Rock and redemption

The End of the New Age, what’s ahead and The Loss of an Angel

Now everybody’s talking about this new decade
Like you say the magic number
Then just say goodbye to
The stupid mistakes you made
Oh, my memory serves me far too well

Don’t you know that
The years will come and go
Some of us will change our lives
Some of us still have nothing to show
Nothing, baby
But memories

“Waiting for That Day (You can’t Always Get what You Want)”
George Michael from “Listen Without Prejudice”

Well 2017 is here. My own feeling is that from an energetic point of view is that it will be a better year than 2016 (I mean short of nuclear war, could it really get worse?). It’s part of the transition years which will see old orders and old ways of doing things fade away and new models and ideas take root. Most of that is of course up to us individually which is why I can’t stress that emotionally getting yourself to a positive place first is of paramount importance. If we can project ourselves to that happy, magnanimous place first, on an individual level, it will have a ripple effect.

You absolutely cannot get a positive outcome to anything if you’re on a negative train. I’m not saying that people need to become Pollyanna-ish and unrealistic but rather when you do things or think things which make you feel better, stronger, more empowered, whether that is joining a political demonstration like the Women’s March which is happening on the day after Inauguration Day in DC, stop thinking thoughts which place you in a negative whirlpool of emotion, or cutting ties with people who no longer serve you or do you any good, you can’t help but feel better and that then opens other possibilities.

Bye-bye.

Bye-bye.

There is great article over at New Dawn magazine by Richard Smoley called “What Happened to the New Age? Sorting Truth from Nonsense” and it’s definitely worth a read. Basically what he’s saying is that the “truisms” of the New Age movement, even if partially true, are now outdated completely. A new mold needs to be created. Everything just feels old and stale. The time of reading about this stuff or buying “spiritual” paraphernalia is over. It’s now time for things to be anchoring in direct personal experience otherwise it’s meaningless.

Steve Judd and Carl Boudreau have both said that the energies of 2016 will continue for the first two months of 2017. After that, real change and real possibilities will start to come in and pick up speed for those who want it. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your own personal perspective and preference, 2017 is going to be a year where things will be in the ethers, so this is the time to start dreaming, strategizing and lining up your visions. The energy of 2018 will be much more grounded so that’s when you put your plans and dreams into concrete action. Plan wisely.


George Michael (1963-2016)

Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou aka. George Michael (1963-2016)

I don’t know why but the death of George Michael left me ending 2016 in a somewhat saddened state. When someone’s music you grew up with dies, a part of you dies with them because of all the memories that music brings you. It defines certain periods and moments in your life. I never saw George Michael in concert, though I regret it now that I didn’t go. George Michael was one of those artists that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE liked at least one of his songs. His music reached out across different genres, styles and crowds. My Caribbean-Canadian and African friends all loved his dance music because he understood funk, R & B and the importance of a wicked groove. My friends who were into hard rock and heavy metal all liked the ‘Faith” album. All my gay friends adored him especially back in 1988 when we were all 15 year olds still stuck in secondary school in a socially claustrophobic suburb and “I Want Your Sex” suddenly landed on the radio and the video was rarely shown because it was so controversial. It was all so taboo and risqué at the time so naturally we went crazy.

I’ve been re-watching all his old videos, in some cases for the first time after 26 years and seeing some interviews for the first time ever and I think what Michael taps into (for me anyway) is that his music brings you right back to a certain time and place in your life. Really good music will do that for you. I was a kid when I first saw the video for “Bad Boys”. All the songs from “Make it Big” reminds me of all the those awful, insecure years as a pre-teen. The lyrics of “Waiting for That Day” brings me back to my first serious break-up and how its pointless to try to get someone back who isn’t good for you anyway. “Fastlove” came out right about when I graduated from university and still in love with someone there.

I think he was grossly misunderstood. The fact that since his death, it’s quickly emerging he was one of the biggest private philanthropists to various charities in Great Britain, particularly those charities related to helping out troubled children, nurses and the NHS and health care research particularly in the aftermath of his mother’s death due to ovarian cancer in 1997. That he regularly volunteered at a London-area homeless shelter anonymously. That his staggering philanthropy was completely private and anonymous is amazing especially in this day and age where any little thing is quickly picked up as news.

Michael even admitted in interviews that his creativity was directly related to his own spirituality and that he only produced 5 albums over a span of 25 years was the fact that he was gutted emotionally and spiritually especially when his Brazilian partner and soul mate, Anselmo Feleppa died of AIDS. Anselmo was the one who made Michael A) realize he was gay and not bisexual B) that it was real love which made him realize who he really was. Michael had barely finished grieving over Anselmo’s death when he then lost his mother Leslie. I don’t think he was ever the same again after that. The sugar-coated pop icon with the deep tan, frosted hair tips and giant white Katherine Hamnett T-shirts was gone.

I think what’s amazing that Michael, once he accepted he was gay, he was completely unapologetic about his sexuality and lifestyle. He wore himself completely on his sleeve. He was what people in the LGBTQ+ crowd call a “bad gay”. Talk to any London cabbie and they’ll probably be able to tell you about his nocturnal visits to London’s leather-boy gay bars and dungeons as well as his frequent visits to Hampstead Heath, a wooded park area in northern London which is well-known for gay cruising among the trees and bushes. One paparazzo tried following him into the Heath one night and Micheal, in his typical cheeky way asked, “Are you  gay? No? Well fuck off then.” Famous or not, there are not a lot of people in the world who are that honest and I have more respect for the person who is honest about themselves and doesn’t hide who they are even if they are a “bad gay” than the poser, fake New Ager, fake guru, fake priest etc. who is preaching “Love and Light”, loving thy neighbor and then acting like a cretinous douche bag when no one was looking.

