Take Your Time

I’ve been listening to my old David Bowie cds this week, and watching Bowie videos on YouTube thanks to an endless supply of links via Facebook and Rolling Stone online. Weeks later, and I still miss him. And though never an Eagles fan, I was sorry to hear about the passing of Glenn Frey, too. And Natalie Cole. And Alan Rickman. And Abe Vigoda…

And now, Paul Kantner. What the hell is going on here? I mean, these folks were so young. (Well, okay, maybe not Abe, but he always seemed old even when he was young.) And as I write these words, I realize that only someone of my generation or so would make the observation that these actors and musicians were still young. To a 20-year-old, they must seem ancient. But they’re young to me, and that’s the point. Because the 70s were just yesterday…the 80s only just happened…the 90s a blink away…the 00s…

What is this marvelous creation that we constructed for ourselves called Time? And how is it that a guy in his Sixties considers Paul Kantner at 74 to be young when there was a time when it was hard to imagine being 30, much less twice that. I don’t see a 63-year-old in the mirror. Who is this grey-haired guy who gets an automatic senior discount at all the restaurants? Can’t be me. Because I’ve still got a head full of Ziggy Stardust, the Mothers of Invention, T. Rex, Captain Beefheart, Iron Butterfly, the Sons of Champlin, the Beach Boys, the Suburbs, Kraftwerk and the Residents still ringing in my ears. And they’re all so young up there on the stage, dancing, playing, transforming, making grand and glorious music.

Those days just happened. In my head, they’re still fresh. And I still get a chill thinking about the first time David Bowie takes the stage…or the first time I see all the Beach Boys, my teenage heroes, all lined up on a stage, faces filled with dark beards that were never part of the surfing image … or the first time the Mothers come to San Rafael, to a black-lighted palace called Pepperland, where Frank Zappa makes his way through the crowd (yeah, walks right in front of us) and up to the stage, steps to the mike, and says, “It’s fucking hot in here,” in that droll drawl of us that I had heard so often on his albums.

Magic times.

And it’s hard to admit that all my rock & roll heroes are, well…old. Sure, the Rolling Stones are still touring like there’s no tomorrow. But for most of the bands and musicians I’ve followed over the years, their touring days are drawing to a close. I just read that Brian Wilson is taking “Pet Sounds” on its last world tour. I’m impressed that at Brian’s age, he still wants to get up on a stage and perform it. (Considering his psychological issues, I’m impressed that he wants to get on stage period, but that’s another story, and more power to him.)

But as we all wind down, locked in our shared nostalgia for a wonderful music-filled youth, I still resent the loss of all my heroes. It may seem weird, considering that I never met the man, but when Frank Zappa passed away back in 1993, I felt like I had lost a dear friend. And then, two years later, Jerry Garcia. As I blogged a few weeks ago, I felt the same way at losing Bowie. And now Paul Kantner, guiding light of the Jefferson Airplane, the guy who brought us all those acidy guitar and vocal harmonies. He and Grace Slick created the Jefferson Starship with their Blows Against the Empire album, and even though I was never a big fan of the Starship, I was glad that he kept the spirit of the times alive. And held it together all these years.

And wherever they are, alive in spirit, they’re one with the music of the spheres now. As we all will be. Jim Morrison reminded us all a long time ago—or not so long ago, depending on how you look at it—that no one here gets out alive. But I still miss them. My shiny-faced, sweet-voiced, long-haired heroes.

—Greg Shepard

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