I tend to keep score. My life isn’t as fancy as others’, my home is humbler, my vacations are simpler, my bed sure as hell is emptier, my “career” less fulfilling, my dreams less realized.
Since i have little or no “confident middle ground,” I tend to balance those low scores out (in the “standings” I mentally keep) with arrogance. “Deserved” or not, it’s there all the same. My musical, literary, political, lifestyle opinions and preferences are of course better and more important than anyone else’s. I don’t believe I write any better, or as well as, any “blogging buddies,” but I sure as heck write better than most published authors today. Did you know that the books in the “Shades of Gray” series are non-recyclable (something about the covers)? So this one used bookstore made a fort out of the books that were turned in to them. If people read them for the smut, why return them so soon? Does the average reader constantly need new input for those “quality alone times” in the bathtub? Wouldn’t the same old S & M paragraphs do for a lot of “happy endings?”
One category in my scorekeeping which I’m unsure to put at the top of the heap or the bottom, is with mental health. Though I’m certifiably an “odd duck,” my mental illness I would put more in the realm of Michael-Jordan-the-minor-league-baseball-player level, rather than Michael-Jordan-the worldbeater-all-time-great-basketball-champ level. What I’m saying is: I shower every day despite my bouts with depression, I’ve never been a cutter, never (yet) been institutionalized, wasn’t abused or neglected as a child. My suicidal thoughts have only ever amounted to: “I wouldn’t mind if a plane crashed into my house while I slept tonight,” rather than “I’m going to use this specific method to do myself in.”
Anyway, like a lot of folks, I get in a funk sometimes, and a bigger funk other times, and not just because of our upcoming Presidential nightmare. In June, I was having some sort of odd health thing, which has, for now (knock on wood), eased up. When I was in for my checkup, I mentioned to the doc, in my always-charming and carefully-measured way, “Sometimes I think I need ‘happy’ pills, but I mostly think I’m just unhappy rather than depressed.” She quizzed me about a couple things, said that I had a family history of depression (true) and “a lot on my plate,” and that she takes anti-depressants herself. She told me that we are “wired differently” from other people, ones who don’t get depressed. I also told her the unvarnished truth about how much I was drinking. She figured that I was using alcohol when I should have been using anti-depressants, and not drinking so much, instead. So I’ve been trying some generic Lexapro for 5 weeks now. Sometimes it seems to perk me up, but it definitely makes me tired. Sleep is something I’ve gotten a lot better at since early July. It also seems to act like a “doubler” at times for any buzz, be it coffee or beer or whatnot.
But, and believe it or not, before the sun explodes or Trump gets elected and we all die in his upcoming nuclear holocaust, I’m finally relating something in reference to the title of this post. I take “I hate the world” mental health days off from work, and sometimes go to a bigger town to the used CD/used album/used games/used DVDs/used book store. One day in May I spied a “Live at Leeds” CD, by the Who, from Valentine’s Day 1970. There are various versions of it; the original vinyl had 8 songs, I believe, mine has 14 songs, and I believe there is another version which has most of the concert. I’ve always valued vocals and lead guitar over bass and drums, have always figured the rhythm section is there to back the “front men,” have always looked down my snooty nose at punks who drive around with sub-woofers blaring out “thumpthumpthompthompthumpthumpthomp” (well, it is all you can hear outside their vehicle; maybe they can hear some vocals and guitar, but all we on the outside can hear is “thump”).
I can also crank my music “to hell” in my trailer in my deluxe trailer court, because the trailers are laid out end-to-end like houses, rather than “parallel-parked,” like your basic trailer court shithole. But I can only crank the tunes like that if it’s early or if I keep the bass down, because the bass just cuts through the distance a lot more.
So, long story short, I knew of the Who from Woodstock, from their hit singles in the ’60s, from “Quadrophenia” and “Who’s Next,” but never till this spring have I properly turned up the bass to hear the wizardry of Keith Moon on drums and John Entwistle on bass. To be fair, I didn’t really realize how much I liked Pete Townshend’s guitar till this May. I knew I liked his songs, but none of my college friends had “Tommy,” so I missed that album till 2016, except, that is, for “Pinball Wizard,” “Acid Queen,” “I’m Free,” and the last part of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (the Who song, not the totally different Twisted Sister song). After “Live at Leeds,” I picked up “Tommy,” then “Who’s Next,” “Live at the Isle of Wight Festival,” and “Meaty, Beaty, Big, and Bouncy.”
I’m not here to tell you that Moon and Entwistle were the best rhythm team ever, just that I love them and don’t know how I possibly got by the first 60 years of my life without hearing them more or less constantly. Moon’s usually listed in the top 10 and Entwistle is usually listed 1st in best drummer/best bassist rankings. (Jaco P. notwithstanding) Except for an occasional YT video, all I’ve listened to this summer, when not in public or at work, has been The Who. Hey, you’re talking about a guy here who had the Greatest Hits of Patty Smyth/not Smith on his car CD player for a solid year. “You dream in color; my life goes in black and blue” indeed.
