JAIMIE VERNON: POP’S QUEST FOR IMMORTALITY

A little bit of my childhood died this week when Davy Jones of the Monkees passed away of a heart attack. And it died for a lot of people, unfortunately. It was another reminder that pop culture and reality is being dismantled one memory at a time by the grim reaper. And we cried. But do we cry for Davy or ourselves? Maybe a bit of both, I suppose.

“Let us die young or let us live forever
We don’t have the power but we never say never
Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
The music’s for the sad men….”


Alphaville was a new wave act from the early ‘80s who wrapped their song “Forever Young” in melodic musical metaphor about the death of our heroes. This may not be as poetic as Dylan’s “Turn Turn Turn” but it’s certainly as prosaic in reflecting the modern zeitgeist where our own mortality is concerned.
http://youtu.be/t1TcDHrkQYg

“Forever young. I want to be forever young.
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever young.”

Apparently we do. Davy Jones of the Monkees died this week licking at the heels of Whitney Houston’s passing two weeks before that. This week also marks the 4th anniversary of Jeff Healey’s death. Two generations of grief slamming together like emotional freight trains. We travel the double edged sword of masochism and therapy as the internet has made it possible for the world to grieve simultaneously. We wallow in the misery of the collective soul and hang it on our Facebook walls through pictures and videos and anecdotes. It’s no longer the grief of loved ones, it’s a global village parading the fallen soldier through the streets before lighting a funeral pyre of old records, autographed photos and digitally restored TV appearances. It’s the cyberworld equivalent to leaving flowers and prayers at the scene of traffic accidents and other disasters.

“Some are like water, some are like the heat
Some are a melody and some are the beat
Sooner or later they all will be gone
Why don’t they stay young?”

And that’s $64,000 questions isn’t it, kids? Staying young is only achieved by the dead. Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison will be 27 forever. Davy Jones, a spry senior of 66. But Jones defies even his real age in death. He’ll always be that cuddly boy toy from a 1960s TV show where Hollywood made four actors/budding musicians into teen sensations and, ultimately, rock stars. On celluloid and tape we can achieve immortality. Rudolph Valentino will remain a heart-throb for all eternity. Marilyn Monroe the unchallenged model of female pulchritude.

“It’s so hard to get old without a cause
I don’t want to perish like a fading horse
Youth’s like diamonds in the sun,
And diamonds are forever .”

Why do we find it so hard to let go of public figures…most whom we’ve never met? Public mourning used to be reserved for close family and royalty. Now we cry for anyone that pops up in the Google newsfeed…DAILY. We’ve forgotten to celebrate. We’ve never learned to put nostalgia in the box marked “The Past”. We carry it with us forever and we, as a generation, have stopped growing. One generation gave up on the future when Buddy Holly died. Another when Elvis went and yet another with the passing of Lennon.  It’s as if the transistor radios ran out of batteries. Our mundane lives as unremarkable humans stopped in our tracks because pop culture hiccupped. Is it because we think of ourselves as living vicariously through the lives of the famous?

“So many adventures given up today,
So many songs we forgot to play.
So many dreams swinging out of the blue
Oh let it come true. “

When will we create our own nostalgia? What we should be learning from the lives of the dearly departed is inspiration. Pick up a guitar, a paint brush, a script. Let the muse of the recently departed travel through us and not impede us. Maybe in turn we can inspire others who are living just as the Whitneys and the Davys and the Jeff Healeys did while they were alive.

But better still we also need to learn from the unrecognized everyman. What can our family and friends and community figures teach us in life that we will rarely know in death?; How to make a killer cupcake, knitting an Afghan sweater and fixing an old lawn mower.

A friend of my wife said she quit her full time job and went part time for no other reason than to spend as much time as humanly possible with her 90 year old grandmother before she was no longer around and share the experiences of the wise. It’s a huge personal sacrifice. One that she will never regret. When put in perspective with the dislocated and, often, misplaced grief concerning famous people it makes you wonder how much richer the lives of our forefathers must have been when there was nothing to do but toil in the sun and spend every waking hour getting to know who their family and neighbours were.

My suggestion to readers is to shut off the computer, stand on your front lawn and introduce yourself to the first person that walks by. Tell them you lost a musical hero this week. They may have as well or maybe a friend or family member. You can console each other in real time and just maybe throw “Daydream Believer” on the stereo as you plot the next move in your own destiny on the coat-tails of nostalgia. http://youtu.be/X9m-hkvFDLk

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and is the author of The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia. http://www.bullseyecanada.com/encyclopedia.html

6 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON: POP’S QUEST FOR IMMORTALITY”

  1. Max Brand Says:

    Oh Jaimie Turn Turn Turn wqasn’t written by Bob Dylan it was written by Pete Seeger borrowed from from the Bible Ecclesiastes with the exception of the last line Seeger wrote himself but he added the music to it.

  2. Terry D. Says:

    Well said, Jaimie… But do let us commiserate together. On telvision or FaceBoot, we need to share and each of us make his family as large as possible!

    “Lonesome No More..” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

  3. Ah…nostalgia,
    we create our own everyday!…welcome to the global village..and to modern folklore…and we will be heroes, just for one day. 🙂

  4. Warren Cosford Says:

    One of my favourite cartoons dipicts two middle aged men standing at the bar of what appears to be a pretty posh club having a drink.
    One says to the other……”all my life I’ve worked to “be somebody”. And now that I am…..it isn’t me.

    In 1979 I had worked in Radio in many capacities for almost twenty years and was programming CHUM-FM into the #1 FM in Canada when I quit to spend the Spring planting a huge garden with my father, the Summer on horseback in The Rockies, the Autumn with a best friend in New York and the Winter with another in Los Angeles.

    Eventually, I got back to Radio refreshed and ready to go.

    Then, in 1997 after doubling the ratings of three stations in Windsor/Detroit, Canada’s most competitive market, I took five years off to mostly being a Father.

    In 2003 I began what would be five years and 600,000 miles as a long haul Trucker getting paid for “goin’ camping” in just about every U.S. State and Canadian Province.

    So…..I think I know what you mean Jaimie. People have to know when to leave what may be destroying them…..or at least enveloping them. In Grade School it was called Recess. Today it might be thought of as “Rebooting”.

    Terry Steele and Darryl B were two good Radio Pals of mine who died waaay before Their Time. Both were struggling to Reboot.
    Tragically neither did. They didn’t know ho. And I know OF many other Radio Vets who had and are having much the same experience.

    The Fantasy is that Elvis faked his death and is occasionally seen at Fast Food Joints around America. Imagine if that were true? From all accounts he had once been a pretty good Truck Driver and really loved his job. When I was Truckin’ I looked…but never found Elvis. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there.

  5. holy crap!!

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