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The Freedom of Music: My Name is Brian, and I am a Music Fan

July 17th, 2011

freedom-of-music-header

One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

My name is Brian, and I am a music fan.

sidebar-2I was sitting in the back of Dad’s Grand Torino, my turn on the bump. It was family vacation time and we travelled three days to Myrtle Beach or Virginia Beach or Florida – I don’t recall which it was this given time. Dad ran out of lousy radio stations to listen to, and elected a top 40 one. BTO’s Takin’ Care of Business came on, and I was transfixed. I had two immediate responses to that first hit: Where do I get more of this and I how do I do that. For the next few years I bought BTO albums and singles with abandon, saw them in concert and read about them, including doing something unheard of in my young life, I read books about them. Once I had the albums and singles I moved backward to The Guess Who and Brave Belt, the band that history forgets gate-wayed into BTO.

By the time I learnt Takin’ Care of Business on guitar a few years later, I had progressed, The Beatles, Elton John, Kiss. There was always something else to try, always something harder. One time at a party someone put on Pink Floyd. It was otherworldly. Listen to it on the headphones, he said. What was this? How was this possible?

Then came the Zep. Heavier than anyone else dared to be on the Immigrant Song. But they had a light touch, and That’s the Way was both beautiful and sad. It spoke to me, yet I had no clue what it was saying (still don’t actually). The sublime blues of Since I’ve Been Loving You, a master guitar player at work; the careless fun of Rock and Roll and Robert Plant at full throttle on Black Dog; Battle of Evermore was middle earth meets middle 70’s (well, 1971); Kashmir, majestic and proud.

Once the studio material had been ingested, the live material, the hard stuff, came. Celebration Day, The Song Remains the Same, Whole Lotta Love complete with theramin and the tribute to 50’s rock and roll . A BBC Radio Broadcast gave Page playing a supple slide solo on What is and What Should Never Be. Led Zeppelin was a wonderful, dark mistress.

Soon I would be wearing the dress of a Led Zeppelin fan, Blue Jeans, Blue Jean Jacket, Blue or Black t-shirt, white running shoes with blue stripes. Then I would cut my hair in the approved fashion, which is to say, not at all. Being a music fan, a Led Zeppelin fan first, but any rock music would do in a pinch, that became my raison d’être.

My name is Brian, and I am a music fan.

So when I heard this week about Roger Tullgren, the Swedish Heavy Metal fan who is on income supplement benefits and listed as disabled because of his music addiction, I understood. Roger’s vice is heavy metal, starting in 1971 when his brother brought home a Black Sabbath album.

Roger, it seems, is stuck in his formitive years. He keeps his hair heavy metal long, has heavy metal appropriate tattoo’s and misses work for concerts. So the Swedish authorities granted him disabled status, meaning he now gets income supplement from the state – No word as yet on the disabled parking permit.

While music has remained a vital part of my life, Roger seems much farther gone than I. Roger keeps his hair heavy metal, I never managed to keep any hair. I try not to dress the same way, although I default to jeans and dark t-shirt far too often. But still, I listen to music in the car, at home and at work. I play in a band, which means I have a guitar or mandolin or some other in my hand some part of pretty much every day. When I surf the internet, I am often looking at some music website or another, and a good portion of my reading list is music books or books on music.

My name is Brian, and I am a music fan.

“Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” Rob Gordon asks in High Fidelity. High Fidelity is a movie/book in which the central question is, are you what you like? As Rob ridiculously says at one point, “Liking both Marvin Gaye and Art Garfunkel is like supporting both the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

Perhaps music is too important to the Rob Gordon’s of the world. But one of the lessons Rob learns is it is possible to like someone who has Phil Collins CDs in their collection – a message that surprised me, I must say. It seems obvious, however. You may be defined by what you like, but are not what you like. That’s what Roger Tullgren missed. He is not a screw up who can’t commit to being an adult because he’s a heavy metal fan, that’s just who he is. It could be ballet, or modern dance or cricket, but Roger was always going to be a screw up. Heavy metal is the excuse, not the reason.

Lot’s of 42 year olds still have long hair and some skull and crossbones tattoo. Lots of them go to concerts regularly, make the devil sign when they like something, wear leather jackets and play in a band. Lots of people do all that and have good jobs, wives and kids hockey games which they go to. You can be both guys.

My name is Brian, and I am a music fan… among other things.


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