Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bad Wisdom: Rock Belt

Originally published in Classic Rock Magazine, 2005.

Every rock n’ roller needs a bad-ass belt. A belt that says, “I am your main man if you’re lookin’ for trouble”, you know? It’s got to be cracked, vintage black leather, and it’s got to have a cool, over-sized buckle, and like any superhero accessory, it’s got to have an awesome origin story. Like mine, for example. My belt is commonly referred to as the Danzig belt, because the buckle is a snarling, be-horned demon, just like the one on the first Danzig record. It’s also got a bunch of lesser metal demons embossed on the sides. It’s double-dyed black, and it weighs about 5 pounds. I dunno how many ‘stone’ that is, but it’s heavy, Jack. I bought it from this teenage Vietnamese war-baby punk rock chick I was dating when I was 20. She decided to run away from home, and she needed some quick cash, so I bought it from her for like, $20, and then she split. I never her saw her again, but the best part was, when people would say, “Hey, what happened to your girlfriend?” I’d tell them the truth: “She ran away from home.” Which is about the best answer ever, isn’t it?

So I used to strap this big, ridiculous belt on whenever it was time for the super-rock show. Add skull rings, shitkicker boots, and a Circus of Power t-shirt, comb your long, jet-black hair back, and it’s all plastic fantastic lobster telephones from here, brothers and sisters. That’s the kinda gear holy divers and tattooed beat messiahs like us are supposed to wear when it’s time to howl with the wolves.

“Supposed to” being the operative term here. You see, I have not been able to strap that stupid belt around my expanding, 36-year old gut for the past 5 years. There’s barely any hair left to comb, and I cannot get the C.O.P. shirt over my head. Something has gone horribly wrong here. The rock show is still happening, I just suddenly appear woefully unprepared for it. Can you still bang the head that will not bang without the Danzig belt? Is there rock n’roll life after the teenage runaway ex-girlfriend becomes an overweight suburban mother of two? I did not know, and to be honest, I didn’t even want to find out. But then the Hammer of the Gods came crashing into my life.

A month or so ago, I got an email from Thor, Rock Warrior. He was coming to town with his band for a gig, and he wanted to me come. I hadn’t been to the rock show for at least a year. In that time, I blew off the Backyard Babies, Motorhead, Urge Overkill (twice!), just about every band I’ve written about in the past 12 months, and even my pals in the Genders, who came all the way from fuckin’ Israel to play a hamburger joint half a mile away from my house. I never mentioned this before, but the whole reason for my self-imposed exile lately is that goddamn belt. I’ve been going to the gym 4 days a week for months and months just to get that thing around my waist, but to no avail.

I still couldn’t get it on when Thor wrote, but I have a strange allegiance to this man. Thor asking me to go to his show is like some German kid getting a personal note from one of the goons in Manowar, asking for his attendance at one of their loincloth rallies. It’s a big deal, you see. So I said yes, because I had no real choice. I heard the call, and I answered.

And so, the preparations began. As a Classic Rock reader, you probably already know this, but when you’ve reached a certain age, your priorities change. Here are the important factors to consider when attending a rock show in your mid-to-late 30’s:

What am I gonna wear?
Obviously, the classic Sleazegrinder rock-show gear is out. No more leather pants or sleeveless anything for me, ever. I’ve seen guys my age who attempt the 1987 look in 2005, and they look like bowls of pudding stuffed into gay biker costumes. No thanks, man. I’m just going to opt for cargo pants and workboots, and just try to blend in with the scenery. Thank god my wife is skinny and good looking. At least it distracts people from the middle-aged disaster I’ve become.

How late will I be out?
Dude, if this thing is gonna go past 1 AM, I’m totally leaving early. I need at least 6 hours of sleep, or I’m fried. I have not hung around for an encore since 1995.

Will there be seats?
If I wanted to pay cash money to stand around for two hours, waiting for something to happen, then I would just gotten on the subway. It’s cheaper. Which reminds me,

Am I on the guest list?
Because I did not spend the last six years of my life reviewing friggin’ Fu Manchu records to pay $12 for a night of too-loud retro-metal and disastrous haircuts. Which reminds me,

Will I have to talk to anybody?
Because standing around in a dark, cramped, foul-smelling room while some guy I went to see Mercyful Fate with in 1984 yaps at me about, well, going to see Mercyful Fate in 1984, is just too much to take, even when the God of Thunder himself is in the house. Which reminds me,

Is there any parking nearby?
Because I’m probably going to want to get the hell out of there pretty fast, and I don’t want to have to walk ten blocks. Especially since I have to get up early.

These were not concerns of mine back when I could still wear the Danzig belt. But anyway, we went to the show. Thor is pushing 50 now. He looks more like your barrel-chested grandpa then the guy in the comic books, and his loyal drummer looks like Gary Glitter on a chocolate cake diet. They played songs they originally wrote 20 years ago, exactly like they did back then. Thor kept putting on crazy masks and horned helmets, most of which would hang crazily askew on his head for a few seconds before falling off. At one point, he picked up a lantern, one of those bug-zapper jobs you can get at the drugstore, and switched it on. It started glowing purple, and as soon as you thought, “Wow, that’s a strange lantern”, he barked, “This next song is called Strange Lantern!” and then his merchandise guys, who wore cheesy skull make-up, stormed onto the stage and bounced off his Supergrandpa belly in mock battle. Thor was obviously having the time of his life, as was I. And there was no way in Hell he was ever gonna fit into a Danzig belt either.

Which got me to thinking. Are middle-aged rockers like us supposed to just sit around and grow old and tired, or do we rally like Thor, strapping on goofy Viking hats and rocking the goddamn city one more time?

I don’t know about you, but I think I’d rather rock.

As long as I’m home by midnight.

-Sleazegrinder (Ken)

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