Saturday, November 05, 2022

"Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" .. A Numb Butt Cheeks® Review

The 100% (wink) Unadulterated Truth (wink, wink)

First, if you're not a fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic you're not going to get this film (nor will you if you don't have Roku!)

Second, if you are a Weird Al fan and are expecting an in-depth, tell-all bio-pic, stop. You should know already that anything about Weird Al presented by Weird Al is going to be ...well, weird.

The film begins with an adult Al Yankovic, portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe ("Harry Potter"), bloodied and unconscious, being wheeled into a hospital emergency room with a team of medical professionals desperately trying to save his life ...and failing. The team step back from the gurney, dejected and heartbroken at the life lost, and prepare to announce time of death when, suddenly, Yankovic sits bolt upright and screams for a piece of paper and a No. 2 pencil! 

Tongue planted firmly in cheek, the "real" story of Weird Al then takes the viewer to the beginning, where young Alfred Yankovic, at the whims of his parents, is denied the pleasure of listening to his beloved "Dr. Demento" radio show, thwarted from his pastime of making up goofy lyrics to familiar songs, and encouraged to abandon his dreams and stop doing the things that make him happy.

The Master of Parody, Masterfully Self-parodied

While sprinkling nuggets of actual truth here and there — Yankovic receiving his first accordion through a purchase from a traveling salesman; recording his first hit, "My Bologna" (My Sharona), in a public restroom for the natural acoustical reverb; the song becoming a hit thanks to play on "The Doctor Demento Show" — the film revels in a veritable "Upside Down" of fabricated lunacy — Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood) wooing him and engaging in a romantic relationship solely to secure the honor of the parody of one of her songs and the "Yankovic bump," a resultant increase in sales for artists whose songs he has parodied; Yankovic wiping out a drug cartel in his single-handed effort to rescue her as she is kidnapped from said cartel; his spiral into alcohol and drugs. The pride, the self-indulgence, and the excess tell the all too familiar story of the rise and fall of an entertainment icon.

But, of course, that isn't "Weird Al's" story at all. In a career remarkably devoid of the typical exploits of a superstar's rocket ride to the top, Yankovic is perhaps one of the nicest guys in show business. Said to be extremely shy in his personal life, the very religious Yankovic is keenly averse to stepping on toes or bruising stars' egos, so — though he is legally not required to do so — he personally seeks permission to release a parody from the original artist her/himself. By following this practice, he has had relatively few refusals and no tabloid-blazing scandals. 

And, perhaps, it is why — given the opportunity and the platform to tell his story — he chose, instead, to spoof himself. The bell curve of "extremely talented, nice guy makes an unlikely rise to the top and stays there," with no peaks and valleys, no debauchery, no crossroads, unfortunately tells a boring story, unless it's on EWTN. So Yankovic decided to make it all up in a "biography" so outrageously ridiculous, it could only be a comedy.

This film is a joyous, goofy ride, intentionally light on facts, abundantly Weird Al-wacky, which — if you're a fan — you will most likely find hilarious.

If you're not a fan ...never mind.

"Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" A Numb Butt Cheeks® rating* of 8.8.

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (TV Movie 2022) - IMDb

*The Numb Butt-Cheeks® scale of zero to ten: a Numb Butt-Cheeks rating of zero indicates such a disregard for the film that one could get up to go to the bathroom at any point without worry of missing anything exciting or important; a Numb Butt-Cheeks rating of ten indicates there is no way one would get up and leave, save for a distinct tearing of bladder tissue.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Is Blogging Dead?

Writing is not a pastime for the lazy. To write, one must think. Even if the writing is a blazing, monosyllabic vomit of vitriol aimed at the political/religious/ethnic/racial group one feels deserves a diatribe aimed at them, the one diatribing will occasionally pause to consider which four-letter word is most apropos in the moment.


Resuscitation Burn-Out

But must one write? Most who "own" a blog — at least one that consists of words rather than cheese- and beef-cake photos of their favorite celebrities — will answer that question with "Yes." However, there is a "rest of us" who must write, but, yet, don't. All it takes is for an interested(?) reader of this blog to scroll back through the last several years of posts and see that something happened to me along the way. A good portion of my last twenty(?) posts are about writing — my writing, or the lack thereof. "Reviving," "reawakening," "comebacks," "restarting" this blog has become a pastime in itself, albeit woefully infrequent. Hence the "reviving." Duh. It's quite embarrassing to "come back," apologize and write about "coming back," and then disappear again for a year. Shameful.

