Used to be great… Now it’s just late…
Some Pay More Dues Than Others, and Sometimes Others Reap the Rewards of the Dues You Paid
Get ready for Aerosmith sacrilege…
I wrote most of this last year, and it’s okay just the way it is. Enjoy, or don’t, the choice is yours to make. Don’t shoot the messenger even if he wrote the message.
I’m sure a lot of you thought maybe this might make the top 30, 20, or even 10… And I’m positive you all think it SHOULD BE at the top, or close to it. I would never argue that in somebody else’s list. Just not on mine, for whatever reason.
I do give this song a ton of respect, the respect it deserves. To know that Steven wrote the song, or at least most of it, when he was 17 or 18 years old, with his parents in mind, and the sheer genius of those lyrics and the Melody, at such a young age… Well it’s just amazing!
My take on it comes from various different view points. First I remember hearing it on 610 KFRC AM, San Francisco at the age of, what?… 10, 11, 12? I can remember liking it a little bit. But being the youngest of nine, it haunted me. I didn’t like it, with the fact that I was watching the woman I loved more than air getting older, the lines on her face getting clearer. I was watching my dad dislike her more every day, for no other reason than vanity.
My mom was 36 years old when I was born into a family who already had 8 mouths to feed. A mistake my father would remind of over the years. As I grew into my pre-teen years, with the whole world in front of me, as confident as a boy could get, I was often immune to the heartaches happening around me, or maybe I was just blind. Too young to see the effects of what is being lost along the way. Maybe confidence was just a word used to mask the ego that insecurity saw in the mirror…
At the exact time in a boy’s life where every boy in the world should be doing nothing more than being a boy, I couldn’t help but notice, that maybe my own carefree and often unbothered nature was being challenged by family with stresses that I didn’t understand, and yet being asked too… No, forced to understand before being ready. Now I don’t want to make this into more than it was. It was divorce, and at the time half the marriages in the country did the same, and maybe my parents’ divorce wasn’t a lot different than any other, but for me, it was total destruction.
Over the course of a few years I watched my father become more and more absent. It meant nothing to me at the time, and yet my older siblings always knew something I didn’t. Maybe they knew where he really was, I still don’t know. Probably doesn’t matter. But what I saw, what I noticed was my mother’s love for her children, her happiness of just being a mom and a wife turn into a job. And it seemed to me at least, it was a job she no longer reaped the benefits from.
I can clearly remember many trips to Little League games before the actual divorce happened, my mother asking me, almost in a girlish manner I f I still thought she was pretty. I can remember her looking in the rear-view mirror worried about the wrinkles appearing more clearly on her face. I can remember her telling us how the sun, which she worshiped her entire California life, could and would cause us harm. They same sun she used to be the Beautiful Tanned Blonde woman my dad always wanted her to be. I can remember her complaints, mild as they may have been of her years and time spent working the ranch or backyard to create a better home for all of us, and yet take time away from herself being pretty. In my mind, my mom was beautiful, so I didn’t really understand.
The truth is though I remember this song coming on the radio, and my mother wiping a tear. I remember those questions of lines on her face after the song. I remember her turning the station because of how it made her feel. I remember my father’s girlfriends so much younger, so much less weathered, so much more taken care of. The song for me was beautiful, but also hauntingly imminent, in a way that will stay with me for generations. I remember as clear as day, almost like a book we were reading in school, the chapters of a happy wonderful life, a great childhood, a happy family, changing with each turn of the page into the past. It was slow, it was methodical in a sense to see the life you once led, become a past life, and yet when it was done some 3 or and 4 years after the questions my mom asked me in the car, it seemed as though it went by with a blink of an eye.
I heard it again when Toys came out, but again didn’t really get it. Hell, I think I might have been about 12 or 13 when Toys came out. Before I heard the 1st album, I didn’t really get Toys either. So again, the song was sad to me, and being a kid of divorce, and a kid who just wanted to have fun, it didn’t leave much of a mark, at least not yet.
A few years later, when I became a true Aerosmith fan, I got it! I loved it. I played it over and over, and over again! Maybe even too much… I kinda’ started to feel like Joe feels towards the song. “You have to do it… it’s who you are”. I have to like it, I’m a fan, but the reality was, unless I was hearing it live, I wanted to hear something deeper from “my band” on the radio.
The lyrics though, the lyrics and melody always stuck with me, “lived and learned from fools and from sages” you know that’s pretty true for me, and damn if I haven’t paid my dues by now. Yeah, I relate, it’s just not always a feel good song for me.
This song was a peek into the genius level of the lyricist Steven would turn out to be. This video and performance of the song is the best I’ve ever seen, and frankly makes it hard to only rank it at 67. But again this is my list, right?
I have a friend, Jamie, who I want to thank for showing me a different side of this song. It’s not that I’ve never seen it before, I think I just never noticed it like I did until after she shared her story with me, of the love between her and her mother, and a bridge of sorts, that this song provided them. A truly loving relationship, in which they often sang together, and of course this song was one their very favorites. I’m touched deeply by her story, which is much deeper than I’m at liberty to divulge. I can say this though; there are songs in life that touch us on almost spiritual levels, almost as if someone is touching us from beyond through the melodies and lyrics. This is something I can not only appreciate, but also envy in Jamie’s case. Further, it makes me truly happy that she has that connection, and others have much more enlightened experience with this one than I.
Funny though, the different lines our tears follow, for different reasons…
So, as long as I put this one where I did, I value everyone else’s desire to put it much higher.
If you go undefeated, what did you learn? Even so, some pay more dues than others,
This is “Dream On”