Thoughts from the Road. YEAR 44
I wonder, maybe you know him…
He could've been a contender… well, actually, he was a contender, but his intentions weren't clear to even him. Those who supported and admired him (with constant comments like 'you're great', 'love your songs', etc.) even began to wonder, after a while, if his intention was to be contentious.
His early dream, like many have had, was to go to L.A. and become a star; unlike many, it worked for him. A group came along, the songs came, and the records were recorded. His career started with him now on the radio, bringing fame, family, fun, and folly. And money. It worked! But, all the while there was often a visible undercurrent of being displeased with 'making it', not making it enough, or something no one could quite figure out. (One should always know, when trying to 'make it,' just what it is you are trying to make.) With him, you could never be sure.
Songs written and borrowed he sang with success, getting radio hits many times. Accolades and awards followed in a manner to which he soon grew accustomed, and then expected.
Usually effectively playing the humility card at 'appropriate' times, the nice guy image covered up sporadic underlying problems bandmates had covered up and made excuses about.. for years… until it started becoming the mainstay. So much so the mainstay, that those who believed in him finally did not care anymore if he stayed or what his contribution might be, as even his pseudo contrition was disappearing in his lurking anger and angst with … success? Life? Not enough?.
As a result, with too many things going his way to handle, he decided to quit, which was greeted with yawns and sighs of relief by his coworkers. Accolades would still come for past works, and often people, in commenting about someone's new song on the radio, would say: "Boy, that sounds like him.. That singer listened to him and learned a lot". But sooner than expected, they quit doing that.
SO, band mates were mates no more, and continued plying their wares, at times even replicating some of the past mutual successes. They played all the hits, and no one really seemed to care if he was there or not. All was well in the land, and the beat went on.
Someone once said: "money can't buy happiness.. but it can buy the things that make you happy" (Steve Martin, to Johnny Carson in 1978). Some things should not have been bought. It has been said, in retrospect, that it was too bad drugs and alcohol took down one more; some say that was just his way, he was old enough to know better. Some said "That stuff should be illegal" (John McEuen, 1972)
It must be strange to occasionally hear yourself on the radio, or see an old TV performance or something on youtube, or overhear a conversation extolling your past musical virtues … and wonder - what happened?
I occasionally wonder myself.
John McEuen 2010