Have I lost the passion I claim to possess for writing? Perhaps I have. Have I lost the ability to think? Fuck, I hope not! Am I brain-dead, or am I simply too distracted to concentrate on writing ...on thinking?


Gyat-Damn Facebook

By now, that interested reader has most likely lost interest in scrolling around 11 posts back and has gone back to searching Ariana Grande wardrobe malfunction photos, and I'm merely writing for myself. But, scrolling back a little bit further, the reader would have noticed, around spring of 2009, a precipitous drop in the post output by this blogger. Why? Because that's when I became unemployed that year. Now, one would think, "unemployed equals plenty of time to write," right? Well, yes, but that's also when I first started finding high school friends on that new app I had downloaded called Facebook. 

Soon I was searching for and finding and friending and chatting with people I hadn't spoken with in decades, and —  in between job searching, audition searching, taxi driving, and getting life moving again — gradually every idle moment went to that gyat-damn Facebook

Unfortunately, 12 years later, little has changed.



These days, when I do make it back to my blog, it seems a desolate place. There is the dearth of my output, of course, but my once-faithful few ...what?, if you will, and — certainly as they came to be over the years — friends also have many months and sometimes many years between posts to their "Better Blogs Than Mine." When I do post something, there is rarely a comment, even if just to say, "Hey, I read your stupid shit post." That rare comment, these days, is always from the ever-faithful kenju, and she never calls any of mine a "stupid shit post" ...even when it is. She also puts up new posts to her blog more regularly than any of the others. (Yes, I just tagged her so she'll read and comment. Sue me.)

Am I to blame for this abandonment? Did I abandon them as I was sucked up into the cotton candy comfort of the gyat-damn Facebook, and so they abandoned me back? Do they all have lives, now, that keep them away from their blogs? Or have they also succumbed to the cozy, mindless clicking of "Likes" to approve of their gdFB friends' mindless posts, abandoning thought except occasionally to return to their blogs and marvel, "Shit! It's been that long since I last posted?!"

Or has blogging across the planet simply gone by the wayside? Blogger has changed a bit since I first started: gone, apparently, is the "Next Blog" feature that, with one click, brought you a random blog to view, read, or pass. I really enjoyed that feature; it's how I found the bloggers I call my friends, today. Are all bloggers feeling this desolation? Am I partly to blame for turning the "blogosphere" into a wasteland?

Or is the wasteland my blog alone?




Wednesday, July 07, 2021

The Great Pretender

Despite being a staunch anti-smoker, I have to admit I do love the smell of cigar smoke. Not the choking, in-your-face cloud of dusty carbon monoxide, but the wafting, old neighborhood tavern aroma of thick digits of tobacco burned and exhaled to paint the atmosphere of a memory. Since I don't hang out in old neighborhood bars, I do on occasion take to lighting up and puffing on cigars on my own and, during the most recent engagement of this pastime, I regarded my fairly slender fingers and arguably feminine wrists. 

If I have — or ever had — any hangups about my self-image, it would have to be about my masculinity. Or, rather, my perception of my masculinity. Or, most rather, my perception of others' perception of my masculinity. As a teen I was fairly slender and lanky. I was non-athletic, though I was somewhat fit thanks to bicycle-riding everywhere I wanted to go around my environs. I was definitely not muscular. 

My father was a physically strong man. A barber by trade, he used much of his downtime from the barber shop to offer his skills to people as a handyman, which kept his arms and hands muscular and powerful — at least compared to mine. As a child and a teen, I always marveled at how thick his fingers were, well into his fifties, so much so that, as age took him down, I marveled sadly at how delicate and slender his once powerful fingers had become. 

My middle brother, the youngest before me yet nearly six years my senior, was athletic from childhood though high school. I envied his teenage physique and hoped mine would someday match his, but freshman year football tryouts revealed a lack of enough coordination to both think and move in the same moment, so the dreams of spotlights, adoring crowds, and pliant cheerleaders all evaporated at once. 