There was of course the infamous  1998 incident in the public washroom in Beverly Hills where he was outed in a sting operation by a police officer for “lewd behavior”. Michael just took it in stride and used the incident to come “out” to the world at large. But then he turned it around and sent the classiest, funniest, giant “Fuck You” to the LAPD and homophobic jerks everywhere with the boom-cha-ka-wa-wa single and video of “Outside” extolling the virtues of outdoor sex for straight or LGBT couples alike. Dressed as a police officer, Micheal celebrates what happened in a public toilet which then becomes a disco.

Little-known fact but Michael was very political as well and had strong leftist sympathies. He absolutely hated the way Tony Blair acted as George Bush Jr’s lap dog in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He wrote “Shoot the Dog” and the video pretty much tells it all. Because of his public and vocal disapproval of the war, he also raised the ire of another right-wing nut, Rupert Murdoch who then saw to it that Michael was painted as a troubled, mentally unstable, drug-addled dirty gay man in all his newspapers and tabloids. At the time, Michael was attacked viciously for his stance but now in hindsight, he was right on the money.  (at 7:15 in the video, watch all 4 parts of the interview if you can. Fantastic) Name me one major mainstream pop music act in today’s music scene who is willing to take a stand like Michael did, say about Syria or what might happen if Trump starts off a war with whoever? Taylor Swift? Katy Perry? Justin Timberlake? Yeah right.

Micheal battled depression for most of his adult life and things like grief and dealing with fame compounded it. He also admitted he was extremely emotionally immature and stunted when he first became famous. I think that would explain his risky behavior, drug addiction and troubled life.  At the same time, I can’t help but get the sense of what a generous, big-hearted, intelligent, humble, grounded person he was, who was grateful for what he had but at the same time, scared and unsure of what to do.

Apparently he was very cognizant of the world politically and it affected him deeply how much people were suffering and used his money to help others. I don’t know if you know people like this in your own life, but there’s a certain type of decent person who gets terribly shy and embarrassed when they get caught doing something good or other people see them doing something good. So to avoid the embarrassment, they do everything secretly. I’m almost certain George Michael was like that just based on the stories which are coming out now. He was constantly making fun of himself in interviews. I don’t think he fully realized just how much joy his music bought to his fans and what his music meant to millions on an emotional level or how much of a gay icon he was and is.

One of my personal heroes is Queen guitarist Brian May. Michael of course did a blistering rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert which surviving members of Queen have gone on the record to say it was the best version they had ever seen. May tweeted this about Micheal’s death and I think he pretty much nailed it. “I don’t have the words. This year has cruelly taken so many fine people way too young. And George? That gentle boy? All that beautiful talent? Can’t begin to compute this. RIP George. Sing with Freddie. And the Angels.”

 

Categories: Ch-ch-ch-changes, Pop culture, Rock and redemption, Those unseen things, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rock and Redemption – Prince

Prince Rogers Nelson 1957-2016

Prince Rogers Nelson 1957-2016

“I said life is just a game
We’re all just the same”

– Controversy

I have to say that between the death of Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie and now Prince, 2016 is shaping up to be the year the music died for some of us….
I’m still reeling from news of Prince’s death but for those of you who are interested, David Icke just posted a fantastic video explaining in detail what made Prince the magus of music that he was (Prince apparently was also into Icke’s books and work and invited him to his show and a meeting afterwards). And he was indeed a magus, albeit one decked out in purple velvet, assless chaps, lace, killer high heels and a bevy of biracial beauties like Apollonia, Vanity, Sheila E and Mayte Garcia surrounding him.
Prince and Vanity rocking the cover of Rolling Stone magazine

Prince and Vanity rocking the cover of Rolling Stone magazine

If you read some parts of esoteric literature, they say that the most gifted artists, whether they be musicians, scientists, writers, actors, sculptors, painters and dancers are usually those who are channeling something from a different dimension and bringing it into our awareness to understand and learn from and I believe it. All you have to do is really sit down and listen to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, look into Nikolai Tesla and his work, read the works of Rainier Maria Rilke, look at the acting work of thespian heavyweights like Sir John Gielgud, study the sculptural work of Michelangelo, examine the paintings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti or Salvador Dali or look at the dancing of Gene Kelly and it becomes fairly obvious that the inspiration and talent is otherworldly. In my mind, Prince’s constant dedication, “tuning in”, connection and immersion to music and music alone, places him in that category.
I don't care what anyone says, prince had a fashion sense all his own and it worked. A classic case of the man wearing the clothes and not the clothes wearing the man. You need a massive personality to be able to swing the kinds of threads Prince did.

I don’t care what anyone says, Prince had a fashion sense all his own and it worked. A classic case of the man wearing the clothes and not the clothes wearing the man. You need a massive personality and supreme confidence to be able to swing the kinds of threads Prince did.

Some people think Prince was weird. I don’t think so. Like Bowie, he lived on a completely different frequency, one that only he could understand and most dull human ruminants never will, not in a million years of evolution. So of course when you compare Prince to people like that, he’s far from “normal”.
You have to have a certain kind of swagger to pull this off.

You have to have a certain kind of swagger to pull this off.

