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(Almost) Forgotten Music Heroes
Shooting Stars. There are pop stars rising every day and forgotten shortly after. Teeny magazines are full of those good looking and often also singing faces framed with outstanding haircuts and supported by the music industry at first on vinyl and since mid of the 1980's served on silver plates also known as Compact Discs. But there are classics, and below is just the story of some of them, rediscovered.
Tough Genre. The title of this page "H-Rock" stands for "Hard Rock", even though other categories from Blues to Pop may be represented below. However, "H-Rock" felt more adequate to compete with the "A-Pop" or Austropop-section. And it reminded me of a discussion about a maximum security cell block, a music group I didn't know, and a friend's name, who once visited from overseas and almost bought all Milka chocolate that was available in nearby stores.
In the nick of time for Nickelback
Got Change? Attending a Nickelback concert was a great experience. Coming across the border from Canada, the band members would still be considered "locals" in Michigan and the atmosphere and view were great in the exclusive VIP lounge, although a bit reserved compared to the cheering, bra throwing crowd in front of the stage. We had missed the first support band but were there right in time for the main act "Nickelfront," as a colleague joked about their name. In fact, their origin story really goes back to the singer working at Starbucks and as a result of their .95 pricing scheme always returning 5 cent to the customers using the phrase: "Here's your nickel back." Just imagine, if they had had different prices, then the band could have been called "Dimeback" or even "Pennyback" now, or in German something like "Fünferz'ruck", respectively in Slovene "vracam pet-centov" (giving back five cents). Obviously, they played all their big hits (I got a CD at Best Buy to be "informed" ahead of time) from "I wanna be a Rockstar" to "How you remind me (of what I really am)", while even intoning Garth Brook's "I've got friends in low places" and Journey's "Small town girl (living in a lonely world)". Anyway, in their own words: "Look at this photograph, everytime I do it makes me laugh..."
"Would you live each moment like your last, leave old pictures in the past,
Donate every dime you have, would you call old friends you never see?"
(Nickelback, 2008, If Today Was Your Last Day)
Look at this photograph: At a Nickelback concert in Grand Rapids... Live in the heart of Michigan!
Madman meets Godman
Homesick Blues. Being abroad, listening to familiar music sometimes helps to feel closer to home. Keeping busy on weekends is extremely important to overcome loneliness during business trips. After another Last Supper with colleagues leaving for their homes, I would be alone again. A magical colleague was an Ozzy fan so I also got back into the same music, finding Ozzy's "Born to be wild"-duet with Miss Piggy quite amusing, especially its introduction: "Ozzy Osbourne? Boy, did I open the wrong door! I'm sorry to bother vu!" Then I started playing the song "Mama, I'm coming home" in the car, whenever someone was heading out and I gave him a last ride back to the hotel or to the airport. And one day on my way over, at London-Heathrow I even picked up a book, which is best described by another song title... "Diary of a Madman."
Alien House Call. Reading a chapter of the "I am Ozzy" biography for a bedtime story over in the US, one episode made me laugh out loud... Just picture a local priest visiting a crazy hard rock musician, who usually was "flying high" from smoking whatever he found up to a point that he used some stale dope instead of regular flour to bake a cake, which he left on the kitchen counter. One day a Vicar, who made random house calls in his church parish, came by their country house Bullrush Cottage, nicknamed "Atrocity Cottage", near Stafford, England. Ozzy's unknowing wife served a slice of cake to the unexpected visitor. A few minutes later, Ozzy, the Prince of Darkness himself, returned from the pub and the second he saw the little plate with crumbs everywhere, he knew it was bad news. Then the man of God clearly passed out, a victim of circumstance. Ozzy drove the unconscious Vicar home and spent the whole night lying awake, waiting for the sirens. "That's it, I killed him," he though, already picturing himself in front of the judge, trying to explain "a terrible, terrible accident." After a week, the Vicar resurfaced in a pub, and told Ozzy: "You know the funniest thing? I can't remember how I got home from your house the other day. And the next morning I had this terrible flu… I've never had a flu like it. I was having hallucinations for three days, you know? I convinced myself that Martians had landed on the Vicarian lawn and were trying to organize a tombola!"