I mainly listen to the rock opera “Tommy,” from 1969, and the two live albums, both from 1970. They purposely played at the University of Leeds on Valentine’s Day 1970 in order to record a live album, then were recorded at the festival at The Isle of Wight at the end of August. Everyone of these has “Amazing Journey/Sparks” on it, which showcases the three main instrumentalists as well as any of their songs does. It starts with some kinda spacey, kinda fruity lyrics, just a couple lines, then there’s a power guitar chord, then Moon starts pounding on the drums like a newly-minted masturbator punishing Little Waldo. I have driven back and forth in my town, across the state, and all over the Black Hills of South Dakota with this and other Who masterpieces blaring away like it’s 1971 and I’m some crazy teenager. And fuck the world if they don’t like it.
After their appearance at Woodstock in August ’69, and the inclusion on the soundtrack album of the last two parts of their song “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” it was decided to put those last 2 parts of the song as a single. It made it to number 12 on the U.S. singles charts. I remember liking it a lot, but forgot about it for many years. It’s a repeated theme throughout “Tommy,” as well as included on extended versions of “My Generation,” so it’s there to sing along with a number of times. So this one summer day a few weeks ago, I was driving on a 4-lane street, singing along at the top of my voice, and Roger Daltrey starts belting out this really plaintive “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me,” and right when I’m singing along with “Touch me,” there’s this girl, say 18-22, on a moped beside me. Of course, I chortled and snorted in embarrassed laughter, hid my face and got out of there. I’m sure she wanted to hear a grandfatherly-type singing “Touch me, heal me” to her on Main Street.
So, yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing the last 3 months, hanging out in my shed that now has electricity, getting impaired on beer or whatnot, listening to the Who on CDs, blasting my eardrums out with one of the best rhythm sections in rock history. Plus of course one of a handful of great British lead rock singers, and the amazing fuzz guitar and songwriting of Pete Townshend. I especially love the aforementioned songs, plus “Heaven and Hell,” “Can’t Explain,” “Fortune Teller,” “Tattoo,” “Go to the Mirror,” the totally twisted “Cousin Kevin,” “Acid Queen,” “Overture” and “Underture.” Moon and Entwistle just keep marching on.
Haven’t written here for a long time. Haven’t felt like it. Had to, or thought I had to, pare down a letter to the editor (our city likes to waste money) back in March, to 300 words to meet their submission guidelines. Turns out, they’ll take longer letters. Anyway, though I could use some editing at times, taking the meat out of my letter, by paring it from 1000 words to 300 words, left a bad taste in my mouth.
Odds and ends:
-Moon and Entwistle both met early demises, Moon in 1978 at age 32, and Entwistle in 2002 at age 57. Moon went on an overdose of sedatives which were used to alleviate his alcohol withdrawal symptoms, but really had been drinking himself to death for years, especially after he ran over and killed his friend and driver John Boland, in 1970.
-Entwistle went out in true rock legend style, on an OD of coke, in bed with a Vegas hooker. Early reports claimed a “massive cocaine overdose,” which was later thought to be a moderate coke intake and an undiagnosed heart issue.
-Townshend’s trademark arm-whipping guitar-crashing play was the result of him watching Keith Richards whip his arm around. He thought it a cool technique; turned out later that Richards was only warming up his arm, softball-thrower style, but it served Pete well.
-Townshend mostly wanted Moon to play “rat-a-tat-tat,” say, but Moon would usually play something more like “ratta-tatta-tatta-tat-tat.” But they got by well until Keith got too fucked up. Once he took some horse tranquilizers or some shit, and drank of course, and passed out twice, resulting in a drummer from the audience filling in for a few songs.
-The Who played the loudest rock concert ever, at 126 decibels in London in 1976 (loudest ever for about 8 years anyway). John would stack amps and wire each string of his bass to a pickup. Reports say that he mostly read lips towards the end of his life, and Townshend has lost all the high tones in his hearing.
-The Who was playing in Cincinnati in December 1979 when the crowd tried to funnel into only 2 open doors. 11 young people were killed in the crush of people. The Who wasn’t told till after the show; the promoters were supposedly afraid that the crowd would riot if the band didn’t play.
-Don’t you think that the last lines of the rock opera album “Tommy,” that is, the last lines of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” are great things to say to anyone?
Listening to you, I get the music
Gazing at you, I get the heat
Following you I climb the mountain
I get excitement at your feet
Right behind you, I see the millions
On you, I see the glory
From you I get opinions
From you I get the story
Indeed, my blogging friends, I do get excitement at your feet.
As the announcer at the Isle of Wight said: “Ladies and Gentlemen, a nice little group from Shepherd’s Bush, London–the ‘Oo.”