Blitzkrieg #10: Old Gods Almost Dead

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on my couch watching the Bad Religion episode of Guitar Center Sessions.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the show, it consists of the band playing their “hits” in an intimate setting interspersed with interview segments.  As I watched Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz and Co. rip through “Generator” and “21st Century Digital Boy,” all I could think is “goddamn they look old.”  The same thing occurred to me when I watched Animal Underworld, Henry Rollins’ new show on Nat Geo (which is fucking awesome, by the way).  Sure, Rollins looks like he could still kick the living shit out of just about any mere mortal, but his hair is mostly grey and his face is showing the kinds of craggy lines that only come with advancing age.  He definitely doesn’t look the same as when I started going apeshit over Rollins Band videos on MTV in junior high, or even when I saw him speak at my college.

I know I’m getting older; I’ll be thirty-three this year, but for some reason it’s extremely weird to think about my heroes aging.  Rollins, Glenn Danzig, etc will all get old and eventually die; chances are they’ll go before I do and it will surely bum me the fuck out.  You idolize these people who at the end of the day really are just people, the same as you and me, but in your mind they’re somehow going to live forever in a state of perpetual youth; Rollins will always be the boisterous, muscle-bound bad-ass of the “Low Self Opinion” video, Danzig will always be the swaggering killer wolf, howling “She Rides,” while scantily clad vixens bump ‘n’ grind in the background.  At least that’s how it’s always been for me.  I mean, can you imagine Henry fucking Rollins using a walker, or having to have someone help him get on and off the toilet?  Can you imagine a world without Glenn Danzig (some of you out there would probably like to imagine a world w/o him, but that’s beside the point)?

Of course, heavy metal has seen its share of deaths over the years; we’ve recently lost Ronnie James Dio and Peter Steele, to name just a couple.  But somehow it still doesn’t prepare you for the inevitable, maybe it’s because even though I dig the shit out of Dio-era Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Type O Negative, I never loved any of their records the way I love Weight or Lucifuge; I love those fucking records so much it hurts, I love them so much I sometimes feel like I’d wither up and die on the spot if I didn’t have them in my life.  That’s an enormous part of what being a true fan is (at least in my estimation), and why it’s so devastating when your favorite band breaks up, or when one of its members passes away.  The music is an extension of you, woven into the very fabric of your existence; this isn’t just entertainment, this is a piece of your fucking life, and its creator is gone forever.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my own mortality lately, probably because we recently moved the THKD bunker, which forced me to go through my CD collection (packing and unpacking), and I kept looking at albums and thinking “holy shit, have I really been listening to this album for twenty fucking years now?!”  To have a piece of art affect you so deeply that it has stuck with you for over half your life is something truly special, but it’s also kind of scary; the youthful days in which you first encountered it are long gone.  I’m reminded of that whenever I see the effects of aging in the faces of my heroes.

But, we can’t waste what precious little time we have on this planet dwelling on old age and mortality in such a negative way.  We have to appreciate the fact that we’ve been so incredibly lucky to lead a life rich in art that has enhanced our earthly existences to such an unbelievable degree, and to know that even after the artists themselves have burned out or faded away, they will live on through their work, and through the fondness we hold for it in our hearts and minds, hopefully passing at least a small piece of that intense adoration down through the generations.  As fans of heavy music, we benefit from a level of love and dedication that is rarely seen in other genres, and it is what allows our musical idols to cease being men and truly walk among the Gods.

