Everybody Wants Some

I just finished reading Ian Christe’s book Everybody Wants Some, a history of Van Halen. I heard about this on the Talking Metal podcast, which is abuzz with news of this original-lineup reunion, minus Michael Anthony on bass, replaced by Eddie’s 16-year-old kid. Weird. Anyway, Christie wrote one of the 700 “history of metal” books that came out a few years back. When he was writing, he got in touch and wanted to stop over and photocopy all of my old zines, but we never hooked up, and actually I never read the book. So I picked up this one, touted to be the first definitive biography of the band, and got to work.

I’m going to start by saying the book is not that great, but it’s up in the air how much this was the author’s fault, and how much of the blame goes on the subject. The history of Van Halen starts with this whole interesting SoCal garage band culture, and these two Dutch kids teaming up with an outspoken Jewish son of an opthamologist, and then hits this mid-point where they are on top of the world and the whole thing implodes. But then the second half of the book is all of these years of dicking around with Sammy Hagar, and toward the end, it’s Eddie locked in a home studio, with a third of his tongue cut out from cancer, his parents dead, his wife gone, about 800 attempts at rehab, three fired/quit singers, a hip transplant, and a brother with fucked-up, inoperable neck trauma.

So at the end of the book, I’m thinking “where the fuck is the high note here?” I mean, it talked about all of the times the VH brothers broke off and tried to reconcile with Roth, with both sides saying the others were poisoning the well. And yeah, they’re back together now. But there’s a chance they will be broken apart by the time the ink dries in the book, and meanwhile, only about 12 people even care. Meanwhile, Michael Anthony the human alcohol filter is set up as the fallen silent hero or some shit, with his bass tracks mixed down, some studio tracks played by EVH, his bass solo snipped from the live set, and finally being told he had to relinquish all rights to all songs and trademarks and take a huge pay cut if he wanted to tour. And next time around, he’s fired. All of the old metalheads identify with Anthony’s party lifestyle, and who gives a fuck if Eddie can eke out Eruption while he’s sitting on stage in a wheelchair looking like the fucking cryptkeeper.

The book had one fundamental flaw which was also a benefit: it appeared that Christie did not have access to any of the members of the band. Most of the quotes were lifted from interviews with magazines or on tape, and there was no buy-in from any of the major players. (I might be wrong on this, but it sure read that way.) So that means there wasn’t any new dirt I didn’t already know. But it also meant that someone didn’t come in with an agenda and bumrush the book. Anyone in the band’s history (with the exception of Gary Cherone, who isn’t big-headed about it, probably because he was in the band for like three weeks) would completely dominate something like this, and if you only know one side of this story, you don’t know any of the story. Case in point: go pick up a copy of David Lee Roth’s Crazy From The Heat book. Now, I love this book, because it’s Roth the showman and storyteller, laying it down and getting into some really crazy shit about the road, his family, and everything else. But when I read his side of the VH split story, I wondered, “how much of this shit is true?” It wasn’t that his story was unbelievable, but I knew there were two sides, and his was going to be giant and overdramatized. And so by not doing an official Van Halen family biography, he sidesteps that problem, but also misses a lot of juice that would have justified the reading time.

Aside from the subject matter, Christie’s writing tries a little too hard in places, and didn’t hold me. It was competent, but it wasn’t a thickly textured tapestry of incredible stories and details. And why treat a band with such fucked up and incredible history just like you would if you were writing a Jewel biography? There wasn’t enough depth to blow me away, and when you’re writing about a band that (at least back in the day) was supposed to blow you away, it just didn’t mesh.

That said, there was a lot of information about Hagar-era Van Halen, and it made me think back to the years I listened to the band, back in high school. 1984 was my introduction as a junior high kid, when it was all over MTV and pop radio. And then I got into 5150 and OU812, even though everyone else wrote off Van Hagar and went on to other, heavier things. While I was reading this book, I put OU812 on the iPod during my drive to work, and was surprised at how that set of tunes totally set the stage for the summer of 1988 for me. I loved my Metallica and VoiVod and Grim Reaper, but I also had that tape in the player quite a bit, and it still takes me back. Those songs are seared into my brain, and it’s always comforting to give them another listen.

Anyway. Just started reading a Houdini biography, and I’m trying to get off the bio kick to get back to some good fiction…

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Shuffling

I’m listening to MP3s on random shuffle on my PC, which is new to me. I know, this is something I was supposed to start doing five years ago, which is also when I was supposed to chuck my CD player and receiver and start stealing all of my music. I used to listen to a lot more music in Seattle, when everything was in one room and my bed also served as my couch, my kitchen table, and the place where I read, wrote, watched videos, and played music. Now I never seem to want to find a CD I like, and except for the times when I’m writing and I listen to the same handful of discs, I usually turn on the tube when I need background noise. I need to stop doing that.

