I sometimes wonder about today’s music and the youth that listen to it. For the last few years I have wondered if the music of my youth, my adolescence is just dead, maybe that’s why so many bands continue playing like the last gasp of a dying animal. The rock and roll I grew up with is dead replaced by something strange and electronic. My youth though had all the great bands, bands left over from the 60’s and the rock gods of the 70’s. I saw a lot of them, not as many as some, more than others but since this is my blog we will keep the focus on me.
In Texas we had these huge summer concerts that came every year sometimes played in the Cotton Bowl sometimes Texas Stadium. They called it the Texas Jam. The first band would start playing around 11 maybe a little later and the last band would go on late. It was music all day. I went to most of these through high school maybe even a couple in college, although honestly most of them were forgettable, not nearly as good as seeing one band in concert for one great show. In the summer before my junior year, just 16 years old my cousin and I were supposed to go to the Jam but he pulled out at the last minute and sold me his ticket. I literally forgot about it until the last minute and my friend Guy and I drove to Dallas at like 2 am. We parked, slept a little in the car and then when gates opened we made our way down to the field. Astroturf in the Texas Summer was essentially a roasting pan. We had very little money, no sunscreen and my fair skin just burned. There was a group of older young adults behind us and they shared sunscreeen and food with us. Somehow Guy scrounged some money and I sold the few loose joints I had on me except for 2. So we endured and then the music played. Don’t ask me who played, the usual suspects I am sure; Ted Nugent, Nazareth, I think Boston later. Somewhere in the late afternoon I discovered that I had a big wad of gum in my hair and for the rest of the day I worried at it and got part of it out. It was in there, sweaty nasty hair with a wad of gum. Guy and I moved for the last couple of acts into the stands and I worried at this gum some more. Naturally Guy said it would have to be cut out. Some time during the day the drains clogged so the outside of the field flooded and we had to walk through ankle to mid calf high water to get to the stands. It was just more misery, now my feet were wet with nasty disgusting water, I was sunburned and there was a wad of gum in my hair. The last band was Heart.
Has there ever been a band that has reinvented themselves or made as many comebacks as Heart? Even now, after Ann and Nancy Wilson spent the last couple of years quietly feuding they are back. It’s an odd thing to wax and wane the way they have but they have been to the depths only to rise again. They started off so well too one of the best debut albums ever with the songs Magic Man and Crazy On You with one of those iconic guitar intros, this one acoustic. The first album I bought was Little Queen for the song Barracuda which rapidly became my least favorite song due to horrible radio overplay to this day. Later I acquired Magazine through dubious and nefarious means (I stole it) from my sister. Those two albums should have been one but for the horrible dispute they had with their label before they finally excised themselves from the difficulty and made. For the most part I drifted from the Heart world. Oh I liked them but like other artists there were other bands I wanted to spend my money on. In college I bought the album Passionworks, and honestly despite the fact that it was a horrible flop I really loved the album, Heart seemed doomed to fade away like so many 70’s bands that did but a strange thing happened. Nancy Wilson happened. In the mid 80’s Heart released an eponymous album and the video world brought a svelte hot Nancy Wilson (in really tight clothes) to the forefront playing guitar like the rock goddess she is. Before it had been Ann Wilson’s voice but now they could sell sex too. The songs What About Love, Never and These Dreams gave the band a new breath of life and for a new generation whatever they had done before was gone. Personally I liked the album Bad Animals better but in the 80’s world you had to keep going and Heart really struggled with that and they faded a little and then once again bam they let lightning strike with the album Brigade. I thought it was cheesy especially that hit song All I Want to Do is Make Love to You. The album lacked substance. Mostly Heart settled into a nice niche. Luckily the 2000’s have made those great bands a place and a fan base that looks back on the nostalgia on how it was when bands really played instruments and knew how to rock a song. They made a few albums a few good albums and they got older and Ann and Nancy just stopped having the same vision, I am happy they made their way back together back playing the music that so many of us loved. As a teen my friends would come over and we would argue on which of us would hook up with which sister yea as if we had a shot.
The Morning after the Texas Jam that year I handed my dad’s girlfriend a t-shirt because she always wanted a t-shirt and she sat me down in a chair to get that wad of nasty gum out of my hair. She wasn’t a whole lot older than me about twelve years. Can you say midlife crisis? She used peanut butter and worked it in there and then took a comb and worked some more (ouch) and pulled and managed to get it free, All in all it was a memorable experience, not the best but it sure has stuck with me and I remember sitting in the stands as Heart played last. It could have been worse, the Texas Jam could have headlined with Zappa (hah you thought I wasn’t going to reference him) but thankfully it wasn’t his deal and I am sure us Texas rockers would have booed his ass off the stage. We know what rock and roll is in Texas.