Maybe things are starting to change for the better, maybe it’s just a rouse…
Is one’s character something you’re born with?
Or is it a combination of that, and the experiences one has in life, that create what people believe in, what they “stand” for, what they are inside?
How do we start to hate? When do we start to hate?
Why do we even start to hate?
There’s that ridiculous saying again;
“We all make our own choices in life”, right?
I believe that people can change their behaviors,
but I believe that character is infinite.
To wake up from the 70’s and even parts of the 80’s, from a drug induced fog, that left you incoherent to what was going on around you, to wake up and realize that you have a conscience, can be like emerging from total obscurity. To feel, once again, that you’re relevant, and things matter, can be a profound experience. And because of what you’ve been through, both in sobriety and intemperance, your conscience can, and often does feel the gravity, the burden of obligation. And when you have a voice that can be heard by millions, it’s often necessary to effect that obligation onto others who are willing to listen. The art though, is in the delivery.
Are you going to chastise? Are you going to judge? Are you going to reprimand the wrongs, or are you simply gonna say; “Hey; take another look from the other side of the fence”? Try a different pair of sunglasses… You may want to call attention… But to what exactly? Is it specific? Is it something we can touch? Or do you just say; “Pay attention, it’s starts with you, it starts with me. It’s a culture, not a law. Not a religion. Not a tradition, it’s a fucking culture!”
These guys never sought to “reach” anyone’s social consciousness, when they started out. They just wanted to have fun, and “be the best Rock n Roll band that ever walked the planet”. And more than anything else, they accomplished exactly that. But intertwined with all that fun, they, as we all do (hopefully), learned a few things along the way. These guys have taught me so much about life in general, without them ever even knowing it. From sexual innuendo, to having the confidence of a Matador, to acceptance, to humility… Never judging… Allowing people, to just be people. But also, just asking the questions.
Kinda’ weird when you think about it. They’re just a band playin’ good music, but with that comes an attitude about life in general, that is, well… more than anything else I can put my finger on, the attitude, is just about being “aware”. There’s a sayin’ that I often use about myself, but it comes from what I’ve got from these guys over the years. “I see the world through a different pair of sunglasses, I don’t expect the world to go out and buy the same pair, I would just hope that they would want to try them on for a different view every once in awhile.”
To grow, up and go to school as a child in The Bronx and Yonkers, or to want to be something you realize will never happen, because you weren’t touched with “Good Fairy, Good Student” wand, yet to know your true home is the family summer resort of Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire, makes for kind of a disconnect for a young boy. As awkward, sometimes geeky, naturistic, and artistic boys, of the early sixties, they had their fair share of societal issues. During the movement of the civil rights era, Steven was often bullied, not only for his interests, but also his god-given looks. Joe was often held to a standard that he knew he could not achieve, at least not in the sense of others’ expectations. Steven was called many, many names, and even beat up often, but maybe the worst thing he was called was “Nigger Lips”…
It’s my impression from what I’ve read about Steven’s early life, that he was indeed a trouble maker, or it might be more fair to say he was a “trouble finder”… Probably more out of the need for acceptance than anything else, but nowhere have I ever read anything about racial inequalities in Steven or Joe’s families. So the reason why I bring this up here is to provide a base for character, and to liken it to my own upbringing. I don’t claim to have a ton in common with these men, but I do see many, many similarities and parallels. And as much as they were role models in my early life, they continued to be the same as I got older, just with different venues.
I was brought up in the 60’s and 70’s in a small subdivision, new at the time, in Novato, CA. I had 8 older brothers and sisters. My family was not racial, or racist in any sense of the word. NOT AT ALL! If blacks were on TV for whatever reason, we didn’t turn the channel because they were black, but we might if it wasn’t funny. We didn’t discuss it, as if they were different. However, we didn’t have any black families in our community. Right or wrong, that’s just the way it was. So when the Jacksons moved in down the street, we welcomed them, just like any other family to the neighborhood. The point I’m trying to make here, is that there was no preconceived opinion, one way or the other. My dad never had to tell me blacks are just like us. It was already known, because nothing was ever cultured to us that they were different.
Like any other family or town though, there were, and still are those that are brought up differently. Whether that be, decisively different, or passively different, there are those who are less accepting of what they do not know.
