Monday, September 22, 2008

How Does One Become a Rock Star?

How the heck does one become a rock star? Or even a musician of little fame, but perhaps some critical success? Can anyone out there tell me?
Because I am going to try. Gosh darn it yes I am.

(Today, Sunday, is a no-swear day for me, so you won’t be getting any f-words in this post.)

Here is what I have done so far to launch myself on this musical path (all of which will be elaborated upon, in my lengthy convoluted way, in upcoming blog posts):

1) Finally convincing myself, after trying for a few decades, that my parents were wrong about me, and that I am not the most annoying, shittiest singer on the planet;
which let to:
3) getting over my crippling shyness about singing with others (I joined a gospel choir in Harlem)
which led to
3) getting over my crippling shyness over singing as a back up singer (I sang with the Revelons at CBCB the week before CBs closed),
which led to
4) Attending the fab-u-licions Ladies Rock Camp In New York City (this very long essay will hopefully be appearing in Oprah Magazine soon!),
which led to
5) finally realizing my dream of singing lead in a band (the rocking, babe-o-licious Wrex Abroad),
which led to
7) dreaming of forming a real band,
which led to,
8) really really wanting to do something about forming a real band, instead of just dreaming about it (I’m forty, for f—k’s sake),
which leads us up to where I am at the present moment, wondering on Sunday in September what I do next.

I have been writing songs, believe it or not. I’ve written one a day since Ladies’ Rock Camp. Most of them are along the lines of Robert Smith—so depressing you have to lift the needle off the album after the third one, for fear that you might rush off to slit your wrists. But others aren’t bad. And for me to say that a poem of mine is ‘not bad’ is quite a leap, for no one is more critical of my work than moi. I am hands down the nastiest self-critic out there.

Anyway, I have now written three ‘concept albums!’ One of which is eight songs dedicated to my eight male muses, who were members of my all time favorite bands.
Another of which is the suicide album (a sure hit :)
And a third about karma.
Any takers? Any leavers? Any lovers of leaving?

Anyway, I must say that the songwriting process (as it were00I have no idea what I am doing) has been gloriously fun. Much more rewarding than writing memoirs or novels. Writing books has sucked all the life force out of me. Working with an editor who doesn’t really get my work has been debilitating. But still, I wrote and wrote and wrote and worked and worked and worked and struggled and struggled and cried for the past four years. Every morning I did this. From 11 – 2 (sorry, that’s ‘morning’ for me, you lovely office drones). Devotedly, even though it was killing me, I devoted the best part of my day, and the best part of me, to my books.

After Ladies Rock Camp, I changed that. I decided that maybe I’d be a less miserable human if I devoted the best part of my day to music. To something that gave me life. To something that got me excited about the future. And baby, it worked. With each song I write, I feel a sense of accomplishment that carries through the rest of the day. And sure, it might be grandiose (my songs might suck after all), but it feels good nevertheless. I have even started dreaming about my muses: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, and even, once, Meher Baba—they come to me in my dreams and tell me I am doing the right thing.

When I was writing the first draft of my novel, I had only one visitation, from Mr. Henry Miller (who, honestly, I have never admired, as a human or a writer of prose.). I was staying at my agent’s country house at the time—the phenomenal and godly and wise Lisa Bankoff—and we had been talking about one of my subplots (a pregnancy scare), and Lisa said, most astutely, “Pregnancy is not a subplot.” And then, that night, in my dreams, Henry Miller waltzed in with his big round glasses and said, “Lost that subplot.” Just like that. Thanks Henry.

Anyway, I am way off-track. I am trying to become a rock star. If Henry Miller has any advice on that, I welcome him. Otherwise, I am reaching out to the cyber public. To the myspace friends and the facebook acquaintances and the people who accidentally came to this site because they googled “Jimmy Page.” (Sorry, guys, it’s just me, a woman who has sworn off swear words.)

