I have been on a nostalgia kick for a while, now. YouTube is a place where I spend quite a bit of free time. I love watching all the old commercials. You know. The very same commercials I used to wish I could skip. We couldn’t skip, though. There was only live tv when I was a kid. No DVRs, no streaming sites, no saving your favorite shows, no skipping commercials. Just ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and if you were lucky, a few local UHF channels. Well, maybe lucky isn’t the word to use here. There really wasn’t ever anything worth watching on the UHF channels. If you youngin’s out there want a clue as to the reputation UHF had, there is a movie of that name (UHF) made by Weird Al Yankovich. Watch it. It will show you what was expected (which wasn’t much) of UHF programming. You’ll also get to see Michael Richards (Seinfeld’s ‘Kramer’) in one of his earliest roles.
I’ve also been enjoying watching uploaded VHS recording of hours long blocks of MTV, back when it still played music. Billy Squire, Journey, Billy Idol, Pat Benatar, A Flock of Seagulls, Level 42 (One of my all time favorites.)! All of them, one after another, pulling memories forward with each track. Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood, JJ Jackson, Martha Quinn (oh Martha, we could have been awesome together)! All the names, all the faces, all the music causing floods of memories, good and bad, to pour into my head. It’s wonderful, comforting, and …………well…………to put it simply, sad.
Watching all these faces that I knew as much as I knew my own face makes one wonder what they are doing now. Enter, internet. The first realization I had was just how many of these famous faces who were dead. A lot. There were quite a few audible “Awww, he’s/she’s gone!” statements as Prince, Tom Petty, George Harrison (I Got My Mind Set On You!), and the sorely missed Freddie Mercury, and sooooo many more, as they rocked onto my screen. Sad.
Freddie brings us to my current week. On Tuesday, I bought the movie. That night, I only watched the extras. I had my Survivors of Suicide Loss meeting that night, so by the time I got home, it would have pushed me far too late into the night to watch the movie. That was my thinking, at least. But then, in the extras is the ENTIRE ‘Live Aid’ twenty minute Queen set, recreated for the movie. (The show does not appear in it’s entirety in the film. Only in the extras.) Holy Shit! It gave me chills that rival watching the real performance. I watched it live (on tv) as it aired. It was one of the moments that turned me toward performance. I had never seen anyone so easily command an audience like Freddie.
I had known Queens music. Most people did. There was a time when you couldn’t turn on a radio (Yes, radio. Remember this is the past.) without hearing ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ pumping out of the speakers. But remember. This was the eighties. You couldn’t hop online and search ‘Queen Live’ back then. There was no online! The only way to see a live show was to go to the show. Most people hadn’t been to a Queen show. We had no idea of the energy, power, command, or dominance they had live. This band was a powerhouse! That day, we all found out why their longtime fans were loyal to a fault. They lived up to the name. Yes. This was rock royalty. They are a ‘Killer Queen’!
I remember one moment in particular. The song was ‘Radio Ga Ga’. A love song to radio, seeing it’s popularity was waning to the exact scene that propelled Queen into stardom. If you don’t know the song, there is a mid-section where there is a clapping rhythm, perfectly designed for a massive crowd to be a part of. The camera swung around behind the band, pointing it’s lens over Freddie’s head, showcasing the crowd. Oh my, what a visual. This sea of countless people, arms raised, clapping in perfect unison. All orchestrated by this band. This man. Wow! From the moment he had walked onto the stage, Freddie had complete control over, not only the crowd of thousands in front of him at Wembley, but thousands more watching on a giant screen far across the ocean in Philidelphia! I saw that mass of people, every single one of them, united in enjoyment! All of it conducted by one man. Freddie Mercury. Freddie Fucking Mercury! Watching him made me realize what I wanted to do. I mean, it seemed like a pretty damn good job. I wanted that job.
I wanted that job so bad it hurt. I still want that fucking job. I was good at it. I was no Freddie Fucking Mercury (Even though a manager who was courting my band, at the time, compared me to him often.). Nobody could be. One of a kind, that one. But so am I. So why not me?
Well, I gave it a hell of a shot! I did pretty well, too. There are several faces that pop up in my walks down MTV memory lane who I now have personal experiences with. From sharing a stage to actually being able to consider a few as friends, I was amazed at the number of personal connections I had acquired over the years. Some stories would be SFW, many not so much. For many years, I lived the life. The highs are higher than a hippie on a helicopter ride, and the lows are lower than the Mariana Trench. The highs were always worth the cost of the lows, for me, at least. It was a tough life. It thickened my skin. One could say that the life MS took from me actually helped prepare me for dealing with it. Ironic, don’t you think?
Today, at forty eight, continually creeping closer to fifty, the nostalgia is a double edged sword. On one side, it’s depressing. I remember the hope, confidence, and endless possibilities for my future that I possessed back then. Watching those old commercials, and especially the old music videos, I remember how confident I was that I would play music as a living for the rest of my life. I knew it! There was no other possibility. Eat, sleep, play music. That was my mantra. It saddens me today, thinking back to a me who believed nothing less than world fame was unacceptable.
On the other side, I remember the hope, confidence, and endless possibilities for my future that I possessed back then. Yes. I know that is the exact same list as the above, depressing list. It honestly depends on the mental state I’m in going into watching these memories. On the good side, these exact same memories that can cause me to be sad about losing my musical abilities, can remind me what it feels like to be excited and hopeful of the future. It’s easy to forget that feeling when one wonders if there is going to be some new symptom showing up any given day. It’s easy to get into a mind set of expecting the next symptom to show up and fuck with one’s life when that is what has been experienced for the past several years. It doesn’t necessarily cheer me up, but it does sometimes cause me to remember I had been optimistic and hopeful at one point in my life. And that it can happen again. It can. I promise. It has to be able to. (Yes, I’m trying to convince myself as well.) Sometimes, that’s all I have. A tiny, almost undetectable, grain of hope has never left me over the years. That hope that just one lucky/opportune moment could change everything for the better. Hey. It could happen!
With that said, I ain’t holdin’ my breath. I’ve still got all the scars that I acquired getting this far. I’m sure there will be more as I get even older. But like Red said in Stephen King’s ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption’ (That’s the book’s title. Read it. It’s much better than the movie.), “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin.” Yep. Those are our two choices. It’s just, sometimes, we don’t get to pick.
Well, that’s about all I have this time. I know these are getting a bit more randomly all over the place, but that’s how my brain works. That’s how I write, and that is what you are getting. My thoughts, straight out of my head. I hope the landscape doesn’t frighten you! See you next time.