Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Art Of The Rock & Roll Personage: Bun E. Carlos

In my youth it was generally accepted wisdom that if you were a rock & roll drummer of note, you would most certainly die young -- in all probability as a victim to your vices. The summer our family moved from our small-Mennonite-town to the sprawling Gateway to the West was the summer Keith Moon had his "accidental misadventure". Two years later, John Bonham had his.

Right smack in the middle of that (grade 9, for those keeping track) I saw my first portrait of Bun E. Carlos, drummer for Cheap Trick. The guy sharing my locker was in the habit of walking from class to class with a pair of drumsticks tucked in the back pocket of his jeans. He also had a Cheap Trick T that rarely left his torso. The way I remember it, the T featured only one image -- of Carlos, in his trademark shirt and tie, slouched behind his kit and smoking a filtered cigarette. I'm almost certainly wrong in my recollection. Everyone in that band had an ego that required attention: Robin Zander and Jon Brant were pretty-boys, and the accumlative effect of Rick Nielsen's bowties, ballcaps and Marty Feldman eyeballs was almost enough to give Angus Young's nasty schoolboy gig a run for the money. But Carlos ... that cat looked like he'd been pulled from the local bowling alley. In fact, he looked a lot like a fella who went to our church, only surlier and more pissed off.

There's little to say about his drumming skills: if At Budokan is any indication, Carlos' drumming signature is a sturdy lock on the pocket. But visually, there were so many stunning disconnects, flashing at me in that one portrait. To top it off, he smoked as he smacked. Surely he'd be the next Rock & Roll Fatality?

Nope. Still alive and kicking bass, and wearing his age better than the rest of the band -- just because he got there first.

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