Send me a manager. And I’ll send you angels on high.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dreaming of Pete Townshend, Part I

I suppose if I were to confess to anyone that I frequently dream of Pete Townshend, here would be the place. But don’t worry—it’s not that kind of dream. No sex, no drugs, not even rock and roll, really. He’s just a presence really—one who fills the room with peace, love, and a sense that everything is all right.

Sounds like Christ, eh? Is this what they mean when they call rock stars gods?
For years I have wondered...

After these Pete dreams—which tend to happen two or three times annually—I wake up feeling blissful. I wake up feeling loved. I wake up feeling as if some real connection has been made, and I wake up wanting to maintain that connection for the rest of my life.

But then, after a few minutes, the grim reality would set in: that I was alone, seemingly unloved, and Mr. Pete Townsend—the man with whom I felt so intimate in my dreams—had no idea who I was. And never had and never would. What a terrible feeling!

(I had similar dreams about a man named Tony Stacchi, with whom I went to high school, and upon whom I always had a secret crush. I haven’t seem him since high school But this is another story.)

Getting back to the Pete dreams: in 2004, I finally consulted a therapist. Not about my Pete dreams—believe me, those were the least of my “problems.” Those dreams were pleasant, and gentle, and if they left me momentarily mystified, well, I wasn’t going to complain. No, this therapist was helping me recover from childhood trauma. She was a saint, that woman—so compassionate and wise—and once I started to discuss my Buddhists, Pagan, Jungian, and Native American beliefs, she told me she also happened to specialize in dream therapy. “I don’t tell that to all my clients,” she said with the smile. “Not everyone is open to that.”

So I told her about Pete. I told her the love I felt from him, and with him, in my dreams. “He’s wonderful,” she said, “I love him, too.” (For a second I was jealous. Because I wanted to believe I loved his music and connected with his lyrics more than anyone else on the planet, thank you very much.)

But anyway, I told her that sometimes Pete and I sang together. Sometimes we sang his songs; mostly we sang songs that I had written, that I couldn’t remember when I woke. Sometimes he encouraged me, and told me I had a good voice. Sometimes he would hug me—not in a sexual way. More of a maternal/paternal embrace—something I have rarely experienced in this lifetime. I would close my eyes and just absorb this love.

My therapist listened with a beautiful smile. “Everything in a dream is a representation,” she said. “What do you think he represents?
Music, of course. Singing, playing guitar, writing incredible, magnificent songs. He represented self-expression, channeling anger, channeling pain. He was an artist who could transmute those negative energies of anger and sorrow into something beautiful, the way the Buddhas are said to do.

“He’s encouraging you to make music,” my therapist said.

I loved this interpretation. And it made perfect sense. All of my life I have wanted to be a musician, but my parents discouraged that from the start (another long story for another day). Basically they told me I couldn't sing for beans, and could I please turn that crap-ass music down?

Now, in my dreams, I was getting encouragement from one of the people I admire most in the world. How cool is that?

The pure, almost celestial warmth and happiness I felt in his presence was simply Music was calling me back, the way they say God calls you back, i suppose.

This goes back to the question above: Is this what people mean, then, when they call musicians “gods?” Because they have the capacity, through their words and music, to call us back to a better place? Because they make us feel less alone?

It would be fun to find the person who coined this term (God of Rock) and get his/her opinion. But I’d argue that, yes, that is the role people like Pete have served on the planet. But this is another big topic I suppose.

What I can say for certain is that, in my reality, in the Jungian context of my dreams, Pete absolutely serves as an archetype. He is Music, embodied, in a half human/half ethereal form.

Would he be flattered, or appalled, to know this? Only he can say....
(Part of me wants to believe that his appearances in my dreams are true visitations; that he has traveled astrally across oceans and continents to give me—sad, special, talented, weird me—a reassuring hug.)

Regardless of what this all means, I shall thank Pete, again and again, for this role he has played in my waking life, and in my sleeping life—the world of the subconscious, the world of gifts from beyond. It took several years, but I finally got the message:

Sing, girlfriend. Reclaim your original self. Let it be pure, and easy. Amen.