Theatre, however, accepted lanky, awkward me and my ability to pretend I wasn't, and provided me with the spotlights and appreciative crowds — but, alas, no cheerleaders or chiseled physique — and a hefty dose of self-doubt outside of Theatre, out in the sea of testosterone and estrogen, where to be a boy in Theatre surely meant you were a "homo." 

And so I headed off into adulthood, self-conscious of my skinny, doughy arms and my slender wrists, and my voice. Did I mention my voice? My raspy, shallow, high-register voice? Where I wanted the deep, booming voice of Fred Flintstone, I wound up with Wilma's. 

I know. This is an awfully long and winding road to get to a post about cigar smoking, but it's all behind the the whole free-association coming up in the next paragraphs. 

As the smoke slithers from the ashen tip of the cigar upward in a slender, grey column and dissolves into the air, I ponder my first and middle fingers with the cigar clutched between them at the knuckles. The two images don't mesh properly, the dark brown shaft of rolled tobacco against my pale, beige fingers. My mind pulls out memories from my childhood, summer afternoons killing time because I was too young to be left on my own, seated on a bar stool, sipping on a Coke at Tony's Place, the bar run by the owner of the building, the man to whom my father paid rent for the small room behind the bar that was his barber shop. I'd watch the men at the bar who, at the time, seemed so old to me but were probably all in their thirties and forties, as they smoked their cigarettes and puffed on their cigars. The smell in that room, with the cigars burning and afterward, is as present to me, now, as it ever was then. They did it idly, those men, an activity secondary to, and yet an integral part of, the social moment in which they were engaged. Their cigars smoldered as they clamped them between their fingers and sipped their beers, speaking their parts in the conversation, then puffing briefly while someone else spoke, the smoldering tip brightly glowing red as air was drawn through, then parting lips around the cigar to vent the smoke and send it wafting outward to make its contribution to the character of the room. Their fingers fit naturally around their cigars as though they were built to clutch cigars, as the cigars seemed custom fit to their fingers. 

It all seemed so natural. These men were men, thought this boy, not realizing he would compare himself unendingly to them throughout his life, as well he would to his father, as if they were the example he was supposed to meet in all things, not just holding cigars. 

I don't measure up, my thought says to me. The cigar mocks my dainty fingers despite how manly, how knuckly I try to get them to hold it. But it's all just pretend; I'm not a cigar smoker. I just occasionally like to smell the aroma, so I light one up and puff. Is how I hold it really of any importance? It's all a charade. It's not a social moment where it's something to do with my hands while engaging in conversation with friends and looking idly masculine; smoking the cigar is the main event: I prepare for it; the weather has to be right (I only puff outside!); and I savor it in the moment. 

A new thought then comes to me: am I ever glad I made it to my thirties! Thoughts like these used to weigh me down, but my thirties represented a sea-change in my self-awareness and my self-esteem. While such thoughts still occasionally play across my mind, I'm quite comfortable and content with my masculinity, regardless of the few feminine traits present in my being. 

The adage appears quite true at the view from the edge of 57: the more years you tack on, the less you care!

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Carry On ...and Under

In 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional Chicago's outright ban on handguns, which then opened the floodgates for the state of Illinois — begrudgingly — to legalize concealed carry, the last state in the union to do so.

Having purchased a handgun while I lived in Georgia, and having toted that handgun with me on my several moves since then, I was a little wiggy about trying to register it, concerned about the questions it might bring up, like when I purchased it or where. I was assured by one in the know that it was of no concern, so, also in 2013, I applied for and received my Illinois Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) card.

Stuff I Should Have Blogged About
Then, some five years after Illinois adopted CCW, my brother, who was in possession of the small caliber revolver my father had owned (given to him by an old friend back in the early 1970s), asked me if I would be interested in going with him to a CCW certification class, which is mandatory in order to legally carry in Illinois. I had told him I was interested, but not at the moment.

With my eye on a handsome IRS refund in early 2018, I laid out my CCW plan. As the handgun I purchased in Georgia some 20 years earlier is just a bit too big for comfortable concealment, I opted to purchase a new, compact semi-automatic. I researched heavily and found the one I wanted, and the dealer from which I wanted to purchase it. That didn't go smoothly, however, as the person with whom I made the transaction (he presents himself online as a firearms shop, however he operates out of his home while he waits for the pieces to fall into place for an actual store) didn't follow through with the arrangement we had made for me to pick it up after the 72-hour waiting period, and he was neither answering his phone nor returning my calls. So I had to work through JPMorgan Chase to negate that purchase. I went instead with an established local shop.

