When Rock and Roll Was All That Mattered

Here’s one: next year it will be 30 years since Talk Is Cheap came out. That’s almost half the lifetime of rock and roll ago. I came across the album today and put it on, and it all came flooding back: the Keef SNL appearance, the elbows, the big hammer-on chords, the glitter on Steve Jordan’s crash cymbal…mostly I think back to going with 2 of my best friends to see Keith and the X-Pensive Winos in concert (in support of his 5 years later followup, Main Offender – also a pretty sold album). I thought about how we would just talk like Keith for hours on end, tell cruel Brian Jones jokes in Keith voice, and going to the show was of course the apex – the final scene in the movie. Keith Richards – king of the goddamn world. We’d seen The Stones, but this was Keith. I remember dancing all night inside Massey Hall, 20 minutes of Happy, and afterwards all walking out into the cold winter night, talking about Keith, talking about all the chicks we were going to score (never happened), talking like Keith more, just floating on air. For all the wanting it just felt like life couldn’t possibly get any better.

We used to argue – ARGUE – all day and night about bands. Blood feuds. I remember other things existing – girlfriends…jobs…parents – but ultimately the only thing that mattered was rock and roll. And oddly, every morning when I wake up, rock and roll still makes a truly impassioned fight to be the only thing that’s gonna matter in the day. It tries – really hard! – and I fan the flames with all I have. I listened over and over to Talk Is Cheap tonight, and thought about those 2 friends, one now fighting for his life in rehab, the other years removed from speaking to him over words that were said about a loved one’s passing. One of our other best friends, recently back in the picture after decades and helping friend 1 get his life back together. He’s been battling cancer for the better part of a decade. Others recently rediscovered and reunited with, still others faded into the irrelevancy of old memories via the passage of time. We were all so close once. I look at my son and ruminate on how the world we’re raising him in in October 2017 faces a fractionally way-too-high possibility of nuclear annihilation. New days come, the sun rises, and with it the need to make money, the need to balance every priority with that of an equal’s (my lovely wife….OK, greater than an equal), to teach my boy right from wrong, to make music, to make money….to savor all our time.

The Keith years were the END of high school. As far as we knew, we were past the drama, past the benders, embarking on mellow adult life. Rock and roll had carried us through our teens, and now was taking its rightful place as the still dominant force in our pending middle age years (ie. early 20’s). Absolutely impossible for me to have predicted it would ever have had any competition from anything else life was going to throw at any of us, or at least at me. You can let a flame burn forever, but the days when it’s the only flame…those days are to be cherished forever and ever. Once new fires start, they don’t go out. I get to see the world like that again just a little bit through my little boy’s eyes. It’s the greatest gift ever. I love all my old friends, and all my old memories. You shouldn’t take it so hard, it’s only rock and roll.

Next week I’m going into the studio to start my 8th album. This is the one. Sometimes when you organize everything else, make room, stay stubborn, push, fight, elbow and claw, rock and roll can still be the only thing that matters. At least for a little while.

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