Janus, The Jam, and Jumping



When you are young, jumping is natural.  It comes easily.  When you are carrying a bunch of extra weight on old legs, jumping no longer seems natural.  It certainly no longer comes easily.

You may be thinking, “What?  Is he going to kvetch about old age and being overweight?”  The short answer is, “No.”

The New Year is visible in the windshield.  Janus -- that’s right, as in JANU-ary -- was the Roman god of beginnings and transitions.  He was the two-faced guy who always was looking back to the past and ahead to the future.  For some reason the winter holidays often get me into a Janus state.  

What happened?  What is going to happen?  What did we do?  What are we going to do?  What did we learn?  What part of it will we use?  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

Recently, during a Janus moment, the realization came that something new may be needed to cover up my shortcomings as a guitar player.  My musical talents do not allow for standing in one place and relying on guitar-playing prowess to entertain anybody.  

Now, you may ask, “Don’t a lot of guitarists stand around in one place?  Just look at the jazz guys and some other surf bands.”  The likely answer to that is, “They are perfect enough that they do not feel the need to distract an audience.”  Another possible answer is, “They believe that the purity of the music alone is what an audience wants or deserves.”

As you have read here before, perfection in live musical performances is not for the Lava Pups as long as I have a guitar in my hands.  We are neither perfect enough nor deliverers of musical purity.

Thinking about that something to cover up for my less than stellar playing brought back the memories of distractions that were tried, but failed.  Guitar face was a real dud.  An old man’s face twisted up and contorted like he is trying to pass a kidney stone only focuses attention on shortcomings.  Walking out into the audience was another disaster.  It only proved how bad I can be.  Standing in one place and trying to exude an aloof cool.  Oh, isn’t that where this started?

Then I harkened back to an 80s documentary.  The Kids Are United presented parts of the 1978 Reading Festival in England, when punk first met mainstream rock at what was then known as the National Jazz and Blues Festival.  Sham 69 and The Jam on Friday; Foreigner and Squeeze on Sunday.  Watching it now reminds me how tastes change.  What I thought was a cool documentary in the 80s seems pretty poor now.

What I remembered most from The Kids Are United was The Jam’s performance.  Paul Weller and Bruce Foxton seemed to be airborne throughout.  They jumped.  Sometimes Bruce Foxton hopped leading up to a jump.  That movie was the first time that I noticed rockers jumping.  Sure, photos exist of Pete Townsend in which he seems to be six feet off the deck.  But for me, The Jam jumping marked a new observation.  It was a departure from preening, pouting guitarists or some guitarist with eyes uplifted as if in search of divine inspiration or Chuck Berry's hokey duck walk.

Robert, who does not need to distract anybody from his playing, jumps occasionally.  In fact, during our 12 minutes at the Battle of the Surf Bands, he landed no less than eight jumps.  He makes jumping look surprisingly easy.  He times his landings to fit the music.  Robert is proof that jumping is not limited to the really young.

Inspired by Robert, memories of The Jam, and the need to add to our schtick, I took a leap without a guitar.  I am not sure of whether I was airborne at all.  But whatever happened, it was not Air Jordan.  The time between up and hitting the ground seemed imperceptible.  Age?  Weight?  I tried it again attempting to hurl my fat ass off the ground and lift my knees.

Oh, oh.  What was that noise?  Why does my back hurt?  Did Becky just say, "What happens if you break a hip?"  Maybe this was not such a good idea!


 

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