26 October 2008

Downtuned to Nowhere: A Metalhead’s Journey. Part 2: Too Old to Rock'n'Roll, Too Young To Die

I posted earlier this month back about my long love affair, dating back to my teenage years, with heavy metal in general, and Metallica in particular. Very little of this has come out in my fiction, although I’m sure with a little more imagination I could do something about that:

- Darling, I —
- No, Celia, don’t say anything. Not now.
- But darling, I have to tell you. I can’t keep it a secret any longer. You see, I —
- What? What is it, Celia?
- I’m … I’m leaving you, Clive. I’m leaving you to go on tour as the new keyboard player for Lordi.

Brief Encounter was never like this!

In a classic case of the “return of the repressed”, however, what is absent in my fiction emerges in my poetry, in the form of poems about ageing rockers. Why ageing rockers? I think it’s because there’s something of both valour and pathos in the grizzled hero strapping on his wig of flowing chestnut locks, his armour of leather and studs, and his battered, trusted guitar one more time and going forth to do battle against the night. It’s like Tennyson’s Ulysses with a merchandise table.

In honour of ageing rockers, I present, in increasing order of the protagonists’ decrepitude, these three poems from my recent poetry collection All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens.

An Adventure

He put his Steely Dan CDs
in a box under the bed
bought three pairs of baggy shorts
wore his cap backwards
learned to swear like Fred Durst
(or was it Kirsten Dunst? He could
never be entirely sure.)

Took to clubbing. He sought out
young women with black hair
(or auburn — almost anything but that particular
shade of bottle blonde)
and more money than good sense.

For a while it all went well.
With the little blue pills
bought cheap online
he gave them a good time
every time.

Then, in a private moment
one of his conquests
caught him listening to the Moody Blues.
When she spread the word
the good times were over. He hung up his cap
gave the shorts to charity
and subscribed to Sky instead.

Norah Jones or System of a Down

I'm visiting Lemmy from Motorhead.
"Lemmy," I say, "how did you get that
bass sound in 'The Watcher'?"
He shows me the fingering on his Zimmer frame.
He's forgotten most of Motorhead
but he's frighteningly lucid on Hawkwind.

Unasked questions throng my head.
Lemmy, who was your favourite band?
Lemmy, what drugs do they still let you take?
Lemmy, when did you start growing old?
"Lemmy," I say, "are you cold?"
He is. I wrap him in my coat.

Visiting hours are over.
I shake the maestro's hand.
The warts on Lemmy's ravaged face
stand out like sentinels
defeated by the beat of time.

There's music piped into the rooms.
It's Norah Jones or System of a Down.
I take my leave.
I brace myself against the cold.
I embody the presence of silence.

New Live Dates

It's a meat market in here.
Why girls as green as grass
Should dance to the songs of a man ten times their age
Climb on their boyfriends' shoulders
Throw their panties and their room keys on the stage
I'll never know.

They wanted to send me out backed by machines
Some guy in a booth somewhere, flicking switches.
I said no: give me a band, the younger and louder the better.
Let the old man have his Zimmer frame of noise
His crackling fire of guitars
His beating heart of bass and drum.

I've lived; no, not lived, let's say survived
To hear my music cut to pieces, used to sell
Everything from shoes to car insurance
Everything from fried chicken to retirement homes.
It doesn't matter: nothing matters
But the lights, the noise, the stage

And my women. I drink them up.
I leave them pale and drained.
In the morning, they don't know themselves
Waking with a shiver to the memory of pleasure
The scents of whisky and old leather
And the sound of curtains flapping in the wind.


William Cook said...


really enjoyed the first poem. I must confess, I too am a closet metalhead although I took it a step further and was a fully-fledged bogan. In fact I was one of the original bogans in the '80s who became too cool for black jerseys and started wearing white. Yes, white jerseys!!! Suffice to say this was the period I cal: 'The fall of the Bogan Empire.' I thought about writing a memoir called "The Rise and Fall of the Bogan Empire" but i'm not sure if anyone would read it!!! Anyway, look forward to reading some more.


Kate said...

Throw their panties and their room keys on the stage

Woohoo! This part I like. :)

Some of the ageing rockers still rock. Look at The Rolling Stones. And Queen have their own musical now.

Thanks for adding me to your links Tim. I'm honored.

Live Out of the Box

Tim Jones said...

Will, the white jerseys are definitely a wrinkle I hadn't heard of before - and I would read your bogan memoir! And Kate, good to hear from you - my favourite ageing rocker is actually Neil Young, but Lemmy is neat too, and of course AC/DC are making a pretty strong entry in the "recession-proof ageing rocker" category at the moment. I enjoy reading your blog, and thanks for linking to my interstitial fiction post a while back.