Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Save Me From Myself

You like the music you like.

I like the music I like.

I might hate what you like, and quite likely, you'd hate what I like. But it's all good. Musical taste is such an individual thing. That's why I despise music critics, don't sit there and pontificate on why I shouldn't like what I darn well know that I enjoy hearing.

I've talked about music on this blog from time to time, but not a whole lot, simply because I know that, chances are, you couldn't care less about the music I might rave about.

But every once in a while, something comes along and shocks my socks off, and I feel compelled to write here about it.

I've loved music dearly, all my life.

Some of my earliest memories were from around the time I was 4, and my mother would play Brahm's lullabys on their stereo, and the melodies would make me cry. Strange but true, I remember this clearly.

Music has always had the power to move me deeply.

As a boy, I identified that what especially pleased my ear was to hear guitar. I could listen to my parent's 45rpm record of Mason Williams' guitar performance called "Classical Gas" over and over.

With an older sister who loved the Beatles, if I heard her in her room playing records, and I heard the Beatles' opening vocal harmony at the beginning of the song "Paperback Writer" I would dash out of my room to stand outside her door to hear the niftly little George Harrison guitar riff that he did just after that opening vocal harmony.

Over the years, I've developed a full-blown love of rock 'n roll guitar. It's like a love for pepperoni pizza. You just like it, and that's all there is to it. No real intellectual reason for liking a certain thing so much, it's just there, an integral part of you.

And just as most people remember where they where when they first heard of dramatic world events like the Space Shuttle blowing up in 1986, I can remember where I was when I first heard certain rock songs because the guitar playing made such an impression on me, that it imprinted the whole sensory memory in my brain.

Randy Rhodes' signature guitar lick to the Ozzy Osbourne classic song "Crazy Train" always takes me to a certain stretch of Louisiana highway 165 just north of Monroe, Louisiana, and I'm riding in the blue 1975 Ford F-100 Custom pickup truck that was passed down to me from my father. I was going to Bastrop to visit my paternal grandparents and was listening to a AM radio show that played harder rock songs. (Way before talk radio dominated the AM radio band) They played this "new" song from Ozzy Osbourne, and the guitar work of Randy Rhodes in it just knocked me out. It still does, even after all these years.

The other day, Lovely Wife asked me to write down the names of some music CDs that I wanted, and she was going to look for them as a Father's Day gift to me.

As I looked up the names of the CDs of several bands that I like, that had CDs out that I knew I didn't have, I came across a reference to a musician named Brian Welch's CD.

Brian Welch, who has the nickname of "Head" was one of the founding members on the massively popular rock band named Korn.

I remembered hearing how, two or three years ago, he had quit this multi-platinum selling band because he had had a religious conversion to Christianity.

It's not the kind of thing you hear about every day, so the story intrigued me back then, but I hadn't known that he had, over the past few years, written a book about his becoming a Christian and leaving the drugs and alcohol of his old life behind.

He also had put together a band and put out a new CD in the fall of 2008.

I went to his MySpace page to listen to audio clips to see if maybe this was a CD I might like to add to my Father's Day list.


Heavy guitars, great melodies.

To those who dislike hard rock or heavy metal, the thought of catchy melodies in this music might sound funny, but much of the music in heavy metal and hard rock has great melodies.

After listening to the title song from the CD, "Save Me From Myself" by Head (Brian Welch), on MySpace, I added it to my list.

Now, after listening to the CD now from end to end, I love every song on it.

If you like heavy rock, especially fans of his ex-band Korn, you'll love this CD.

The lyrics to the CD basically cover the past few years of his life, from the despair and depression of a multi-millionaire who has everything but is a miserable drug addict, to getting clean and becoming a Christian and trying to be a good father to his daughter.

He doesn't preach in the lyrics, he basically just tells his story, so even non-Christians could easily like this CD because he's not telling you what to do, only telling you what he chose to do.

I still don't know about the details of this man's life, I just know that the most profound kind of turnaround that a person could possibly make has been made by Mr. Welch.

As a Christian, the lyrics move me deeply, much like the beautiful Brahm's melodies of my childhood moved me, only I now understand why this particular music affects me. They lyrics are sometimes raw, not pretty, but then the truth is often disturbing and more like a punch in the gut than a feather landing on your shoulder.

Even someone who has been a Christian a long time can understand hitting bottom and looking for some anchor their life, and hearing Head sing about (and he does his own singing as well as guitar) his bottoming out and being given a new lease on life is monumentally moving to me. The lyrics of his despair and then his redemption bring to the forefront of my mind my own conversion and it's dramatic changes.

As a Christian who loves hard rock and heavy metal, I walk a tightrope; a thin line where there are few musical CDs for me to buy and totally devour. Either the music is awesome and the lyrics too dark and depressing, with a total lack of hope, or the other end of the spectrum, what the Christian music industry puts out that seems as hollow as an Easter chocolate bunny, full of the "right" lyrics but completely devoid of any real feeling or heart, contrived.