I can remember hearing the bullies at school, and the playgrounds around town, use that word. And to be really honest, the first few times I heard it, I heard it from my Aunts, and some of my own cousins, but I really had no clue what it meant, only that there was a sense of anger and belittlement attached to it, that it made a very young boy feel… well, ashamed.
I can remember thinking; “I hope they never call me a nigger”. As I got a little older, we heard it used by kids at school towards others. Others who were white??? It was odd and very confusing, but it was also the root of fights sometimes, and sometimes, just a poor kid so ashamed of what he was called that he cried. As time went on I heard others call kids the same name Steven was called above. I can remember getting angry about it, protective. I could see the damage words could do. The phrase “Sticks & Stones” was obviously credited to someone trying to make their self feel better, but the reality was very different.
In seeing the damage done to kids who were bullied in this way, I saw their reactions, their sense of inward questioning, and their own sense of “self-wonder”. The word was so cruel, even without full understanding. Time came when my mom and brother, and I moved to Des Moines, Iowa after my parent’s very ugly divorce. I was immediately thrust into an extremely diverse world. 7th grade at Warren Harding Jr. High School was a world I was neither ready for, nor desired at all.
The school was 50/50 blacks and whites. The culture was old and more importantly, it was ingrained. This is where my mother, and her sisters and brother grew up. Not much had changed. Although I was not a racial person in the slightest, I did feel the fist of racism towards ME more than once, and by many at one time, for no other reason than I was the new white kid from California. I hated them, and I hated Iowa! But not for the reasons that other white kids did, and not for the reason they hated me, it was because I didn’t fit. And it didn’t matter what I did, I wasn’t gonna’ fit. I hated them for seeing me as different, not for seeing me as white.
So, as time went on, I wasn’t naive. The older I got the more I understood. I had fear of people for what they were, not the color they were. I liked people for who they were, not the god they serve. I continued to fight throughout my life for what I believed in, whether that be, a woman’s honor, a child’s defense, even on the road at times, or that I just wanted to keep my wallet. But I found through my years that you can paint a house and pretty it up, but it’s still the same house on the inside. People are people are people. Getting back to my point about Steven and these lyrics, and when the song was written, and the heart of what it’s about, I think he feels the same. There’s been plenty of years of anger against assholes, but the one thing they all had in common is that they were all assholes.
It’s easier to be passionate about something you’ve actually lived, so when it comes to bullying and bigotry, you might think it would be easy for me to use the word, or for Steven to do everything he can to not be what he was called, but instead… you covet it. You own it. Then you can truly believe in your own character. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not immune to hate. But I do try.
The use of God in the song is “absolute”! It’s easy to understand the point of the song and the point of view, if you’re willing to step outside the circle. Religion has been a crutch that some, not all, but some people have leaned on, for generations and generations to justify their bigotry. Whether that discrimination be against colors, or creed, or sexual orientation, if people are “hell bent” to defend their hatred, they will find it in the written word, in order to justify it. The saddest part about that is that in most religions, the God figure accepts all, and loves all, so it makes it very difficult to connect the dots in this type of ideology. When it’s clear that this is not God’s doing, it’s not his way, you need to find another avenue to justify your hatred.
The one thing I’ve found about racism, and bigotry in my short time on this planet, is that there are no winners, there can’t be. How can the person exacting his hatred be better or “win”, when he’s fighting his own insecurities, and his fight with himself affects countless others? How can the people being bigoted against, ever erase the damage done? How long does he or she have to go through life wondering if the person across the table thinks less of them, not by education, or finances, or looks, BTW which are all bad enough, but let’s throw in religion, sexual orientation or the fucking color of my skin! “The sins of the father… whether you like it or not”. You can’t change the past, but you can change the future.
The song was created by Mark Hudson, Steven Tyler, and Joe Perry in February of ’93. It was created with the Rodney King affair, and the L.A. Riots of ’92 in mind. At the time, video taping a police bust was a VERY new concept. Let’s remember where police dash cams came from. I don’t judge the cops for what they did; they had a jury to do that. I do remember the subject of “Super Human” strength that Rodney King was exemplifying. I do remember seeing the bust and the pictures of Rodney afterward, and if I was on the jury I would have said guilty, that I do know. But not out of racism… It was out of ignorance, lack of training, and no knowledge of the subject and the drug they were dealing with. I think I would have found more guilt against the department than the cops. I’m not saying that all of them were not racist. What do I know? Maybe they all were, but that’s not what I saw. What I saw was police brutality against a drugged up dude. They went overboard to subdue him.
