Review: Steve Almond’s “Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life”
A Steve Almond body scan would probably reveal millions of little dots, sparkling and pounding with rock music. A self-described “Drooling Fanatic” endlessly listening, writing rock criticism, DJ’ing, worshipping-(and then wistfully wondering about)- famous musicians, Somerville resident Almond takes us on a many-flavored tour. Sometimes brashly sarking songs he hates, often getting near to the dangerous flame of his idols and then getting disillusioned or rejected, Almond approaches music as a gigantic adolescence, a deep groove in which he works out complex feelings. The luscious lyricism of some lyrics-and the crazy existential angst of others-draw him in and twist him around. On Dayna Kurtz: ”Her melodies were swollen with the complicated joy of sorrow.” While having wild music-world adventures –sex, pot, and, naturally, rock and roll-Almond alternates deep longing and worship with many back-steps of self-deprecation for being so very Drooling.
The art of Hip-hop’s Gil Scott-Heron (“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”) whose “musical lexicon ranges from Marvin Gaye to John Coltrane, from James Brown to Tito Puente” entrances Almond: “It is the unique talent of the prophet to convert rage into poetry,” yet in person he’s “A muttering wreck, jittery, coked up on some other cruel amphetamine.” Almond elaborates both sides now.
“Dylan “Zimmy” confounded the messianic aspects of his stardom..He went straight from the coked-up carnival of the Rolling Thunder Review to Bible school. “F’ing brilliant.” page 95
“What excruciating pleasure! To set the tip of one’s index finger under the arched band extending from the end of the stylus then transport that feathery aluminum arm (with its glamorous and barely visible tip) toward the spinning record. There was a right way to do this and a thousand wrong ways and the results were amplified. If you got the yips, the needle went screeching across the record……If you dropped the arm from too high you produced a crisp pop, known in the parlance of my crowd as popping a goochie . (You yipped it, gooch.”) page 44