“The road to rock and roll heaven is paved by the bleached skulls of guys like him.”
I don’t know who said that. It wasn’t me, I’m pretty sure. It’s a bit too clever for me. Actually it sounds like something may have said in a review somewhere. I Googled the phrase, but came up with nothing. I’ve used it several times in published stories. No one has come forward to claim it, so I guess it’s mine to use as I see fit. Why am I so interested in this one goofy phrase? Because I am that guy!
The road to rock and roll heaven is definitely paved with the bleached skulls of guys like me! Guys who toiled in the slagheap, down in the trenches, and rose to the top. Guys who overcame the odds and broke through, only to realize it was only the first step of yet another journey. Guys who had a few hit records, got a taste of the big time, and then…
It’s even worse if you made it to the top of the mountain a couple of times. Don’t get me wrong, I’m damn proud of what I achieved, and I feel blessed to have even had the opportunity. But, let’s face it, I’m probably not going to make the R&R Hall Of Fame, unless the nominating committee gets really lax and they start running out of warm bodies. That’s OK. At this point in time I’d probably stand a better chance going in as a writer or a broadcaster. How’s that for irony?
I had a great run, and, more importantly, I’ve made the most of my post rock star days. I feel like I have the best of both worlds. The band still plays and I still get a kick out of it, but the pressure is off. I don’t have to prove myself anymore; I can just focus on having fun.
Actually, I’m quite happy with my lot in life. I’m doing great. There are plenty of bitter ex-rockers who feel that they should have had more success, but I’m sure not one of them. Not by a long shot. It’s all about life after rock and roll. The bleached skulls. Let’s deconstruct that phrase and get to the chewy center. There comes a point in most professional musician’s careers, where they are poised on the brink of mega-stardom, but something happens. They either move on up the ladder of success or they get stymied and start to lose ground. The Gods decide the fates. As far as we mere mortals are concerned, it’s out of our hands. Yes, we work our fingers to the bone, but there’s something more.
When I started the band, all we wanted was to be able to make a living and have some fun playing gigs. We were young and idealistic. We considered ourselves artists. Once we got to the big leagues and started making records, we realized it was all business. We had to deliver time and time again. Sometimes we hit the bulls-eye, sometimes we didn’t. In those days, you could get album cuts played on FM radio and we could tour and play clubs based on the homegrown airplay. It was a simpler world then. We didn’t have a bona fide hit single until our 7th album, which would be unheard of nowadays. No matter. Hard work and determination paid off eventually.
Nothing came easy for my band. We had to prove ourselves every night, every record, every song. We didn’t have huge budgets and giant record companies and high-powered booking agents. We had to work harder. We had to get lucky.
You can’t do it unless you love it. Fame is a harsh mistress. I was a babe in the woods when we started. Good thing, too, because if I had known how much work it would be, I probably would have dropped out. But, who thinks about that kind of stuff when you’re starting a band? Certainly not I. The template for most bands goes something like this: you’re the and all the world is the show. You never think about ten or twenty years later.
The number one occupational hazard of being a rock star is losing your mind. It happens all the time. Amazingly, I still have my wits about me. After a lifetime of rock and roll you’d think I’d be sitting off in a corner drooling. But, no, I live to fight another day.
Once the roller coaster went over the top of that first big incline, and started down the chute, the ride for my band was intense. We hung on for dear life. Some were thrown from the train. I watched them go over the side, arms and legs akimbo, grasping for footholds that weren’t there. Somehow, I managed to hang on. Looking back on my music career, I can definitely see the fickle finger of fate at work. If I hadn’t reinvented myself several times over the years, I’d have gone bonkers.
No one explained to me that the odds for success were a million to one. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. To this day I always begin a new project like that. I don’t think about the odds; I just jump in and start swimming.
I didn’t know it was hard to write novels, I just wrote a couple to see how it went and before you knew it, I got published. Same thing when I got into radio. I didn’t think about it, I just did it. The microphone goes on- you talk. The microphone goes off- you stop talking. Simple, right? once told me, “If you’re thinkin’, you’re stinkin’.” Man, was he right.
The bleached skulls? Indeed. They are we. And we are they.
Trod upon them lightly.