On top of that though, because of the verdict, the black community of L.A., with a lot of media help, went rabid on racism. Maybe they had reason, like I said this was a first for “public” video. We don’t know what types of abuses were seen before, but where the black community lost it, was the fight against the innocent. They beat up color! They burned race!
This is what the song is about. It’s about Rodney King, and Reginald Denny. It’s about both sides and the desperate necessity to overcome what is no longer necessary, not that it ever was. But we need to do is, erase the rationale. We need to evolve as a culture. The hard part is that I truly have not seen much change. It’s still there. It still hides in the street. It still goes to work next me, next to you. People still wear it proudly, and state they are proud of their heritage. It’s got nothing to do with heritage!
And even today, our own United States Presidential Campaigns are being led by all accounts, a racist bigot. Sure he’s denied the accusation, but as I said above character is infinite. And how very sad it is that a large portion of our very own people hide behind words such as Political Incorrectness just so they justify their disposition, maintaining their bigotry, hate, hypocrisy, and racism for and against those they do not care to understand, never truly admitting who they are. Very sad and pathetic to watch, as people you thought you knew, people you thought were respectable tear down the very fabric that this country has stood on for 50 years now, and yet they do not have the balls to even admit.
You wanna’ tell everyone you’re Irish, even though your Great Grandpa was born here and just wanted to be American? You wanna’ speak Spanish at the lunch table, when you can speak English without excluding everyone else? You wanna’ check African American on the application box, instead of American, or refuse to state? Go ahead… feed it. It lives off you!
I’ve said before, they don’t lecture you; they throw it out there, “take it or fucking leave it!” That is this song! They’re asking you to look, not telling you. But in that request, comes accountability. It’s actually about way more than bigotry though. They’re showing you a world of disregard, and asking you if you’ve noticed. It touches on the state of world’s religions from Muslim, to Christian, and everywhere in between, and asks you; “Is this what your God wants?” But it also, at least from their point of view, suggests that it’s still a world worth saving, worth living in. I guess the jury’s still out on that…
There’s a lot going on here, but let’s try to lighten up. In my very humble opinion, if there ever was a “perfect song” written, this just might be it. It rocks. It’s got a message about consciousness, about humanity, about character. And it takes you on a flight. Some of you old farts will take note of their credit to the Yardbirds in the song, and the line couldn’t fit better.
I have to wonder if so many of the people I’ve met on Social Media over the past few years, who claim to be huge fans of this band, and yet espouse bigoted statements, racial view points, hypocritical comments. The same people that do not see the insult of a flag that represents suppression and treason, and worse fly it just to make it clear that they don’t get it… I have to wonder if these people bought tickets to the concert, but missed the entire show? These people are not fans of this band, any more than Miss Piggy was a real pig. They are fans of certain songs. They are fans of a band member’s looks, but certainly not his, or even their message.
And just a bit of trivia, the big bass drum beat in the song towards the middle end… yep; Steven stole the bass drum from his high school. Walked off the field with it after marching band practice, and just took it home. Yep it’s the same one.
with it after marching band practice, and just took it home. Yep it’s the same one.
The official video takes you from teenage vandalism and auto theft, too underage unprotected sex, to violence, to cross dressing teachers and students. The effect of Steven Tyler climbing out of his own self, his own skin, and Joe playing guitar on train tracks and stepping off just before he’s hit, leaves you with a sense of “impact”. It’s got maybe some of the best Joe Perry licks ever written and played. Some of the most powerful and impactful percussion and bass lines of any Aerosmith you can find…. It will bring tension, it will bring anxiety, it will bring discontent, and wonder, emptiness and a sense of disconnect, and bring it all back home and say to you… To you personally; Wake the fuck up! And for “God’s sake”, stop using a frickin’ old book written by story tellers to justify your hatred.
1993 Grammy for Best Performance by a Duo or Group. 1993 MTV Viewer’s Choice Award.
Turn this one wayyyy up! Hear it… It’s still just as good as it was yesterday. This is the perfect song.
This is; “Livin’ on the Edge”
“There’s something wrong with the world today
The lightbulb’s gettin’ dim
There’s meltdown in the sky… aahhaaa
If you can judge a wise man
By the color of his skin
Then mister you’re a better man than I… oh …”