The Army of Young Ones


Here’s the story of Eddie, rock ‘n’ roll, and dowhackers.

“STOP SWEARING!” It’s not the two words I’d normally expect to hear at a heavy metal concert, granted. Oh, yes. Guess where I’ve been. That’s right, an East-17 reunion gig. They have gone a bit darker in tone, admittedly. There are 53 of them now, too. There’s no gentle way to say this, but… I’ve been to an Iron Maiden concert this week, and if you don’t know who they are… well, ‘stop swearing’ is about a futile a suggestion as warm ice cream. It was the least of my concerns, to be frank. There was a father with his little boy on his shoulders and there’s no easy way to say it, that boy looked no older than five. I do appreciate that getting the young’uns involved in rock music is vital in stopping them becoming chavs, but… maybe, maybe, a tad too soon. And then there was that moment Bruce ripped Eddie’s heart out and threw it at the crowd. Good times, good times…

It wasn’t that long ago I was a stickler for avoiding rock concerts, despite my love of rock music. I’m a walking contradiction, and hypocrite and parallel universe sex symbol. Ahem. I’m the type of person who wonders what the other me’s in other parallel Earth’s are like. I like to think that, in one, I’m actually handsome and didn’t get incredibly annoyed this week that a shopkeep gave me both an old five pound note and an old one pound coin in change despite the fact both are literally about to go out of circulation and they refused to give me the new ones. What? THAT REALLY ANNOYED ME! I don’t even like the new plastic notes and now I’m being made to beg for them, the corporate dowhackers…

As clichéd as it appears to be, rock music was there for me when I needed something and did not know what that something was. Ah, you know what it’s like, readers. Born under a bad sign. A little too tall for most people’s liking. A little too skinny. Very pasty. Glasses, at the time. Ridden with social anxiety and thus spent my breaks at school sitting in the corner of the huge field that surrounded the school, sat under my favourite tree. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I had no friends. Do people with friends have favourite trees? It was an apple blossom, in case you’re wondering. My top three are rounded out by weeping willow and oak. What? I also have a top three favourite pairs of socks, as well. I don’t see anybody complaining about that! Oh, you are? Carry on.

Admittedly, none of this has changed all too much since then, but at least with rock music I found a voice. A friend. Something that often reminded me that there were millions of other people as lonely as I, but the fact we were a group made that collective friends, a united front against those who treat us as degenerates. As Brent Smith said at that concert, rock and roll is a lifestyle. It doesn’t care who you are or what you are. It brings us together as one voice. Makes you feel wanted and a part of something huge. And when you go to a concert, you can see that live. 10,000 people jumping on the spot for five minutes, all completely unique yet all a part of the same family. The smile across my face during that concert took a good week to go away. Heart racing, adrenaline pumping. I didn’t know any of those people, but I knew I wasn’t alone. Unlike dance and rap, rock is the soul of millions. It has meaning and depth. And when all else fails you, it’s always kind and compassionate. You know with rock that it will never let you down.

The problem is, of course, that the free spirit rock awoke inside me didn’t quite manage to get the better of the logic centre in my brain. If you imagine my brain as a forest, my logic is a grand castle at the centre, atop a mighty hill. Guarded by fantastic super beings protecting it like an impenetrable force field. Rock music was like the cast of The Young Ones had discovered a cloning machine, duplicated themselves like, a billion times, and had declared war on the castle. To this day, the battle still rages, but at least a peace treaty of sorts has been brokered.

Too loud. Too many people. Human contact. The fear of the unknown. I could go on. Logic was winning until last year when my brother got me and him some tickets to a Trivium concert. Who, if you aren’t aware, are at the heavier end of heavy metal. I mean… yes, it was an experience, put it that way. Castle Logic argued that it would make no sense to betray this huge dominant castle for the sake of literally getting one’s rocks off. It might be alright for a couple hours, but afterwards, there’s a giant castle shaped hole where the castle once stood. What would I be without my logic? I’d be a hippy. God, I can’t imagine anything worse…

So you needed a compromise. You told your teenage daughter she couldn’t go to that gig and now she hates you. Equally, you can’t just let her go to all gigs, as that would make you an irresponsible parent. I’m not a parent, but what I’d do is find her most trustworthy friend and tell her to keep an eye on my daughter. I’d guilt the hell out of her, too. “Look after her, she’s the most important thing in my life.” That would do the trick. A compromise.

So the Army of Young Ones were allowed to go out and party by Castle Logic now and again, on the condition that they came back as unharmed as humanly possible and tidied up the morning after. This is literally what my life is like. Every second of every day. You can go to your concert, but take some earplugs, stand back from the stage and preferably near an exit, and don’t go alone. The truce was brokered. And that’s how I ended up at an Iron Maiden concert. Obviously.

It’s certainly easier going to your second rock concert rather than the first, as you don’t know what to expect. That said, my first was in a club and this was in a huge arena. 10,000 people showed up. Remarkable, really. There were butterflies in my stomach but the excitement squished all of them. I couldn’t believe it. Iron Maiden. 1975 they were formed. 38 albums. The biggest and best rock band in history and certainly the best live. This is my Beatles. Except I like Maiden.

I was glad I wasn’t the only one wearing earplugs, although, must be said, most of the others were old men. I’ve never seen anything like it. Very young, teenagers, people who appeared to be in their 60s. Men, women. All people from all backgrounds. It was remarkable. Rock really does unite. That said, I wasn’t overly delighted to discover the band had decided to film this concert. Oh, yeah. The cameraman got right up in my grill whilst I was waiting in the wrong queue. Less said about that, the better.

We weren’t too far away from the stage, me and my brother. Quite close in fact. The electricity was amazing. “Maiden, Maiden, Maiden!” the crowd screamed. I felt alive, and that’s amazing, because I normally feel half-dead. And there they were. So brilliant. Best night of my life. Wonderful theatrical performance. Brilliant huge Aztec set. All of the lads dancing around on stage, even though they are aged between 58 and 64, they were more energetic than me, some plucky 20 something. Flags waving. Fire and flames everywhere. Costume changes every song. A spectacular fight with Eddie, their mascot, a giant puppet thing, who had its heart ripped out by Bruce and burst over the audience. It was amazing! I just… oh, man. Then there was the five story heads in the background, the amazing vocals, the guitar solos… oh, I’ll never have a day that good ever again. I mean, sure, I’ve gone deaf and I’m a bit singed, and my back and knees are killing me, but, really, if they’re not after a Maiden concert, it would’ve been a bit disappointing. It’s the least you expect, really…

I’m proud I went. I was so hesitant. As much as I rely on my logic, sometimes you gotta throw caution to the wind and go for it in life, no matter how hard that is for one as shy as me. Rock is a community, and it’s nice to feel part of something, to be surrounded by friends you’ve never met, to have a heart full of ‘blood’ burst all over your face and then thrown at you. What? That’s my idea of a cracking night out…

And now everything has gone back to normal. Apart from the ringing in my right ear. Oh, and apart from the fact mum and dad are going away on holiday soon and that things only go wrong for me in this situation whenever I try to do anything. As long as they’re not going away and leaving me on my own for too long, I’ll be fine.

What’s that? They’re going to Australia for a whole month? Really?

Oh, balls…

American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the lead singer of Aerosmith, Steven Tyler (b. 1948), once said: “We believed anything worth doing was worth over-doing.”

Peace Out :|:

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To Contrive & Jive
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