Drugs, Graceland and Styx: A Peek Into Music Fanaticism

Image from stevenalmond.com

Beneath a harsh spotlight that highlighted his salt-and-pepper hair, and face worn by drugs and years of partying, Steve Almond spewed curse words like a kid who had just discovered them.  In fact, the music critic and author sounded like a kid, or at least like he was that nineteen year old just entering the music scene he once was, as he presented his new novel, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life. Almond gave an almost-X-rated and hilarious multimedia presentation at Berklee’s Cafe 939 on Wednesday to promote his New York Times Best Seller. Almond guided the crowd through his novel with a slideshow featuring the “tracks,” or chapters, songs to fit each “track,” and narrative. So, like Almond said, “without further hair-do” here is a track list, or sneak preview, of Almond’s novel:

Track 1: Drooling Fanatic Explained…

The drooling fanatic is an essential part of Almond’s book, and his life.  This is a person who lives and dies for music; who lives in awe of those who “speak the language” of music; who has no words for music, other than random screams and grunts.  Almond classifies himself as a drooling fanatic, and claims, “Music is the one thing America has done right amidst all it has done wrong.”

Track 2: How to Become a Drooling Fanatic

Almond names only one way to achieve this status: “have an older brother who thinks you’re a dipshit.”  He then launched into an anecdote about loving Styx because his brother thought it was cool (this was accompanied with some high-pitched, yet charming, singing to “Renegade”), and being crushed when his brother made fun of him for liking the band a few weeks later.  Essentially, you have to devote your life to impressing someone with your musical taste.

Track 3: How I Became a Music Critic (without really trying)

Communication majors who fear they will never find a job may not want to read this section, because Almond simply stumbled into the greatest job in the world. Basically, he was asked to cover a Bob Dylan show even though he didn’t know who Dylan was, got really stoned, and wrote about it. From there, he was offered a full time music critic job at the El Paso Times.  Jealous, right?

Track 4: What Songs Do

“I’ve always been drawn to songs that make me feel bad, and that make feeling bad feel good,” Almond said while explaining the effect music has on him. He best explained this by playing the song “When I Was Drinking” by HEM.  The beauty of the song makes him want to be an alcoholic in love.

Track 5: One (of many) Really Stupid Things I’ve Done as a Drooling Fanatic

This track is the stoner anthem of the novel.  In an attempt to help his friend cheer up after a bad break up, Almond got really, really, high and took his friend to Graceland.  Some odd misadventures ensued, which included trying to jump the ropes and see the toilet on which Elvis died.  If Almond’s adventures weren’t intriguing you yet, this is the turning point.

Track 6: The Mating Habits of the Drooling Fanatic

Most of this content is unpublishable here (and frankly, anywhere) but it had to do with deodorant, communists and bondage. The rest is up to your imagination.

Track 7: Metallica’s “Fade to Black” (a reluctant exegesis)

This track turned a highly upbeat, laugh packed presentation down a notch.  At first, Almond was staunchly against Metallica, and rightfully so. However, his love for his wife quickly overturned his opinion, as she explained how Metallica got her through her tough teen-age years, and perhaps even saved her life.  It was touching, really, but very depressing.

Track 8: Drooling Fanaticism in the Age of Actual Drooling

This is where Almond transformed into the 40-something he really is, when he explained how his greatest dream is to impose his music taste on his 2 year old daughter.  Despite multiple attempts at playing her Led Zeppelin, Styx and the like, however, his daughter prefers the children’s hip-hop group Dino 5.  Touching and cutesy, but a far cry from the sex-crazed, stoned kid that walked on the stage twenty minutes earlier.  But, I suppose that’s the point: music is forever, and no matter what age, Almond will still be the drooling fan trying to impress his older brother.

To find out more about Almond, buy his book or read his other publications, visit his website. The show was sponsored by Fusion, Berklee’s Literary Magazine.

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