“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”
Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 22
Seems to me, I have a backlog of music-related posts to make. The recent passing of Eddie Van Halen moves the band that takes his name to the top of that list of posts.
I’m not going to wax poetic about how brilliant a guitarist Eddie Van Halen was. Everyone knows he was a virtuoso that reinvented the instrument in ways unlike anyone else before or since. All rock fans have anecdotal moments centered around the virtuosity of Eddie Van Halen. My personal favorite is how the song “Eruption” instantly became the ultimate test for any aspiring guitarist. If you could play that you weren’t just good you were awesome. My mind goes back to that college dorm room with that guitar guy playing his attempt at that solo for the other dudes in the hall. It happened a lot. Usually followed by “Wish You Were Here” on acoustic, you know, to chill things out after the heat coming from that semi-blistering version of “Eruption.”
Instead, I want to reflect on my life at the time Eddie Van Halen came into my world. It was 1978 and I was nine years old. I was already starting to get into music. I had a record player of my own. I owned a few full-length albums. Bought them when going to neighborhood garage sales with my Mom. I had a few singles of my own too. Ultimately, Van Halen’s first releases were some of my very first albums on cassette tape.
When Van Halen’s debut came out, I heard it everywhere and like everyone else, it caught my ear. Never before had I heard any guitar like that. It was crunchy and fast but strangely smooth and slippery too. I have vivid memories of hearing that band in those days. Didn’t matter where I was, Van Halen was there too; the local recreation center, the swimming pool, the playground, the backseat of my Mom’s car, even coming from someone else’s car at a red light. Eventually, from my Walkman.
The gestalt present in their sound is unique. It’s simultaneously a cohesive unit and a single dominant force (Eddie Van Halen). Van Halen, Van Halen II and Fair Warning are my favorites. I could have chosen any song from the debut album. The album is that good. I decided to feature the song “On Fire” in my post for a few reasons. “On Fire” is the closing track and it’s a barnburner. It comes as advertised, three minutes of fire. It has remained one of my absolute favorite Van Halen tracks over all these years. Unlike many Van Halen songs, this song means business. It has a speed metal intensity and its purpose is to kick your ass. It’s not messing around. (“Mean Street” on Fair Warning is my all-time favorite Van Halen song for a similar reason). “On Fire” is good enough to close out their debut AND be an opening track in concert (see attached video).
To be fair, I started to lose interest in their music a couple of years into the Sammy Hagar era. That said, I can still listen to all the David Lee Roth albums with a smile on my face. That’s the secret ingredient and the true magic of Eddie Van Halen and the band Van Halen. They just wanted to put a smile on your face and that’s what they did best. Eddie Van Halen’s smile while playing guitar is my indelible, unforgettable memory of him.
“Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 21
Today is my birthday. I’m 51. It’s the first day of my sixth decade. My day, year, and decade started with something that most would say is a minor serendipitous moment. However, I know otherwise. My higher power speaks through music. This was no accident.
I often wind down the day by listening to music in a lowly lit room. Last night was no exception. When I’m not in the mood for a specific artist or album, or a deep listening of something new to me, I’ll often hit shuffle on a vast playlist filled with hundreds of songs I know. That’s what I did last night.
At 11:59 (I looked at the clock) one of my absolute favorite songs came on. Ain’t Got Nothing (To Go Wrong) by Dead Meadow. Not only is this a favorite song, I consider it one of my theme songs. Only a handful of songs become theme songs to me. I’ve written about them before and will surely feature them again in my Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast posts. Typically for me, the music carries me through the song. That’s the case here as well. The guitar solo in this song is incredible. However, my personal relationship to the lyrics and their overall feel with the music, are for me, the elements that elevate a song to the highest level.
The moment midnight came and the calendar turned to the eleventh of September, my birthday, shuffle gave me this song. A piece of music with great personal importance to me. It wasn’t serendipity. It was meant to be. I wouldn’t have had my new sixth decade start any other way.
Lemon yellow sun up overhead today
What more is there that I could say then Lord, let it stay
I ain’t got nothing to go wrong today
No, not today
I’ve been up and down this street for quite some time
The gutters get filled, it takes all kind like fish on a line
The way that things go these days, I’m fine
Yeah, I’m doing fine
Good times come, they sure come slow
Why that may be I don’t know, just let it flow
All things in this world they come, they go
Yes, this much I know
If silence is golden then your words they’re lead
I can’t believe how that shit sticks in my head
The sun shines away, there’s nothing to say
People they talk anyway, they’re talking away
In a softball interview with Laura Ingraham, Trump claimed people came out of the dark shadows (racist trope) to Washington to disrupt his convention last Friday. He said people wearing black came on planes to Washington (more bigotry). Dark forces were at play.
Trump made the decision to move his speech to the White House a few weeks ago. Even though this is the same day many thousands of people were arriving for the 57th ANNUAL March on Washington.
Unless you’re a racist idiot like the president, you’ve already put two and two together. Their plans were on the calendar long before his.
Do you think he was told this might be a problem and ignored the advice? I’m wondering if anyone bothers to tell him things like this anymore. Then again, I also wonder if the dumbest of dumb shit happens because the most idiotic of loyalists are the only ones remaining in his inner circle.
No matter how you slice it, idiots rule.
Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 20
Do you remember?
I know it’s been a shitty year all around but the best month of the year has arrived. September is my favorite month and not just because it’s my birthday month. We need this song. It’s pure joy. Celebrate!
