With my square jaw, ready smile and closet full of perfectly starched Brooks Brothers button-downs, no one believes I was a hard-rocking long-hair as I described in my recent Headbanger column. Here is the proof you need, a picture of me in 1975:
As you can see, I still have the movie star looks. However, I seemed to be lacking an athletic build. For the sake of consistency, I still lack an athletic build.
What’s with that hair? I remember we had just moved back to the United States from Canada. Although Canada is a fine country, giving us hockey and Michael J. Fox, it is years behind the times- American Graffiti just opened there this past weekend. Canadian movie reviewers see big things ahead for newcomer Richard Dreyfuss. While long hair was cool in Canada in 1975, in Des Moines, Iowa, it meant you were an outlaw or a Democrat or worse.
Despite this, I kept it long to make the jocks mad. So, they harassed me constantly. As I walked by the gym one day, one wrestler bone-head tried to tackle me. I hip-checked him into a stack of boxes of macaroni and cheese the cheerleaders were collecting for a food drive. Later that fall he jumped me outside a basketball game and shoved my face in the snow.
What helped get me through was rock and roll. And girls. The girls faces have changed. But, I still have my copy of Deep Purple’s “Made In Japan”, featuring one of their greatest songs, “Woman From Tokyo”. I still have KISS’ “Hotter than Hell”, Led Zeppelin’s classic first album and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. Come back, baby, rock and roll never forgets.
Neither do rockers. Katy Barker from Martinez, California writes, “I listened to all the hard-rock/heavy metal in my younger days too I still like it even though I’m old).” A reader from Massachusetts writes, “I was pretty drunk at my first Aerosmith concert. The beer had done its job so I wandered through the theater, looking for a men’s room. I opened a random door and walked into Aerosmith’s dressing room. They were all so young then- and scared because the place was sold out and the crowd was raising holy hell. I hung out for 5 minutes with them before some burly dude tossed me out.”
Some younger readers scoffed at my description of “hard rock”. Marty Beckerman, humor writer and author of the new book All Cheerleaders Must Die ( www.martybeckerman.com ), wrote, “I’m sorry, did you just refer to Metallica as hardcore?? Check out the new Rancid album for that.” I tried to rally by explaining that I had an older Rancid CD called “.. And Out Came the Wolves”. He wrote, ” ‘Wolves’ was a great alterna-punk album, but the new Rancid (has a big skull on the cover) is some of the hardest stuff I’ve ever heard. Really good if you can handle it.”
If I can handle it? Ouch.
Most of the mail was from fellow aging rockers like Ben Baker, editor of Net Wits Magazine, a new humor monthly, wrote from Ashburn, Georgia, quoting KISS and “some other band”: “Loud. I want it loud. Right between the eyes. Loud. Wanna hear it loud. Don’t want no compromise. Yeah. Turn it up. I want it louder. Got to gimme some more.”
Mr. Baker continued, “One day I shall have a full concert stereo system in my personal vehicle. I shall park in the middle of my largest field, crank the sucker to the max, start a bonfire visible from space and have a giant party for all my aging and decrepit headbanger chums. Yer invited. Bring yer owner walker. I’ll supply the geritol.”
Angela Gillaspie from Alabaster, Alabama wrote, “AC/DC rocks and old farts rule. Rock on.” I like that. I don’t know if I’m an old fart yet. But even then, at 75 or 80, I’ll be cruising the streets of Palm Springs in my Cadillac, blaring “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”.