God, this blog is a drag. I’m sure Ian’s is worse, having to write in it every single day, late at night, trying to do that dance you have to where you say something funny, fun and cutting enough to make it interesting to other people, but not honest enough to hurt anyone’s feelings. Once a week would be a drag, every day it’s really amazing that anyone can keep a blog interesting, unless they’re going to the polar ice caps or shooting a movie or something.

Well, we’re making plays, so I guess that’s kind of interesting. One thing about this show that’s somewhat different than the last few, is that I’m writing rock and pop music. I’ve said before that it’s a bit like writing haiku, that pop and rock require a musical simplicity that makes it really hard for you to fall back on anything too tricky. I have the feeling that the music director of my last show had some disdain for the music I wrote, having been an Ivy League type, but the stuff I’m writing now defies mockery in a way because rock music is as much about attitude as it is about musicality.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how carefully you say you listen to music, no matter how big a fan you say you are, chances are you are listening to music while also doing something else. It could be you’re driving, could be you’re walking to the subway, maybe you’re even facing the stage and drinking a beer, but, I mean, you are facing the stage and drinking a beer. You aren’t sitting silently in a chair that’s an inch too small in every direction, the way you are in the theater.

That’s why rock music requires much more repitition and much more of a groove. You are supposed to be dancing, drinking, whatever… *doing* something to this music. Hilariously, you are supposed to be air guitaring, that’s what rock music is. It’s designed to make guys pretend to play guitar and girls to lift their shirts.

So, take those rules and apply them to the theater, and you get a weird hybrid. When you look at the great rock operas, early Andrew Lloyd Weber is the first guy that jumps to mind, since Evita and Superstar both have a fair amount of rock in them. But both shows, you are in a position of listening to rock music sung by characters who are trying to develop the plot and reveal themselves, and in both cases you are left with holes.

Judas sings “just don’t say I’m damned for all time” and that’s a fine sentiment, except that, since you have to follow the groove of the song, Judas sings “Just don’t/Say I’m” and then he’s left for a moment to figure out a gesture or a facial tick before he sings “Damned for/All time”.

So then you get something like Rent, which is perhaps the best rock (Pop, actually) opera of them all. Yes, almost every song sung by Roger is bad, but Larson manages to balance the repeated rock refrains really well. Mimi sings “take me out tonight” several times… but of course she does, she’s begging, convincing, harrassing Roger. Tom Collins sings his song about Santa Fe, but the repeat contains tiny changes in the lyrics. When the ladies sing “Take Me For What I Am”, it’s repeated, the way rock songs should be, but, again, they’re fighting, convincing, harrassing, of course they’re gonna repeat themselves.

Switch to non-theatrical rock music, something like Jane’s Addiction or Tom Petty, and you’ll see that it’s impossible for a character to follow the repeats. “And I walk right/ Through the door./ I walk right through the door”, sure you could theatricalize it… “And I’m Free/Free Fallin’.”… It’s just that you don’t have a reason for people to repeat themselves that often. You could give these lines to characters, or you could even change the lyrics to something more active and keep the tunes… but it wouldn’t be very good. It really wouldn’t.

Because rock and pop songs are meant to be sung along to, danced to, drunk to… honestly, you’re supposed to be fuckin’ when you play Led Zeppelin Four…

(Although that joke is ruined in Fast Times since he’s told to play Zeppelin Four, and then you have a jump cut to them in the car where he’s clearly playing “Houses Of The Holy”, which, for Cameron Crowe, must have felt like getting kicked in the gut)

When Foreigner’s Dirty White Boy is playing, you are supposed to be undoing the front snap of a girl’s bra in the leaned back passenger seat of your Iroq Z. So, making a show with nothing but rock music is, actually, a mistake. But making a show about Air Guitar without rock music is also a mistake.

So, I’m straddling a little. Air Guitar music is mostly from the 80s, and there is really good guitar music from the 80s that isn’t hair band music. Robert Smith of The Cure is actually a phenomenal guitarist, The Edge is amazing, Johnny Marr is incredible, etc… And the fact is, you could turn The Smiths music into a musical without changing a note. Now, I can start out writing an homage to one or the other of these bands (included in the list is, of course, Duran Duran (who wrote incredible, bizarre songs with really sophisticated swirling chord progressions, they just wrote lyrics that were barely English) and The Violent Femmes (who’s music was really simple, but as lyrically driven as Sondheim)) (I think I got lost on the parenthesis tip, bare with me) but it’s impossible for me to copy them. I’m just not competent enough.

What I end up with is music inspired by the music of my childhood. I have always loathed doo-wop, I absolutely hate girl groups from the 60s, and I’m sure that children now will retch if they have to hear “Come On Eileen” or “Tainted Love” or “Shake It Up” or “Wanted, Dead or Alive” one more time, and little Lyra and Lucy and Jackson (and now HENRY LAMBERT!!! ONE WEEK OLD TODAY!!!) will be bored to tears by Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Two Princes by the Spin Doctors (who are we kidding, we already hate Pearl Jam and The Spin Doctors), but “William It Was Really Nothing” and “The Chauffeur” and “Life In A Northern Town” (shut up, I like that song)(okay, that song sucks, but I still like it)(OKAY, you’re right, I don’t actually like it, I just remember discovering oral sex while it was on the radio…) will always have a spot in my heart.

I hope what will be recognized, in the end, is that the music in this show is a love song to our junior high days, the same way that Fleet Week was a love song to old school musicals. I mean, who am I kidding, people felt the need to point out the height difference between The Statue Of Liberty and The Captain in Fleet Week, no-one is gonna recognize anything… but I hope that people will be able to tell what I’m trying to do.

And of course, what I’m doing instead of actually writing the music, is writing in this goddam blog.