I have a new neighbor. He moved in a couple of months ago. It took me about 11 seconds to decide he was a douche. Maybe 12. Anyway, 2 weeks ago he introduced me to his girlfriend. She, politely, pointed out that they were on their way to their first date (Olive Garden according to him) and weren’t actually in a relationship. Just consider this moment as added evidence to his douche-baggery. Especially the whole Olive Garden thing. Set aside the fact that the food sucks, “Here baby, have some free salad” isn’t all that romantic. Okay, back on point. Yesterday the nice lady, and she is very nice, broke up with him. In the hallway. She claimed, surprise surprise, that he was a drama queen and given to over-reactions. She then turned on heel and walked away while he started crying over the lost love of his life. Yes, I remind you that this is two weeks in. He cried for five hours. At times sobbing. At times wailing and at times making this keening noise akin to brake failure on a freight train. Then, because we are discussing a man who’s in complete control of his emotions and social behavior, cranked up a boom box and began playing Royals for the next three hours. Obviously nothing says “lost love” like a song that has nothing to do with love, lost or otherwise.
I used to like that song.
Nevertheless, while the douche-bag may be destined to a short shelf life no matter what he does, others have success that lasts decades. I am limiting this blog to five bands that have, as best as possible, stayed together for the long haul. Solo performers have it much easier. Bands are, essentially, caravans of gypsies. Yes the wagons get nicer when you’re successful but life on the road isn’t a first class ticket to sing at a hotel no matter how well appointed the bus may be.
Here we go.
(1) The Rolling Stones. Founded in 1962, they haven’t been relevant since 1978, on the Some Girls tour, and now they charge $250 or better to see them live, but back in the day the Glitter Twins made some of the best rock and roll on the planet, with Her Majesty’s Request being an admitted mistake, and changed the way millions of people thought about music. Even on the Some Girls tour, which I saw, tickets were reasonable and you could win them, as I did, on WLUP, which was also relevant back then. However, just as the Stones were set to slide into obscurity or playing corner bars for kicks, CLASSIC ROCK was born. Radio geared for a target audience of middle aged white men with money. More importantly middle aged white men with families that they had to introduce to their favorite music. The Stones figured that whatever these idiots would pay to see a football game, about $100 a pop when they started these stadium tours, that’s what they would charge. That is still their philosophy. God bless them.
(2) Parliament Funkadelic. Started in the late 50’s by George Clinton as a doo-wop group they morphed into two of the greatest funk collectives ever known, Parliament and Funkadelic (until 1972 they were on different labels although they were actually the same band – well, it was the 70’s, there was lots of confusion). The Parliament side of the group was the more pop sounding affair while Funkadelic took psychedelia and R&B and fused them into art. The collective spawned Bootsy’s Rubber Band, The Brides of Funkenstein and several others. But the original group, including the latest iteration of it’s famous mothership is still playing selected dates. So the next time someone tells you they’re gonna turn this mutha out, you can thank George Clinton and his merry band of miscreants.
(3) ZZ Top. Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill & Frank Beard hooked up in 1969 in Houston Texas. Utilizing three chords, one beat and vocals that barely spanned four notes, forget about an octave, they became the unlikely darlings of the working class. Considering that the singers look more like Hasidic rabbis than rockers, unlikely may be an understatement. Still, by the mid-70’s they were selling out stadiums performing shows that featured live bulls, a stage shaped like Texas (this was before Texas went insane) and convincing teenage girls to take off tier tops for ZZ Top. I know, I was there. I haven’t see that many tits outside of a strip club in my life. My buddy, who was, and is, older and wiser than me advised me to go without a date. Dear God was that a good call. If you couldn’t get laid at a ZZ Top concert it’s off to the monastery for you. But if boobs aren’t your thing, here’s some Tush. Something else that was on display in great abundance that day.
(4) The Stranglers. Classically trained punk band may seem like an oxymoron, but this multi-million selling group (that you probably never heard of) has made it work for 40 straight years of touring. Think about that. 40 years on the road. No breaks, no year off here or there, just 40 years of non-stop rock and roll. Their first single that hit late night radio in the U.S. in 1977 was called Get a Grip and it changed my fucking religion. The band had already been touring Europe for three years at that time. Unlike the other bands noted above The Stranglers kept writing, kept being political, never shied from satire and saw their drummer celebrate his 75th birthday by appearing in their latest music video, a catchy rip on climate change deniers. Anyway, 2014 is their 40th Anniversary tour, catch them if you can. It used to be that if you left a Stranglers show without being bloodied or bruised you weren’t really there (I still have the scar). Things are a little calmer now.
(5) Shonen Knife. These are the youngsters here today, another million selling act most Americans don’t know. Founded in 1981 these three young ladies epitomize Japanese pop music. They also epitomize raw punk. You see they do the, Cheap Trick influenced, girly stuff for their label, some very cute pop songs that sell kazillions, and then they pull out their strap ons and leathers (not literally) and go play live. It is here that I should mention that Shonen Knife literally translates to Boy Knife. That is not a flattering phrase for a penis, just in case you’re confused. To put it in some perspective they almost didn’t do a U.K. tour with Nirvana because they were scary looking men and they had no clue who they were (this was pre Never Mind). Here is Yamano’s take on the whole affair, ” … I went to a record store, and I bought their CD. And when I saw their photograph, I thought they might be scary persons, because their hairstyles and their clothes were very grunge. But once the tour had started, I noticed that all the members were nice, good persons. And because this was our first experience of a long tour, the drummer Dave [Grohl] helped us with setting up the drum kit.”
Yeah, the only thing cooler than having Trent Reznor be your tambourine player has got to be having Nirvana be your roadies.
So there you go. Click the links, play with fire, date a red head (only if you’re single), hell, do whatever you want, you’ve lived long enough to take a chance here and there.
As have they.