Around the first of the year — Resolution time — I told my brother I was ready to go, and eager to take the class with him. He had just retired, however, and suddenly wasn't comfortable with the cost of the course.

So, in March, I signed up by my own self for the Illinois 16-hour CCW course. As a military veteran, I had the option of skipping the first eight-hour class covering handgun familiarization, but it had been more than 20 years since I had fired any kind of weapon, so I thought it best to take the full class. Despite a few ass-kicker test questions about weapons carry laws, the course was a piece of cake.

As a convenience, a local entrepreneur came in on the second day of class to offer his services in expediting the application procedure for the students. I paid the extra to allow him to do this; all he needed were copies of my driver's license and my FOID (it's pronounced as a word, "foyd.") card. I was told that, after submission of the application, I could expect the full three months' wait for the license to arrive in the mail.

On June 19, exactly three months after the class, I received a letter in the mail from the Illinois State Police Firearms Services Bureau stating that, due to a discrepancy in my application documents, processing of my CCW license is delayed, and if I didn't respond within 60 days, it would be disqualified. The discrepancy? Illinois State Police put the incorrect zip code on my FOID card back in 2013, when I applied for that (because I owned the handgun purchased in Georgia), and the dude expediting the applications used the address from my FOID card instead of my driver's license. I corrected the error on the ISPFSB website within — literally — seconds of reading the letter, and I wound up waiting another three whole months until the CCW license finally arrived in late September, followed two days later by an updated FOID card. Hmmm.

I should have made the whole ordeal a blog series. It would have helped maintain my sanity through the summer and, hey, someone might have read it.

Now, one who stumbles upon this post (since my regular(?) readers have all but disappeared) may wonder, "Why do you, a librul own — not one but two — handguns?! Don't that make you a hypocrite?" (Sorry for the effected grammar ignorance. You just sound like that in my head.)

And no, that does not make me a hypocrite. I have never been anti-gun. I often refer to myself, when the topic comes up in discussion, as a Second Amendment liberal. What I am against is gun proliferation. I am one man. I have two hands. How many guns do I need, how many could I run at one time to defend myself? I am not a hunter, but, were I, I would likely possess a tool for the task. I don't know the number at which a limit should be placed, but I feel there should be a limit. I'm good with two.

Practice Makes Accurate
After the purchase of the new handgun, I made it to a couple of the local ranges on an average of about once a month until I joined a defensive pistol league through the same organization through which I took the CCW course. I've learned through practice and the league that I'm a pretty good shot, but I'm lazy and impatient. Also, twenty years on, my vision ain't so great, any more. With my one good eye, corrective lens for nearsightedness and a reading magnification, the ends of my extended arms are the perfect length where I can't focus on the front sight of the weapon with my prescription glasses on. Fortunately, the target is supposed to be blurry beyond the front sight, as it's blurry regardless, without my glasses!

Feeling a little more secure in my abilities, these days I carry as often as I can outside of the myriad places Illinois law and individual business owners prohibit. It's a lifestyle that takes getting used to, and I'm working on getting used to it.

# # #

Monday, December 02, 2019

Sharp Curves

It's funny how we humans relate to — and with — music. Some of us barely notice its presence; some of us have a few favorites within a genre or two. Others among us are fully immersed in it and some of us play or even write it.

Me? As with so much else in my life, I'm right in the middle there, somewhere. I can immerse myself in listening; I wish I could truly play beyond noodling around on a keyboard when I get the chance or — these days — the desire. That noodling has in the past resulted in a few tunes pleasing to my ears, though I have seldom shared it. Very seldom.

I got into music later than most people. It seemed my peers as early as junior high were banging their heads to some popular tune or another on the radio, whereas I kind of noticed a few songs I liked. I was also a dork, so, when I did start turning on to music, I didn't like most of what the other kids were into. I liked Billy Joel. I liked Journey. Rush. Cheap Trick. There were only a few others.

But I hated Van Halen.

