Dancing With Myself

I’ve no explanation as to why, but on a recent trip home from school, I found myself slamming down the 290 while Generation X’s version of “Dancing With Myself” came blasting – yes, turned all the way up to 11 – through my tinny car speakers. Speakers that are surprisingly resilient, considering how tinny in nature they are.

I had started the trip feeling rather overwhelmed – in addition to everything else, I am foolishly taking statistics this semester – and was in search of some sort of inspiration for my next post. The disc being played (A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box Set, disc 3) was supposed to help, and considering that both mood and weather were rather dreary, I would’ve thought that it would have. But I was coming up blank. The disc that was supposed to inspire ended, and in went the next one in the queue, Generation X’s final effort, “Kiss Me Deadly.”

I’ve heard this album a million times before. I knew what song would be coming on first. And still, when the beginning “ba da da da dum de dum dum de dum” lofted through the small interior of my automotive cacoon, I found myself quickly turning up the volume while beating along on my steering wheel. Madly drumming, like some sort of mid-life crisised 43 year old caucasion suburbanite without a care in the world.

Without a care in the world…

That’s it. That’s why it hit me so forcefully. It was a song from back then. From the “not a care in the world days” of my youth. A time that, oddly, seemed simply chock full of cares right then and there. Cares, and drama, worries, strife and, well, “Life!” It wasn’t until years later that I could look back and see that most of the stress and concern from those days really could have been avoided or ignored, had I only the mental capacity and experience I have now. Obviously I realize that had I already possessed the knowledge obtained through my experiences back then, then I wouldn’t actually have said knowledge, as a result of simply not having the experience in the first. What? Oh, never mind, the Whovians who read this will get me. Everyone else can just skip that last bit.

Anwho, back to the song. That glorious, upbeat, in-your-face song. It’s important that you keep in mind that it was the Generation X version, or as they were called by then, “Gen X.” Yes, I fully realize that Billy Idol wrote the song. And I fully realize that he is the singer in both versions as well. But the Gen X version is stronger. More real. The Gen X version was performed by a bunch of kids trying to make something of themselves, vs. a kid recently signed to a somewhat major label that was controlling the strings. The Gen X version is drummed out forcefully by Terry Chimes. Yeah, the same Terry Chimes who had left The Clash to find a better gig. Think he was a touch pissed about his decision? Sure sounds like it here.

Now don’t worry, as I’ll end the post with the song any way, I won’t bore you with too many more of the musical details. But there is one more interesting point to the comparison of the two, especially for those of you who don’t listen through till the end. In Idol’s version, the song fades out. In the Gen X version, it ends. Just ends, plain and simple. A very punk rock idea. Songs end, they don’t fade out. Only record labels would think of that. Only record labels would be concerned with how their product could slide effortlessly into their next product, for the purpose of endless consumption. For the artist however (punk or otherwise), it’s more an idea of “finish the song, frame that bitch and slap it up on a wall for all the world to see – err – hear.” For the artist, it doesn’t need to “slide” into the next work of art, any more than The Mona Lisa slides into whatever painting has the dubious honor of being her next door neighbor. It can stand exactly where it is, survive and thrive on it’s own merit. The Generation X version has that attitude throughout. In it’s pace, it’s energy, it’s spirit and it’s ending. It says “hey, this isn’t a career,” (even though it was always Billy’s intent to make it so), “but rather this is everything. All we got. Our very spirit.”

“You’re reading too much into it, t.” Possibly. But for whatever reason, the last time I heard that song while in search of inspiration I realized that sometimes you don’t need to search. Sometimes you don’t need to think. Sometimes, all that’s required is that you turn it “up to 11,” beat the loving rubber out of your steering wheel and unleash. I can’t go back to those “without a care in the world” days (nor do I want to), but I can rest easy in the knowledge that these current times too, will someday be fondly remembered as relatively carefree and easy. And even then – in that not-so distant future – I’ll still be able to rock it out with Billy and the boys. I’ll just bruise a hell of a lot easier when I do.

•••

See? I told ya that the post that replaced this one on Friday was way better.

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9/19 why i like The Clash

i know, it should have been The Ramones. They seem to be the natural choice for so many others at any rate. But for me, it was The Clash. Always has been and most likely always will be. If you came up to me (after living for more than thirty and some odd years in a bomb shelter or cave of some sort i suppose) and asked, “what is punk?” i would most likely first shake my head slowly in disbelief. Then i would hand you a copy of “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” and tell you to start there.

best punk album ever?

