First we watched "Senna".
Formula One is close to meaningless in America, but the longer you watch this movie the more you get hooked. By the spectacle, the racing, the athleticism. Ayrton Senna wins the Brazilian Grand Prix and passes out, it was just that much of an effort, just that draining. Walking through the crowd after coming back to, he keeps imploring people not to touch him, he’s in that much pain. When you’re a superstar, you’re no longer beholden to your fans, you’re beholden to your art. Which is why we never expect Van Morrison to tweet, why it’s unnecessary for the Belfast Cowboy to be nice to his audience.
And who knew Formula One was so political? You’ll wince when the powers-that-be go against Ayrton, snatch away victory for a reason that’s never been employed previously, despite being in the rule book. Making him start on the wrong side of the grid, even though he won pole position. In the Internet era, you get to do it for yourself, you can avoid the b.s. The younger generation has got no idea how freeing this is, the same way today’s young women don’t appreciate all the rights their mothers won for them back in the seventies.
And it all comes down to the car. The greatest driver can’t win if the wheels are bad. That’s one of the unseen problems with so many sports. He who has the best equipment has a huge advantage. At the elite level, a small edge makes all the difference.
And then we watched "The Other F Word". The movie about being a punk rock dad.
We needed to be cleansed after "Senna". Ayrton’s so alive in the movie, yet so dead in real life.
Not quite as watchable, I wish wannabes could see "The Other F Word". Because I’ve yet to see a film that depicts the tedium of the road so well.
Here’s the story. They were rebels living in SoCal beach towns. They played punk music not for tomorrow, but today. No one even believed there would be a tomorrow. And so many punk musicians never did make it.
But those who did…
Normalized. To a degree. They got married. Had kids.
And now, to support their families, they’ve got to go on the road, hundreds of days a year. Not because they love it, but because they have to pay the bills.
One of the great scenes is when Jim Lindberg says you’ve got to hold your tongue. You’re in some far-flung town and you’ve got to be nice to the audience when really all you’re doing is counting the days until you can get back home, you’re wasted, you’re pissed, using drugs just to get by.
Lindberg’s choice is Ambien. Yup, sleeping on the road is impossible. First of all, you’re in a bus with not only the band, but the crew, it smells like a locker room. And when you check into a hotel, it’s not the Four Seasons, but the Comfort Inn, it’s barely habitable and the food makes you yearn for home cooking.
You’ve got an audience that will support you, but you’ve got to satiate it to stay alive.
Although they’re tattooed and pierced, they’re just like you. Maybe worse off. These tend to be blue collar gentlemen. If they’re not playing music, they’re…working in a print shop, as one ex-member of Black Flag is doing.
Somehow, as a result of the burgeoning classic rock scene and then the MTV explosion there’s a conception that playing music means you’re rich, that it’s a 24/7 party, that the highest and best occupation is playing music.
That’s wrong. That’s all it is, playing music. You’ve got to love it, otherwise it’s tedious. Not only do you miss out on normal life, taking your kids to school, being there for their birthdays and Halloween, you’ve got to endure the endless road, arguing with your bandmates and wasting the 23 hours a day you’re not on stage. It’s some weird bizarro world, where not only do you not get to do what you want, but most of what you do do is positively awful.
Now if you’re in your twenties, if you’re just out of the house, the road is an adventure. But it gets old real quick.
Everyone in music complains that they just can’t make money like they used to, that the Internet and the public have screwed them. But no matter how much money they pay you, going on the road becomes an endless repetitious tunnel. The only saving grace is the music. And if you’re lucky, the money.
It’s like God hit a giant reset button. It’s like someone flipped the Monopoly board. We’re starting all over, building up from the ground. And if you don’t need it, it doesn’t pay to do it.