Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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How Do You Afford Your Rock'n'Roll Lifestyle?

You don't. That's how. You give it your heart and The Rock eats it, spits it out and laughs in your face. Unless you're in the lucky top one percent who "make it". Me? I've missed the boat. The rock'n'roll boat. It left the dock about ten years ago methinks. I shoulda been a rock chick. GodDAMN but I shoulda been a rock chick! I shoulda learned to really LISTEN to music before it was too late. I shoulda channeled my anger/frustration/passion into music. Because music moves me. More than most anything else besides books, music moves me. Not shit music. Not music that makes me tap my toe - because the fucking television jingle to order a mattress makes me tap my toe and wag my head stupidly. I'm talking about the kind of music that gloms onto you like a leech. It traps you in it's melodic web, rips your chest open, holds your heart aloft and howls like a banshee as you shed tears of pain, of joy.

What is it about the rock that makes us roll? It's the soundtrack to our lives, that's what. Take a shite romantic comedy, add a killer soundtrack and you just might have a hit on your hands.. It ain't about the picture.. it's about the way the music makes us feel about life and ourselves while viewing the picture. Music is mood, ambience, adrenaline, personality... LIFE.

There was a time when I'd stand before the mirror, hair shellacked into a glorious poof of bang and beautiful wings around my ears, blue eye shadow blazing in the afternoon sunlight, hair brush in lieu of microphone clutched in my hand as I belted out "We built this city.... We built this city on ROCK AND ROLL!" Which incidentally was voted the the WORST single ever recorded placing before Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby even. Regardless, I rocked the shit outta Starship in my yellow and white checked bedroom while Sasha the dog cringed in fear. If M-TV could only see me, I'd think.

I was too young for Pat Benatar and Joan Jett. I started to care about music while wearing plaid flannel shirts to school so you can imagine my favorite bands. Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Chick rockers? Didn't know any. And then there was Gwen. No Doubt exploded and I wanted to be Gwen Stefani. I wanted to walk in the spiderwebs dammit! But I sighed, applied for colleges like all the other good girls and satisfied myself with bleaching my hair platinum. Then promptly forgot about my rock'n'roll aspirations. Besides, I can't sing for shit. That doesn't stop a lot of folks I know, but still.. my rock dreams died along with my good taste and I began to listen to Coldplay, Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews. Until a good friend of mine gave me a talking to. What? There is cool music out there that's not on the radio? Wilco? Who? Is there a sexy lead singer? Do they have a video on M-TV, I wanted to know.

After he slapped me my friend sat me down and made me listen to Wilco, Son Volt, The Replacements and so forth. The only reason he agreed to continue communicating with me was my immense love for the oldies and the sorta oldies... The Temptations, The Supremes, Elvis, Lou Reed, The Ramones. He nearly ended the friendship when he found a Missy Elliot album in my collection. But this musical revelation occurred in my mid-twenties. I'd already blown all my chances at rock chick stardom, was deeply entrenched in my journalism career.

I've come to terms with my fringe rock'n'roll status. Whenever someone can play a tune on a guitar that I can recognize, I am thrilled to the gills. "You can play Stairway To Heaven!" I grin. Doesn't matter what song they play. Zeppelin or Britney Spears... I'm just ecstatic they can bring a familiar ditty to life with their very own magical hands.

The Surge tried to teach me how to play the guitar once. I was super dedicated! "I'm going to be playing shit before you know it!" I boldly announced. Five minutes later I declared the lesson over. Who knew those tiny fucking strings were so hard to manipulate? Strong bastards.

So I'm resigned to audience participation when it comes to rock'n'roll. The Surge... he lives to play music. Most of the world - well, they laud lawyers, doctors, bankers. I say that's a safe bet. A safe career choice. Sure, it ain't easy. But it's a safe choice, THE thing to say when you wanna impress Grandma. "I'm in Med School." You know what takes watermelon sized balls? To throw everything into being a musician when you know your shit ain't got a chance in hell at mainstream success. To eschew all the safe bet careers and doggedly tour the world playing music to medium-sized crowds because you Must. Play. Music.

Sometimes The Surge bitches, says he can't take another tour, wants to kill his brother. But really he loves it - the touring, his brother. He wouldn't be who he is without one or the other. He was born to stand on a stage and play music in front of a crowd. I was born to stand in the audience. And I'm cool with that. We wouldn't work as well as we do if it were any other way.

Reader Comments (27)

I love the pictures with this post.
September 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersfh
EXACTLY...everything...exactly...great post Monica.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
Hey. Being a musician or actor is never a safe bet. Especially with all the wannabes out there. These guys look really dedicated though. Personally I cannot relate to it because I took the safe bet, which in reality is not a safe bet..

There is no telling what can happen in the future. The music industry’s tastes could change. This band, Marah, I think they are like bluegrass/alternative rock? I’m sorry if I didn’t get that right.It’s a new combination. I can’t really put my finger on them. But as with any market it’s all about timing.

Assuming they don’t become multi millionaire rock stars not enough can be said about meeting people and networking. Opportunities are always opening up. Experience in a field always opens up new opportunities. I’m going to be humble and say I have no business commenting on someone’s career choice. But actually I can relate.