If you either listen to or read the lyrics to most of his songs which he performed for himself or wrote for others, it’s very clear that Prince’s two main preoccupations were around spiritual angst ( like “Controversy”, “Let’s Go Crazy”) and of course sex (“Cream”, “Darling Nikki”, “Sexy MF”, “Nasty Girl”“Sugar Walls” and my favorite, “A Love Bizarre”). In all honesty, I don’t think he was a sex pervert or a  musician with a dirty mind like some journalists have written about. No doubt about it: he enjoyed sex and truly loved the company of  women, not merely as sex objects and window dressing  but as women and all they are capable of doing. Just by going with his lyrics, never mind the provocative dancing, costumes and tongue-lashing on stage, women understood automatically that here was a guy who REALLY understood women. By every account, all his former lovers have nothing but praise about him and his gentlemanly treatment towards them. That instantly makes him a class act in my book.
In fact, given how sex-positive he was in his lyrics (“Darling Nikki” is about female masturbation. When Tipper Gore – Al’s wife – heard her daughter singing it, she went apeshit crazy and tried having his music censored), I’m almost certain that Prince understood that sex (when done right and with the right partner) , isn’t just a fun, hedonistic, pleasurable  thing to do, but could be a major gateway towards a profound spiritual experience capable of taking you outside of yourself completely, something which the Indian Tantrists having been saying for thousands of years already. He just tried to explain that publicly through his music.
Sexy MotherFucker indeed.

Sexy MotherFucker indeed.

Spiritually, Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness (in theory) but given his sensual lifestyle, I don’t think he followed the teachings to the letter but just made it his own. He was definitely plugged in, he understood a conspiracy and a scam when he saw one. That was part of the reason why he turned his back on the record companies and their vulture-like darlings for a while. Like Ickey pointed out in his video, Prince followed David Icke’s work and openly discussed chemtrails on the Tavis Smiley Show in 2011.
I think because he was so aware of how negative psychic, subtle and energetic influences could wreak havoc on one’s creativity and in one’s own life, he was intensely private, very selective about who he spent time with and only surrounded himself with people he trusted and who wouldn’t hinder his creative output. History is rife with examples of artists and creative types settling with a spouse or partner who is either emotionally demanding, a psychic drain or just not on the same frequency and thus having their work and art suffer for it terribly (Actor David Niven and philosopher Bertrand Russell immediately come to mind). Prince understood that keenly and I think that’s why he was even more selective about his various muses and their rapid succession.
Prince with first wife, Mayte Garcia

Prince with first wife, Mayte Garcia

What’s also amazing about Prince was that he had, by far  the most diverse and broad base of fans and listeners among most musicians today. The thing with many musicians is that many of them only appeal to a specific audience, like Led Zeppelin appealing mostly to those who like hard rock. Or R & B artists like Sly & the Family Stone and Earth, Wind and Fire appealing to a largely African-American audience. Not so with Prince. He had legions of fans around the world, across genres, cultures and languages. Even if he did play funk and jazz, he counted many hard rock musicians as admirers. Even if he did play the electric guitar like Jimi Hendrix, he still had a huge fan base among African-Americans. It was this kind of musical intersectionality which appealed to almost everyone in one form or another. That kind of universal appeal across a broad spectrum of tastes and genres is very rare and it takes a special kind of genius to pull it off with panache and class.
I first got into Prince when I first heard “Controversy” as an 8-year-old and dancing to it with my babysitter. Not long after, when he hit mainstream success all his biggest hits came on the airwaves and MTV in rapid succession during my tween and teen years. You know what I’m talking about, songs like “1999”, “Little Red Corvette”, and basically the entire soundtrack to the autobiographical film “Purple Rain” and his more funk-based work like “Cream”, “Kiss” and “Raspberry Beret”.
Of course this was his more accessible work but the truth of the matter is that he never stopped producing music. It was in his blood. There’s still a ton of music he’s never released publicly and never got airplay because it was either too experimental, jazzy or different. We’re talking thousands of hours worth of music here. I also saw him last year in concert here in Montreal and all I can say is that when you attend a Prince concert, it’s literally a joyful, non-stop all-night dance party involving thousands of people. It’s not just a show, it’s an experience.
I think Prince’s basic message is that you have to stay true to your gift and true to yourself, in whatever form that may be. You cannot compromise on your art to suit other people’s tastes and inclinations, that as an artist it is your sacred duty to remain as true to it as possible, to stick to your own vision. As long as you remain true to yourself, the work will speak for itself. It certainly has for Prince.
Truthfully, I’m not as upset about Prince’s death as I was about Bowie’s. When you have such rare, talented souls, you begin to understand that their presence among us is a blessing, a transient one, but a blessing nonetheless. There are some Facebook threads asking which star or galaxy he’s returned to. Some say the Pleiades,  others say Arcturus. I say who cares. He was here for a while, gifted us with his amazing music and talent and now he’s gone back home, where ever that is.  I’m sure he’s happy and jamming like crazy at whatever star he’s gone to.
Stay well, sweet Prince.
Categories: Pop culture, Rock and redemption, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rock and Redemption: Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe

Motley Crue, l to r: Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee

Motley Crue, l to r: Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee

I am going to be very honest. I really dislike hair-metal bands.
I had the unfortunate luck of attending a predominantly white, affluent suburban high-school in the late 1980s when bands like Poison, Cinderella, Queensryche and The Scorpions dominated airplay at all major radio stations and music video channels.

mike-myers-finishes-first-draft-of-waynes-world-3-121660-470-75

Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in “Wayne’s World”. I actually knew guys like these…(shudder)

Don’t get me wrong, I like some hard rock. Sometimes when you’re driving along a lonely highway in the summer and all the windows are open, the best thing on earth is to have the likes of AC/DC or pre-1985 Van Halen blaring out of the sound system at full blast. (There are different types of heavy metal and Sam Dunn’s documentaries “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey” and “Global Metal” delineates them masterfully.)

If you need pumped-up driving music, nothing beats early Van Halen.

If you need pumped-up driving music, nothing beats early Van Halen.

Out of all the hair-metal bands, by far Mötley Crüe had the most notorious, debauched, craziest reputation of the lot. Voted by UK’s Smash Hit’s magazine as the band which readers would most love to see stranded on Mars for 5 years in a row, the Crue polarized music listeners everywhere. People who loved them, REALLY loved them, and people who really hated them did everything they could to get away from their music.

