Ever hear that song or album that changes your life forever? Or that artist or group you can’t seem to not talk about to your friends—to the point that they have to ask you to shut up?
Ever hear that song or album that changes your life forever? Or that artist or group you can’t seem to not talk about to your friends—to the point that they have to ask you to shut up? If so, you can probably relate to Steve Almond’s new book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life—which is dedicated to music groupies, wannabe rock stars and “drooling fanatics” alike.
The true test of your status as a “drooling fanatic” will be judged by how many music references you understand from the book without consulting YouTube. Are you not just a music fan, but a “drooling fanatic”?
Daily Vanguard: When and how did you realize you weren’t an average music fan, but a “drooling fanatic”?
Steve Almond: There wasn’t really a “eureka” moment. It was more a gradual dawning that I was one of those people who needed music to gain access to the feelings inside me.
There were other more obvious symptoms, such as the fact that I thought and talked about music way too much, and that I had more albums than my friends. And that I tended to fall in love with particular bands and refer to the band members by their first names, as if they were friends of mine—which they weren’t.
DV: What was the first album you fell in love with?
SA: Probably Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. I must have listened to that record, like, a million times when I was nine years old. I would just sit with the album on my lap and listen and listen. I loved the more popular songs, like “Sir Duke” and “I Wish,” but I also got way into the more obscure ones like “Village Ghetto Land” and “Ebony Eyes.”
DV: You make the argument that we’re all “drooling fanatics” in some ways, just on different degrees and through different expressions. How did you come to that conclusion?
SA: There’s really no single person on earth who doesn’t have a song or album that doesn’t completely bring them back to some dramatic moment or era of their life. Everyone has a song that takes them right back to high school, or college, or that time you got your heart broken. And that’s because music has been around a lot longer than words. It’s the first and final language of our hearts.
DV: How did working as a music critic facilitate your nature as a huge music fan?
SA: Mostly that it gave me access to lots and lots of music. It was really just an enabler in that sense. The essential sickness was mine.
DV: What do you hope readers get from your book?
SA: Mostly just that they dig reading it—laugh a little bit—and think about how awesome music is, and how much gratitude we should feel for our favorite musicians—who have saved our lives. Or at least allowed us to feel less alone with our misery at particular moments.
DV: Anything else you’d like to share about your book or the upcoming visit to Portland?
SA: Only that you guys reading this should come out and rock with me at Powell’s on Tuesday
night. I’ll be playing lots of music, and showing an original slideshow I call “Steve Almond’s Museum of Bad Hair,” which is full of some of the most awful hairstyles imaginable, many of them mine.