I have been interested in some kind of master convergence solution that would somehow solve all of my media woes and not cost a fortune. I was just having this discussion with Ray last night, although his idea is more like a credit card-sized drive that holds fifty gazillion terabytes and can wirelessly communicate with every type of electronics in his house or anywhere else. He’ll never find this, and with about 20,000 CDs in his house, he’s never going to find any kind of mobile drive to hold all of that. I have less of a problem, as I don’t need a car unit, and my iPod takes care of most of the mobile issues. Also, if my stereo is up loud enough, you can hear it in any room, so that solves the multiple-speaker/multiple-zone problem.

I saw a writeup on a new system by Sonos which is promising. You hook up your computer to their box, and then you have a ~$500 unit per zone. Each unit talks to the PC wirelessly, and has a built-in amp and inputs for other audio components (turntable, CD, iPod). Each one operates on its own; you can be listening to something downstairs while someone upstairs has another song going. The whole thing is controlled with a very slick handheld remote that has a color screen driving a good navigation system, and touch controls that look easy to use. I like the controller a lot, but I already have a good receiver and don’t like the idea of paying for another one and then somehow wiring it in tandem with my DVD sound setup. I also like its general looks, but I don’t like that it probably requires me to run in Windows all the time.

My predicament now is that I dual-boot into Windows to use my iPod software, so all of my MP3s have been stranded on a different hard drive. I just got NTFS mounting to work in linux though, so now I can just fire up xmms and point it at that directory and it works. But I am playing through the tiny speakers built into my LCD, which are about as big as the one in the back of my watch. I need to figure out a way to string some cables across the room and get the signal to my receiver. Then I need to figure out how to get XMMS to run so it isn’t microscopic. Also, it would be cool to do some kind of web-based control for it so I could fire up a browser on my laptop in the next room and change songs. Or maybe I should do something useful, like clean my bathtub.

I’m now listening to an Asia song from the Over the Top soundtrack that rhymes fire with desire. I think all of the songs on this soundtrack do, though. Anyway, I think I’m going to either write or play videogames.

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iPod, CD binging

This iPod is incredible. It’s a great experience to have a big plurality of your music collection with you at all times, in a tiny little box as big as a deck of cards. And it’s great to listen to everything on shuffle, hearing old favorites next to new CDs next to things I cherished ten years ago but haven’t heard in ages because they were on a compilation CD buried somewhere in my apartment. I’ve been ripping CDs nonstop, and I’m barely filling up the 20 gigs of space. I’ve got about six gigs on there, and another gig or so of stuff I’ve ripped today.

I went to Best Buy today, the new one in Chelsea. It was a minor pain in the ass because there wasn’t an N/W train running to Manhattan, so I had to get on the 7. Then I got on an F, and it took me right to the door of this new place. The whole store is actually underground, and it’s big for a store in Chelsea, although it’s probably one of the smallest Best Buys I’ve been in. I went on a CD rampage, and here’s what I got:

  • CKY – Infiltrate, Destroy, Rebuild
  • CKY – Volume 1
  • Twisted Forever – A Tribute to the Legendary Twisted Sister
  • Iron Maiden – Powerslave
  • Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
  • Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time
  • Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden
  • Orgy – Vapor Transmission
  • NWA – Greatest Hits
  • Green Day – Kerplunk
  • Dead Kennedys – Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

The Iron Maiden CDs are all the new “full cover” versions, with shitty bonus tracks available as multimedia only. I should’ve bought them all five years ago when they were in the cool Castle reissues with a bonus CD in a brilliant box, but I’m an idiot. I don’t have any of them on CD – all of my old Maiden stuff was on vinyl. The CKY is new to me, but I really like them a lot – I first heard them in the Jackass movie. The rest of the list were impulse purchases or stuff that was at a good price, so there you go.

I also picked up a copy of The Sims for PS/2, not really knowing much about it except that a lot of people like it. I played it for an hour or so this afternoon, and it is a total pain in the ass. You have to tell your dude what to do: eat, crap, bathe, watch TV, learn stuff, pick up the house, etc etc. If you don’t do stuff, your meters go down. For example, if you don’t talk to other family members, your social meter goes down. If you don’t watch TV or listen to the radio, your fun meter goes down. And you never, ever have time to do everything. So basically, it’s like real life. And I can’t manage to keep my own house clean or eat three square meals a day, so there’s not a chance I can do it on the computer. Despite this, it’s hard to put down. Go figure.

OK, gotta get out of here and get some stuff done.

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