I hated the smug, "I'm so sexy," self-fellating screech that the lead singer employed in just about every, scratch that every stupid song they got played on radio stations — which, I was certain, they achieved by providing chicks or drugs or money or all three to radio station executives in order to get their brand of shit on the airwaves.

It didn't help that, of my friends, my peers, who were the band's devotees, a good number of them drew, etched, or otherwise festooned their notebooks, jeans, jackets and the school's desks with the Van Halen logo.

And then I entered the Air Force, where I learned many, many important things, among them the sanity-saving practice of immersion into music. Lackland Air Force Base was the only installation that conducted Air Force basic training and, therefore, had a sizeable program for providing escape and places for new airmen to decompress. One avenue was the base library listening room, decked out with cassette and reel-to-reel tape machines, and a wide selection of music to sit and listen to, and even to record and make one's own mix tape. Through 18 weeks and three consecutive military training courses, I spent many hours disappearing between the cups of a pair of headphones exploring new music.

And I still hated Van Halen.

One Saturday morning, on the recreation bus from Camp Bullis, about a 30-minute ride to Lackland, in San Antonio, Texas, some douchebag was cranking the volume up on his boom-box with the unmistakable vocal preening of the lead singer of none other than Van Halen. I didn't have my Walkman with me for some reason, so I had no defense against the narcissism onslaught that none of the other young men on the bus that morning seemed to mind. Sometime later in the ride, I heard the welcome relief of a sort of ragtime jazz tune. I thought to myself that the kid with the boom box had an eclectic taste in music. But then I heard that voice. It was still Van Halen! But ...wait a minute! Acoustic guitar? Is that a clarinet playing on this tune?! And then another tune, this time a cover of "Happy Trails," sung a capella in four-part harmony?! Though done just a bit tongue-in-cheek, it sounded good!

I called over to the other kid. "Hey! What the hell is that?"

"Van Halen," he said. Duh. "Diver Down."

Three months later, now stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, among my selections for my first month of Columbia House Record and Tape Club membership was Van Halen's Diver Down album, their fifth release, and my first step toward broadening a horizon. I had dismissed the band as a loud, brainless, head-banging, three-chord hard rock band. They are those things a bit, but not so much of the brainless, as I learned through listening and research that the lead guitarist, Edward Van Halen, is a classically trained guitarist who, I came to realize as I listened to more and more of their music, is an amazingly versatile, agile, and innovative virtuoso master of his instrument. That clarinet I heard on the jazzy "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)" is played by Jan Van Halen, Edward's classically trained father, and the song, though a classic Milton Ager/Jack Yellen jazz tune originally written in 1924, was chosen and arranged by big-haired, big ego lead singer, David Lee Roth.

A new respect for the group opened my mind up to the rest of their music and, barely six months after that Texas bus ride, I was a fan of Van Halen.

Now, some 35 years after that fateful day, I find myself sitting once again next to a stereo turntable, spinning my vinyl LPs (Long Playing records) and pumping them into my computer to convert them to digital files. I had already once, years ago, recorded everything to cassette tape, but as that format faded from wide use and cassette players became scarce and proved themselves less reliable and versatile than digital, I have had to revisit the collection.

When I started, it occurred to me that it has been at least 20, maybe 25 years since I've heard most of this music. It has brought back to me the memories of many moments of escape, cruising the streets of downtown Great Falls, the green pastures of the Hunsrück in Germany, and the restless years after returning home from the Air Force and before embarking on my video production career.

And dropping into the band'sgrooves has brought back this memory of my 180 degree turn on Van Halen, and its lesson to me to always be willing to try the unfamiliar or the uncomfortable. You may come away from the experience with your mind unchanged, but you will nonetheless be changed, as you will have a new perspective, a deeper understanding, and some semblance of an inside knowledge of the thing about which you knew nothing before.

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Monday, November 11, 2019

The Comeback From My Most Recent Comeback

So this is yet another "I'm getting back to my writing" post, but, as has been the case in the past, we'll see. I recently purchased a laptop computer, which, some time after my previous computer purchase I realized would have been the better choice than what I purchased in that previous purchase (a desktop computer and an iPad). This will give me the full mobile functionality of a computer than my iPad gave me which, as I regrettably realized in the afterglow of the purchase, was little more than a glorified iPhone without the phone capability.

