We’ll Never Be as Young as We Are Right Now (XIV)

Don’t let your dreams get all rusty
Keep on using them as hard as you can
The night is so much darker than it has any right to be

Don’t let it all get away from you
Don’t let it slip through your hands

Blessed are the lovers who’ll inherit the Earth
Blessed are the lovers who discovered it first
You’ll have to pay for it later if you don’t get it when it’s goin’ for free
And believe me that—

A kiss is a terrible thing to waste
Just tell them your mama said so
A kiss is a terrible thing to waste
And “if only” are the loneliest words you’ll ever know
“If only” are the loneliest words you’ll ever know

Jim Steinman, ca. 1985

My songs seem naturally to deal with love and the deep emotions that go with it, the pain and darkness it can bring, not just the soul-saving aspects. I hope they also serve as motivation to act, to live. We’ve got one shot at this, so I hope they inspire people to get off the sidelines and risk hurt or failure in an effort to live. You don’t want to look back and think, “If only.”

Jim Steinman, 2017

Happy 70th birthday, Jim.

Bat Out of Hell Is 40

Yesterday it was exactly forty years ago that Bat Out of Hell, one of my all time favorite albums, was released.

A day late, I still have a few thoughts I want to share.

Bat came out three years before I was born. I am sure I have shared the story before, but I have to blame Henny Huisman for my introduction to Meat Loaf and what came next. He had this TV show, and our neighbor was going to be in it. She wanted to raise funds for a new meeting center for the local elderly, and (surprise surprise) he took her to an awards show, the Grand Gala du Disc 1993. We watched the broadcast of the show, in hopes to see our neighbor. (You’re thirteen and it were excitable times…) According to my mother, some pretty famous singer from way back when she was young would be singing a new song and some old hit of his, and I, not being all that into music, was all, like, whatever. So this guy comes on and starts singing this song and I am totally sold. Hook, line, and sinker. Later, Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell… became the first album I ever bought, and from there on, it somewhere slipped into full scale Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman madness.

But seeing that TV show led to someone giving me a copy of Bat on cassette. And while I must surely have heard “Paradise” before that, I remember thinking while listening to that tape for the first time, “Hey, I know this song from Paul de Leeuw.”

That same tape also cut the final few minutes of “For Crying Out Loud”, for timing reasons. Until I finally heard the full length album version (on a second hand vinyl copy), it never really worked for me. Now it is my favorite track of the album, and perhaps my favorite Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman track as well. It might just as well by my favorite song ever, even.

Bat Out of Hell is 47 minutes of epic awesomeness, from the screaming guitars and piano thunder of the title track’s intro, to the pounding drums and soaring strings of “For Crying Out Loud”. Sure, I don’t really have to hear “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” ever again, and my favorite version of “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” comes now from the (also enormously awesome) Bat Out of Hell — The Musical, but it is a perfect album. Over 45 million fans can’t be wrong. (Disclaimer: at last count, we had like 15 copies ourselves.)

Having Bat Out of Hell in my life has made it definitely better, and I cannot thank Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman enough for that.

First Lines: Nightmares in the Sky

Nightmares in the Sky: Gargoyles and Grotesques is an coffee table art book, with photographs of gargoyles by f-stop Fitzgerald and an introduction by Stephen King. It is a nicely done book, but the introduction wasn’t all that.

Book read

f-stop Fitzgerald and Stephen King — Nightmares in the Sky: Gargoyles and Grotesques
First line
Although Marc Glimcher, who originally asked me if I would write an essay on gargoyles as a kind of preface to the book of extraordinary photographs which follows, thought that I would be the “ideal person” for such a piece, I had deep doubts.

Seen Live: Ayreon Universe

Nope. Couldn’t be done. How’d you image to get all those singers in the same place at the same time? Nope. Won’t happen. Justforgetaboutit. And besides, he’s not that big on touring/playing live anyway. He’d rather be working in his home studio like the hermit he is. So, no, it cannot be done.

And yet, despite all that having been said for a million times over and over again and again, it did happened. It really, really happened. Sixteen vocalists, an awesome band, just three shows (okay, and a tryout and public dress rehearsal), two years in the making, but: it could be done, and it happened. Ayreon Universe was the first time one could see Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon project perform live. And the Missus and I, we were there.

Was it awesome? Of course it was. Epicly awesome. Going in I didn’t really have a clue what to expect, apart the if you have that singer, they are surely gonna play that song, and as it turned out, the set list was great. Most of my favorite Ayreon tracks were played, and there was only one song that fell a bit flat for me, and that was “Collision”, which seemed to be the ‘watch us play really fast’ song, which was played very fast and was a bit of a tuneless drone.