IMGrseer

During the Dr. Feelgood tour, Tommy Lee and his drum set would be lifted up, turned around and then eventually brought out over the audience.

Having said that, one night I was watching an episode of “Richler, Ink” on BookTelevision with Daniel Richler and the genre under discussion that evening was the rock autobiography. Surprisingly, for such a high-brow show, the panel were discussing the Mötley Crüe autobiography “The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band”. It was unanimously praised, not so much because of the anecdotes of the Crue’s unbelievable excesses and antics involving drugs, drink, women and more women, but mostly because of the candor, brutal honesty and the very high toll the four band members individually paid the devil along the way. If anything, the book is a sobering reminder of what the rock’n roll lifestyle will do to you if you don’t set any limits.

motley_crue_the_dirt

“The Dirt” is an engrossing read, trust me on this one.

It is an excellent, hilarious and at time difficult read. Apparently when Gene Simmons of KISS finished reading it, he literally dropped everything and ran out to buy the film rights, it’s *that* crazy (and for a womanizer like Gene Simmons to do that, is really saying something…). It’s one of those books, you just need to read in order to believe the rumors circulating around the band. (Note to self: Never drink around Ozzy Osbourne especially when Sharon isn’t around.  Never, ever play with the Ouija Board with knives laying about and Mick Mars is a surprising source of wisdom with hilarious thoughts on reincarnation.)

Tommy Lee was married to actress Heather Locklear for a while but of course, it didn't last too long.

Tommy Lee was married to actress Heather Locklear for a while but of course, it didn’t last too long.

Nikki Sixx, the bassist, was by far the one who was most popular with the ladies, but also suffered the most from drugs and heroin addiction. The fact that he’s even alive is a bit of a miracle. What I also find compelling about Nikki’s narrative, is that it’s quite clear Nikki is one insanely smart dude, a very compelling writer and at the end of the day, a very decent fellow who has his heart in the right place and means well.

Left: Nikki Sixx then, at the height of Motley Crue's popularity and at the height of his drug and alcohol addiction around 1986-87. Right: Nikki, clean and sober, these days.

Left: Nikki Sixx then, at the height of Motley Crue’s popularity and at the height of his drug and alcohol addiction around 1986-87. Right: Nikki, clean and sober, these days.

If you ever toyed with the idea of doing heroin but chickened out but are nonetheless curious to know what living through a heroin addiction is like, mentally, spiritually and physically, then Nikki’s book “The Heroin Diaries” should be at the top of your list. It’s a harrowing read and one that you won’t easily forget. The book cumulates to the night of December 23, 1987, where Sixx was declared dead for two minutes after a heroin overdose, only to be revived by paramedics with two shots of Naloxone. In an interview, Sixx states that after he was declared dead, the ambulance arrived and one of the paramedics in the ambulance was a Mötley Crüe fan. “Apparently, the paramedic took one look at me and said, ‘No one’s gonna die in my ambulance.'” He also recalled having an out-of-body experience while being revived. When Nikki came into the hospital, he ripped the tubes out of his nose and escaped into the parking lot where two female fans gave him a ride home wearing just a pair of leather pants.

Another engrossing but excellent read.

Another engrossing but excellent read.

Nikki brutally describes his highway to heroin hell and what got him there in the first place:
“It was on the Monsters of Rock and Iron Maiden tours that the tedium began. In Hollywood, gigging was a way of life. But gigging was not the same as touring. When you gig, you get to go home afterwards. Touring is an endless parade of anonymity: faceless people, identical hotel rooms, and indistinguishable cities, always changing but always the same…On past tours, I would sit in my hotel room and write postcards to my grandparents in Jerome, Idaho…telling them how lonely it was…But after my reunion with my mother, I did not want to go home anymore, I became crazier and more reckless, subconsciously putting myself on the same self-destructive path my mother had been on. My rock-and-roll fantasy wasn’t just about success and decadence and rebellion anymore, it was also about pain and death…I had always thought that age and success had enabled me to overcome the shyness and low self-esteem I had developed from constantly switching homes and schools as a kid, but in reality I hadn’t changed at all. I had just drowned those feelings in heroin and alcohol. As a human being, I had never really learned how to act or behave. I was still the kid who didn’t know how to play normal games with his cousins….When I rewound everything – running away from my mother, stealing a homeless girl’s clothes, fighting with cops outside the Whisky (a-Go-Go), overdosing at the Franklin – all that misanthropy and self-destruction came down to the same thing, a massive chip I had been carrying on my shoulder because my father had abandoned me “.

Having a heroin addiction often makes you paranoid and Nikki was no different. He often carried a gun around that time.

Having a heroin addiction often makes you paranoid and Nikki was no different. He often carried a gun around that time.

After numerous stints in rehab and even more stints of falling off the wagon, Nikki eventually married Playboy Playmate Brandi Brandt and fathered three beautiful children. That was when he completely became besotted with his kids and wanted to do the right thing for them and for himself and stop the patterns of his past from being passed on to his kids. And that’s when he decided to clean up for real.

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Nikki with 3 of his 4 kids.

“It was my first step toward straightening out all the crooked roads of my past. I never realized before that I had the power to break the chain of secrecy and dishonesty and irresponsibility that I had inherited. And I could do that simply by having a solid relationship with my wife and family, so that my children wouldn’t spend their lives lost and hiding from everything, like I had.”

Looking good: Cleaned up Nikki

Looking great: Cleaned up Nikki

By the end of “The Heroin Diaries”, Nikki comes to this final conclusion:

“What I’ve learned in this life so far is to let the little things go as much as possible and try to swerve to miss the big things. Life is like a long ride to nowhere in particular. We’re bound to get a flat tire somewhere along the journey and it’s never a good time for it to happen…in fact, it’s usually pouring rain or a blizzard when you feel the car jolt from the tire that just blew out underneath you and ripped away at your safety and support. But we don’t have a choice really. We have to get back out, fix the flat, get back in the car and head back out on the highway of life.

