Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A preserved moose

This past Sunday, a random quote from This is Spinal Tap came into my head:

Marty DiBergi: Do you feel that playing rock 'n' roll music keeps you a child? That is, keeps you in a state of arrested development?

Derek Smalls: No. No. No. I feel it's like, it's more like going, going to a, a national park or something. And there's, you know, they preserve the moose. And that's, that's my childhood up there on stage. That moose, you know.

Marty DiBergi: So when you're playing you feel like a preserved moose on stage?

Derek Smalls: Yeah.

There are so many great one-liners in this film, but I'm still trying to understand why this one is sticking out to me as of late. Maybe it's because of the allure of playing rock & roll music; the pseudo-suspended state of adolescence that comes with it. Yet the image of Derek Smalls, complete with a bushy beard, as a preserved moose cracks me up. Joking aside, it makes me wonder what really gets preserved for posterity.

I've long argued that the most endearing aspect of This is Spinal Tap is that, despite all the funny stuff, it's a serious look at being in a band that's in it for the long run. As the "rockumentary" shows, despite internal conflict, misunderstanding record companies, savage critiques, a never-ending string of drummers and so on, Spinal Tap keeps going. Most bands don't last that long, especially goofball metal bands.

Spinal Tap's songs, like "Stonehenge," "Big Bottom" and "Hell Hole," are funny, but not flimsy. Even though they are parodies of late-'70s, early-'80s hair metal, I prefer them because they are meant to be funny. Yet so many "serious" hair metal bands thought they were making really great music. I think that's even funnier, but I can't take them seriously at all.

Looking at old videos of bands like Poison, Cinderella, Bon Jovi and White Lion, I can understand why I enjoyed watching them back in the day. However, they drip with the polished sleaze of '80s hair metal with very little more to offer. Hearing the songs again, I still enjoy a number of them on various different levels, but there are so many others that I can't take seriously. For every "Don't Know What You've Got 'til it's Gone" and "Jump," there are songs like "Talk Dirty to Me" or "Heaven."

For a child of the '80s who would have not understood the Replacements or Husker Du back when they were around, Nirvana was the right band at the right time. Hair metal was long past its prime and Nirvana blew it out of the water. While that's the general meaning, I must admit that I didn't have a complete change of heart once "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hit the airwaves. Over the course of hearing the song over and over again, along with their following radio singles (especially "Come As You Are"), I slowly warmed up to Nirvana. Once I "got" them, there was no turning back. This is still true to this day.

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