Monday, November 23, 2009

Eon Flux

Other than Black Sabbath, and to a degree Metallica, I've never really dug heavy metal. By the time of the big hair arena Eighties, the genre seemed like a sad, obvious joke, as Spinal Tap showed. I shared John Lydon's sneer about flapping your flares to an audience of groveling idiots, and so never heard of or listened to Anvil, Canadian head bangers who appeared with Bon Jovi, Scorpions, and Whitesnake. At Anvil's height, I was exploring lost music from the 1920's, 30's and 40's, supplied by a film actor who listened to nothing but 78s. Anvil might have been touring Jupiter's moons, for all I cared.

As I've aged, my opinion about Eighties metal hasn't changed, but my heart has opened to those still chasing the muse. Several friends insisted that I watch "Anvil! The Story of Anvil," saying that I would identify with the protagonists, primarily Steve "Lips" Kudlow, lead singer and eternal spirit of Anvil. I reluctantly followed their advice, and baby, I'm glad I did.

Wow. What a film. What a story. I became so emotionally involved that I had to stop the film, my heart was breaking so deeply. Any artist who's experienced positive audience reaction, who has felt that electric buzz when it all lines up and flows can appreciate what Lips and his best friend/bandmate Robb Reiner still crave as they enter their fifties. These two have never given up, and remain committed to their original vision, forged in their teens. Inspiring, moving, gut wrenching. My friends were right: I completely identified with Anvil.

When I resumed watching "The Story of Anvil" a couple of days later, those emotions returned, tears welling in my eyes, chest tight. Trying to be heavy metal stars at their age, in the present corporate environment, practically guarantees rejection, derision, and failure. If Anvil had been as big as the bands they influenced, like Metallica, then touring at 50 wouldn't seem so quixotic. But Lips and Robb, having breathed that rarified air before plummeting to earth, are confused and angry about their status. They're convinced they can hold their own with any band, yet as Robb confesses, time is running out.

The New Yorker's Anthony Lane (link courtesy of my friend Lou Proyect) summed it up beautifully:

"This film is not about rock music at all . . . it is about time, and how it threatens to fade us out like a song on the radio, and why, risking ridicule, and leaning on love, we should crank up the volume and keep going."

Bingo. Younger people might enjoy "The Story of Anvil," but to fully absorb its emotional punch, it helps to have lived, loved, and failed over several decades. Lord knows I know.

Speaking of which: In a recent video, I announced plans about returning to stand up, specifically in New York. This is still very much on. I've been writing a slew of new bits and concepts, shaping a loose but definite stage persona, rehearsing moves, transitions, tones of delivery. Much to my surprise, it's exciting and very inspirational. I feel creatively reborn in many ways.

Some have asked, What happened to the autobiography? The TV pilot script? Short answer: nothing. Elements of both appear in the new act, but there are other factors which I may address later on. For now, returning to the stage is the most direct and realistic option. If things go well there, then we'll see where the other projects fit.

The beauty of this venture is my relative lack of anxiety and fear. At 50, I feel more secure as an artist. I trust my instincts and talent, more so than I did in my twenties, when terror and madness fueled my efforts. Writing this act has so far been a treat. Once I'm up there, walls will be hit, rough waters encountered. Part of the gig. But for the first time in a long time, it all feels right. My life has led to this moment, a real shedding of skin.