Archive for January 8th, 2011

Thanks completely to my dear friend Robbie, I’m now deep into Keith Richards’ “Life”. Not only am I enjoying the read, it’s setting me off in many directions through time, but criss-crossy-convoluted as Keith jumps through all of his.

I’m recalling events directly Stones involved, from the first time I saw them in concert … I must have been 13 or 14 at the time … Brian Jones was alive, of course, Jefferson Airplane opened for them, but before Grace Slick — a girl named Nicki Anderson (not sure of the spelling) sang with them then … to my personal experience with the charming Mr. Richards in New York many years later.

Also coming to mind are the times and the music, the many moments in life set against the backdrop the timeframe dictates and scored by the Rolling Stones. Although I’m not exactly chuffed by the fact that I am now a woman of a certain age, I wouldn’t trade the experiences my era provided for the perky tits of tepid Twentiesville or the smooth-faced bland of Thirtyopolis.

Nope. Although I’m quite a bit younger than Keith and without so much of the rode-hard-put-away-wet-look he’s earned and mastered, living through the time I lived provided something special.

I started young, which ended up being a good thing as by the age of 16 I’d been sent to the hinterlands. Before that, however, I was in the right place at the right time to witness the reinvention of the wheel that rolled over just about every aspect of life as it had been known, and being without much in the way of parental supervision or smarts I had access with buddies or a bus pass providing transport.

Art, literature, fashion, music … all experienced a rebirth, and what popped out was earth-shattering, unexpected. All these changes were considered by many to be mere flashes in the proverbial pan, but considering how many present-day teens flock … and pay a fortune … to hear Keith rockin’ it at 60-some, that would seem to have been a short-sighted view.

Reading through his version of life as I pass this day in paradise, though, I’m wondering how deep the impact of all that change had on me.

For sure, the image of being June to a Ward had little appeal as the world shifted from 50s dregs to 60s mania, although Ricky with the conga was pretty hot. And speaking of Ricky, Ozzie may have had the suit and the nebulous ‘job’, but when his youngest picked up a guitar … well, did they get any cuter? If anyone wanted to be Harriet, I didn’t know them.

Like every teenage girl of the time … and no few teenage boys, as well … I entertained fantasies of portions of life partnered with one of the rock gods who filled every corner of my life from the walls of my bedroom to the tunes playing endlessly everywhere. Not only were they amazing to hear and watch, creative, explosive and beautiful, they were also dangerous bad boys who literally marched to a different drummer.

I watched Jim Morrison stumble around and was enchanted. Coming across Jimi Hendrix blowin’ chips outside the Fillmore was almost a religious experience. (Apparently, it was the flu … yeah, right … ) And I still swear I levitated Country Joe McDonald three feet into the air once at the Avalon …. but the acid was really good in those days, and he didn’t seem to mind too much, although he could be grumpy.

No, there weren’t a lot of ‘nice young men’ taking the stage at that time, at least not in the classic sense of ‘nice’, and I liked that. The rude, crude and raw attracted me like a fly seeks shit and the drama of it all stripped the coating from the wires making everything alive.

What followed was a long string of musician boyfriends … mainly guitar players, although there were a few drummers mixed in, but they are a fidgety bunch … and some were very nice, polite young men who kept their manners about when my parents were looking. None were as dangerous as they appeared to be, nor mean, but some did break my heart and all required ego-feeding at regular intervals. (Funny thing is, the non-musical men had the same bloody ego issues with much the same bloody demands. Go figure. But the fact that they didn’t hang their dicks around their necks demanding adoration did make some difference.)

Gaps happened, years that had no musician serenading day-in-day-out, but soon enough … for sure … they’d pop up again. After my first divorce I went on the road with a wonderful bunch of guys … still friends after all these years … and came across more as decades passed. I fell in love with some. Some fell in love with me. All-in-all … well, it was what it was.

As regular readers know, my last relationship was with … yeah, you’ve got it — a musician … another ‘bad boy’. (And who knows if it’s really bloody over or just on pause, as the contact continues daily and the fat lady has yet to sing real loud.)

My lot now is to figure out if it’s the bad boy thing that draws me or the fucking music. Did Keith and his ilk ruin me for guys with regular jobs? Will I put up with anything as long as there are songs dedicated to me and named for me? Or … do I actually LIKE it? Can strife really be settled with a strum? Is there magic in music soothing my soul even when my nerves fray and my temper flares? Do I NEED the drama?

Reading Keith’s life reminds me that musicians aren’t “normal” people, and thinking on my life has me realizing I’m not “normal” either. As I wasn’t built for mopping in pearls, some aren’t made to put on a suit and head for a ‘job’ and a box and a handle… and maybe … just maybe … that’s okay.

OR …

Maybe it’s time I set aside my … what? fascination? attraction? tolerance? … for musicians and developed more of an appreciation for nice, for reliable & honest, for passions of a sort that don’t require being charted … for those who are satisfied being stars in their worlds and neither need nor seek wider adulation.

The rules broken by Keith Richards and the bulk of my childhood heroes left little in their wake to ski on since the ideas of happy coupledom continued to be based more on June and Ward than Mick and Marianne and that left some confusion over both goals and expectations. Sure, John and Yoko pulled it off, but for the most part musicians have not made for a whole lot of traditional relationships still thought of as ideal. In general, they are demanding, self-centered, self-indulgent, temperamental and insecure, traits that manifest in high levels of self-motivation and creativity, and in behavior not always conducive to a comfortable home life and monogamy.

I’m an artist, which means I must be crazy, and the art and crazy in others draws me … even when my art takes that infernal backseat to theirs. My art is words, and often my words are undervalued … used … considered less than what appears on canvas, sculpted, composed in notes and chords … yet demanded for adulation of all of those. Artists appreciate art and understand the requirements for creating, however, so although what I do may be seen as a useful appendage to musical endeavors it is valued and my work is validated and the processes that take me where I need to go are never questioned.

Writing happens in isolation, not on a stage in front of an audience, and kudos come … when they do … quietly and singularly –“Nice job. Really liked your story. It touched me.” — so is work requiring a different set of needs, but creation is creation, something I have a deep and abiding respect for.

I know how a book gets written, how a poem takes form, how an actor climbs into the skin of a character, even how paint can be applied to canvas with beautiful results, but musicians are versed in a language I can hear, yet never fully understand (and I don’t mean Spanish). The process of creating music seems like magic, magic that casts a spell. It always has.

Does that mean I will forever be subject to falling under the power?


Gee, thanks, Keith …


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