There are a few sayings I used to loathe that I now cherish:

1) You gotta give it away to keep what you got.

2) Let go and let God….

Let me explain…

1) To keep my happiness, I’ve got to give away as much as I can. It works. Amazing. A guy who mostly consumed, took and would go out of his way to bust people’s balls using this as a mantra. Amazing.

2) I never thought there was a God (well, maybe I thought I was him), but I know now there is a power greater than myself and that has been a huge part of my sobriety. So I let shit go, and let the man upstairs deal with it. A guy who was a complete control freak, letting go as a way of life…Amazing.

Addiction was my downfall and yet it’s the very thing that has given me a spiritual connection and awareness that I never thought existed. Quitting drugs and alcohol was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and has given me the most satisfaction. I’m actually glad I’m an addict, ’cause through recovery I have the ability to give back.”

Nikki has worked closely with Covenant House to help homeless or troubled kids get off the streets or get off drugs.

Nikki has worked closely with Covenant House to help homeless or troubled kids get off the streets or get off drugs.

Nikki has since branched out from his Motley Crue activities and found other, healthy outlets for his creativity. He teamed up with Covenant House and created the charity “Running Wild in the Night” to help benefit kids who had run away from troubled homes and are living on the streets and are involved in drugs. Running Wild into the Night also provides a creative arts and music program, allowing the kids in this program to discover an alternative to their problems that is better than drugs. Sixx has campaigned for other musicians and other music industry insiders to provide the program with musical instruments and software and has arguably prevented thousands of potential under-aged drug users and rehabilitated teenage addicts from continuing to dabble in the world of drugs, as Covenant House helped almost 78 000 youth at risk last year alone. He’s also dabbled in fashion design, art photography and hosted a number of radio shows.

I think Nikki’s story is really about growing up and growing out of yourself and realizing that life isn’t just about you anymore, but rather our lives are like interconnected circles. One affects the other and that if one circle goes awry, it affects everyone else, like the ripple effect. That patterns of the past don’t have to define our future and that we all have the ability to move forward and that anger and resentment only ends up hurting ourselves.

But…once a rock-and-roll bad boy, always a rock-and-roll bad boy, eh?

nikki-sixx

Categories: Pop culture, Raise your EQ, Rock and redemption | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Rock and Redemption – Neil Peart of RUSH

I have to admit this upfront: I am not a fan of Prog(ressive) Rock.

It’s music from the generation before me and it was and is a genre which I never really connected with. I guess if you were in your 20’s during the 1970’s, and “Pink Floyd“, “Emerson, Lake and Palmer”, “Genesis“, “YES”, “The Moody Blues” were on heavy rotation at your local rock radio station then it’s to be expected that would be part of your musical soundscape. Canadian rock band RUSH, would no doubt be a part of that soundscape.

l to r: Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson

So growing up, I guess you can say that I just lumped RUSH in with the rest of those bands and never really paid much attention to them. That changed one night while watching BookTV, one of those pretentious literature shows where editors from New York and English professors sit down and dissect books and discuss the merits of some obscure title and the works of people like Salman Rushdie or Bruce Chatwin ( I know, I’m weird ).

That night they were discussing musical autobiographies and “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road” by RUSH’s drummer extraordinaire Neil Peart (not “Purt” but “Pee-urt) suddenly came up. I was extremely surprised and became insanely curious after it was unanimous among this Upper West Side literati set that this was one fantastic and eye-opening read. I would never have guessed that A) they read those kinds of books and B) they even knew who Neil Peart was.

A fantastic read.

So I rushed over to my local library and got the book and read it cover to cover in a matter of days.

Reader, I was floored. Not only was I floored, I suddenly went out and starting listening to RUSH with a new ear and realized there’s a reason why Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart are considered musical geniuses among the music geek set.

Neil is also an intensely private man, most of it due to shyness and is someone who really is into the music for the sake of the music. The celebrity aspect of it is something he hates and tries to avoid. That’s a very hard thing to do when you’re part of a legendary rock trio. Still, he managed to escape the limelight and had a family and lived in a cottage deep in the Laurentian mountains, north of Montreal with his wife and daughter.

In 1997, Peart’s first daughter and then-only child, 19-year-old Selena Taylor, left home and was on her way to study at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. On the way, she was killed in a single-car accident on the TransCanada highway. His common-law wife of 22 years, Jacqueline Taylor, succumbed to cancer only 10 months later in June 1998. Peart, however, maintains that her death was the result of a “broken heart” and called it “a slow suicide by apathy. She just didn’t care.” Peart was a completely broken man and a ghost of his former self.

Peart  told his bandmates at Selena’s funeral, “consider me retired.” Peart took a long sabbatical to mourn and reflect, heal and travelled extensively throughout North and Central America on his motorcycle, covering 88,000 km (55,000 mi). After his journey, Peart decided to return to the band. Peart wrote “Ghost Rider” as a chronicle of his geographical and emotional journey. The book is a first person narrative of Peart on the road, on a BMW R1100GS motorcycle, as he tries to put his life back together as he embarked on an extensive road trip across North America.

And put back his life together again, like Humpty Dumpty, he did. Peart literally rode his demons out into the ground. He met and married a beautiful photographer named Carrie Nuttall and he welcomed the birth of a daughter in 2009 at age 57. A second life became possible.

Photographer Carrie Nuttall aka Mrs. Neil Peart

Neil is widely considered the best living rock drummer on Earth. No joke. The Police’s Stewart Copeland, Lars Ulrich of Metallica and Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters/Nirvana fame all grovel at his feet. He is also the main lyricist for RUSH and allusions to the work of Ayn Rand (“Anthem”), Mark Twain (“Tom Sawyer”) and Farley Mowat are in many of their songs.

