Limelight – Rush – 1981

Moving Pictures was an album that crawled inside of me and lived for years.  I was barely 11 when it came out, and it just captured my imagination.  Everything about it was perfect for my time and place in the world.  And this record (along with a few others) would dominate my consciousness for the last two years I lived in New Jersey.  I sort of projected myself into their success.

I learned the songs on the guitar.  I listened to Limelight over and over again.  And for years I had a real vision of myself as growing up and becoming a rock star.  It’s an easy target.  I’m 12 and listening to one of the biggest rock bands of my time and imagining that I too could be a rock star.  Combine this with the fact that from about the time I was 10 until I was 20 or so, almost everyone I knew was of the opinion that I was destined for great things.  Friends, family, everyone that I knew really.  I believed this too.  Smart, talented, whatever…

Sometimes it was, “Oh you’re so smart Larry.  You will go on to all these things while we sit here and make cheeseburgers.”  Or it was, “You’re so talented.  I’m not talented at anything.  You will leave us all behind.  Remember us…”

I was carefully humble about these things, but secretly I bought into my own press releases.  I was it.  I was going to be a rock star.  I would write many volumes of heart rending literature.  I would also solve some complex scientific problem.  All hail Larry!  My fantasy life was so rich with these stories that I forgot to go do anything but the part where the rock star becomes self destructive and delusional.  I built the barriers between myself and my adoring fans.

“Cast in this unlikely role.  Ill equipped to act.”

My towering success seemed so inevitable that I ignored all signs of my dismal failures.  I was brooding.  I didn’t like my fantasies being interrupted by details like actually doing the things that were necessary for some kind of success.

“With insufficient tact.  One must put up barriers to keep oneself intact.”

And at my worst which was often, I could completely disconnect myself from reality and travel my whole day as if I was in another world.  Flash bulbs in my face while my handlers cleared the way into my school.

“Living in the limelight.  The universal dream.  For those who wish to seem.”

I saw the definition for fantasy prone personality type about 10 years ago and thought that about summed me up.  I experience my fantasies as if they are actually happening.  So I have already been a rock star.

“Those who wish to be.  Must put aside the alienation.  Get on with the fascination.”

Wow I thought I was going somewhere else with this.  Because I was really thinking about the disappointments of childhood dreams.  But maybe I am this person.  Maybe I do have all of that talent.  Maybe I have always just been too afraid to try anything.  Anxiety ruling my life and creating a rigid fantasy to control anything unknown.

“The real relation.  The underlying theme.”

I think it’s fascinating that I am writing this entry, because really this is an unspoken truth behind a lot of what I am writing about.  I thought about my own music and my own writing.  For years, as an indie musician I wondered what it would take to make it.  I know other indie musicians that get no recognition as well.  So then I started thinking about all of the indie musicians.  Not just people that I knew.  What keeps us all Indie?  Is it just some kind of crazy fantasy life that we are even making music that’s worth listening to?

Then I became fascinated with American Idol.  Because here is the same phenomenon.  And yes, a lot of pandemonium can be created by referencing American Idol with hard working hipster Indie musicians.  They have nothing in common if you know what’s good for you.  Indie musicians don’t want to be famous.  They are true to their art.  Wanting to be famous is not part of what being a famous Indie musician is about.  If you are a successful Indie musician with a big record deal (don’t get started on contradictions here), then being famous is a nuisance.

So let me get this straight.  You are supposed to get famous and rich and successful as an artist.  But you aren’t supposed to want these things.  I think this is a formula for making thousands of crazy Indie musicians.  So we go around pretending like we are in Limelight.

“Living in the fish eye lens.  In the camera eye.  I have no heart to lie.”

But we aren’t.  We reject fame and it’s self-centered musings.  We are brooding hipsters.  Told we were talented.  Secretly wondering why we are still only Indie.

“I can’t pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend.”

But don’t Neil, Geddy and Alex kick ass.  I know every second of this song and most people don’t need me to describe it.  It has been muzak in our lives for 28 years.  There isn’t a person in the the USA who hasn’t heard this song.  If you hold your hand up to say you haven’t heard it, then we cue the song and you go, “Oh yeah.  That song.  I heard it at Target.”

But what I learned from American Idol is the sheer volume of people with this identical fantasy.  We grew up with this muzak in our lives.  We thought we would produce the muzak for the next generation, but something happened along the way.  The playing field was levelled and now anyone can put out a record.  So you can be a hard working Indie musician, but you are one of many.  Up until the 80’s, there was only the cathedral of the music industry.  The bazaar came in the 90’s with the internet and MP3’s.

And the fascinating thing I learned about myself from watching American Idol was how little new music I listened to.  And it seemed to me that I was learning that a lot of us Indie people weren’t listening to each other’s music.  We were all just too cool to be each other’s fans.  And I thought of this prayer by St. Francis and I modified it a bit.  “Let me seek to listen rather than be listened to.”

And then this amazing thought occurred to me while watching American Idol.  No one is listening anymore.  We are all just waiting for our turn to sing.

“All the world’s indeed a stage and we are merely players.  Performers and portrayers.”

Well I am listening now.  I am not always listening to something new.  But I am looking hard for those people like me that want to be heard.  And I want it to be active.  I will listen.  Really listen.  Not like I am just waiting for my turn to sing.

“Each another’s audience outside the gilded cage.”

So I will admit my rock and roll fantasy is still alive and I am nearly 40.  How uncool am I?  I don’t know.  Try to admit your dreams, fantasies and wishes out loud and see how foolish you are…  That’s what I thought.

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