by Caleb Rose
About how rock and roll helped me overcome a great struggle.
|Rock and roll is as necessary to my life as the blood that pumps through my veins. It is my opinion that rock is the best style of music in our modern time. No other genre can compete. Respect is much deserved for those who possess the ability to play in a rock band. A perfect collaboration with your brothers in war is needed and often being non-verbal. Signature changes and volume control is simply based on how well each musician understands their contributors. A constant ebb and flow of fast paced melodies built from the imagination alone.
The drummer establishes a steady beat often adding short fills of an extra snare or the pedals kicking the drum and dropping the hi-hat; occasionally a drum roll through the toms is stuck in between phrases and kicks off the next one with the crash of his cymbal. He is in complete control of the tempo and drive of the sound, with the bassist working in line with his melody. Behind the dark tone of the song is the bassist in his heavy sound and even heavier strokes. Breaking free from his own melody the guitarist escapes the structured rhythm and begins improvising. His fingers are working with one hundred percent efficiency as they climb up and down the neck with almost no resistance. Complicated fills are being performed through bends, hammer-ons and pull-offs, tremolo picking and the extensive use of vibrato. Completely in tune with his guitar the fingers know where to go based solely on instinct, and a perfect knowledge of the rosewood neck and how the nickel wound strings resonate through the body. While performing these complex maneuvers he is skillfully crafting it around his own created rhythm and at the same time casting forth dark undertones of an almost satanic nature.
To play rock and roll effectively the player must be prepared to completely bare his soul. The instrument is a clear window to the inner most secrets of the self. Listen as the guitar cries! Listen closely to the dark sound of E minor right before its flawless transition to A minor where a couple of strings are picked on the way back up to a heartwarming G chord, only to return to the dark pit of the E minor. All the while the guitarist is clenching his eyes shut, not needing his eyes for his heart is sufficient. The tone is set by his intensity of the strums, the time he lingers on a single note and the strain in his voice as he forces out incomprehensible lyrics.
My earliest memory of rock and roll was watching my father play with his friends in the garage of our house in whatever state we were living in at the time. Before I could even read I could lay down a steady beat on my dark blue pearl drum set for my father as he played his guitar. When I was in second grade my musical interests comprised of Fear Factory, the Offspring, the Butt-hole Surfers and the Red Hot Chile Peppers. But no other band had had the effect on me that Nirvana did. Something about their grungy and dark sound enthralled me. There was something hidden deep within Kurt Cobain's lyrics that resonated within me, influencing me before I was even of the mental capacity to understand the symbolism. Rock and roll has a heavy impact on an impressionable child living in poverty. As Kurt Cobain voiced his frustrations about life I was struggling to comprehend my own. At the time I could not dare to know, but I understand now that I too was angry. I was angry that we had returned to cock-roach infested motel rooms around southern California as places to live. I was angry that my mother had lied to me, told me things were going to get better when it only ever got worse. Even more so I was mad at God. Kurt Cobain was my god. In the sixth grade I once tried to turn in a paper about why Kurt Cobain was my hero. I was forced to redo it because I was told that a drugged up suicidal rock star could not be a child's hero. I fought for the topic of the paper but I lost. I ended up writing about J.R.R. Tolkien instead.
One summer even the motel rooms became too expensive and my family was forced spend it in a cheap tent. We listened to "In Utero" on the way to the first campsite of a very long summer. My father was usually working, trying his hardest to bring us up and out of poverty. My mother was tasked to tend to us all day at the campsites, building and tearing down the tent and organizing the trips to and from the next site. As a twelve year old boy of three sisters, emotions were not acceptable. My father had made it very clear that crying was not for the men to do, and that I had to be strong for my sisters and mother. A lot of pressure for a young kid to handle. But through Nirvana I had found my source of serenity. Through Cobain's angst I was able to suppress my own. Often my sister's and I would argue in the car about what we should listen to, Amy Grant or Nirvana. I was not the only one to struggle through that period, my whole family seemed to suffer their own internal war. My sisters and mother sought faith to ease their frustrations, I found rock and roll. I remember waiting in the car while they were in the church finishing up some service so that they could attend the food bank line thereafter. While the the preacher inside was filling their heads with mythological bullshit I was in the car carefully dissecting the lyrics of a Nirvana song with my father, "In Bloom". Whenever we would pray before dinner I would close my eyes and sing "Pennyroyal Tea" to myself, my favorite Nirvana song. Kurt Cobain held my respect even before God. Rock and roll had provided for me an opportunity to actually give in to my angst. It allowed me to sing the songs with the same tenacity and passion allowing me to tap into an addicting energy. I think Frank Turner put it best in his song "I still Believe":
"...I still believe in the sound
that has the power
to raise a temple and tear it down.
And I still believe in the need
for guitars and drums and desperate poetry.
I still believe that everyone
can find a song for every time they've lost
and every time they've won..."