Tough Guys and Wanna-Be's
Naturally Heavy. While growing up, listening to hard rock and trying not to show too much weakness in front of others instead of just letting it out naturally, even if others may laugh about the mistakes one would make (Which was the time when a classmate teased me by spelling Heavy Metal with -idl instead of -tal, long before I would be a heavyweight). There are many Wanna-Be's. They want to appear tough, as if nothing could harm them. To hide that they can be hurt so easily, really. Enclosed is the picture of one, posing right next to the Punisher, Tom Jane on his campaign of vengeance against the murderers of his film-family. And next to Alice Cooper on his ."..trashes the World"-tour following his comeback hit-song "Poison." I had watched the movie with a friend, whom I had considered tough enough, in an attempt to give him some distraction in hard times. And I had been to a Cooper concert with another one (it was supposedly softer as Christmas was coming up). We lost contact and a friendship reactivation effort came too late (for sometimes late renewal is not possible any more).
Shirt Messages. Ultimately, the own weakness may conflict with tasks in personal and professional life, when you need to give others reason to look up to yourself (mostly by just not sitting down). And so he is not that tough as it may appear. Yes, I am talking about this strange guy posing in leather jacket and skull T-shirt right next to them. When writing up stuff like that, another shirt print comes to mind: "Wayne interessiert's - Who's interested," a word play with John Wayne's surname, sounding a bit like the German word "wen - who." A good motto for this website, which also underlines that word plays usually just work in one language. Then again it might make you think, when you get another t-shirt as a present with the image of J.Wayne and the caption: "Old Guys Rule." And there is this shirt around with an Eastwood quote, in German reading "Wenn eine Frau nicht spricht, soll man sie auf keinen Fall unterbrechen." Which translates as following: "If a woman is not talking, don't interrupt her." I like silence sometimes. "Are you trying to lose weight?" a colleague joked with me the other day. "For when people are hungry, they become mean!"
Black leather jackets like the Punisher or Alice C. - ideal to shroud the own weakness.
Barefaced Truth. Definitely colourful is another classic, KISS, which had proclaimed itself "the hottest band in the world." Using a lot of make-up as well as provocation to make media buzz, there was that ugly tongue hanging out of the "genius" bass guitar player's mouth like a dog's in mid-summer and the unnecessary rune-letter style at the end of their band name, which had to be changed on German album releases to avoid conflict with the local prohibition act against the use of Nazi symbols. The biggest shock by far was when they took off their masks for the "Lick It Up (yeah, yeah, yeah)"-album. From that point on they were just "average hard rock musicians with perms and too tight leather pants." Remotely but closely working with a colleague from the UK on some pan European forms redesign, it took me quite some time to think of what the name "Beth" reminded me of.
Excused Lateness. What a nice song and a good excuse actually for not coming home: "Beth, I hear you calling, but I can't come home right now. Me and the boys are playing ...and we just can't find the sound." Peter Criss had originally written this song as "Beck", short for "Becky" or "Rebecca", which had been the name of another pre-KISS band member's wife. "When we're dead and gone, how are we remembered? Only by what we leave behind." These thoughts you could find in the booklet of their "Alive III" album in 1993, which - together with the other volumes - they regarded as their testament. Back "Alive" in original lineup after the 1996 band reunion, a newspaper article commented: "KISS trying on their old masks. They still fit, although they are a little tight." And it surprised me that even seemingly quiet people would fall for their motto: "I wanna rock and roll all night and party everyday!" Years later, I would receive a Christmas card with the line: "Do you hear me calling?"
Rambla Show Act. While "Mercury Rising (Das Mercury Puzzle, 1998)" was a movie, in the meantime found in electronic stores that are named Saturn or Cosmos, it is obvious that those stores tend to run mainstream that sells, which still includes all time popular Beatles, Rolling Stones and surprisingly also older Queen albums. And so the memory of Freddie is far from fading. A hilarious performer with an outstanding voice, he was not afraid to combine classic music elements with modern pop music, as proven in the all time great "Bohemian Rhapsody" (and I meant to forget the car scene in "Waynes World" with all head banging and singing along) or ground shattering "Barcelona" (recorded more than a decade before I would walk down the Rambla for the first time).
Home Music. My first encounter with their "Royal" music was probably through my uncle, in his teens learning guitar, playing and singing a slow version of "Long Away, words and music by Brian May" - unforgettable: "You might believe in heaven, I would not dare to say. For every star in heaven, there's a sad soul here today!" As with so many IT people nowadays, the singer's roots were in India. An American colleague of mine would remember that he went to college in Bombay with Freddie's cousin. Queen had had a final revival in 1989 with songs like "Breakthrough," accompanied by its unbelievable train video by the Austrian producers Dolezal & Rossacher, short Do & Ro, while the aids infected Freddie had already become too weak to perform live on tour.
