After watching the surprisingly gut-stirring documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil the other night, I've had creativity on my mind. Specifically, what one expects from a creative life. How do you live it? How do you bridle your creative impulses? How do you explode your sense of security? How do you bind the stable proton that's a workaday/watch-TV life with the free-wheeling neutron that's going, wheeeee, I'm gonna make stuff, I'm gonna be a star!
Lips (nee Steve Kudlow) is a sunny-tempered Toronto native and, some would say, heavy metal trailblazer as lead singer of Anvil. In the film, we watch Lips and his childhood friend and bandmate, stoic drummer Robb Reiner, struggle with this nucleus of creative self. At the same time they chase the heavy metal carrot, touring and recording their thirteenth album, This Is Thirteen, they are beaten by the stick of life. Lips and Robb have families, mortgages, jobs -- and an unshakeable commitment to make art, to rock and f**king roll til they can't no more.
And that begs the question, then, what is success? Anvil was on a fast-track to fame but poor management and subpar recordings (they released over a dozen albums since the early 1980s) stretched to a trail of business ineptitude, scrabbling promotion, and dreary day jobs. Nevertheless, Lips and co. -- Lips especially-- kept the fire of their imaginations stoked, even though they play genre of rock that's seen its heyday go, even in the face of a comically-inept tour of Spinal Tap proportions that's documented in the movie. Despite being considered too old to realize their rock and roll fantasy.
Anvil's dream is no fantasy, and no ironic experiment or gimmicky fourth act that was spat from a reality tv producer's cynical gullet. It's the real deal -- the same thing I thought when I came across this week's Internet-to-talk-show-couch sensation.
Twelve year-old (this is almost thirteen) Greyson Michael Chance expertly and dashingly raises the roof playing and singing a (yep) Lady Gaga song at a sixth-grade talent festival. First, somebody award a Bronze Star for bravery to this kid for performing a potentially swishy and punch-inducing number in front of a middle school assembly.
Moreover, Greyson -- by decades on the other side of success late-night crises of faith and unforgettable carousals in hotel rooms from Anvil -- has got it in his soul.
I'll let Lips explain what "it" is:
"I love to entertain – it’s in my soul. You’re in the same room as the people who love you. The foundation of this business comes down to the fans – the people that love you. Without those people you really are nowhere.
Reality is that we are not getting any younger. Time doesn’t move backwards – it moves forward. You run out of time. You’ve got to do it now.
Everything changes to something else.
Most important things – relationships. Where you have been. Experiences you have had.
Music lasts forever.
That’s the art.
That’s what's important."
...So sayeth the dude who used to play his flying-V with a female pleasure apparatus. Which isn't any more silly and savvy and profound than pounding out a stripped-down and de-popped pop ballad on a Steinway, oblivious to the breathless astonishment of tween girls.