I wanted to be a Pro Surfer. Started when I was 11. I was super good but I couldn’t ever get past that ceiling. I would have given anything to be a pro surfer. If I could have made $18,000/yr and flamed out at 30 - I would have done it. Most of the guys I know that didn’t “make it” still have jobs in the industry (marketing director, sales reps etc) who better to know the business that someone who has been in it? God.Not a day goes by I don’t think about 4 cameras on me at the Quicksilver Pro while I’m pulling into a sick Fiji barrel over razor sharp reef and getting shacked and SPAT flying out onto the shoulder round house then a siiiicckkk backside snap! Everyone’s screaming yaaaaaa! Oh God! Please!

I’m getting so worked up, I have to go!

September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
you lot should all get yourselves out to Australia. Rock is still king here and you're boss would never begrudge you being late for work if the surf was up. In fact, they'd expect it.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersfh
yeah same with New Zealand...when are Marah touring down under?
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramy dee
your boss. YOUR boss.

too much champagne. not enough sleep.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersfh
check out Golden Smogs new cd. If you love Wilco, you'll love this one.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah
That first picture is awesome.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
yes, exactly!
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterana
I'm still trying to get into that one percent. I'm 27, married, still trying.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
I wish I could be married to a rocker! I would be the chick fighting with all the girls b/c they wanted my man! I could be their bodyguards! LOL
Instead, I am stuck with a software engineer, wait, that works for me just fine and dandy! :)
Proud of ya Monica for standing by your man, come on, sing with me, we all know Tammy Wynette sang it best!
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
I love the fact that you talk about Wilco; this music creates an ineffable connection amongst the 20/30 somethings I know.

I checked out Golden Smog this past weekend in DC..their two hour set was off the meter.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterleggo
I just loved this post and the pics are perfect! My boyfriend is a musician as well. He doesn't even get to play for medium sized crowds and it's just heartbreaking sometimes to go to the clubs when about 20 people (mostly friends) are milling around. At least The Surge is a full-time musician. We can't afford a strictly rock lifestyle so we both work in shitty offices to supplement.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma

Let me be the first to give kudos on your excellent post titles this past week. First The Verve, and now Cake! It's like you're in my CD changer!
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdu_dragons
I took a good friend and huge music fan to see his first Marah show last March in Hoboken. We were talking after the show and he said "The best part of the show is just seeing the Bielanko Brothers perform. They are obviously doing what they were put on God's green earth to do: Stand next to each other onstage and make a racket with guitars."
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersean
I couldn't agree with you more. Although the path to being a lawyer or doctor is certainly not easy, many perceive it to be more difficult than being a musician. I say, not so! At least with being a doctor or lawyer, accountant you are guaranteed a solid social status (usually) a solid income (generally) and the ability to pay the rent. Musicians spend their live in dirty hotels/motels, in shitty vans (tour buses if they're really lucky) and often don't get a lot of thanks not to mention crappy pay. Yet they do it anyway. God love them.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
Oh dear. This post reminds me of shameful afternoons spent wailing along with "Hey Jealousy" by the Gin Blossoms. Using my hairbrush as a microphone, natch. I wanted to be a rock chick. A friend and I actually planned to start a girl band when we were in college—an all-girl front line with a cute boy drummer. We had a tight five-year plan for world domination and I was going to be Kim Deal, so I bought a bass guitar and taught myself to play by learning Pixies songs. Unfortunately my friend bought a new guitar and started writing Weird Al style jokey parody songs. Down the drain went my dreams. Sigh.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeanne

You Tube for unearthing your own musical past. I perused the archives a little while back trying to find out why I ever liked Pearl Jam. I think I might've been twelve when they came out. I recall hearing talk about how powerful they were, and all that. But everytime I saw them on TV they just stood around, and Eddie looked sleepy and nervous. So, I found several clips from a festival they played--Pinkpop--way back in '92, before they were big and utterly crippled by fame. And it's pretty damned cool. Eddie is a madman on stage. It's just perfect. I don't know why I posted this, but your mention of grungie bands brought that to mind. It's quite surprising film.

Anyways, You rule, Marah rules, keep up the good work.

September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJB
Sorry. bad keyboard.

You Tube is great for unearthing...
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJB
Michelle that was really cool......and makes me realize why I want to keep going for this.....Thanks!!!
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
I was going to be a rock chick too! My song of choice, Steve Perry.

"you shoulda been gone! knowin' how I made you feel, you shoulda been gone... Oh Sherry!"

Good God I was such a dork.
September 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJenna
Well said - or well written to be precise. Music matters and it makes a difference every day in our lives. I have found great truths and wisdom in the lyrics of songs - some popular, some not so. But it is not just the lyrics or just the music but that unworldly combination that is magic. I listen to it, I play it. The best is truly masterful and always worth sharing.
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterhal
You really are an amazing writer. KNOW THIS. And do something about it. I want to see you getting ready for a serious book tour this time next year chica.

What are you waiting for?
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBuffy
Yes exactly Buffy. I swear you stole the words out of my mouth. I've been thinking that ever since I chanced on this website. As a matter of fact she is so good that for the past 3 days I've been thinking of a ship conductor ringing a bell going "Wheeze aboard!". Monica if you happen to read this can you please tell me what this "wheeze" sounds like? Is there anything on the internet? I am going nuts trying to figure out this bizzare sound that accomponys this not too common word. A "wheeze". Is thier a sound byte? I keep picturing an overweight weight lifter with a guy harvey t-shirt and a "gone fishin" hat "climbing aboard" and "wheezing". This is becoming a little annoying. Is their a soundbyte anywhere?
September 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
Awww!! I loved "We Built This City" too. But "Sara" was my absolute favorite. So beautiful, it makes me cry to this day.
September 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

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