Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Alice in Chains - Rooster (Dylan's Dumb iPod #4)

Dude...let's go back in time for a bit. To a time that was more pimply faced. A time where confusing erections came and went with all the frivolity and seeming regularity of blossoms on the Apricot tree. A time where it was socially acceptable...nay, encouraged to bleach only the top part of one's hair. When boys and girls would date each other only between the hours of 8:30 AM and 3:30 PM. To a time when everyone reeked of maxx-hold gel, Michael Jordan cologne and fruit roll-ups and finding a ride to the movie theater was one's only weekend objective. Middle school bro.

Now, truth be told,
Alice in Chains pre-dated my middle school career. By the time I started 6th grade (1998), they were already on their big hiatus, Jerry Cantrell was set to release a solo album, and the band was still resting on the laurels of their Unplugged performance ("Friends don't let friend's get haircuts.") It doesn't take away from the fact that in middle school, I was obsessed with this band. While the nation had turned away from "alternative music" to focus on the bastardized staccato of the rancid Nu-metal beast that was emerging, me and my friends got heavily into the "grunge" bands we'd just been introduced to by older cousins in elementary school.

To date, hearing "Rooster" in the wee hours of the morning during the summer between my 5th and 6th grade year on an FM radio call-in show...well it stuck with me. It's
probably because it was late, and I was younger and (ostensibly) stupider, but somehow it seemed really heavy. "Rooster" is a heavy song. Not heavy like Crowbar or Madball...but it had an emotional depth I couldn't really fathom as a kid. Those cooing gospel sighs at the beginning, Layne Staley's crackerman drawl and the slowest example of Jimi Hendrix style whammying I'd ever heard. Unreal. I knew it was about war. It had to be. It's a sad song, and it was a sadness that I identified with...for reasons unknown.

I misinterpreted a bunch of the lyrics. I still can't tell if he's saying "walking tall the chicken man" or "walking tall machine gun man." The line about "got my pills 'gainst mosquito death/my buddy's breathin' his dying breath." You wanna give a 12 year old the shakes? Holy damn.

There's conflicting opinion as to why the song's titled "Rooster." I guess something about the flare of a gun looks like Rooster feathers or the Eagle insignia that Vietnam soldiers wore on their arm. Something like that. The video actually had real soldiers come and re-enact and it's been praised for it's realism. The song was referenced in a Beavis and Butthead episode too. They talk about "snuffing a rooster" with a war veteran.

All I know is that I waited by the radio, blank cassette in hand and my finger poised above the "Record" button to snag it the next time it came on. It's a song I listened to incessantly (still do) because it's got a slow crawl and a leaden punch that I haven't seen replicated in many other places.

As I got older, my hardcore friends got all high and mighty about Alice in Chains, saying they were too slow, or citing their bonehead demographic. They weren't far off the mark, but I stayed loyal...though I haven't really been following their new stuff (new singer? It's alright, but they should just change the name of the band).

Maybe people listen to this song and get reminded of horrifying war time experiences they've endured. Korea. Vietnam. Desert Storm. I don't get any of that. It just makes me think about rainy school bus rides in the rain, bad Adidas and all the other horrors of middle school...and somehow it still makes sense to me.

The song is from the Alice in Chains album Dirt, 1993, Sony Records, bluh bluh bluh
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  1. still love that song too, and can still feel all the awkwardness of middle school. way to bring all those memories back to life!
    also, start blogging more. geeeeez

  2. Heh. Middle school is forever my well of writing material. I thrive on awkwardness.