As today draws to a close I am deep in reflection. Actually I have been since before midnight yesterday. December 8th is date burned into the minds of many of my friends today. Just as December 7th- “the day that lives in infamy” (Pearl Harbor Day) did for my parents and their peers. It's a strange convergence that has been pointed out by many to be true. If you have already guessed at the topic of the tale, that's fine. The stories have been told and retold a lot today. I have my own spin on how these events affected me personally.
|"Nobody told me there'd be days like these..."|
Thirty years ago while coming home from the studio John Lennon was shot to death outside of his home in his adopted home of New York City. John once joked that THE BEATLES were “bigger than God” and his death sort of proved him right, sadly enough. You can argue all day and night if either he or Paul were more talented (I always preferred quiet ol' George Harrison myself), but there is no doubting that John was the fiercest of THE BEATLES. By using his celebrity for social activism, opening political dialogue and continuing to be a rebel in his post-Fab Four life, I believe he actually fulfilled the very weak promise of the hippies. Most of them their protests and causes for drugs and sex and proto-consumerism in the 70's. John remained a vital artist throughout his career and an was always iconic. His loss at such a young age (40) was immense. He would have turned seventy this past October.
|Cosell interviewed Lennon once before on MNF|
Like many I was watching Monday Night Football when Howard Cosell made the announcement. My brothers and I were watching the meaningless game (since the Giants weren't on) and my mom was relaxing after teaching her dance class. Since it was her birthday I believe we were having ice cream, very likely Sealtest's Heavenly Hash, which was the family choice at the time. I could barely comprehend the bad news as an eight year-old, but my brother the rocker was devastated and my mom started to cry. Although my mom was clearly the generation before the Beatles she enjoyed some rock and pop music including them and THE ROLLING STONES. She just cried for hours and would remark the next day to my father that is was like part of the world died with John. My father was a jazz-o-phile and didn't care much for the rock music his annoying putz sons listened to. I also recall that next day at school being very somber and coming home and listening to WNEW as gravel throated “Scottso” Scott Muni played non-stop BEATLES and John solo stuff for hours and hours. Muni started every show the remainder of his career (20 plus years until his death) opening his shows with a Lennon or BEATLES song in tribute.
|STRONGER THAN ALL|
Like many metal fans of the 1990's I was and still am a huge PANTERA fan. From the very first time I saw the “Psycho Holiday” video on Headbangers Ball, I knew these guys were the shit! They was no denying their musical talents which became refined and improved over their career. But what really made PANTERA great was their heart and personality. Their awesome spirit, take no prisoners attitude and general super fun quotient set them apart from the serious, scowling metal dudes in every other band. Later in the decade when metal was struggling a bit as a genre the band continued to be uncompromisingly heavy and unashamedly true to themselves. Their albums are all time greats, their live shows were legendary and their 3 home videos were a handbook on how to hang out, have a good time and party until the break of dawn. Dimebag Darrell was a the center of this madness, this chaos, this musical force of nature of a band. Dime has four solos in Guitar World's top 100 solos of all time list and countless other great ones also (http://guitar.about.com/library/bl100greatest.htm). He wasn't just a dynamite lead guitarist and a great riffer and songwriter, he had a lovely soul and a love of life that was indeed "larger than life". I think he also had a sensitivity he only showed glimpses of, but I think it came through in his humility and kindness. Things that don't often get associated with metal, let alone legit guitar gods.
|Dime and the DigiTech Whammy Pedal|
Just a week earlier I had seen Darrell and his new band DAMAGEPLAN at Irving Plaza in New York with SHADOWS FALL and THE HAUNTED opening. DAMAGEPLAN played a fine show with PANTERA covers like “Becoming” and “Walk” sprinkled in. After the show I was near both Dime and his brother Vinny Paul by the bar. Dime was immediately mobbed and seemed like he was trying to skate out of the venue. I just figured to myself that I'd meet him at the next show. Vinnie gave me a sweaty hug and a few minutes of his time to talk about metal, drumming etc.
One week later, when Darrell was gunned down 30 seconds into the start of a concert, just after midnight on Dec. 8 2004, it sent a shock wave throughout the music world. A lot of people were calling it "the 9/11 for Metal". Initially news was sketchy, with many major news outlets not having the full story until the next morning. Early reports just said “former PANTERA member dead in Ohio” and many people today will admit they assumed Philip Anselmo's drug problems caught up with him. But it was Dimebag that was murdered, along with three others by a homicidal, obsessive fan, who himself was gun downed at the scene by a brave policeman. I didn't find out this terrible news until I got to work the next morning like many, and I started to get a barrage of calls at my desk confirming the worst. I broke down and cried some, then called some people myself to share the news/grief. I couldn't concentrate at work and went through the motions the rest of the day and went home to listened to my records and just felt numb all over. This was like the death of a family member to me. PANTERA was not just a favorite band of mine, but they helped inform my own music that my bands played. At the very first show of my band GRUNT we played “Cemetery Gates” and “Five Minutes Alone”. We often molded our music after the “Cowboys From Hell” eventually covering “Walk” (which I am now sick of), “Domination”, “I'm Broken” and my personal favorite, “A New Level”. I lived my life by their words, saw them many times in concert, met friends and lovers because of them, and generally followed their every move for over a decade. Today many of the current crop of metal bands have the influence of PANTERA in their veins to varying degrees of success. Dime's legacy lives on and there will never be another lead player or a person quite like him.
|Dime's resting place.|
Of course I would be remiss not to mention again that December 8th is my mom's birthday. These thirteen years without her have been tough to be sure. I think I have been especially down in the dumps the last few years on this date including the last few days. She was taken from me and this world too soon. A great mom, a tireless advocate for the handicapped, an amazing talent and a best friend to me and many others. I'd like to think that I carry on the lessons and the history she gave me and try to honor her. Her wisdom stays foremost in my mind daily. I sincerely hope I can do her some justice since she was a one of a kind person and a lady always.