Anyhoo, this latest push to return to writing reflects a few new things on my table. Obviously, the laptop. Also, in April I started a new job with the same employer I started with in November of 2016, and am now the Executive Secretary to a department manager. There really isn't much to add about that. It's a desk job moving papers from one pile to other piles.

Late in the summer I started a modest fitness regimen. Seeing as how my foray ten years ago (TEN YEARS AGO?!) into the results-driven world of P-90X resulted in double shoulder injuries which my non-insurance-having status prevented me from getting properly diagnosed or treated, a reader could safely assume I'm not going in that direction again ...unless said reader assumes I'm stupid ...which I am, but I'm not that stupid!

No, this time around I'm getting my cardio in the form of early-morning, hour-long walks at roughly a fifteen-minute-mile pace, three days a week, and a fairly easy routine of weights work two days a week. The specific aim is to strengthen my shoulders, hoping that the injuries I sustained were due more to weak joint muscles than actual tearing of tissue; the general aim is overall fitness and muscle tone, as I have officially reached senior citizen status and I don't want the last vestiges of youth to escape me without a fight. In other words, late-stage mid-life crisis.

There are a few other new things to expound upon, some of which I haven't shared with my regular crowd(?) of friends or family, which will be revealed to the world here.

At first (he says, not exactly fully confident that he will return to Blogger again before another year has passed), this regrettably will amount to little more than an online diary of "whut I been up to," as, admittedly, the years of Facebook and being away from regularly blogging have affected my skill of contemplation. It is my hope that, as I think about writing and write what I think, my thinking will return to thinking and not just thinking about what I will write about next. Contemplation. Reflection. Word craft.

It's an odd thing. For nearly three years, I dated Donna, a perfectly lovely woman with whom things went sour and definitely not perfectly lovely, at which point we split. Upon parting, she requested that I not make our breakup public, or at least not make it fodder for Facebook posts. Out of respect for her, I honored her wish. However, I realized that, as a creature of Facebook, most of what I had posted during our time together revolved around our relationship. I had stopped, for the most part, parsing my day-to-day experiences to the world and had turned my focus to us. When there was no longer an us, I realized I had forgotten how to share. However, seeing as how, prior to my relationship with Donna, I posted SO MUCH on Facebook, I saw my distance from it as a good thing. The problem was that, as Facebook had taken me away from blogging, Donna and the aftermath of our relationship had taken me away from the practice of daily contemplation and reflection.

I have been desperately trying to feel that drive again.

I hope this new toy will rekindle it.

# # #

Friday, May 10, 2019

A General, Warm Melancholy

It's one thing to regard an elderly celebrity or acknowledge when one passes, but it takes a lifetime of fandom — or at least of frequent regard — to really appreciate the contribution to your life a certain person has had, and the effect you experience when that person is revealed to be, simply, human.

These thoughts crept up on me during a recent concert I attended by the Temptations and the Four Tops. I was a big fan of neither group growing up, but each group had several hits that crossed over into the world of music that reached me during my childhood and teen years. Each group now has only one surviving original member; Otis Williams of the Temptations is 77, and Abdul "Duke" Fakir of Four Tops is 83. With younger, more agile talent keeping each group moving, it was a delightful show.

Perhaps it is just a middle-age thing, but I found myself fascinated and somewhat saddened by these old dudes up on the stage. Immensely talented and immeasurably fortunate, they chased and captured fortune and fame through their lives, but they couldn't outrun time. I found myself regretting that I hadn't followed their careers more closely.

But that got me to thinking about careers I did follow. One in particular is that of Steve Perry, most famously the lead singer of the rock band, Journey. I suppose I didn't so much follow his career so much as I was acutely aware of it because I am such a fan.

I didn't know much about Journey before 1981, when their album of that year, Escape, caught my attention. All I knew about them was their hit songs that had been played on local radio for only the whole of my teen years to that point. What I didn't realize was that, despite being a band since the early 1970s, they weren't a phenomenon until Mr. Perry came along in 1978 and gave them lyrical and vocal prominence. Of course, also little to my knowledge, I became a true fan of Journey just about at the peak of their fame, and about the middle point of Steve Perry's musical arc.

