Perfect Record #8 – Monster

What gives you the right, hey you, to stand there and tell me what to do?
-Steppenwolf, Power Play


I have these memories, see. I was at an outdoor street festival in Saranac, MI, a small town a few miles away from our home. I was twelve, maybe. There was a stage, and they were putting on some sort of show, and at one point, there was a motorcycle on the stage, and the music that blared from the speakers was Born to Be Wild. And something inside of me stirred.

I was in my room upstairs in our house. Next door was my brother Dave’s room. He was older, and had more music, and was listening to this long, weird, scary piece of music, a live version of Steppenwolf’s The Pusher that went on for about twenty minutes. And something inside of me stirred.

I was in the basement, listening to Monster/Suicide/America, looking at the cover – shirtless long-haired musicians standing in some weird foil cave with this otherworldly creature hanging over them – with John Kay singing about big things in an epic, three-part nine-minute song. And something inside of me stirred.

I’ve spoken of it before: that longing to be elsewhere, to be involved, to be a part of something with meaning and purpose; that sadness of being too young to join in; that wanting to be a part of the circus. All of it was hidden away from my conscious mind. It was not okay, to think and want and dream of such things. It was not for me. So I settled for listening, watching from the outside, and following the expectations that had been handed to me.

Had I been a little older, and had I had the self-permission I needed to do so, I’d have joined the circus for sure. Learned an instrument. Joined a band. Run off to the big show. I had the inherent talents necessary. I had the hidden desire. I had things to say. I had the love of rock and roll. I even had the hair. I’d have had a really great time.

But there were pieces missing, both inside and out. So I did not join the circus. But I loved those who had, and relished their music, and used it to keep me sane. Monster kept me sane. Draft Resister. Power Play. From Here to There Eventually. They kept me sane. Rock and roll kept me sane. John Kay’s rough and real voice kept me sane. The epic sweep of protest and cultural critique that was the title song kept me sane.

I was locked in to a set of expectations. Couldn’t have told you about them at the time. Didn’t know they were there. Didn’t have any mentors in my life who could help me find my way. But I could feel the chains and manacles on my soul. And these shirtless, long-haired musicians seemed to know how to get free, even if it meant escaping through dark foil caves, and battling strange monsters on the ceiling.

But I got from there to here, eventually. Made my way through the caves. Confronted the monsters.

Most of them, anyway.

America where are you now?
Don’t you care about your sons and daughters?
Don’t you know we need you now?
We can’t fight alone against the monster.
-Steppenwolf, Monster/Suicide/America

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