The three go together like a ménage a trois, hot, wild and passionate. It’s the ultimate rock cliché. So overused that no one dares wear it on a T-shirt for fear of being labeled uncool. But a cliché it is. Our parents believed it and they believed it too much. To them, sex is dangerous, drugs kill, and rock and roll is evil.
An old friend of mine who played guitar for a band, his name is Chev, told a scary story once. He was practicing his electric guitars in his room and, typical of him, had gotten so into the rock and roll moment. Gyrating and twisting all around like a guitar god on fire. He was throwing licks like mad and had gotten orgasmic. He was way up there in his guitar-driven bliss when by chance he opened his eyes to suddenly find himself surrounded by middle-aged people led by his mom, arms outstretched with their palms facing him all mumbling incantations. Apparently, they had been praying over him for some time. He certainly was not devil-possessed as they must have suspected but he might as well have been from the scare and trauma he suffered.
How misunderstood rock and roll is to most parents showed its extreme form in Chev’s story. That is why parents would rather pay for piano lessons than loan us the money to buy a cheap, pawned electric guitar. I further suspect that this same fear is what keeps the ballet schools in business. If parents can’t keep their daughters away from the stage and spotlight, at least they can make them wear tights and Pointe shoes rather than skins and DM boots. For many maybe, it’s a fair trade-off never mind the money spent for tuition. Besides, recitals, aside from graduations, are what parents live for, right?
I survived my teenage years intact in spite of my parent’s anti-rock and roll bias and my measly allowance. And though I will never forgive my mother for happily buying that crappy amateurish digital Yamaha organ for my sisters while I begged and groveled for a loan so I could buy my electric guitar, I survived still. My mother could call it part of building character. I call it favoritism. And fear of the rock and roll evil.
Apparently, my mom didn’t relish the idea of her son sporting long hair and playing overdriven guitars. Fate played a funny twist on me as, years later, I end up sporting a shaved head and playing chorus-driven guitars instead. Not as ugly but maybe just as scary if I didn’t keep my day job. Well at least I’m tattoo-free. For now.
My mother, like my neighbors’ mothers, had also paid for piano lessons. My sisters gamely showed enthusiasm, feigned or otherwise. I on the other hand, never got even just a subsidy for my replacement strings. Those years, I would attribute the dull sound of my old rusted strings to “rock attitude”. Besides, wasn’t money the antithesis to the rock and roll lifestyle? That was enough to comfort me then.
Like we cared how we sounded back then anyway. Back then, it was all about rebellion and attitude. I joined the band because I thought it was cool. The love of music was never a reason. I didn’t know anything about making music to begin with anyway. I only started to worry about actually sounding good when it suddenly struck me in the middle of my first gig that up there on stage in front of the people, you actually needed to sound good.
So I sang, or at least tried to. I know I sucked that first time. But I survived with the determination to actually better my craft. Fast-forward to more than ten years after, I think I’m finally succeeding. The journey was long and hard, and yes, along the way, as I’m sure my parents had had worried, there were the trappings and the temptations. True to the cliché’s promise, it couldn’t be Rock and Roll without the sex and the drugs.
Yes, there were the drunken parties, the pseudo-orgies, and the psychedelic sessions. On our heydays, yes we had those, every opportunity to sin was laid, but I survived. With a big grin from ear to ear. Yes, the cliché was true about the triumvirate being dangerous, suicidal, and evil, but in the end, I suspect my mom’s character building must have worked because surprisingly, I turned out ok. So holding out on a kid’s allowance does have its merits. Surprise, surprise.
Today, I hold a fancy corporate job running a dozen young and talented underlings collectively called the marketing and communications department plus I hold a teaching post at the university. In school listening to myself sometimes, I’m even surprised to find I actually sound academic and learned.
Maybe the trials and the trappings of the rock and roll lifestyle built up my character more than the constricted allowance. Too hard to determine. Too close to call. In any case, I had grown to like rock and roll. Unlike my sisters who grew up to like boys and promptly forgot about the crappy Yamaha.
Not surprisingly, it is the Yamaha organ that is now gathering dust in an unused room in my parent’s house while it is my Stratocaster that continues to gather scratches every weekend gig.