Dude and his drum kit.

He is extremely well-read and reads across a variety of disciplines and subjects. A very intellectually curious person, this quality comes out strongly in his writing. Just reading one of his books, generates another reading list of titles based on those cited in his book. He makes them all sound so damn interesting that I want to read them as well. The guy is a genius.

RUSH is playing in Montreal next week and I’m going to the show. I can’t wait. It will be the second time that I’ve seen them live and I can tell you for a group of three guys playing live on stage, their musicality is such that it easily sounds like 7 or 8 musicians are playing instead. Plus the first 10 rows are full of musical geeks air-drumming along with Peart, always an amusing sight to watch.

Peart’s story is really about Hope. Starting over again even when it looks like there is nothing left to live for, that things change all the time, healing is possible, even if the road through it is fraught with dangers, breakdowns, risks and no guarantees. The point is, you have to keep going and you have to keep trying. Renewal and rebirth are possible but only if you’re willing to do the work too. But if you stick with it, the payoffs are gigantic.

Categories: Pop culture, Raise your EQ, Rock and redemption, Travels | 10 Comments

Rock and Redemption – Rick Springfield

I’m fairly sure Rick Springfield ruined my life.

Back in the day, a teen dream.

See, at the grand old age of 7 years old, I swore my undying love to him and only him. I’d watch “Tom and Jerry” cartoons with my babysitter after school and would wait in anticipation for the K-Tel album commercials which would show snippets of their highlighted hits, with very, very brief videos (MTV literally started that summer and videos were just beginning to take off).

Remember K-Tel records and albums?

We would wait to hear those unforgettable chords to “Jessie’s Girl” and swoon over Rick and that picture-perfect teen idol face of his. To me he was the walking definition of tall, dark and handsome. I would literally just stop whatever I was doing to just look at him.(He’s 63 now and still looking fierce. Talk about great genes…)
Springfield dominated the Top 40 charts in the early 1980s, that weird musical period where disco and punk had died in the late 1970s, a new decade had barely started and music was still trying to figure itself out. New Wave had yet to start and the later British invasion with bands like Duran Duran was still a few years off.

The Fab Five had yet to still conquer America

Springfield ended up with a Grammy for best male rock vocal AND he also had a the virtue of being a working actor at the same time as having a #1 hit. His day job? He worked on a popular soap opera, “General Hospital” as Dr. Noah Drake.

On popular soap opera, “General Hospital”

Winning his Grammy

You know when you see someone who seems to have it all and you just assume they’re happy and later on you find out the whole thing was a ruse? You meet someone and they seem to have found the secret formula to happiness, they seem to have it all effortlessly come to them, without the taint of suffering? That people who have everything must be the happiest people on Earth? You would think that by being a popular actor, a teen heart throb, a string of number one hits on the Billboard charts, an adoring fan base of millions, a Grammy, more money than you know what to do with coming in from all directions and finding the love of your life, that someone in that position would be at the top of their game and be happier than anyone else on God’s good Earth, right?
Wrong.
Behind the hits, behind the dreamy face and public facade, Rick was sinking. There was debilitating depression, something he had suffered from his whole life and then exacerbated by the sudden death of his father on the eve of his success. There was the sex addiction, a means to get out of the depression, the incessant cheating on his wife Barbara. There were constant suicidal thoughts. Finally after the birth of his son, Springfield went missing in action from the music business. His musical career completely disappeared and by the time he tried to get back into the industry, public tastes had completely changed.
That put him into an even deeper hole. With sporadic acting gigs, he was pretty much forgotten as some 1980s relic, like the Rubix Cube or the suits Crockett and Tubbs wore on “Miami Vice”.

Remember when this was considered cool?

Rick credits Buddhism and meditation in bringing him back from the edge of the cliff. He went into therapy, he worked on his marriage, he came clean on his numerous infidelities, he deepened his spiritual life. He wrote a book about it about 2 years ago, called “Late, Late at Night”. He went public on everything (and I mean everything, the book is an uncomfortable read in certain parts). The book hit the New York Times best-sellers list.

Buddhism and meditation helped

 These days, there is a documentary about to come out on him called  “An Affair of the Heart: Rick Springfield and his Devoted Fans”. He does the 80s nostalgia tours and he has a returning role as a warped version of himself on that excellent TV show “Californication”. He’s still recording and putting on an average of about 100 shows a year. He’s also been “Glee”ed, with the cast of Glee doing a cover of “Jessie’s Girl” on the show recently. He doesn’t take himself to seriously at all anymore and doesn’t expect his fans to either.
I finally saw him last year when he came through Montreal, his first time. It was a charity show and the tiny theatre was far from sold out. In fact, I’d say only half the seats were sold. Most of the audience members were ladies of a certain age who were clearly reliving their teen memories and crushes.

From my vantage point.

I remember hearing stories about Alice Cooper about when he failed to sell out the Montreal Forum, he sang one song and was so pissed off, left the stage after that in a giant huff. I think Rick could probably teach him a lesson or two on manners.
Rick came out and gave it his all. He could have been playing a stadium, it made no difference. It was an amazing, energetic show. Dude still has it, it’s his love of music and the love of his fans and it shows. A female fan in the front row had her 2 small pre-school kids with her (I’m guessing she couldn’t find a babysitter that night). Rick brought them on stage with him. At one point, he was holding the little girl in his arms and got her singing with him which then led to the entire theatre singing along with them. As I watched him, the only thing that kept coming to me was his incredible warmth and the sense of gratitude he gave off.
Rick had it all and then nearly threw it all away. Maybe the lesson here is that sometimes you nearly have to lose everything before you realize what you really have, that gratitude is a constant state of mind.
And the richest one.
This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.
Categories: Pop culture, Raise your EQ, Rock and redemption, Uncategorized | 25 Comments

Rock and Redemption – Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode

I used to be a teenage rock groupie.

