Tears in Schmuckland

A riotous adventure in musical bastardry, by Wade Ozeroff, esq.

Musical taste is a very personal thing, is what I have learned from some of the videos I see my friends post online.

One person’s Poison is another’s Led Zep, in a manner of speaking, and it is only through experience that I have learned to watch what I say regarding a particular tune or band that suddenly pokes it’s musical head out in the background ambience, when I am out among the decent people.tears

This is silly, of course, because I know damn well that I am the arbiter of what is good and what is dreck; and it galls me no end that others do not recognize my opinion as being vastly superior to their own. I mean, can’t they see that if they just shaddap and listened to me, their lives would be so much better, or at least filled with tolerable music?

Nevertheless, take heed, my friends, for there is a lesson here that I refuse to learn.

Years ago, at some newspaper I worked at, I had returned from photographing a Def Leppard show at a big bar in my fair town. It was one of those ‘surprise concerts’ (remember those?) where they would bring out a band, but no one knew who it would be until they took the stage. They had had some pretty big names at some of the previous shows across the continent.

The audience was milling about, writhing in anticipation, practically preemptively taking off their shirts as rumors swirled about whom the act would be. I heard its Aerosmith! one excited fellow exclaimed; another piped I heard its Kiss!

Well, long story short, it was Def Fucking Leppard. The Molson surprise concerts were losing their momentum by the time one came to Edmonton, and in a lazy piece of casting, they had picked a band that was already in town to play a concert the very next night. So it was Def Leppard. And they sucked the roof off the dump.

I returned to my newspaper to process my film and print up a shot (this was millions of years ago, we still had ‘film’ and made ‘prints’, which were then scanned by our Imaging department).

It was into the imaging department I sallied, with my print in hand; and the technicians on shift that night asked me so who was the band?

”Def Fucking Leppard”, I replied.

I inhaled deeply, preparing to make a big speech peppered with obscenities detailing exactly how much I didn’t care for the band; but an alert staffer caught my arm and walked me out the door of the department. “Def Leppard is Brad’s absolute favorite band in the world”, he hissed. “He loves them more than anything. He’s seen them multiple times, and has tickets to their show tomorrow night”.

Good advice delivered in a timely fashion, I must say; for Brad is a large fellow, bigger than two of me. His arms are the size of my legs, if I had really big legs. I altered my tone and re-entered the department.

“How was the show?” Brad beamed, excited as heck to see the first images of his band from their latest appearance in our town.

“Oh…Oh. They were… in top form… yes indeed. Exude Some Glucose on Me, and all that. Yes” I replied, pumping my fist and shaking my imaginary mullet in pop-metal solidarity with my friend.

The image I had selected for the paper showed their lead singer, Schmucko, sopping wet and spitting mad after someone in the audience had thrown a drink at him, immediately after they took the stage and band’s name was announced to a chorus of boos and disappointment. An ice cube was still in his hair. Brad was aghast.

“Who the hell would do something like that?” he asked rhetorically, personally wounded by the attack. Gosh, I said, I just don’t know…

You might think that would have been warning enough for me, but I am not a quick study, my friends.

*   *   *

In 1993 I went to the Grey Cup game in Calgary with a bunch of photographers, to cover the event because Edmonton was playing in it. The night before, we all went out to one of those ‘kitsch’ restaurants, the kind with, like, plastic rhino heads and whatnot on the walls.

We sat at a table, maybe eight of us, telling stories about how cool we were; and plowing down ribs and beef and beer. At some point I got up to go to the washroom.

When I returned, scant minutes later, Eric Clapton’s execrable Tears in Heaven was warbling from the sound system, much louder than it should have been. I knew at once what I had to do.Tears3

I inhaled deeply, and made a big speech for the assembled photojournalists, wherein I explained in a lengthy diatribe (peppered with obscenities) just what a crappy tune it is.

I ranted that Eric hadn’t done anything worthwhile in years. I vouchsafed that if it weren’t for J. J. Cale writing songs, Clapton would have disappeared altogether after 1970. I accused the song of playing cheap emotional badminton with the death of his child for a radio-friendly hit by a marginally talented, uncomprehending junkie too stoned and dumb to keep his own son away from the balcony of a highrise, rockstar condo.

I opined that the Clapper should have died while he was still cool; that my handsome ears would never have been sullied by the elevator-dreck now coming from the muzak system. I believe I made a jerk-off motion with my hand.

Finally, I was able to calm down, and waited patiently for a round of applause from the assembled media weasels. It was at that point that the manager of our group got up and bolted from the table.

I mean, he ran from the table; with such alacrity that I though maybe he had drunk too much, and was racing to the can for a frantic purge.

“What’s up with Schmucko?” I inquired of the strangely silent group, “he’s had like, two drinks”.

Some of them burst out laughing, others just sat shaking their heads, as one of them explained to me the situation. It wasn’t the muzak system, it turns out. The place had a jukebox.

He had personally chosen the awful tune, but more than that, he had made a big speech about how deeply the song touched him.

The overwrought sentiment spoke to him personally, it seems, and each word held deep meaning for him and blablabla changed his life forever and made him a better human being, just because it existed. It was his favorite tune, man.

Apparently, he damn near had tears in his eyes as he blurted this confession to the group, about the incredible meaningfulness that Tears in Heaven held for him. All this happened while I was in the loo, and had only just concluded moments before I returned.

It was an unnaturally frosty Grey Cup game that year, let me assure you, but don’t worry.

I learned nothing from the experience, of course, and neither did you, gentle reader. Now please enjoy this link to Paul McCartney’s Helen Wheels, because I think, if nothing else, we can all agree that he was the most talented Beatle.

 © Wade Ozeroff 2014