'Rape Me' And The Death Of Suffering For Your 'Art'!

I used to think I was born in the right time. I got to be a kid in the seventies and a teenager in the '80s. As I got older and began looking back, I initially considered myself fortunate to have grown up when I did. But we all think that way, don't we?

If only the pity party that was the 90's and every subsequent decade thereafter hadn't proven my point for me. You wanna know what the music of the 90's was about? Shitty parenting.

Oh, there had been shitty parenting in the past, thereby delivering the necessary abuse to spur some onto musical greatness, but now all they were doing was singing about it.

Songs are pick-up lines, always have been. Who of us doesn't dream of asking a total hot stranger to dance and have them answer  "wild horses couldn't drag me away"? In the '90s, the white girl with the dreadlocks screams "You Oughta Know!" and storms off in a huff. 90s boy in the baggy jeans and flannel mutters "Rape Me".

Wait, what? "Rape Me"?

Does anyone honestly think that Kurt Cobain was the first to started singing a song called "Rape Me"? Many an aspiring rocker, alone in their rehearsal space and drunk on cheap beer, has sung similar verbage. First thought upon doing so is Hey, this could be edgy. Nobody's ever put out a song with "Rape" in the title. We'd be pioneers. And then the aspiring rocker imagine being known for the rest of their life as the "Rape Me" guy and thinks better of it.

Sadly, after becoming a mentally tormented worldwide phenomenon, Kurt Cobain was no longer properly equipped to edit himself when lesser songwriters had. Additionally, there was no longer anyone in his inner circle anymore to say "Nope." Who was gonna rock the boat with that much money at stake?

Kurt's palatial estate and Porsche.
Maybe the song would have seemed shockingly edgy coming from a new band whose lives depended on nailing that pivotal first appearance on "Saturday Night Live", but, by that time, Kurt was a household name married to everybody's favorite soap opera, with mansions in Seattle and the Hollywood Hills who drove a Porsche.

Poor guy.

As tempted as it might be to unload your gripes on your fans in some vain attempt to appear soul-baring, a rock star must ask themselves if they've ever suffered as much as Bob Marley did when he wrote "One Love".

This was a man who was already in poor health prior to the assassination attempt. He would later be diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer, yet he went on to record one of the most beautiful, life-affirming albums ever made, Exodus.

By comparison, with all of this wonderful technology at our disposal and, with it, the ability to record in virtually any legendary recording studio from our laptop and release the results worldwide with the single click of a mouse, all we've truly done is remove suffering from the equation.

Gone are the days of playing til your hands bled, forming a band, saving up money to put out your own record so you can spend months at a time in a van with three other guys. Making album-quality music has never been easier...or sounded shittier.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings hard at work on a new album?
The singer for one of my favorite bands on the planet told me they recorded their entire album in airports as they flied between gigs. I laughed, thinking he was kidding. Wait, what about mastering? "That we did at 30,000 feet."

Now there is something deeply sad about the most artful aspect of being in a band  - something that used to take place in London, New York, or exotic locations such as Jamaica or Montserrat - taking place in an airplane seat, in the coach section no less

That's a far cry from Paul McCartney who. in between being robbed at knife-point, managed to cut most of Band On The Run in Nigeria. The legend goes that Macca wanted the most exotic location he could find, but Nigeria was so frightening a prospect that two of his band members quit the band rather than risk their lives to record in such an "exotic locale".

When you listen to that album and imagine the fucking adventure it must have been to make it, the lyrics to "Band On The Run" come to life in your mind. In doing so, you begin to realize how Paul McCartney, while talented as a mofo, also seems to have skated through life by the skin of his teeth. Sure, there was that blip on the radar when he got busted in Japan for pot, but he didn't do 40 years of hard labor, did he? Something tells me McCartney chose Nigeria because he knew how important suffering was to the creation of great art.

Part of every great album has always been imagining what hell the band went rhough through to make this album. For example:
  • While cutting their now-legendary debut album for Sire Records, the Ramones, living in abject poverty, take the train to the studio every day with their instruments in trash bags.
  • GNR were still couching it with girlfriends when Appetite For Destruction, which took a solid year to hit, finally broke.
  • If "sleeping in an airport" on the way to playing Coachella is as bad as it gets for you and your band, I doubt we'll be talking about this album 30 years from now.
While suffering is, without a doubt, the fuel, it is not the subject matter and that's the mistake that Kurt Cobain made, thereby setting in motion three decades of music that will not only be forgotten but literally cease to exist if and when the grid goes down.

There are now bands whose entire career takes place without the interest or need for physical product. That's incredibly sad on many levels, the least of which is the unspeakable joy of holding in your hot little hands an album or CD that YOU MADE. Do not underestimate the healing powers of being able to hold a tangible physical representation of all your time and, yes, suffering.

Sure, you may now have a loving wife and family, a good job, and an entire garage full of unsold copies of said physical representation of your years spent suffering or your art, but, for as much as your wife gripes about all the room they take up in the attic, there is a part of you that believes the day will come when everyone will be glad you hung onto them.

You ever tried lopping off a zombie's head with an mp3 file? Can't be done. A 12" record, on the other hand, can do a lot of damage. Suddenly you're selling copies of your band's album to all your neighbors so they too can defend themselves against the zombie uprising.

That one time you dreamed you were a Domino's pizza?
You'll finally be able to look at your wife, who has bugged you for years to get rid of those albums, with smug satisfaction and say " See, I told you so!", but you don't because, duh, there's zombies to fight!

Point being, I finally see that I was born at the wrong time. Being a 15-year-old kid able to cut album quality tracks IN MY BEDROOM would have changed EVERYTHING.

Serious question: What would the Ramones have sounded like if they'd been born 40 years later than they were? Imagine them coming up in the age of pirated copies of Pro Tools and uploading your stems to "the cloud". Something tells me they'd have come up with something groundbreaking.

Someone out there at some point has to realize that if it is now possible to do ANYTHING, musically speaking, then why are we still trying to recreate the old stuff? Push the fucking button that blows the last three decades of being fed our own vomit to smithereens.

There ARE no rules. You can do anything. Challenge yourself to do something more than regurgitate your influences. What does "being first" do something completely different sound like?

To find out, you may need to fall a few times, scrap your knees...suffer, even, but keep in mind that those who have the balls to get back up and try again get to write history.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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