Well, somewhat.

I mean, I never *did* anything which I would end up regretting or being embarrassed about (I’m wondering what the former groupies for bands like Poison or Motley Crue or one hit wonders like Jack Wagner must be thinking these days. If you want to check out who is into what, then I suggest you stroll over to Groupie Central  where the ladies there share notes with one and all ).

Would you brag about hooking up with these guys 25 years ago?

I did manage to get backstage and meet quite a few of my teen idols from the 80’s and 90’s. It was never about really hooking up with someone, I just wanted to see if I could actually succeed in meeting them, getting an autograph and maybe a photo. I was always a bit of an observer and people watcher. It was interesting going through the process of fantasizing and day-dreaming about whatever musician you were having a serious crush on or lusting after to only meet them and realize what a load of smoke and mirrors the entertainment industry really is. Most of them turned out to be real douches and spelled “instant turn-off”, guys who if they weren’t famous musicians or as good-looking as they were, you’d probably want to hand over to Ozzy Osbourne so he can bite off their head. Some were genuine surprises, really laid-back, super well-read and informed. Nice, warm guys who you could end up having a serious conversation with over music, film, books or politics. It was also interesting watching the effect fame had on normal people. It really brings out the worst in some people. I saw girls dump their long-term boyfriends on the spot just to get on the bus with so-and-so, only to be discarded a few minutes later. There was a very desperate, sordid quality about the whole thing. It was actually a bit comedic if it wasn’t so sad to begin with.

Henry Rollins, a most magnificent human being if there ever was one.

His Jerkiness, Jon Bon Jovi

I was crazy about Depeche Mode.

I still am and count them among my favorites. In my opinion Martin L. Gore and Alan Wilder are musical geniuses. Aside from some of their songs about spiritual redemption, longing or angst, lyrics aside, even the music at times is able to evoke something spiritual and take you out of yourself completely. I’ll never forget the first time I heard “Enjoy The Silence”, headphones on, in the dark, lying down, I felt like I was tripping. Or sleeping out for tickets as a 17 year old for 3 days back in 1990 for tickets to sold-out-in-20-minutes shows on the World Violation tour. How I skipped my high-school graduation to go to the show instead with 8th row tickets and being chewed out by the school principal the next day for being a no-show.  How during that show,  I practically had a full-on out-of-body experience when the boys came back on stage to do “Route 66” as an encore and the entire arena erupted into pure jubilation and the energy level of the audience very nearly blew off the roof. I also ended up meeting Martin L. Gore and Fletch after the show in front of the hotel before they headed off to the clubs. Going to Depeche Mode shows is like entering into a sea of bliss. Even now, the symphonic break in “Home” (4:20 onwards)  or being in the audience and watching 50 000 people at the same time wave their arms in co-ordinated unison during “Never Let Me Down Again” (3:50 onwards), makes me realize of the potential we all have deep inside of ourselves, the sense of grandeur the music evokes. To my mind and to my ear,  Depeche Mode is channeling the music of the gods.


Dave Gahan, the lead singer, easily has the sexiest voice in musicdom (Listen to “World In my Eyes”), I think. I don’t know of any straight male who can swing and thrust his hips like he does. It’s quite remarkable. Dave always had a pop-idol kind of clean-cut image, short hair, white jeans, black leather jacket, white shirts until maybe 1990 and the World Violation tour.

Clean- cut Dave Gahan

That was the tour and the album which catapulted them from alternative and underground music heroes to mainstream headliners filling up soccer stadiums around the world. The cliche is true. Fame always comes with a high price-tag and DM and especially Dave were no exception.

Dave, during the 80’s was married to his teenage sweetheart Joanne and had a son too named Jack. It was the worst-kept secret that he cheated on his wife a lot with girls on the road. Sometime during the World Violation tour, he left his wife and kid in London and hooked up with Depeche Mode’s American publicist, Teresa Conroy, a prodigy of Rick Rubin’s. Dave married her at the Elvis chapel in Las Vegas and that was the beginning of nearly the end of Depeche Mode.

Dave and Teresa during his bad spell

Teresa and LA’s influence got Dave into the whole early 1990’s grunge scene and music in the worst possible way. The sprawling mansion, a guru hanging around, hanger-ons and parasites around the pool, people talking in New Age-speak. The English alternative pop-idol was gone. Instead, some LA-type rock star emerged, tattoos everywhere, self-inflicted scars, a scrotum ring, shoulder length messy hair and of course a serious drug habit involving heroin and cocaine.

Messed-up Dave

Dave admits, “I could no longer poke fun at it because I’d look in the mirror and that was me. Yeah, I did lose my sense of humour. Drugs will do that to do. They’re not very funny. You lose your sense of anything.” Dave described the following Devotional tour as “like taking a mental asylum on the road”. Given that it included heart-attacks, alcoholic seizures, overdoses, sinister vampire fantasies and rumoured backstage orgies, the Devotional tour has inevitably assumed legend status.

I had also heard the stories of superhuman sex sessions and insane drug binges. Of roadies who would “pick out the 15 or 20 most beautiful girls in the crowd, evidently for the Mode’s pleasure.” The description that “Dave Gahan thronged by “drug barons” and groupies in “fishnets and stockings, incapable of even putting their lipstick on straight”. Of “porn-themed” VIP areas awash with half-naked beauties” is apt because it was what everyone was talking about. I heard about it from record company reps at the radio station I worked at and Depeche Mode were due to come in for an interview. Dave was a mess.

