All the News That Didn't Fit

On the Record

The Olympia Connection, Or Lack Thereof


The Numbness Is Just a Bonus

Hiphop City


Soul by the Pound


Incest is Best

The Rise and Fall of the N-Word


If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Tell the Truth Anyway

You Don't Own Me

Summer Lovin'

Stagger Lee

Music to Lose Your Job By

Boy, You Sure Can Take the Fun Out of Music


Stuart Braithwaite From Mogwai

Going to New York City?


A Whole N'other Level

Who Says Morrissey Fans Don't Get Laid?


Not Modest Enough

Question: What do David Lee Roth (Van Halen), Bob Stinson (The Replacements), Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe), Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), Kevin DuBrow (Quiet Riot), and yours truly all have in common?

Answer: We've all been kicked out of rock bands.

Not only that, but we belong to an infamous group of internationally shamed rejects who were summarily ousted from their respective music outfits for taking the old rock and roll cattle call -- "sex" and "drugs" being the second and third elements of that incontinent triumvirate -- just a wee bit too seriously (though in my case, you can substitute the "sex" part with the fact that I just plain sucked).

David, Bob, Vince, Brian, Kevin, and I were each rejected for our vigorous, bawdy, excessive, and ultimately retarding acceptance of a certain notorious maxim that -- at least on a subliminal level, where musicians tend to be more susceptible than people of average and above-average intelligence -- dictates that people who play instruments should reject their responsibilities to stay sober, clothed, and sane enough to perform their limited duties at an acceptable level of artistic competence. In other words, all of us, in one way or another, checked into the Hotel California without our luggage.

I do not, by inserting myself into such an illustrious parade of fuck-ups, mean to draw undeserved attention to my own thwarted career as a rock star (though had I laid off the Benzedrine a tad, I might've aced that Jane's Addiction tryout). Instead, I want to tap into my personal experiences in order to comment on yet another aspect of rejection. What interests me, as I contemplate my now-shattered career in the sordid, carnivalesque world of rock and roll, is the tension that popular musicians must negotiate between two dangerous yet important poles: acting out, and acting well.

Take David Lee Roth, for example. The ultimate '70s showman, Roth walked a delicate tightrope in his outrageously carnal, yodeling performances. On the one hand, he was the symbolic personification of a teenage nation's collective desires for sexual and narcotic anarchy (rejection of status quo); on the other hand, he had to maintain at least a modicum of self-discipline lest it all spin out of control (acceptance of rules). This dangerous dance between chaos and control (known as "Runnin' with the Devil") might be the very definition of success in rock music; as fans, we respond to David Lee Roth because if we tried to do what he does (with such an engaging blend of charismatic charm and animalistic passion), we'd look really fucking stupid, get thrown in jail, or be dead. And not only do we respond to such behavior -- we sanction it with our morbid attention, endorse it through our wild cheering, and support it, financially, through concert revenues, merchandise purchases, and record sales.

The problem with all of this is that, over time, strict adherence to the rock and roll lifestyle works something like house odds in Las Vegas: small curves of success, or "highs," located like polyps on a larger downward curve toward total oblivion and Sammy Hagar. Roth, after spending five manic years as the Tin Pan Alley top hat of anti-disco noise and craziness, became just another overheated, braying jackass frozen in the headlights of the Reagan era, reduced to buying weed from boggle-eyed kids in Central Park. Roth -- both victim and victimizer -- went one toke over the line. He became a casualty of the diametrically-opposed forces that make rock and roll so appealing to the dispossessed and disaffected, but which also make it an incredibly volatile and treacherous undertaking. Imagine the inconsolable grief of being rejected in favor of the cream puff who sang "I Can't Drive 55."

There is no moral in all of this. Not only is it inconceivable that the tensions that compel the creation of rock music (i.e. the tensions between rejection and acceptance of sane boundaries) could ever be slackened, it's completely undesirable. Moderation (unless it extends to the practice of moderation itself) is antithetical to everything rock music stands for -- loudness, freedom, sex, free beer, obnoxious behavior. When some rock star goes too far and gets the boot, everyone is secretly complicit in the downfall, which is a good thing.

David Lee Roth died for our sins, but it was fun watching, wasn't it?