Alienation, Alien Nation, Green Day

As I overheard the familiar chords of “Back in Black” by AC/DC ringing out from the TV speakers in another room I wondered if I was hearing an ad from the same company that has been using that song in advertising campaigns for a while now, or if perhaps it is just such a popular and familiar song that multiple companies are using it. My subsequent thought was about how that band is incredibly popular and for so many people brings up good memories, often of their childhoods, youth, teenage years and young adulthood, thus making it a sought-after commodity for advertisers. And then I moved on to considering the millions of dollars the band members have likely accrued via royalty payments for such commercials over the years.

It’s so weird. These guys started out poor, playing in bars and getting ripped-off and underpaid as Bon Scott famously sang in “It’s a long way to the top” (If you wanna rock and roll.) And now of course they made it to the top and are themselves living out memories of their younger days every time they trot out on stage and play the same songs that made them famous 35 years ago. Someone once put it like this: “they’ve become a tribute band of themselves.”

This is a common story for rock bands, as far as I know. The creative spark explodes into fire and then quickly burns out; if you’re lucky the embers smolder on for years. More often they die out before the night is through. John Mellencamp said it well: “life goes on, even after the thrill of living is gone.”

And money keeps flowing too, even if it’s just “funny paper” and not “what I want” or what anyone needs. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Green Day named their band after. But they did have their green day of financial success and popularity, as well as a creative decline by most accounts.

We make music not because we fear “the sound of silence” but rather to add our own harmonies to those we hear around us. No matter how prolific a musician, she will always have time for anxious chatter.

“Where is my mind?” Black Francis of the Pixies asked. Hopefully waiting patiently for its return to the driver’s seat, is my reply.

I have on my hard drive an album entitled “Left, Right, wrong.” I just had the thought that maybe she was talking about the two hemispheres of the brain. Of course, we make music with our bodies, resonance in singing comes from the nasal and oral cavities, fingers pick guitar strings, the whole arm beats on drums. Both arms, working equally well, will definitely lead to better drumming.

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2 thoughts on “Alienation, Alien Nation, Green Day

  1. Very evocative turns of phrase, Ira. I particularly liked your observation about one of your favorite bands becoming not just an influence, but a brand. I also enjoyed the references to other rock groups and the use of one’s body as a musical instrument. Thanks for your intellectual meanderings!

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