Tuesday, September 04, 2007

It's better to burn out / Than it is to rust

Between other books, I've been reading bits and pieces of Charles Cross' Kurt Cobain bio 'Heavier Than Heaven'. It's quite good. It's also disturbing when you realize how short his life really was. I was reading last night about the recording of their first album when it hit me that, at the time, Cobain had just six years left to live.

What is it with rock stars and their habit of dying at the age of 27? Off the top of my head, this happened to Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. Odd.

'Smells like Teen Spirit' was one of those touchstone songs for me. I can still remember hearing it for the first time, in my bedroom in Corunna, on a radio station from Detroit. I just had to stop and listen, knowing I was hearing something new, something revolutionary even. Those crunching chords, the angsty howl, the loud-soft-loud dynamic - it was perfect, or perfect for me.

The only other time I had a song affect me so deeply was the first time I heard Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone'. Same illumination, much different song.

It's sad sometimes to think that I will probably never have that same gut reaction to a song ever again. From what I've read, it's all biology. We are only wired to experience that much emotion for so short a time, and then things even out. That's why the music you heard in your teens still resonates decades later (a scary thought for the one-time fans of the boy bands and pop tarts that brought in this century. . . but I digress).

I'm not immune to this. I still go back to the stuff of my youth, even the harder stuff. I'm glad to have DOA, the Dead Kennedys and Metallica in my collection, even if I don't pull them out that often.

In spite of this, I still try to find new sounds. I still go looking for the epiphany. I pick up new songs and artists compulsively and my tastes have changed. For instance, there is a lot more country in my collection than I would have once though possible (country being the good old stuff, not the new pop with stetson stuff). I have a lot of pop and rock in my collection, from Feist to Spoon and beyond. I've even dabbled in electronic stuff. While I've never really been ahead of the curve, I still know the curve is there and I'm not afraid of it.

It's only at times like this, when I really think about it, that I start wishing it could be different. For all my love of new sounds, I hate the fact that they'll never hit as hard or ring as true as the stuff I listened to a decade and a half ago. It just seems sad.

It can't be helped. Time does roll on. And I guess I wouldn't have it any way. I'm glad I was where I was, when I was. I'm glad that I came of age when I did, in a time when a trio of flannel wearing freaks who could name check both Leonard Cohen and the Pixies rewrote the book for a short while.

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