts (and dollars at the record racks)? How did my kid become the one slapping a preacher’s finger at the album cover?
“Actually, I don’t really mind his music – now. But he was in another band before, and that was a really bad time in my life. Whenever I see him, I think of that, so… And, I hate his look.”
I don’t know which surprised me more – that a twenty-three year old could escape the soundtrack of a misspent youth, or that he already realizes the need to. Either way, once I got over the fact that emotional intelligence had jumped at least one generation in our family, I started looking through my own CD stack with a sharper eye. How did all that Def Leppard and U2 get in there? Where is the Arcade Fire? Or Of Montreal? And so what if Skrillex is a funny looking little bugger. Anything has to be better than a fifty-year-old David Lee Roth dancing around a pair of ass-less chaps. Who knows? Maybe there’s even a new notation waiting in the wings of the soundtrack that is me. I could call it, “the day I stopped sucking in the seventies and got over myself: Disperate Youth – Santigold.”