RUNNIN' WITH THE BRUCE-MAN! - Bruce goes to VAN HALEN!!!
I don't have one. I'm 45 and while I'm a musical pantheist, worshiping at the altar of most musical styles 'n genres, I have owned only one OUTER ROCK DUDE since 1971 when I first heard Led Zeppelin II. Hear me loud, hear me proud, Helen Reddy - I AM ROCKER, hear me ROAR!
That alter-rock ego has never been once to be silenced or suppressed to 'inner-status', its always lived alongside my poly-loves of power pop (naturally!), prog-rock, early proto punk, 70s punk, early 70s funk and soul, novelty and bubblegum music, disco (ahem!) and on and on.
But if I'm honest, this preachers' son must rock. Always. Now and Forever. Amen.
My absorbing passion the last few years has been to discover rare, hard-to-find hard-rock obscurities from, say, 1969-1976. Yes, it's a pitiful, reflective dance back into my oh-so-naïve, 'those were the days' of my younger years, sure. But you gotta see my "Mirror Star" air-guitar alter-being to know "I mean it, maaan!".
So where is this going? Simple. Van Halen is back. With Diamond Dave. The band died when he left. Did you know, you puss-sucking owner of "5150"? It was another band that arose in aftermath of that swallowing painful chunking of clashing (musical, the worst kind!) egos. Sigh. What could have been. What was.
No more. Eddie cleaned up (finally). David Lee Roth has grown up a bit knowing to turn his deal down a few notches with his bandmates, Alex (the drummer, come on!) is, well, he's the drummer! Original bassist Michael Anthony is M.I.A, presumably, because the Van Halen brothers have pushed him out of the newly rebuilt rawk-fortress - too much weight of the past. So, in drops, Eddie's 16-year old son, Wolfgang (Hollywood just is not a normal place to raise a children, don't tell me otherwise!) and - lives up inside a dream that can only be imagined in fantasy comics. (He's the 'real deal', for the record. Let's see YOU play in front of 16,000 people when you were 15!)) Still, Anthony was a rock 'n roll animal and I'll call up the ancient Indian spirits to bring him back someway, somehow, someday.
So, this past Friday, I go see them live. In concert, in person, in the flesh. JUST as I was supposed to in 1979 when they were opening for Black Sabbath, who I was a 'freak' for (naturally!) and after being smitten by WBCN in Boston playing Van Halen's debut in its entirety January 1, 1979. Radio stations did that back then. Drop the needle, go get high, come back 15 minutes later and flip to the other side.
Anyway, the trouble back in 1979 was that I had a nasty (not!) habit of getting fabulously stoned with my fellow rock buddy and the ticket I bought blew away in the crisp, fall Boston wind in the parking lot minutes after the transaction and high-fiving ("We’re going to see OZZZEEE!! Uh, where's my ticket!?!"). Cue Scene 73 in retro-rock B movie: stoner dudes crawling on the pavement looking underneath parking lots filled with Camaros and Roadsters emoting proto-Ur version of "Duuuudddee-Speak".
That show was not meant to be.
This past Friday was.
Van Halen stunned me silly. They played ONLY tunes from the six albums with Roth (damn straight!) and did not draw heavy breath until 2 hours and 20 minutes after they started. They tramped out any and every single song I wanted to hear from the bands' six-album catalog, deep album tracks, too! There was the obligatory 7 minute drum solo filled with every single classic-rock 70s drum solo cliché ever performed - it was....PERFECT!! Hey, who better than one who helped create the archetype!
The band jammed it out, too. What a surprise. 6, 7, 8 minute plus versions of “And The Cradle Will Rock”, “Somebody Get Me A Doctor”, “Everybody Wants Some”, “Unchained”, “Mean Street”, “DOA”, “Panama”, “Ice Cream Man”. They stretched it, they explored, tripped in some places but picked themselves up, enlivened by the repartee of old-friends exploring the boundaries of 'acceptable rock 'n
My buddy and I had kick-ass seats, too. Yes, as Nazareth wrote about in 1976, it was all "Close Enough for Rock 'n Roll"(great song, btw!). What is CEFRR? That is the zone of buzz, the area of rock rectitude, the inner sanctum of sonic overload where - well, remember the old ads for Maxell tapes in the 70s with long-haired rock stud sitting low-backed in comfy chair, in front of massive speakers and the sound blowing into his face and blowing his hair back.
THAT is 'close enough for rock 'n roll'. Its the inside place in large arena, mid-level auditoriums and cavernous clubs where the music is loud, (at a minimum) borderline uncomfortable and where you *most definitely* can NOT - repeat CAN NOT - have any kind of conversation with the person next to you *except* to nod knowingly that you are most righteously rocking together in rock 'n roll buddy and! Got it?
You say "Bruce, come on. You can't be serious. Van Halen? You, the promoter of pure power poppin' passion fruit sucking and swallowing whole the rock 'n roll balls of a tired old, suspectingly and pathetically reunited who helped make MTV the shell of its name?!"
Yup. That's me.
Now, don't get me wrong. I paid $250 for front row seats the other night. Insane? Risky? Ooohhh, yeah, after all the rumors of years past. I threw those dice down, though. Had to. You see, I had a heavy chain ridden ghost to exorcise. The one that came into being in that parking lot in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1979. This evil presence *had-to-go*. And, you know - you could not pay me $250 to see Sammy Halen. Serious. Go ahead - email me - offer me $500 to waste 3 hours of my life seeing Sammy Halen. Me Sez "No". No, not "No, Thank You" - just "No-Freaking-Way". (Don’t get me going on this poor excuse of a band using the 'Van Halen' name all those years!)
For the record, Sammy Hagar has some truly excellent songs strewn out all over this 70s solo records. Side one on "Danger Zone” is wildly under-rated by hard rock folks, for example and one can present the argument that the first Montrose album from 1973 is one of THE unrivaled and influential hard-rock debuts ever - uh, after Van Halen "I".
So, come hither my middle-aged, thinly haired rock brothers 'n sisters. It's time to come out of the closet, back into the light and crawl into the basement for the last stack of vinyl records you have stored away because you just could not, with finality, say 'goodbye' to those fair-weathered, seed-ridden 12"ers. You know, my friend, that was your Inner Rock Dude talking, knowing best. Knowing Truth. Knowing Life Needs Rock.
Bring the Inner Rock Dude back to The Outer. Turn it up. Louder, then louder. Make anyone, everyone around you wonder what on earth is up with you - find the "Close Enough For Rock 'n Roll" Zone in your own home and re-live, re-experience and re-immerse yourself in the beginnings of why music mattered so much to you 'back then' and why it does now and find yourself ready to take on the world with your old friends beside you the tough trenches of overly plugged-in, wired up modern-day life.
You, friend - ROCK ON!
Not Lame Recordings
BONUS! Here's a clip from the Denver show of the opening number, "You Really Got Me"!!!
DOUBLE BONUS! From the WFMU Blog, here's an mp3 of DLR's isolated vocals on "Runnin' With the Devil"!!! Download here!