7 thoughts on “Blitzkrieg #10: Old Gods Almost Dead

  1. Watching those Bad Religion clips really drove home for me the point that excellent bands ought to retire while they’re still in peak form. I loved Bad Religion in High School. Albums like Suffer, Against The Grain, and Recipe For Hate were huge for me. Seeing Bad Religion in 2001 though was a weird experience. There was something weird about seeing 40+ men rip through songs clearly geared towards adolescents. Being already well into my twenties, I was also among the oldest in the room. Seeing them now, 50-ish, bald, grey and still singing angsty teen anthems is disheartening. It doesn’t help that they haven’t released a vital record in over 20 years. Or that their performances now lack the power they once had. I really feel like those bands still hanging on from the 80’s, bands whose members are near 50, need to hang it up. Especially if they can’t deliver. Slayer still amazingly delivers (but for how much longer). Rollins still looks like a bruiser. He’s also aging like a champ. But there’s a reason he retired The Rollins Band.

    Being 34, I’ve reached a strange point in my musical life. Like you, nearly all my musical heroes are past their primes. Like you, I am emotionally tied to their music. But I am also wary of nostalgia. I had a great time at DEATH TO ALL but I recognized it for what it was, a farewell. I go to fewer and fewer shows each year and there’s always a cusp between seeing an old band while they’re still in good form and seeing them again and it just seems sad and ridiculous.

  2. That said, there’s nothing quite like cranking up a classic album at full blast and recognizing that it’s timeless.

  3. I saw Danzig last summer and yeah he is definitely looking his age. He seemed a little tired but still the show was decent. It is weird how we look at some of these older bands. I just saw Anthrax this summer for the first time and was really impressed with their energy and how great they sounded. At the same show I saw Slayer and Motorhead and thought they were phoning it in. On the flip I just saw Social Distortion and Bad Religion within the past two years and both really blew the roof off the place and it was nice to see how some old soldiers blow most younger bands out of the water. Punk and metal may be getting older but I think a lot of bands can learn from some of these old standbys.

  4. Sad thoughts, but not nearly as sad as seeing so few younger people making good music. There’s Horrendous, but how many other worthwhile bands have members under 30? It would be easier to deal with heros dying if there were people to take their place.

    Along similar lines, a comedian once commented on how funny it will be when old people are listening to gangster rap (it may have been Patton Oswalt).

  5. I’m of the opinion that we old guard need to stick around, if only to show the pups how it’s done. True, Bad Religion hasn’t put out a “vital” record in some time, but the ones they have put out are bloody brilliant. Fantastic playing (as you get older, you do get better…for the most part), crunching, epic production, and lyrical content that has only become more intelligent and pointed. I love the old stuff, but The Process of Belief, The Empire Strikes First, Stranger Than Fiction and even New Maps of Hell are GREAT albums. I remember the first time I saw No Means No, must have been 90-93 or so and they were all old and mostly all grey. And they fully kicked ass.

    I also remember as a teen becoming worried that I would be like my parents, only listening to oldies and hippie-rock (full disclosure, my parents were the managers of Canned Heat when I was a kid, so I got the hippie-rock right away) and unable to like or even relate to new music. I thought it was inevitable. Thankfully, that has not happened and at 45 am still finding new bands in most genres that I can find some value in and enjoy. Hell, I only dove into the Black Metal a few years ago.

    Age doesn’t matter. It’s all about rockin. My rule is this: As a musician, I will quit when I begin to feel silly doing what I do. I think in another 20 years or so, that may happen. But until then, I’ll be showing them young-uns how it’s done.

    By the way, I love this blog. Great writing and music.

    Beaux B.
    Guitarist, The Lucky Boys

  6. @Beaux – I can’t agree with you more on several of your points. If the “old guys” can still bring it, they should most definitely stick around. I haven’t really kept up with Bad Religion’s more recent output… I think the last one I heard was The Process of Belief, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

    I have often wondered if I’ll still be listening to black and death metal when I get older… man, I hope so. As long as it continues to strike a chord with me, I’ll keep listening. I mean, I’m 33 now and still listening, still sporting band shirts every day when not at work, etc… I can’t see myself ever stopping.

  7. Haha.. Though I’m a decade younger than you, I feel very similarly to you, THKD. I think only 3 or 4 of the shirts I own are not band shirts. My stockade is only going to get bigger from here on, goddamnit!

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