The Bobby Rock Newsletter #84 (11-12-22) - Man in the Arena
The Bobby Rock Newsletter #84 (11-12-22) - Man in the Arena
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Great to have you all back for another edition. Thanks for dropping in. I’m home in LA, groovin’ and grindin’ on a gorgeous fall afternoon. Hope you guys are good. I have a bit of a mixed bag for you today (as usual), so let’s dive right into it:
In This Issue:
- Man in the Arena - Ignore all naysayers and soldier on with this century-old wisdom. It’s what we all must do if we want to stay “in the arena” (and I know you do).
- Revisiting Monster Circus: an arena rock “supergroup" before its time?
- Into as of Late: The Shep Gordon documentary… watch this motherfucker tonight!
Man in the Arena
Here’s one of my favorite old-school lecture excerpts, delivered by Theodore Roosevelt in Paris, a year after his presidency in 1910. The speech was actually titled, Citizens of the Republic, but this excerpt (for obvious reasons) has been referred to as “Man in the Arena,” and it holds up today at least as well as it did back then. (Forgive his antiquated, sign-of-the-times pronoun reference of “man:” This wisdom obviously applies to any gender.)
I have personally found great resonance in it through the years, especially since "the arena” has literally been a preferred venue I have performed in throughout my career—and the exact location where so many of us have toiled, for better or for worse. But “the arena” can be any public platform through which one bares their soul, exerts great effort, and sustains scathing criticism and mockery… from those who invariably are standing by as mere spectators, spinelessly commenting from the safety of their own temperature-controlled comfort zones—beer, soda, or cocktail in hand.
This piece basically says, “Yeah, motherfucker, say what you will. But at the end of the day, I would rather fail miserably in the throes of my pursuit—and endure the bitter taste of such failure—than be a critical spectator who will never know what it means to win or lose because they never got in the game themselves.”
Here it is:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Fuck yes, Teddy!
When you are in the arena yourself, you find that you have less time to criticize others in the arena because, frankly, you have bigger concerns to deal with than worrying about what someone else is doing. You are in it, sweating, bleeding, fighting the good fight: Getting your ass kicked sometimes, but also kicking some ass. Diverting your attention from your own plight to criticize someone else is an excellent way to become distracted and get punched in the face. No thank you. I’m busy here.
It’s worth noting that a recent ESPN documentary series on Tom Brady is called Man in the Arena. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but to me, the title seems highly relevant. Regardless of your opinion about Tom Brady, truly, he is the “man in the arena” and has been for more than 20 years. Furthermore, the fact that he’s such a love-him-or-hate-him figure speaks to the essence of this anecdote. Say what you will about him, one way or the other, but come Sunday afternoon, Brady will be “in the arena” and millions will be watching—either cheering or jeering. And he will not be deterred either way, with thick skin protecting him from distraction or despondency.
The thing is, we all must develop such a thick skin if we are going to project our gifts skyward on any significant level. And, in fact, the jeers should serve as a more promising indicator than the cheers, that you are in the right arena, and all is on schedule!
Let us continue…
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Moving from “Man in the Arena” to “Arena Rock”...
Revisiting Monster Circus
Monster Circus was an “all-star” band project that launched in 2008, with the intention of taking up a long-term house residency in Las Vegas. Initially, Cinderella’s Fred Coury was slated to play drums. However, scheduling conflicts prohibited him from playing show #1, which was the initial showcase scheduled to cement the multi-week residency deal. For that, Fred—who is a long-time friend—called me up to sub for him and help get the band signed, sealed, and delivered, then likely fill-in for him on other occasions when/if the show came to be. This, I was all too happy to do. So I did all of the initial rehearsals with the band in LA, then on December 9th, we played a show at the Hilton, where Elvis used to have a residency. It was a blast! This was the line-up:
(L to R): Rudy Sarzo (bass), Dee Snider (vocals), John Corabi (Vocals), Bruce Kulick (guitars), Dave Kushner (guitars), Tony Montana (guitars, vocals), and yours truly.
The show featured a decent production (with tons of lights and pyro), and also a few dancer/acrobats roaming around (or flying above) the stage. Here we are at our one-and-only full production rehearsal in Vegas. Super-trippy to look up on occasion and see a girl twisting around on some giant poll, or swinging 25 feet in the air on some kind of rope. "Only in Las Vegas," I suppose…
Here’s a shot of the kit I used for the gig. It might look familiar: This is my Radial Bridge “chameleon” kit (from the later Peavey days), which has since expanded and transformed into my latest, “Alphabet Kit.” Still love these drums! Here’s a shot from the back during rehearsal:
And here’s a shot from the audience during the show (with video link below):
Good news was, the show went well! The general consensus was that the band played great, the production and dancers were raw but cool, and this was a real-deal arena rock extravaganza with a killer setlist. And, indeed, the show was picked up for residency.
Bad news was, the show wasn’t able to get any traction and went away before too long. I was never sure why. I’ve heard theories about how the residency show was different from our initial thing, but I never saw that show, so I can’t say for sure. All I know is Raiding the Rock Vault would come along four years later and find a nice groove in Sin City, so sometimes I wonder if it was simply a timing issue. We will likely never know.
Nonetheless, scope this Monster Circus version of Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health.” It still holds up for me, and Dee and John sharing lead vocals on this thing is pretty rad. In fact, I think the whole band sounds great. Scope it at the Drum Vid Vault right HERE.
Into as of Late:
Supermench - The Legend of Shep Gordon
I’ve known about this documentary on artist manager extraordinaire, Shep Gordon, for quite awhile, but only just got around to watching it this week… twice! Most rock fans will likely know Shep as the long-time manager of Alice Cooper. He’s been there from the beginning. And I knew he managed many other artists along the way, and dabbled in other things, like films, etc. However, the fine details and unbelievable circumstances of how he managed to flow from one serendipitous circumstance to the next—with “flow” being the key word here—is really something you gotta check out. In a strange way, his story almost reminds me of a “Forrest Gump” situation in that, here’s a guy out there doing his thing, keeping his karma clean, following his intuition, and just bumping into the most outrageous opportunities.
Example: after arriving in LA for the first time and finding his first “vacancy” motel, the first two people he met were fucking Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix… which led to Jimi suggesting that he become a manager… which led to him meeting a young Alice Cooper a few days later… who became his first client. And believe me, this is the tip of the iceberg.
Later, he describes how he inadvertently invented the “celebrity chef” category of TV star—starting with "Mr. Bam,” Emeril Lagasse—simply because he was trying to get these talented craftsfolks paid in an era where chefs of all stature were treated as mere “restaurant help." Fascinating shit.
Shep and Alice
More than anything else, though, there are tons of crazy stories. One of my faves: Shep and his girl went to a private island so exclusive, there was typically only one guest allowed at a time. On this occasion, however, they were told that there was currently another couple on the island but, not to worry, they would not be bothered by them. No prob. So Shep's girl eventually breaks out her laptop and starts having issues with it. Shep calls the front desk and asks if there’s someone around who can fix it. Minutes later, there’s a knock on the door. It’s Steve Fucking Jobs! Turns out he’s the other guest on the island. So he comes in, fixes the laptop, then ends up having dinner with them over the next four nights. This is the kind of shit that happens to this guy… regularly.
Gordon has led a charmed life, if ever there was one. But there are also lots of poignant moments and somber reflections, which help to create a very balanced perspective on fame and success. This film is certainly worth a watch.
Thanks again, everybody. Connect next week!
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