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from such great heights, come down
the fall into reality continues
by jeffrey d. walker
pop culture

This is going to sound like complaining. But, it also could be the documenting of my mental collapse. So, enjoy.

In August, I wrote a piece called If you’re an artist, when is enough enough? Therein, I lamented about my urge to continue to make music, when I most certainly was not doing so. And now, four more months have passed; or, 1/3 of a year. And I am equally nowhere in terms of music creation. What has happened?

The easy answer is: it's hard to keep producing music without a band. Time has taught me that pretty much any music I write is improved through the benefit of collaboration. The best songs I've been a part of are pieces that started as a few notes plucked during a band practice that was latched onto immediately by someone else in the room, shouting, "play that again - I got something."

No one is shouting that out at me, because I'm not playing with anyone! This is my own fault, no doubt. I could hit the old Craigslist, or call out old friends, or pull numbers off of the wall at the music store. But... I'm not. I tried. I worked on some stuff. But I am not sticking with it.

This is when I started to tackle the not-so-easy answer. Why am I not sticking to it anymore?

The hard truth is, I'm old. At least in terms of music success the way I wanted it. I did some half-ass research, and determined that the last male musical artist to land on the Billboard charts was like 15 years younger than me. So, there's that. I'm 7 years older than Justin Timberlake, and even he isn't even really making songs anymore (except spoofs on SNL). I am 14 years older than Adele, and 12 years older than Lady Gaga. No one my age is busting up the charts. The bands I used to love when I started playing music are all pretty much jokes now. Guns and Roses was the biggest band in the world in 1989 when I got my first guitar, and now, Axl Rose is an internet meme who probably won't finish the show.

Time is against me, and it's not getting better. I feel like the old guy who is being forced into retirement against his will. "But I've still got good years ahead of me!" I yell, as I am handed a gold watch and forced out the door. But no one wants to hear it old man.

Wait, it gets worse. I did actually play one show in September. It was a one-off cover band that performed at Ithaca's annual "porchfest." Some friends who knew I had done this event before approached me to do it. And it was a good show, and even a person who knows me from my day-job life saw our performance, and now, has twice referred to me as a "rock star."

This is the rub -- see, this “rock star” is not what I set out to be. You've seen the glamour models and sports cars that adorn most music videos? Yeah, that's what I was after when I started this trip; fame, riches, and general asshattery.

As it stands, however, the “rock star” status that I am bestowed with means, I can play musical instrument probably better than you (or, at least while leaping in the air / making a face / sticking my tongue out / or doing something that isn't watching my hand placement on the instrument for 75% of the song), and since most people can't do that, they are impressed.

The thing is, that doesn’t mean jack s*** to me. I expect of myself excellent showmanship and better-than-thou musicianship; so to me, it's nothing. General. Standard. That's a ground floor level of reality, and from there, I was working to climb up toward stardom. But not only did I not get there, now, I've completely stopped, and accordingly regressed into routine life. It's certainly a far cry from the delusions of grandeur that I had for myself.

This was the part I didn't expect: those delusions of grandeur had somehow allowed me to exist all these years in a place just on the cusp of reality. If reality were a "bowl" most of us live in, I had managed to live for some 30 plus years sitting just on the top rim of the bowl, looking to jump out at the first chance possible.

Presently, however, I'm not only sure that I'm not jumping out, but I've slid down into the bowl. My ground-level reality was dropped out from under me like some ride at the carnival. There's no upcoming gig that I can look forward to. There's no glimmer of stardom drawing me up out of reality. I'm simply a man among other men now. I am in no way shape or form a "rock star" as I set out to be, and there's not even a real hope at this point of that happening. And sure, I probably knew that the stardom thing wasn't happening a while back -- but the recent example of being calling a "rock star," when I knew it wasn't, seems to have started an ugly downward spiral.

I'm sure my colleague didn't mean it as an insult when he called me that, but that's how it feels to me. When I was a teenager first playing and watching MTV and dreaming, I would get that look from adults like "sure... that'll happen." Somehow, that never phased me back then. But now, one guy calls me "rock star" after arguably a really good show (albiet, cover songs), and I'm left feeling a little like a freak who doesn't fit it, and never will. It's almost like high school all over; only, I don't have the youthful angst that might have permitted me to channel that into hit records anymore.

Awesome. (sarcasm)


A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

more about jeffrey d. walker


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topic: pop culture
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just the factions, ma'am
just because they want to divide us doesn't mean we can't get along
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topic: pop culture
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tracey kelley
12.14.11 @ 10:47p

Dude. You forget that you have the capacity to change the perception of what your musical status can be. If you don't do it, who will? Youngsters may rule they Billboard charts....but they have to learn from someone, and it might as well be you.

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