Changes

“Look out you rock ‘n rollers … pretty soon now you’re gonna get older.”

One of the downsides of getting older that nobody tells you about is you live to see some of your cultural icons die.

My first hint of that came in eighth grade when John Lennon was murdered.  Even though the Beatles were before my time, their music was my soundtrack back then. John’s work in particular resonated with me, and his death came as a shock.

It’s weird losing these people I’ve never met whose creations have touched my life as deeply as only close friends have. Kurt Vonnegut, Carl Sagan, Frank Zappa, Jim Henson, George Carlin – when I heard of their deaths, I felt like I’d lost an old friend.

I feel a bit of that today with the news that David Bowie has died. His music has traveled with me all the way from the days of FM radio and LPs to these days of smartphones and streaming audio.

I never really connected with the various personas that Bowie adopted over the years, but I admired his ability to transform. Because another downside of getting older is we tend to forget we can still change.

We’re an odd hodgepodge of traits and beliefs we’ve tried on over the years and continue to wear even after they no longer fit us. Trying on something new seems dangerous compared to the safe comfort of lackluster familiarity.

That Bowie was able to change himself in front of us – multiple times – is almost as impressive as the body of work he created. Like all the icons I never knew who touched me all the same, I’m glad his time here intersected with mine.

Back When I Wrote Music

When I was a teenager I composed piano instrumentals. Every now and then I dreamed of making it as a musician, but really I only played for fun (I still do, but not nearly as often as I used to).

At one point I borrowed some recording equipment from my older brother and made a cassette tape containing several of my songs. That cassette miraculously survived nearly three decades of neglect before being converted to MP3.

Here’s one of the songs. I wish I could provide a thrilling back story for it, but I can’t remember what I was thinking about when I wrote it and I have no idea why I named it “Lost Prelude.” I do, however, remember that I wrote it in 1985 (the year I graduated high school), and it’s the only song I still remember how to play.

Run to the Hills

iron-maiden

I attended my first rock concert when I was 16: front row at Iron Maiden on their “Piece of Mind” tour.

My musical tastes have changed since then, but when I found out that Maiden was coming to a town near me – for the first time in 21 years – I just had to go and relive my long-haired “Wayne’s World” youth.

I was not disappointed. Thirty years (!) after the first time I saw them, these guys still put everything into their performance. Front-man Bruce Dickinson has more energy than should be humanly possible for someone half his age.

But the highlight for me was beforehand, when hundreds of aging metalheads in black t-shirts were waiting to get in to the arena. The show was in Nashville, and directly across the street from the arena there’s a bar where a country band plays on a patio. Much of the Maiden crowd was cringing at the country music infecting their ears – and then the country band suddenly launched into “Sweet Leaf,” a classic Black Sabbath tune.

The stunned metalheads turned around – almost in unison – shocked at what they were hearing. After it sunk in that the country band was paying tribute to one of their gods, they pumped their fists in the air and shouted in appreciation.

It was a “can’t we all get along” moment I would never have expected.

My Rock Band/Guitar Hero Top 10 Wish List

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’m hopelessly addicted to Rock Band and Guitar Hero.  I pretend that I bought those games for my kids, but we all know I really bought them for myself (and if the kids are nice, I’ll let them play, too).

It’s a sure sign that you’re addicted to these games if you see colored notes flying towards you when you listen to music.  In my case, it’s become so bad that when I hear one of my favorite songs on the radio, I often find myself wishing I could play it on my cheap plastic guitar.

So far, here are the top 10 songs that I wish I could play:

  1. Frank Zappa – Peaches en Regalia
  2. Stevie Ray Vaughan – Little Wing (Hendrix cover)
  3. Led Zeppelin – Black Dog
  4. Metallica – Master of Puppets
  5. Avenged Sevenfold – Bat Country (dumb video, but good song)
  6. Focus – Hocus Pocus (hat tip to Fake Steve Jobs)
  7. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bridge
  8. The Beatles – While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  9. Steve Vai – For the Love of God
  10. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb

Bonus wish: Metallica’s One and Rush’s YYZ are in the Guitar Hero series, but I wish they were available in Rock Band as well.  I’m a lousy vocalist, but I think I could do a decent job with the vocals on YYZ :)

The Bradbury Family’s Rocking Weekend

This was a rock-and-roll weekend for the Bradbury household.  It started when my coworker Darrin Long let me know that Rush was playing at Red Rocks this summer.  I mentioned this to my wife, who suggested we both go, and bring our two kids with us.  I was able to get four pre-sale tickets, so fellow NewsGator-ites be forewarned: there will be a Bradbury invasion in June!

The musical mood continued the next day, when I broke down and bought a copy of Rock Band for the Xbox 360.  This turned out to be the perfect game for our family: I was on lead guitar, my son played bass, my daughter banged the drums, and my wife courageously handled the vocals.  It was a blast, although I have to admit, it was weird hearing my lovely wife singing Radiohead’s "Creep."

That night I took a break from Rock Band to attend a Foo Fighters concert here in Nashville.  I like the Foo Fighters, but I’m not a huge fan, and I wasn’t expecting too much from the show.  It turned out to be a great concert, though, especially the acoustic section.  And I believe it was the first time I’ve seen a triangle solo :)

The following morning the Rock Band fun continued after I bought a bunch of new songs on Xbox Live.  My son and I blistered our fingers playing Metallica’s "And Justice for All" and "Blackened" on hard several times in a row.  We’re both itching to play again, but we’ll have to wait until next weekend, because we have a "no video games during the school week" rule here (a rule I’m cursing as much as my son is right now).

Guitar Hero II Ate My Weekend

Instead of going to Gnomedex this past weekend, I chose to stay home with my kids because today is their first day at a new school. So I had big plans for the weekend, plans that involved spending “quality time” with them making sure they were comfortable with going to a new school.

But then my son asked to play Guitar Hero II, which he received as a birthday present. And every plan went out the window. Holy crap, what an addictive game!

We’d already played all the way to the end when we got to try Freebird (on medium), so my son, my daughter and I spent the majority of the weekend re-playing our favorite songs. My daughter decided that Jane’s Addiction’s Stop was her favorite, while my son preferred YYZ and Pyschobilly Freakout. Me, I liked ’em all.

All I can say is, after a weekend of Guitar Hero II, I got blisters on my fingers. And I guess my kids are well prepared to enter the school of rock :)

My iTunes Widgets

Niall Kennedy has the news about Apple’s new My iTunes, which enables sharing your iTunes purchases, favorites and reviews as Flash-based widgets. This is a great move by Apple, although I do wish I could customize which purchases appear in the widget (for example, I’d like to exclude music I purchased for my wife, since her tastes are quite different than mine).

You can also subscribe to an Atom feed of your recent iTunes purchases – something I’ve wanted for quite a while.