Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rock Magic

In my twenties, when I was still trying to figure out what I wanted and what I was able to get, I joined the ranks of sharp-suited bright young things climbing the corporate ladder. I was good at what I did and made rapid progress. Yet every promotion made me feel more and more like a fake. My suit was a costume, almost a disguise.

The real me emerged when I put on my leathers and helmet at the end of the day, threw my leg over my bike, kick-started the engine and wove through the all those boring cars until I found a stretch of road where I could open up the throttle and scream at the top of my voice.

That feeling of power and freedom and truth is what Rock means to me.

Rock is a fist that smashes through my intellect, closes around my heart and drags me to new places.

Even now, it enables me to shed my corporate camouflage and enter a parallel universe where I'm a working class hero with a flair for words and a passion for living dangerously in the here and now.

I grew up on stadium bands like Led Zeppelin, Rainbow and Deep Purple, moved on to Bon Jovi, Meatloaf, and Whitesnake and now follow Nickleback, Linkin Park, Green Day and Evanescence.

My most intense experience of Rock was my first big stadium gig back in the 80's. Meatloaf was playing and I needed to hear “Bat Out Of Hell” live. I went by bike of course. The woman who would become my wife and was already my centre of gravity, rode pillion. She looked wonderful. Her long blonde hair flew out irrepressibly from beneath her helmet. The biker jacket emphasised the narrowness of her waist and the fullness of her hips. When she swung up behind me, legs spread, arms around my waist, I felt so alive that it my body seemed too small a space to contain all that joyous hunger.

At first we were just one bike in a river of cars. Then other bikes merged into the traffic and wordlessly we became a group. The group grew into a horde as we reached the stadium. We were legion and we were strong.

Meatloaf performed Rock magic that night. He pulled in the energy from all our nameless yearnings, amplified it and sent it crashing back over us in a tsunami of sound that transformed us into a single organism moving to a beat stronger and more urgent than our own hearts.

I dance about as well and as easily as an elephant on roller-skates but my wife's body seems made to express music. As I watched her move beside me that night I knew I would never see anything that I wanted more.

A while back, I decided to try and capture some of that Rock magic in a story. I wrote “Brave Enough To Cry”, about a rock singer who falls for a country and western star.

Of course stories never go quite the way you expect and what came out was filled with as much sadness as joy but I think Rock is like that, it lets us see the truth about ourselves and sometimes that is too much to bear.

Perhaps the most challenging thing about writing the story was that I had to come up with the lyrics for his songs. This was something I'd never done before and it left me with a great respect for those who do this well.

Below I've included the start of the story with first song.

Excerpt from “Brave Enough To Cry” by Mike Kimera

All the stations are playing Jonathan’s songs today. MTV play his three best videos once an hour back-to-back and then flip between a rockumentary of the “Lubed and Loaded” tour and a making-of-the-video for his single, “Now I know why Viagra is blue”.

I’m at the can’t stage: can’t sleep, can’t cry any more, can’t stop thinking about him, can’t forgive him for dying.

What the fuck am I supposed to do now?

Grieve and move on, that’s what my mother would say. She has always moved on easily. She never told me that grieving could be so hard. I’m locked behind a wall of glass, deafened by echoes of my pain and loss.

Then the song comes on. The only one we ever wrote together. The one everyone thinks is about how we met, but is really about how we would have liked to have met.

I told Jonathan that he’d never sell the song unless he changed the title and half of the lyrics. “You can’t expect MTV to play a song called, ‘She dresses pure country, but she fucks like rock n roll’” I said.

He just raised an eyebrow and said, in his best British officer-class voice, “Who could possibly object to a song with the word ‘Pure’ in the title?”

It took me months before I realized that I was the one being naive. The song went to Number 1 in the UK the week that the BBC banned it and became so popular in the US that MTV played it under the title “Pure Country” and dubbed over the bits it couldn’t stomach.

I turn up the sound and give my full attention to the TV. There we are, young and beautiful in the way that only a skilled camera man and a lighting crew can make you. The sight of Jonathan, lean and dangerously handsome, takes my breath away. He’s the leather-clad bad boy and I’m the cowgirl of your dreams. There’s no way to tell that he went to Sandhurst or that I grew up in NYC. The attraction between us is so obvious and so physical that the words of the song seem mild in comparison.

Jonathan has, damn – I will NOT cry – Jonathan had a singing voice as distinctive as Springsteen’s or Cobain’s: not good, not trained, but potent and unique and impossible to forget. When he sang, that my-family-have-served-in-the-Guards-for-generations voice disappeared and someone proudly humble, soulfully aggressive and irresistibly sexual emerged. Add in the icy blue eyes, the thick dark hair and the beautifully asymmetrical face and you have yourself an icon.

I pull my knees up under my chin, close my eyes and lose myself in his voice and our lyrics.

I was drinkin in a roadhouse
Saw her dancin ‘cross the floor
My eyes just couldn’t leave her
She made my skin feel raw

With a smile on her lips
and a swayin of her hips

She was dressed pure country
But I knew she’d fuck like rock ‘n roll
Yeah she was dressed pure country
But I wanted to fuck like rock ‘n roll

The nearest Jonathan had ever been to a roadhouse was watching Patrick Swayze movies but when he sang the words, you believed in him. That was the thing, I always believed in him, even when I knew I shouldn’t.

My foot got to tappin
My heart picked up the beat
I knew she was the woman
That God sent me to meet.

Had a smile on my lips
And my eyes on her hips

She was dressed pure country
But I hoped she’d fuck like rock ‘n roll
Yeah she was dressed pure country
But I needed to fuck like rock ‘n roll

Jonathan was an atheist but he couldn’t resist roping God in on his side. “God is on the side of the big battalions” he’d say, imitating his father. Then he’d grin and say, in a phony cockney accent, “Wanna see me battalion, pretty lady?” I smile at the thought of him and choose to ignore the tear that is rolling down my cheek

So I took her in my arms
‘n span her ‘cross the floor
She blushed when I touched her
But I could see she wanted more

From the smile on her lips
And my hands on her hips

The blushing bit is true. Jonathan could light me up just by brushing his thumb along my forearm. When he kissed me, standing behind me, pulling my shoulders back against his chest, lowering his mouth onto my neck, I understood what it meant to be consumed by lust.

I said, you look pure country
She said, I fuck like rock n roll
So I undressed pure country
And we fucked like rock n roll
Yeah we fucked like rock n roll

I’ve been asked so many times, usually by fat men with cameras in their pudgy hands, “What does it mean, Carol – to fuck like rock n roll?” It used to annoy me. It never bothered Jonathan, he’d just smile at the guy, lean over close as if about to share a secret, and say quietly, “Ask your wife to explain it to you.”

No one ever had to explain it to us. When we were together, sex was the backbeat of our lives, constantly present in every glance, every fleeting touch. When we were alone together, the guitar riffs would start and my blood would sing, clothes would be flung off, limbs would tangle and then he’d be in me or I’d be on him and it was like jamming: picking up a song you knew and seeing where the two of you could take it that it hadn’t been before. You both play and you both listen and you both look in each others eyes and you need to smile so bad that you can’t help but pump up the volume.

If you want to read the rest, go here.


  1. That's it.


    (And I loved the rest of the story, despite the pain.)

  2. Thank you, this was beautiful. Particularly, it captures tehfeeling rock has for so many of us who grew up with it as the sound track of our lives.


  3. Hi Lisabet, Garce,

    I've been away for a few days so I've just read your comments.

    Writing for the Grip gives me the opportunity to write about things that would never have occurred to me. It was fun to write about rock. I'm glad it resonated with you.


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