Baba O'Riley just ends

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Tue Mar 8 06:15:05 CST 2005

>From the Vermont Cynic at:

Notes on the Encore and the Sweet Reprise
By Mike Spies
Published: Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Three nights ago, while out with an old friend-Davey,
I got caught up in a "glory days" conversation trying
to work out the idiosyncrasies of my life thus
far-things that could have only happened to me. We
were talking about rock n' roll, the plight we made
with it, and the teenage angst that was caused by our
middle-class upbringing-the kind that leaves you
somewhere between north Jersey and an Elliot Smith

Most of the things we were saying were pretty
stupid-stuff about art, drugs, problems with our
formative education, early love, and later love-things
people talk about when the night's been at a tail's
end for hours. Through it all I couldn't help but ask
myself, "What the hell I'm doing here?" prolonging the
monotony of time I've already spent having this same

Dive-bars have an infatuation with classic rock, and
it's guaranteed that "Dream On," "Sweet Home Alabama,"
and "Baba O'Riley" will get played enough times to
convince you that all those bands are still on the
cusp-still relevantly on the cover of Rolling Stone.
But even though their days have come and gone (even
Areosmith) I still get this weird feeling, this uneasy
discomfort every time I hear "Baba O'Riley." So this
provisional answer I was looking for to my proverbial
"why?" was brought to a simmer when a middle-aged man
in a rustic beard and a jean jacket injected his money
into the juke-box.

Davey and I were still shooting the breeze when we
both started unconsciously drumming to "Baba O'Riley."
At the time we were talking about a show I'd just seen
where the band sent the crowd whirling into disarray
and boos by not playing an encore. 

We both intermittently sang lyrics between
conversation breaks until the closing bridge of the
song came (the part that disturbs me). I asked Davey
if he remembered my second-rate high school cover
band, and he nodded yes as I pathetically alluded to
the fact that my band used to play that song (even
though everyone else did too).

In high school, when we first started playing the tune
in my best friend's basement it never sounded right,
in fact it never sounded right to me when The Who
played it either. The last ending bridge, with the
mandolin and the drums goes on for just long enough to
change the direction of the song. As the end of the
final bridge approaches it speeds up, fast and faster,
until it gets to that last note, that last beat where
you feel this natural break that seems to desperately
call for one last reprise-one more chorus, one more
"Teenage Wasteland,"-and it denies you! 

The old band thought this was as horrifically wrong as
cutting out the last scene of an Ally Mcbeal episode,
the part where all the lawyers go to the bar
afterwards and unwind after a long day-the part that
puts everything in its place and that assures you that
at the end of it all, after all the hustle and bustle,
you get to rock out. So, we corrected it, we went back
into the chorus, and it felt good.

Then, looking over my shoulder as all these things
were going on simultaneously-my questioning of why I'm
carrying on with Davey at three in the morning, the
ending bridge, and the encore story-I found my answer
to all of those questions-I was brought to a boil. On
the bar television they were showing clips of the 2005
Super Bowl, the aftermath, and a short interview with
a depressed Eagles fan. The subtitle read, "It doesn't
feel good, now we have nothing left to root for." 

It was like a gift, "Nothing left to root for," a
human in his most vulnerable state. Those
idiosyncrasies that we spend so much time trying to
work out with repeated conversations and long nights
at the bar amount to one thing-that we're all just
looking for something to root for. 

We hope that by talking about things over and over
again, by writing about them, or singing about them,
that they'll all eventually make sense. Spending hours
on Saturday nights, refusing to throw the towel in at
three in the morning, or accepting the fact that
you're going home alone-accepting that there's not
going to be something after the hard day, not a
get-together with the other lawyers, nothing. 

My high school band and the angry encore crowd were
all left feeling desperately human because that's what
uncertainty does to us. We all dream that during our
Last Waltz Joni Mitchell and Muddy Waters will come
out to help us celebrate. It's scary to think that
after the big show there might not be an encore, or
after the big song (the metaphorical one) there might
not be a reprise, things could simply end, and it
might only be "Teenage Wasteland," just like that.

-Brian in Atlanta
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