Back on Tour. In April 2005 the rest-group of Queen, now touring with Paul Rogers on vocals, would make it to Vienna's City Hall again after a while, for the first time since bringing "Live Magic" in July 1986. The concert was fine, a reformed Brian May Band playing all the classics and at one point almost making me cry: When calculating that the baby language song "Radio Gaga" had been airing on the radio more than 20 years ago (not to speak of "Somebody to Love"). We had been so young... Time to get out songs from "Liar" and "Flash" to the prophetic (or just "Highlander"-plot driven) "Who wants to live forever," recorded in 1986, five years before Freddie Mercury passed. Not to forget "Let me live," sounding like a hymn from beyond, while Freddie's statue guards Montreux on the Lake Geneva shoreline (as Deep Purple would say).
Vinyl Campfire. A tragic fate encountered Philip Lynott, heading up the Thin Lizzy formation from "Whisky in the Jar" to "Parisienne Walkways (I remember Paris in '49…)" together with Gary Moore, who had played on Lizzy's classic "Black Rose"-Album. That snap of "Dancing in the Moonlight (it's got me in its spotlight)" is still in my ears. It makes me think of friends from England coming over, bringing their original some 30 years old "Whiskey in the Jar" Single with them, which we couldn't play then for not having a record player any more, just a CD Player. No classic campfire atmosphere with Irish folk tunes that evening.
Sitamoia Riddle. On of the biggest riddles to me had been the Thin Lizzy song "Sitamoia", which always sounded to me a bit like swearing - I couldn't have been more wrong! A rare tune, once in a while popping up on a Lizzy Collection, which had been recorded in 1974 with Gary Moore helping out on guitar and was intended as a B-side for the single "Little Darling" (which it didn't become). Its lyrics turn out to be a mispronounced version of the Irish song "The Wealthy Widow" about a young man marrying an older woman: "Sí do mhaimeo i, cailleach an airgid - She's your granny, the hag with the money."
Household Name. Speaking of the deep cool guys, what comes to mind is their reunion album "Perfect Strangers" with a title track around the ultimate question: "Can you remember? Remember my name?" Being excited to go to a workshop, meeting good colleagues from too far away there again as a climax before concluding a long term overseas assignment, I remember making friends with my neighbour on the plane. The conversation started more or less with me apologizing for spilling water. After a while I was asked whether I am a comedian, maybe not just for the way I would talk but also for reading a Stan Laurel biography at that time. Later, I was trying to prove that I am a sad guy, really, not sure whether it worked. But you don't just have good moments, do you?
Watching over the Lake Geneva shoreline: Freddie M., born Farrokh Bulsara.
And then someone else started wearing a leather jacket outfit and rock to a mp3-version of "Smoke on the Water." Time to leave the field to the next generation.
Final Fears. Actually, I had been writing this little comment sometime ago, while listening to the Iron Maiden song "Fear of the Dark (When I am walking a dark road, I am a man, who walks alone)." When I saw my own kids checking out certain places under the bed and in the wardrobe for monsters before they go to bed, I would remember how I also had been afraid at their age that the big bad wolf from some Grimm's fairy tale would hide in some dark corner. And so we all may have our jolly moments in good company as well as depressive long evenings alone with loud music and memories of friends that won't call any more. Don't they remember, remember my name?
Traffic Hero. Listening to a new CD by the German Metal Queen Doro in the middle of a traffic jam, it struck me like thunder, when the ending lyrics revealed its tribute: "You were out hero, our only hero, you were a hero, Ronnie-James Dio, your were a hero like no one..." I would remember buying my very first Rainbow longplayer "Rising" by recommendation of a classmate, and reading a comparison of two interviews by the former Warlock-frontwoman with some 20 years in between. Among things that had changed in between were her favourite songs and... height!
"Flirting with a beauty model, as old as his daughter, he makes a fool of himself, dancing to 'Smoke on the Water' -
Baggert er bei einem Model, grad so alt wie seine Daughter, tanzt er sich zu einem Trottel bei 'Smoke on the Water!'"
(Rainhard Fendrich, 1993, Midlife Crisis)
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