Three things: Romeo Void in Chico; E-40 disses Chico State po-po; and Sammy Hagar has a best-seller
Two quick notes, followed by one power chord (in your face!)
First this: Got word from Living Karaoke Band maestro Mark Zempel that The DownLo was packed last Friday night for the R.I.P. MTV ’80s live-karaoke night. While I’m stoked for their success, what I’m actually leading off this column with is the fact that one of the night’s covers—Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never”—was sung by … Romeo Void lead singer Debora Iyall! She lives in Sacramento now, and Zempel had told me before the show that she’d be there, but didn’t know if she wanted anyone to make a big deal about it. So, here it is after the fact—now you and I know what we missed.
And then there’s this: On Monday, former CN&R intern Tyler Harbaugh sat right there in the chair next to my desk and told me about a story he wrote for Chico State’s Orion in December of 2009 about Vallejo rapper E-40. Mr. 40 was trying to book a return gig in town, and local promoters—apparently fearing trouble at a Chico show in the wake of a shooting at a previous E-40 concert—allegedly declined booking him. Even a Facebook page set up by Chico State students called “Bring E-40 and PREF1X to Chico, CA!” (attracting nearly 500 members) didn’t help the cause.
Cut to March 29, 2011, and the release of E-40’s expansive two-disc Revenue Retrievin’. There, on a track appropriately titled “Fuck ’em,” on the collection’s Overtime Shift disc, E spits back at our scared little city: “Fuck Chico State police/ They banned me for no reason.”
Somehow, I don’t think there’ll be a return diss track.
“Crank up the drums/ Crank up the bass/ Crank up my Les Paul in your face!”: I read an editorial somewhere last week that made the bold claim that “Sammy Hagar has always sucked. Always. It’s not even debatable.” Well, I am willing to risk challenging that premise by throwing a little overtly biased logic around on behalf of the Red Rocker.
It is true, Hagar comes across as a big throbbing, red-headed jerk-off. And a douchebag. And a pandering, tequila-swilling (and -selling) attention whore. He’s a schmuck.
So, yeah, by that measure, “Boo! Red Rocker—there’s never been another frontman doing such awful things in the history of rock.” Only, of course, there has. Sammy is just very efficient at taking those basics—cars, booze, women and rockin’ out with your cock out—and distilling them into an empty, nutrient-free, bite-sized bit of rock candy. (On the glycemic index scale, Hagar would land somewhere between a baked potato stuffed with french fries and potato chips and a glucose IV.) That said, I’m sure it’s just rubbing music snobs raw that the numbskull who wrote “I Can’t Drive 55” has a new autobiography, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, that just topped the New York Times Best Seller list.
The problem with most critics when it comes to assessing Hagar—and all other artists—is that they can’t step outside of their personal standards of what’s good and bad. I know it might sound ridiculous to ask someone to dismiss their hard-earned standards, but I say, “Why the hell shouldn’t they?” What good comes from removing the intentions of the songwriter and replacing them with your own? You might hate that Hagar doesn’t do things the way your favorite artists do things, but kind of like the song “We Will Rock You” at a ballgame, he has his place—whether it be at a NASCAR tailgate party or in a primered El Camino’s cassette deck.
In 1985, when I was a young teen, what was I going to choose to blast out the windows as I circled The Cruise in downtown Redding on a Friday Night, The Beatles? No way. If I had any chance of turning heads in my parents’ VW van, I was going to need “One, two, three, lock box!” Now, I won’t sit here and defend Van Hagar, HSAS or Cabo Wabo, but during his mid-’70s-to-mid-’80s solo years—Sammy Hagar was just a red-blooded, party-lovin’, American boob, making red-blooded, party-lovin’ music to be a boob to. And damn if it wasn’t fun being a boob.