At one show Dave took another near-fatal dive into the crowd. He plunged 12 feet, smashed his shoulder against a row of seats, and was stretchered off to hospital. A full-scale heroin addiction took Dave over in LA. He set up a closet in his Hollywood home, named the Blue Room, where he could shoot up alone. He became paranoid and started to carry guns. He would even shoot up water purely for the instant buzz, and once awoke in the front garden of a dealer who had literally robbed the shirt off his back.

Before stage-diving

“It happened a lot more times than I actually thought,” says Dave of overdosing. “Sometimes I would come to and it was two days later, that kind of thing. People start dying, you know – but I never really thought that would happen to me. It was classic drug addict stuff.” One night, during a visit from his mother and son Jack, Gahan passed out from another overdose. On waking and discovering his works had been thrown away, the singer frantically scrambled through his bins. He then locked himself away and shot up. His mother and son burst into the bathroom and found Gahan on the floor. At first he lied, claiming he was injecting steroids for his voice. Eventually, he looked his mother in the eye and admitted, “Mum, I’m a junkie.” She replied, “I know, love.”

In 1995, Dave returned from an Arizona detox centre, where he met a new girlfriend Jennifer Sklias to find his house had been methodically burgled. The alarm code was reset, prompting suspicion that his drug buddies were teaching him a lesson. Dave put the house up for sale, rented a new place, then checked himself into the Sunset Marquis hotel. Strung out on smack and Valium, he phoned his mother in Britain. In the middle of the call he went to the bathroom, carved two-inch razor cuts into his wrists, and wrapped a towel around the gushing wounds. “I don’t think I was trying to kill myself,” says Gahan today. “I think again I was just crying out for some kind of attention and really going about it in an odd way. It was a mistake. It was feelings of wanting to disappear – still be here, but just floating around.”

By the time a friend dropped by, noticed Gahan’s seeping wounds and dialled 911, the singer was virtually comatose. With no time for anaesthetic, the paramedics stitched up his wrists in the ambulance. He came to next morning in a straitjacket in a psychiatric ward. “I thought I might be in heaven,” Dave later admitted. “This psychiatrist informed me I’d committed a crime under local law by trying to take my own life. Only in fucking LA, huh?”

Dave was in a bad way. His drug use was out of control. He overdosed on a cocaine and heroin “speedball” made with a particularly lethal strain of heroin nicknamed Red Rum. Gazing blankly into his dealer’s eyes, Dave suddenly “had a strong feeling that what I was doing was very wrong. I remember having a feeling of it was maybe too late – give me another chance. I remember looking right in the eyes of the guy who was with me at the time and I thought: ‘Oh fuck, I’ve really done it this time.’ And basically wanting to live. I really had a strong feeling I wanted to live.”

A girl who Gahan has just met in the hotel bar was also present. But the dealer, fearing arrest, prevented her from calling an ambulance while he cleared up and fled. By the time the medics arrived Dave had turned blue and gone into cardiac arrest. He was given “the full Pulp Fiction treatment” as his heart stopped on the way to the hospital.

Gahan said of the experience, “All I saw and all I felt at first was complete darkness. I’ve never been in a space that was blacker, and I remember feeling that whatever it was I was doing, it was really wrong.” He has also claimed he saw/heard his then-girlfriend, his current wife Jennifer, calling him back to life, from the other side.

Dave, Jennifer and daughter Stella, having a normal happy family moment

Discharged the next morning, Gahan was immediately arrested outside, the singer gave a rambling public confession: “My cat’s lives are out…it’s not a cool thing to be a drug addict.” He also apologised to his mum.In the end, a few days after his overdose, Gahan was finally persuaded to check into rehab.

“I made a decision to give it a shot,” Gahan nods. “I took some advice from people for the first time, not just with the band but with my personal life. I actually started listening to people who were telling me I couldn’t do this any more. And thank God. There is a different way. I knew it was going to be a struggle. I knew it was going to be the hardest thing I ever did in my life.”

Nowadays, the Mode don’t party backstage anymore. I know Martin and Fletch go to clubs now and again while Dave is a devoted family man to his daughter Stella and to Jennifer. He even wrote about his ordeal in the Depeche Mode song “Suffer Well”, where Jennifer appears as the angel.

“Most of my friends that I hang out with in NY are people who are choosing to not drink or use drugs any more,” he nods. “And most of them are way more creative than the people who I thought were creative, who I was hanging around with. When you’re doing drugs, you sit around talking about being creative, but you don’t do fuck all.” 

I saw Dave and the band  in July 2009 when they passed through Montreal during the “Sounds of the Universe” tour. I don’t do the fan-thing anymore, I just go to the shows to appreciate the music, dance and rock out with friends. I did manage to get 6th row seats and watched Dave very closely. I thought about his metamorphosis from pop idol, to strung out rock star junkie to the guy I saw in front of me at that moment. I saw a guy who had finally made his peace with Life, who radiated nothing short of happiness, love and joy.  A guy who had been given a second chance in life and was now savoring every second of it. I was happy just looking at him, knowing what he had gone through and had made it to the other side.

I think this interview with Dave says it and shows it all, from 4:10 onwards especially:

Dave and Martin having a good time on stage.

Dave, Martin, Fletch and Alan. I don’t know if you’ll ever read these words but if you do, I hope you live forever and keep making that glorious, beautiful and life affirming music for years to come. I love you all.

Post-script and addenda: Dave had a close call with stomach cancer during the “Sounds of the Universe” tour, forcing to band to cancel several dates on tour.  With Jennifer beside him, he beat the cancer to the curb. You can also add “cancer survivor” to his already-long and impressive list of accomplishments. As for the thousands of groupies who are showing up on this page based on search engine results like ‘Dave Gahan’s wife”, “Teresa Conroy”, “Dave Gahan groupies”, seriously, grow up. He found his Twin Soul already. Go find yours.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

Categories: Pop culture, Rock and redemption | 31 Comments

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