I wasn't much into music as a teen. Perhaps the only record I owned outright, the only record I listened to in my childhood that hadn't been handed down from my older siblings, was "Bohemian Rhapsody," by Queen, which I had purchased on 45 rpm single in 1975, when it was still in regular rotation on the local radio stations. I was 11 years old. Then, in my junior and senior years in high school, popular music truly started speaking to me. I remember asking for — and receiving — three distinctive albums for Christmas, 1981: Dream Police, by Cheap Trick; Permanent Waves by Rush; and Journey's Escape. Mixed in during that time was access to my siblings' handed down albums for already classic rock standards, and my formal introduction to/discovery of the Beatles.

After that, the first group I followed was Journey. In 1983 I breathlessly awaited the release of their new album, Frontiers. When my favorite radio station, after having played their new single, "Separate Ways...Worlds Apart" from Frontiers, for weeks on the radio, switched without mention to the album version of the song, which has a longer vocal/instrumental interlude after the last verse, I had a fan-girl type meltdown!

While in the US Air Force and earning my own money, I back-collected their offerings from their beginnings as an off-shoot from Santana (singer/keyboardist Gregg Rolie; guitarist Neal Schon), and into the Steve Perry era, connecting the dots to Escape.

With the entire library in my possession, I noticed between Departure and Frontiers a gradual deterioration in the overall quality of Perry's voice, and a distinct reduction in, if not his vocal range, then his willingness to go there.

I was a reluctant fan of Steve Perry's 1984 solo album, Street Talk. Reluctant because, shouldn't Steve be working on the next Journey album? Fan, because, dammit, there were some good songs on that album!

Then, in 1986, Journey released Raised On Radio. Indicated by the title, alone, there was trouble. It broke from their long tradition of one-word, themed album titles, certainly since the beginning of the Perry era: Infinity (1978), Evolution (1979), Departure (1980), Escape, Frontiers. Perry's voice was yet more scratchy, and gone altogether were the stratospheric high notes for which he was famous. Then, in the album liner notes, there was the photo of the band: Perry, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, and Schon, the only original member of what had always been a 5-man group. The list of credits for each song revealed the other longtime members abandoning ship and being replaced by studio musicians during the creation of the album. And it sounded more like a Steve Perry album than Journey.

And then there was silence. Behind the scenes there was turmoil and personal strife between the members. Publicly, there were rumors: "Steve Perry has throat cancer" had the strongest legs and persisted for a long time.

And then, 1995 brought Trial By Fire, the first Journey album in nine years! Perry's voice sounded even worse. But, the more-than-one-word title aside, the new album heralded to me the long-awaited return of Journey to the radio, to the arena, to rock and roll prominence.

They officially broke up shortly after the album's release.

And that was the last anyone, for the most part, heard of Steve Perry.

Until 2017.

The internet went abuzz when Perry made a surprise appearance with a band called The Eels at a small Minneapolis, Minnesota, venue. Performing in the band's encore, Perry sang an Eels song, and then two Journey standards, "Lights," and "Don't Stop Believin'." It was his first stage appearance anywhere in 25 years.

In 2018, Journey was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. Perry spoke on behalf of the band in their acceptance, but declined to perform with them out of respect for their current lead singer, of whom he spoke glowingly in recorded interviews after the ceremony. Then, later in the year, he surprised the music world by releasing a new solo album, Traces, written in the aftermath of the death of his girlfriend, who had succumbed to cancer.

In the collection of mostly mellow, reflective tunes, Perry, now age 70, retains the classic tone of his voice, but it is clearly tattered from the overuse and abuse in his heyday, and from lack of use after he stepped away from the business in the 1990s, not to mention his age.

Seventy years old. As I have mentioned in this blog before, celebrities who step away from — or who are otherwise shunned by — the spotlight don't age in my mind, so when one whose voice still rings pure in my memory and every time I spin one of his old tunes appears suddenly old, it is quite a shock, as it is often just hearing one's current age.

In moments such as these, I'm filled with a melancholy that's hard to shake. Is it their glory years I mourn, or my own? Will their music — or anyone's music, for that matter — ever make me feel like I did that day Frontiers was released?

I felt a brief spark when I learned of, and downloaded, and listened to Traces because I am still a fan, after all, but nothing was ignited.

Maybe it's maturity, or maybe it's just the result of getting old: there are a few sparks, even fewer fires, but, mainly, a general, warm melancholy.

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