One of the things that I’ve long found to be a cause of a bit of pity is the sighting of an ad in the back of a city paper—Detroit’s Metro Times or Chicago’s Reader or the like—for the various bars and lounges that are featuring live music and seeing the name of an act that once played to arena-sized crowds. Now the group, a little older, a little more confused, to borrow a line, is competing with dollar-draft and local “talent” contests, with the opportunity to slam German digestives or to witness wet cotton stretched tight over breasts. To be sure, most of the people in the bands in question didn’t exactly have the time or the inclination to pursue things that might give them something to fall back on: We may hear of young actors getting private tutoring, for example, but post-high school education is probably something that was given the pass by most of the people in question here. They may have road-smarts, but that probably qualifies you, in the long run, for nothing more than a position greeting people at Wal-Mart. So the obvious thing to do is to, as they undoubtedly say to themselves as a mantra, trying to convince themselves of the relevancy and righteousness, “keep on keepin’ on.” The cry to “PAR-TAY!” complete with up thrust arm becomes weaker as the bus just continues to break down between Nowhere and Someplacenondescript.
But this is not always the case. . . .
Recently, for example, I picked up a copy of Acid Tongues and Tranquil Dreamers, which is not a book about the likes of Gene Simmons and Gary Wright. Rather, as the subtitle describes it: Tales of Bitter Rivalry That Fueled the Advancement of Science and Technology. It is about the likes of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz; Charles Darwin and Richard Owen; Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Yes, scientists and technologists all. Before bringing the book to the cashier’s station, I checked the author information on the dust jacket. And there I learned that the author, Michael White, is the former science editor of British GQ (if it is like the U.S. version, that raises an eyebrow), and a former director of scientific studies and science lecturer at D’Overbroeck’s College, Oxford. He’s apparently written plenty of books and magazine articles, as well.
And the real kicker, buried in the middle of the short bio under the B&W photo of a suited and substantial looking individual, is the clause: “he is a musician and formerly a member of the successful eighties band the Thompson Twins.” Although I spent far too much time fruitlessly searching the handful of TT sites to find out exactly which twin he was, I can report that he is (1) not the woman, (2) not the black guy, (3) not the white guy (well, he is the White guy, but not the one who fronted the band). Still, I’ve got to believe that the guy was a part of the band in some way shape or form, because otherwise why use that as a credential? I mean, its not like he was a sideman for, oh, Howard Jones.
What is, perhaps, a more unusual career move than that of synth-rock band participant to science writer (let’s face it: Thomas Dolby is generally lumped into that category, and he made Science more famous than any other singer of all time) is that of Bruce Dickinson. In case you aren’t familiar with him, let me quote from the opening paragraph of his biography from the band he was a part of:
To some, he is the Errol Flynn of rock – the swashbuckling, chandelier- swinging, irrepressible hero who swoops across the stage, slays the dragon, rescues the girl and delivers the killer lines. To others, he is simply one of the greatest white male singers to strut his stuff with a British rock band since the Seventies heyday of British vocal legends like Robert Plant, Paul Rodgers, Roger Daltrey, and, of course, his own personal favourite, Ian Gillan.
In case that still doesn’t ring any gongs for you, let me indicate the web address in question: www.ironmaiden.co.uk. Mr. Dickinson is, of course, the lead singer of Iron Maiden. Now, apparently, he has a new role: Commercial airline pilot. He is working for a U.K.-based charter airline company, Astraeus.
Now, there are several reactions that one might have when hearing over a plane’s P.A., “. . .and our first officer today is Bruce Dickinson.” One might be utter fear that something that he may have ingested in his previous life might have a late kick-in which would result in a scary ride, indeed. After all, you can’t run for the hills when you’re strapped into a 737’s seat.
Another reaction, this in an age when flying on airplanes is seemingly more perilous due to the heightened concerns with terrorism that we’re all living with, is that being on an Astraeus flight with Dickinson on the flight deck is probably the safest place in the sky: I cannot begin to imagine any Maidenheads on board allowing anyone with nefarious thoughts in mind anywhere near the cockpit door if he’s inside.
So is there life after rock, a life that doesn’t mean playing in bars the size of rec rooms that smell of reprocessed Jaegermeister and far-too-many smoldering cigarette filters? Apparently so.