Santa Monica good; Dylan Better
P and I are sitting in a cab. I'm not sure what city we're in. Besides,
cities are cities. There are cities that you need to take a cab to get
around in, and there are those that you don't. You need a cab in this
city. So it could be
pull up to our first stop of the evening, which is (probably) a Hard
Rock Café. We neither like nor dislike their food; but we want alcohol,
and usually enjoy HRC's decorations.
walk in and order. Me, Captain, he, lager. As the video for Pearl Jam's
"Jeremy" plays on the plasma screens, P asks me an important question.
in my ridiculous slang: Who, among all of the artists in the history of
artists who have ever played in front of a crowd and shouted, "You
don't have to go home, but you can't stay here," would I like to "be?"
When he asked that, I casually squeezed lime into my beverage of choice and said, "Let me think about it."
P is now somewhere in the world that has no phone or internet. It's a
horrible thing to have your agent go AWOL. So to lessen the pain of his
unforeseen travels, I will now answer his question, and hope to be in
contact soon. After all, pitchers and catchers have reported, and there
are several concerts coming up.
what rock artist, in the history of rock artists, would I want to "be?"
The obvious answer would be either Bret Michaels of Poison, Tommy Lee
of Motley Crue, or Kid Rock (all of these men have hooked up with
Pamela Anderson). I would choose Kid Rock because I would turn that
name into one that is highly appropriate rather than lame and ironic.
Kid Rock neither resembles a kid, nor rocks. I, on the other hand, have
boyish looks and would most definitely rock. So I would have a clever
stage name, and I would be sleeping with a gorgeous woman from Baywatch.
And as tempting as it might be to have been responsible for the song
"Every Rose Has It's Thorn," I think Kid Rock would be the right choice
of the three. After all, I don't see myself as a drummer.
But it's not about the women, it's about the music. (It is about the music, right?) So I will not be choosing that bum from
So who will it be? If I thought I had the talent and potential to
manage a band that could have been great, but totally dropped the ball,
I would want to be in charge of the band Everclear in the Spring of
1996. I say this because I totally believe that they had a chance to
make an impact. To really take off. My only proof, however, lies in the
following scene that took place in a Logan-Hocking Schools van.
It was early-May, 1996, and the
varsity tennis team was riding home after eating a predictably
consistent dinner at Bob Evans. The windows were down, which allowed
the nearly-Summer breeze to blow through our late-grunge
phase-influenced hair. Hell, it felt like a convertible. Then it
happened: I heard the best hook since "Brown Sugar." The song was
and it kicked all of our asses immediately. We were a diverse group,
the Fightin' Chieftain tennis team. Some of us liked Pink Floyd. Others
Hank Williams Jr. A few of us were digging the "alternative music" that
was finally becoming "cool" in the hills of
was being played on 99.7, we were all rocking out to it. Leading the
way was our fearless coach, Chuck Fox. As he drove down Highway 33, he
banged his head up and down with Everclear's rhythmic single. Chuck was
a "classic rock" loyalist. He loved Bob Seger. He had made it clear to
us that few of "today's rock groups" (now "yesterday's" rock groups)
had anything important to say.
Well, I'm not sure if Everclear's "
actually "said" anything to him, but it rocked his world. It also
united a group of individuals with extremely different musical tastes.
And for a few minutes on a perfect May evening, we were all feeling
cool. We had Summer and freedom on our minds. It was the power and
beauty of being 17; it was a true rock and roll moment.
But then Everclear became a less-than mediocre pop-rock band (or more accurately, maybe they already were). None of the songs off any of their albums even came close to rocking like "
Sure, their sound became somewhat commercial and radio friendly (hence
the song "AM Radio"), and that in itself is some form of success. But
no other song could come close to summarizing a moment, a feeling, an
attitude, like the song that starts out with these seven words: "I am
still living with your ghost."
even in my world where I can pretend to attempt to change their
downfall, I can't. So I don't want to "be" managing Everclear.
is ultimately only one choice for me. Like the narrator of the song
"Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows, "I want to be Bob Dylan."
grew up listening to, for lack of a better description, "oldies
stations." And I knew most of the words to "Like A Rolling Stone"
before I knew who Bob Dylan was. The next Dylan song I heard was "Just
Like A Woman," although I didn't know this until I asked my father, who
was driving me to the mall at the time the song was being played. Being
in 8th grade, I chose to buy another Starter hat rather than
a Dylan album on that particular shopping trip. But I remembered the
sound and style of Dylan, and would look forward to hearing him again
on Super Z 103.5, my favorite radio station.
I think the clincher in my pursuit of discovering what Bob Dylan was all about was the ending of the film Jerry McGuire.
Bob Dylan's "Shelter From the Storm" was played during the credits, and
hearing that song made me stop thinking about when my date and I were
going to (possibly) make out. "Shelter From the Storm" made me want to
go buy every album that Dylan had ever put out. And because I was
employed at the time, that is exactly what I did. After, of course, I
tried to make out with my date. (For the record, my attempt was
unsuccessful. And it was also made clear later that our evening
together was not an actual "date.")
has evolved throughout his career like no other. No two albums are
remotely similar. It is easy for an untrained ear to say "All of
Dylan's songs sound alike." I see where they are coming from, because
they have probably heard the same three songs on "oldies" stations for
the past 30 years. But Dylan's self-titled debut album sounds nothing
like Blood on the Tracks. Highway 61 Revisited is completely different from Desire. And Nashville Skyline is much, much different than Freewheelin.'
can re-invent a sound better than any musician in the history of
musicians. He is the master of the comeback. His Album of the Year
Grammy for 1997's Time Out of Mind is physical proof
of that. But I don't believe a statue can really convince anybody
anything but a career of brilliant albums does.
didn't choose to become an icon, a star, or a deity but it happened,
and he continues to tour aggressively. He has hung out with The
Beatles, The Dead, and Andy Warhol. He switched to electric and managed
to piss off the very audience that helped define him. He played for the
Pope, and starred in a
as tempting as it might be to look into the sex life of Tommy Lee, I'll
stick with my hero Dylan. And I have Jerry McGuire to thank.
--Trace Hacquard is a graduate student at Ohio University. Send him an email at email@example.com