Mind you, The Clash wasn’t my first experience with this thing called “punk rock”. And they weren’t my second either. In fact, had a high school friend not accidentally given me a mixed tape containing both the Sex Pistols and Generation X, instead of whatever heavy metal bands i had actually requested, i might have never “found” The Clash at all. Needless to say, i’m glad my friend screwed up.

The Sex Pistols were offensive, brash and loud, and unlike any heavy metal band i had previously heard in that they quite frankly didn’t give a damn. It came through with every lyric and every poorly played note. Honestly, i loved their bravado far more than their music, and it was only the unsettling twinge coming from deep in my gut – telling me that i might have had just stumbled upon what i would someday end up calling “tribe” – that kept me intrigued. That being said, it did end up taking me years to truly enjoy The Pistols, and other than the fact that they pretty much gave a “face” to punk, i still don’t have much use for them.

Side B of my mix tape had the somewhat more talented Generation X, fronted by a then unknown Billy Idol. While still punk in brashness and snotty attitude, these kids sounded much more put-together musically. Almost like they were trying hard to sound bad. You could also “hear” that they very much dressed the “Rock Star” part because, well, they very much wanted to be Rock Stars. Just in their own way. And of the four, at least one was successful for a spell. Another was just almost with his little project called Sigue Sigue Sputnik (if you’ve never heard of them, skip it – it’s way too late to check them out now since everything they originated has been re-originated by others at later dates, just more successfully). But i digress. In fact, if digression was an invoice-able service, i would be rather wealthy at this point of my blogging career. But again, i find myself digressing even in my digression. So, moving on. All said, Generation X was good – real good. But much like the Pistols, for me they were missing the mark. What the mark i was hoping they would hit was exactly, i had no idea, but miss it they did. As such, the search for “the band” that could really trip my newly found punk rock trigger continued.

Whoever first told me about the Clash, i’m not sure. No, wait, actually i am. It was well before i even received the eye-opening, ear-popping tape noted above. i first heard of them from both my classmates and advertisers when they opened for The Who on their infamous farewell tour. The first one. At the time i was listening to – well, i’m not sure as to what i actually was listening to at the time. Haven’t the faintest idea now. But i did know that The Clash was no band for me – for the obvious reason that they couldn’t be any sort of good if they didn’t play the type of music (and i really do wish i could figure out what that was now…) that i was involved with at the time. The second time i heard of them, i can’t remember who told me or why. But i do remember that the first disc (of the vinyl variety) i bought to test them out was “Combat Rock“. i won’t tell you i had any sort of “instant audio orgasm” upon first hearing it, because i didn’t. It was OK. Strong A side, but a weird B. Gladly, my impression of the first side won out, because my next purchase was to put the first and last nail in my Clash coffin. That’s right, next up i bought “Sandinista!“. No, no, no, my next purchase was “London Calling” of course. And like everyone else on the planet who has ever heard it (with open ears at any rate), my Clash fandom was solidified. So much so, that i eventually did go out and buy even “Sandinista!“, and after many listens grew to finally understand, and later enjoy, its musical depths as well.

And i believe that’s why i love the Clash so much – it’s because they were Solid. Good. Difficult. In short, i believe they respected their craft, their audience – and music in general – enough as to not make it easy to “get” the first time ’round. In addition, they refused to cut corners in their music or lyrics, and they used both to raise awareness instead of just press. They sang about things that mattered, things that needed changing. Just the other day i was explaining to my youngest what it meant when Joe sang “let me tell you ’bout your blood, bamboo kid – it ain’t Coca Cola, it’s rice…”. Genius in effectively comparing two totally different cultures that once, collided just long enough to start an entirely “new breed” to the human race. A breed that is shunned by both sides of its ancestry. A breed that found a champion in a little punk band from London, U.K. known as The Clash.

As i mentioned before, i know that it should have been the Ramones, but their 2 minute tracks of blister and volume simply serve to bore and annoy me after not too long. With The Clash, i can listen again and again. i know it should have been The Ramones in that without them, you wouldn’t even have The Clash. But in all honesty, without The Clash, we might not have punk rock music at all.

For while the Ramones may have given punk the sound and the fury – and The Pistols gave it the look and the attitude – it took The Clash to provide it with it’s intelligence and it’s Soul, and it has survived thirty and some odd years as a result.

And that is why i like The Clash. Now, why do you?