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rock god - page 5


“Light my candles in a daze cause I’ve found god.”

Nirvana’s Lithium is a cry for help — that you can dance to; a guitar-smashing, vocal-screeching, bass-thumping, drum-rumbling alt-rock classic that liberates our rage just long enough for us to forget our pain.

“I like it, I’m not gonna crack
I miss you, I’m not gonna crack
I love you, I’m not gonna crack
I killed you, I’m not gonna crack”

Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, rock group frontman, Gen-X touchstone, cultural zeitgeist made flesh, did crack. Fast, loud, slow, quiet, his pain just enough and his lost too deep.

Cobain’s adult life was shockingly brief but we are left with the richness of his music, music that still burns decades later. Nirvana’s songs, as few as there are, are like the flowing colors in a Van Gogh painting, so real, so true, so capable of removing you from the real and transposing you instead inside the artist’s vision, a vision both glorious and bright, pained and brutish, that’s so complete, so brought to life, that you actually believe you can touch the colors, feel them, know them.

Like friends, but in our head.

I think I could have convinced Kurt Cobain not to kill himself.


“Fire it and the flesh be damned.
Fire it up, fire it up, fire it up.
Yeah, that’s the ticket now kick out the jams.”

F- the future! Screw the past! Embrace the present!

Or as three generations ago so aptly stated: “sha la la la la la live for today.”

Young, free. This moment, fully alive. The now, nothing else.

Clutch is like that, best lived live, in the present. The full power of their music can only be felt here, now, the band loud and thrashing, you surrounded by others, some known, most strangers. Its full truth fails when formed in digital.

This limits scalability, a primal concern in a world of credit and commerce, but heightens intimacy, and in a world where everything is available always, anytime, and in abundance, which is this world, this present, than maybe the non-scalable, the intimate, the gone very soon, the communal, all ratchet up in value.

“Damn tomorrow, future now!
Throw the switches, prime the charge.
Yesterday’s for mice and gods.”

Yesterday’s for mice and gods. Clever words, signifying nothing, a lyrical placeholder for the sound and fury of being there.


“Ignorance and hate may mourn the dead.”

Music may be more popular than Jesus.

But certainly no music act has ever been more popular than The Beatles.

Imagine if the Backstreet Boys, say, or Katy Perry, at the height of their popularity, when their songs were the toppermost of the poppermost, imagine if they said that very moment, thanks, world, it’s been good, maybe even great, but this is no longer how we wish to live and this living no longer reflects what we wish to create, nor how, and we believe there is more and different for us to make and explore, so we’re leaving, maybe for good, but should you wish it, you are welcome to access our new works whenever we get around to finishing them.

And then the Backstreet Boys, say, or Katy Perry went and made song after song, album after album that was unquestionably among the greatest works in pop music history.

The Beatles did exactly this.

“Is it shining?”

It is shining.

The Beatles exploration of mind and music, of pop song form and lyrical insight, cultural connectivity, idle playfulness and spiritual longing, which they combined with their abiding need to make the most of what they’d been blessed with resulted in an aural kaleidoscope that — and we are still attempting to divine the repercussions of this — took everything they had and incorporated everything that was and remade it all, spinning the world off into an entirely new direction and — this is critical — liberating us to realize that such remaking, such spinning off, was possible, and not just by the Beatles but by us other humans.

What next is entirely up to each of us.

“Of the beginning

Of the beginning

Of the beginning

Of the beginning

Of the beginning

Of the beginning

Of the beginning

Of the beginning”


May I have the attention of the class!

Listen up: “God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you, put it in the soul of everyone.”

It’s true.

For Kiss tells us so.

God bless Kiss, they so badly wanted to be rock stars and absolutely were willing to give all they could back to their audience.

Too rare.

Too rare.

“You don’t have money or a fancy car and you’re tired of wishin’ on a falling star. You gotta put your faith in a loud guitar.”

A perfect rock and roll lyric, dear listener.

I know. The preening, the make-up, that hair, his tongue, what your grandmother warned you about, the peculiarities of those who join the Kiss Army, corporate influence, ignore all that, if just for a few moments, and enjoy the band’s embrace of life’s communal pleasures.

“You can take a stand, or you can compromise
You can work real hard or just fantasize
But you don’t start livin’ ’till you realize
I gotta tell ya
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul”

Never diminish truth, no matter where it comes from nor how it gets to you.

And rock on.


Norman Greenbaum wrote one of the great songs in the Rock God ouevre.

A psychedelic embrace of life, death, Jesus, heaven, a fuzzy jangling anthem that wah-wahs straight for your heart and beckons all who hear to answer its call.

“Prepare yourself you know it’s a must
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you die
He’s gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky”

Amen, Preacher Greenbaum!

“When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best”

Electric distortion, amplified riffs, rock and roll reverb, folk song sensibilities with new revivalist lyrics laid overtop. It was Mr. Greenbaum’s only hit but it is a hit for the ages. Gather round, clap along and let that spirit take you away.


Albums on my first listen that were revelations:

  • The Velvet Underground & Nico
  • The Beatles Rubber Soul
  • Public Enemy Fear of a Black Planet
  • Nirvana Nevermind
  • Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here
  • REM Murmur
  • Miles Davis Kind of Blue
  • Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique
  • Joy Division Closer

Not making the cut, but a great listen still, was the gnarly, blistering, cocksure debut album from Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction.

Loud, mean, debauched, honest. It’s thrashing guitar, searing beat, vicious lyrics and piercing vocals demanded you get out of its way, just listen as it devours everything before it.

Guns N’ Roses were quickly rewarded for that sonic mania, with fame, fortune and women, all in 20th century-optimized abundance.

And they were never again the same.

Garden of Eden is the perfect example of their fall from debase.

It’s fast, it’s loud, it’s Axl and Slash, it’s at their peak of power and it’s just not that good. The rawness is gone. Glib, overproduced, preening. The talent is there but the spirit has become fat and flagging. At least they got the lyrics right, even if you could tell they no longer quite meant what they said. Or if they did mean it still, they no longer possessed the rage to make it real.

“Lost in the garden of Eden
Said we’re lost in the garden of Eden
And there’s no one’s gonna believe this
But we’re lost in the garden of Eden
This fire is burnin’
And it’s out of control
It’s not a problem you can stop
It’s rock n’ roll
Suck on that”

It’s rock n’ roll, no doubt, but you can tell even they no longer feel it. The fire isn’t burning, it’s gone dead.

“Most organized religions make
A mockery of humanity
Our governments are dangerous
And out of control
The garden of Eden is just another graveyard
Said if they had someone to buy it
Said I’m sure they’d sell my soul”

Guns N’ Roses didn’t sell their soul, that isn’t possible, but they did bury it under all the stuff they could buy.

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