If I had to pick a favorite moment, it would either be “Dawn of a Million Souls” sung by John JayCee Kuypers, or the mighty Damian Wilson completely stealing the show during “And the Druids Turned to Stone”:

In a few months there will be an official recording of this show available, for those who missed this epic show.

Seen live
Arjen Lucassen presents Ayreon Universe, September 16, 2017 at 013, Tilburg
Vocalists (in order of appearance)
Mike Mills (Toehider), Edward Reekers (Kayak), Robert Soeterboek (Star One), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Marco Hietala (Nightwish), Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Anneke van Giersbergen, John Jaycee Cuijpers (Praying Mantis), Maggy Luyten (Nightmare), Damian Wilson (ex-Threshold, Headspace), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), Jay van Feggelen (Ayreon), Irene Jansen (Ayreon), Lisette van den Berg (Scarlet Stories)
Marcel Coenen (lead guitar), Ferry Duijsens (guitar), Johan van Stratum (Bass), Joost van den Broek (keyboards), Ed Warby (drums), Ben Mathot (violin), Jeroen Goossens (flutes, woodwinds), Maaike Peterse (cello), Rob Snijders (percussion on Comatose, drums on And the Druids Turned to Stone), Peter Vink (bass on Intergalactic Space Crusaders) and Arjen Lucassen (guitar on The Castle Hall and Amazing Flight)
Setlist (Spotify)
Prologue (Mike Mills)
Dreamtime (Edward Reekers)
Abbey of Synn (Robert Soeterboek)
River of Time (Hansi Kürsch, Marco Hietala)
Prologue: The Blackboard (Mike Mills)
The Theory of Everything, Part 1 & 2 (Mike Mills, Marcela Bovio)
Merlin’s Will (Floor Jansen, BVs)
Waking Dreams (Jonas Renkse, Anneke van Giersbergen)
Dawn of a Million Souls (John JayCee Cuijpers)
Valley of the Queens (Anneke van Giersbergen, Marcela Bovio, Floor Jansen)
Ride the Comet (Jonas Renske, Maggy Luyten, BVs)
Star of Sirrah (Mike Mills, Maggy Luyten, Hansi Kürsch, Floor Jansen)
Comatose (Jonas Renkse, Anneke van Giersbergen)
Day Sixteen: Loser (Mike Mills, BVs, Maggy Luyten)
And the Druids Turn to Stone (Damian Wilson)
The Two Gates incl. Band Introduction (John JayCee Cuijpers, Irene Jansen, Damian Wilson)
Into the Black Hole (Tommy Karevik)
Actual Fantasy (Edward Reekers)
Computer Eyes (Edward Reekers, Robert Soeterboek)
Magnetism (Tommy Karevik, Anneke van Giersbergen, Marco Hietala)
Age of Shadows (Marco Hietala, Hansi Kürsch, Floor Jansen)
Intergalactic Space Crusaders (Damian Wilson, Maggy Luyten)
Collision (Tommy Karevik, Marco Hietala)
Everybody Dies (Mike Mills, Hansi Kürsch, Tommy Karevik, Maggy Luyten, Floor Jansen, BVs)
The Castle Hall (Robert Soeterboek, Damian Wilson)

Arjen’s Speech
Amazing Flight (Jay van Feggelen, Arjen Lucassen)
Day Eleven: Love (Edward Reekers, Marcela Bovio, Ed Warby, Robert Soeterboek, BVs)

The Eye of Ra (Damian Wilson, John JayCee Cuijpers, Floor Jansen, Irene Jansen, ALL)

First Lines: Gwendy’s Button Box

Stephen King had a story he didn’t know how to finish. Richard Chizmar — owner of Cemetery Dance Publications, who have published quite a few deluxe editions of King’s books, and a editor and writer as well — offered to take a crack at it:

We were emailing in early January and he mentioned offhandedly a story he’d started some time over the summer, and he just couldn’t finish it […] As I often do, if he mentions a new story, I always say, ‘Well hey, send it to me if you want. I’d love to read it.’ I didn’t expect anything to come of it. But the next evening a file titled Gwendy showed up, and the body of the email read: ‘Do whatever you want with it.’

Et voila, as they say in France: Gwendy’s Button Box.

The story is a relative lightweight in King’s oeuvre: a man in a dark suit (his initials? R.F., natch.) gives twelve year old Gwendy a box with mysterious buttons—can she be trusted to use its powers responsibly? The novella is only a hundred-twenty-something pages long, and not a whole lot happens. This is perhaps why, while promoting the book, such a big deal was made of the novella’s setting. You see, apart from some minor appearances, the town of Castle Rock had been left alone since 1991’s Needful Things. It’s a nice touch, but it doesn’t make the book anything more than mostly harmless.

Book read
Stephen King and Richard Chizmar — Gwendy’s Button Box
First line
There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs.