Saturday, October 09, 2004

I Wanna Rock

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One of my favorite fiction writers, T.C. Boyle, once said in an NPR interview, "Every writer of my generation and down is only writing because we can't have our own rock bands."

I'm a writer.

Um ... I have a secret.

I want a rock band.

Not some soft rock band, either, with songs about romance and being a sweetie-pie.

I mean a hard rock band that plays in dive bars and then makes it to big arenas, wailing lyrics about whiskey and psychotropic chemicals, songs full of naughty sexual innuendo. I mean nasty guitars turned up so loud the volume spanks you in the chest. I mean screaming notes so high-pitched your eyes water and dogs feel hung over for miles around. Long hair whipping in the breeze. Long chest hair whipping in the breeze also. Me in leather pants. You heard right: me in leather pants -- I'm not taking that back. Thousands of roaring fans. I purse my lips and yell, "You ready to rock, Faw River?"

You may be either too young or too old to remember -- but you know the Twisted Sister video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" in the early 1980s? Quick synopsis: A father bursts into his son's room and berates the lad for daring to listen to heavy metal and/or rock music, which means therefore the kid's challenging the square community's conventional mores and, by extension, one could say, post-World War II capitalism and Judeo-Christian ethics.

"A Twisted Sister pin? On your UNIFORM?" the father cries skeptically. Then he sneers, "What do you wanna do with your life?"

"I wanna rock," the kid mutters, and a stroke of his trusty electric twanger unleashes an overdriven chord so filthy, so rockin', that it blows the poor chap clear through a nearby window to the yard below.

I loved that video.

Being a writer is dull. I wanna rock.

I have the guitar necessary for rock stardom -- two, in fact. One's acoustic and is named Molly, and the other is electric and is named Dot. I have a small amplifier that I pretend is much bigger than it is. I haven't named the amplifier. That would be silly.

There are a few reasons I won't ever become a rock star, though -- why the music world is destined never to be graced by my looming presence.

For one thing, my facility with the guitar is mediocre on an average day. On a bad one I play with the accuracy of a piano rolling down a flight of stairs.

I'm self-taught and don't practice enough, so I play about as well as somebody who's self-taught and doesn't practice enough. I can get through quite a few songs, but I'm sloppy about my choices. I can fake it most of the way through Led Zeppelin's catalog, but I can't remember how to play a major scale. I can play some of "Oye Como Va" by Santana, but I can't play the noodley part at the end. I figured out how to play "Blackbird" by the Beatles, but if you requested "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," I'd be lost.

That probably doesn't matter. Arthur and the Fonzarellis would rarely get requests for "Twinkle Twinkle." That's my rock band name.

Even if my guitar-playing skills improve -- I spontaneously grow several extra fingers, let's say -- the statistics are against a chubby Portuguese kid from Fall River being a rock star. Look at the stars in the Portuguese music scene: Jorge Ferreira. Marc Dennis. Glenn Medeiros. They're not what I had in mind -- I want to be more like Keith Richards, less like Englebert Humperdinck.

Glenn Medeiros, by the way, is -- was -- a Portuguese soft-rock star in the late 1980s. He had some sissified, schmaltzy song about love with an MTV video on a beach somewhere, and then his career was promptly kidnapped by gypsies. We're of no relation. He's from Hawaii. There are many Portuguese immigrants in Hawaii. Which makes me wonder why Mom and Dad immigrated here, to cold, wet Fall River, instead of to Hawaii, with the constant sun and the fruity drinks and the hula girls in coconut bras. But that is a problem I shall have to examine some other week.

Moving right along: If I am to be a rock star I must learn to say "baby" effectively. I should also adopt an English speaking accent but a southern singing one.

I must learn how to unleash my "guitar face." Every decent rock guitar player makes guitar face -- an expression of agony when mangling the strings that looks not unlike intestinal distress.

My wife tells me that when I play my guitar I look "serious." I've noticed it, too -- my nostrils flare, my jaw clenches. My appendix appears to have burst, or perhaps I've eaten a raw lemon. It's because I'm trying not to make guitar face. That's half my problem -- I'm afraid to rock out fully right now, because I'm just a schmoe playing alone. But if I'm Arthur of Arthur and the Fonzarellis, I have a reason. It would be my job to make guitar face. It would be required.

While I work on my guitar face, I'll finish writing my song. Didn't I mention my song? It's Arthur and the Fonzarellis' first single: "Heat-Seeker." Like a good hard rock song, it's catchy, it has lewd undertones and it mostly rhymes:

I'm just a heat-seeker!
Le Freaker!
Guest speaker
At the symposium of your heart!

Yeah, I'm a heat-seeker!
Take-a-peeker!
You're up the creek-er
'Cause I'm a heat-seeking missile of luh-uh-uhve...


I'll need a few people in this band to help me be a rock star -- if they could play instruments, that'd help, and one of them must be an incorrigible drug addict so we have a juicy story for VH-1's "Behind the Music."

I don't have any time to attend practices, and I'm too petrified of playing on stage that I'd never show up to concerts. But that's OK. That'll give Arthur and the Fonzarellis something to break up for.

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