So now and then I find a band, like my favorite, Disciple, who are incredible musicians who are also committed Christians, and who put out hard and heavy rock with a heart-felt lyrics that are both honest and human, and that honor their faith in God.

Finding a new source of music that I like is always a pleasing thing.

To find one that is as well-played, and well-produced as Head's CD "Save Me From Myself" is a huge treat that is altogether too rare in my life. This is a great production, made by top notch musicians.

My prayers go out to Mr. Brian "Head" Welch on his new life, and I wish him great success. Both in his personal and professional life.

If Head's successful in his new musical endeavours, then I get the benefit of more great heavy music in the years to come.

I really racked up on CDs this Father's Day, and all of them are excellent:
Disciple - Southern Hospitality
Stryper - Reborn (Yes, the old 80s Metal band Stryper. They put out a new CD a year or two ago and it's really good. I finally got around to obtaining it.)
Red - Innocence and Instinct
Head - Save Me From Myself
All That Remains - Overcome

Friday, June 19, 2009

'Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed' inventor dies at 92

MIAMI – The inventor of the "Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed," which brought weary travelers 15 minutes of "tingling relaxation and ease" for a quarter in hotel rooms across America during its heyday as a pop culture icon in the 1960s and '70s, has died. He was 92. John Joseph Houghtaling died Wednesday at his home in Fort Pierce...

Seeing this headline reminded me of something Big Brother once did to me.

I was in my late teens (so this would have been around 1979 or 1980), still living with my parents in Monroe, La., and Big Brother had been living in Lafayette, La., about a four hour drive into south Louisiana from Monroe.

He had moved back to Monroe, but still had some items in Lafayette that he needed to get, and bring to Monroe.

So he conned me into going with him on this boring trip, there was no easy, direct way to Lafayette, it was mostly two lane country Louisiana roads. For those who have never driven in rural Louisiana, the phrase "two lane country Louisiana roads" means mind-numbing boring scenery and horribly bad road conditions.

For some reason, much of that trip there and back is a blank to me, I'm usually great at remembering nauseating amounts of detail about the most innocuous things that have happened in my life, but for this trip, two things stood out, and still stand out in my mind.

One was the god-awful smell from a Godchaux sugar refinery (pronounced GOD-shaw) we passed, and to this day I cannot fathom how something so tasty as sugar can be produced from such a foul-smelling place. I grew up around paper mills, and this sugar refinery smell made the paper mills of north Louisiana smell like Chanel No. 5 in comparison. At least to my admittedly untrained nose.

Anyway, I don't remember one detail of the apartment we took his final possessions from, but I just remember looking like the Clampetts on their way to Beverly Hills, only we were in a 1970 Buick Electra 225, also known as "A Deuce and a quarter." But we had that puppy packed to the gills, with just enough room for Big Brother and I to fit our large frames in there too, for the drive back.

By the time we had loaded the car and were ready to go, it was late at night, so we got a cheap hotel room in Lafayette to sleep a few hours before getting up and hitting the road back to Monroe the next morning.

We walk into the hotel room, it had two double beds, and Big Brother called the bed by the door. (It was the closest one to the air conditioner, which we immediately set to full-blast.)

We were so tired, that we just pulled off our shoes and flopped on the two beds.

I noticed that next to the head of my bed, there was some contraption with a slot in it for feeding quarters.

I sat up and read the front of this metal box and learned for the first time about Magic Fingers Vibrating Beds.

I do remember thinking it was a pretty goofy idea, and lay back down and was getting drowsy within seconds.

Then I heard the tell-tale clunking sound of coins being fed into a machine's coin slot, and looked over to see Big Brother cramming quarters in the machine as fast as he could, and when he saw me notice him, just let out an evil laugh.

I rolled over to stop him, but before I could, the bed started vibrating.

Big Brother laughed himself to sleep while I laid there for an hour and 15 minutes until the bed stopped vibrating.

I guess he had gotten five quarters in the vibrator on my bed before I could react.

Of course his bed didn't have a Magic Fingers, so I was powerless to return the favor.

I remember laying there so sleepy, but this stupid bed vibrated too much to allow me to go to sleep until it stopped.

Of course this was one of the things we recalled and laughed about for years.

Rest in peace, Mr. Houghtaling, your invention cost me some sleep when I sorely needed it, but then again, was a great memory to laugh about in the years that came after.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Letting Your Guard Down

Oh my gosh, I just saw this photo for the first time on a news site.

I keep looking at it and just laughing.

Note to self, if I ever get famous, remember to take care about what my face is telling the world.

Mrs. Obama's facial expression just speaks VOLUMES here.

I needed a good laugh.

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)