The lesson of the song? Never let the lyric get in the way of the groove. Ba-dee-ya!
Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 19
For various reasons, I have decided that this is one of my theme songs. I have a few of them, not too many. Zig Zag Wanderer, it rings true for me on many levels. This decision comes after many years of living life and many hours of listening to music. This is a decision made through experience.
I am not even a huge fan of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band even though I respect Don Van Vleet and his important contributions to music as an alternative rock pioneer and beyond. In fact, I had not even heard this song until I was around 35-40 years old, when I took a deep dive into early psychedelic rock.
You can jump you can holler
Never lose what I have found
Heaven’s free ‘cept for a dollar
You can zig you can zag
Whoa I’m gonna stay around gonna stay around
“Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, it’s an outrage.”
“A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.”
“…But again and again, there comes a time in history when one who dares to say that 2+2=4 is punished with death. The school-teacher is well aware of this. And the question is not one of knowing what punishment or reward attends the making of this calculation. The question is one of knowing whether 2+2=4”
Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 18
I know it seems like all hell is breaking loose in the United States. I know there’s bullshit flying around you in every direction. I know it seems like the virus is never going to leave us. I know you’re concerned for your safety and the safety of your loved ones.
I also know it’s Saturday night! Time to make some boogie down productions of your own. Time to get up, get up, get, get, get down with this techno electro classic. Seriously, I love this jam.
I’m beatbox rocker, and you dancing to my beat.
How many of you are vacillating between feeling numb and full of rage with little to no buffer between the extremes??? My anxiety makes me revolve pretty damn fast on a normal day. These days it feels like mental whiplash.
The George W. Bush presidency made me upset enough to generate creative energy and be very productive. Trump, that asshole, is jamming me!!! That said, I keep fighting, kicking my own ass toward creative progress. The things I’m interested in most and have been making work about for years are still very real and present (cultural hypocrisy etc.). Unfortunately for me, Trump sucks all the air out of the room and my non-Trump ideas get buried. Therefore, I’m running with that at the moment. The numb rage of living through these days makes me make art specifically about this time.
Numb Rage – I’ll have to use that for a title of a new piece of art. Alright, here we go. Let it flow.
Last month I launched a new project. The Loyalty Lies Project and the LIES brand.
One way or another, like it or not, LIES and the need to ignore or investigate them play an ever-increasing role in our lives.
The LIES brand is not a reaction. It’s a response. This is my universal response to contemporary culture. Supporting the LIES brand is an acknowledgment that truth is in question at every moment about every subject. Yes, some LIES can be harmless and benign. More often LIES create deception as a means of manipulation. Over time, LIES become the institution. LIES are the tradition.
LIES continuously surround us. There will always be LIES, especially when loyalty above all else is the demand. Loyalty leads to LIES. What LIES have you believed today? What LIES have you repeated today? What LIES have you unknowingly spread? What LIES will you loyally support or perpetrate? What LIES will you doubt? What LIES will you destroy?
The LIES brand is a direct statement about the political and consumer culture we inhabit today. In our political culture, facts are continuously manipulated beyond recognition. In our consumer culture, manipulated facts are widely accepted and commonplace. Brand loyalty is what matters most.
Loyalty above all else will result in LIES of one kind or another.
At the moment I have shirts (2 colors), stickers (2 variations), and posters (8 different versions) for sale. Get yours today and tell your friends. Spread LIES.
LIES: THE BRAND FOR NOW
Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 17
Today’s message is simple and direct. In case you’ve forgotten…the South’s too fat to rise again.
“An artist has an obligation to be en route, to be going somewhere. There’s a journey involved here. You don’t know where it is and that’s the fun. You’re always gonna be seeking, looking and going, trying to challenge yourself.”
Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 16
White. Male. American.
This song about police racism was released in 1993. It was inspired by an incident in which Eddie Vedder got into an altercation with a group of police officers who hassled his black friend but ignored him.
“He won the lottery by being born
Big hand slapped a white male American
Do no wrong so clean cut
Dirty his hands, it comes right off
Police man, police man, police man
Police stopped my brother again”
This song is now 27 years old. I’ve listened to it often over the years. Objectively it’s a pretty great song too. The tribal backbeat is hypnotic and it’s message is as vital as ever. Let’s listen to it like it’s brand new because the subject certainly isn’t old. #blacklivesmatter
Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 15
I’m still gravitating toward my collection of funk soul classics during these times.
Let music help you rise above the bullshit blocking your way. Whatever get’s you through. This one works for me.
Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 14
Heard this one shuffle this morning. It had been a while since I heard it. This song sounds best after midnight but today it was a morning song and once again I heard the right song at the right time.
The sound is bold and strong yet spacious and sparse. The lyrics are moody yet motivational.
It’s one of my personal anthems. Nothing else to say.
Here’s something interesting to watch. The BBC Documentary called the Secret of Drawing.
Released in 2005, the four-part series explores how drawing has shaped our lives. It is required viewing for my Drawing II classes. Many artists are highlighted throughout this documentary series. I also ask my students to write a personal analysis of one artist from each part of the series.
Each part is equally good. Check it out.
The Secret Of Drawing: Episode 1: The Line Of Enquiry
The Secret Of Drawing: Episode 2: Storylines
The Secret Of Drawing: Episode 3: All In The Mind
The Secret Of Drawing: Episode 4: Drawing By Design