Trashing Rooms at the Bates Motel

Freddie Highmore Bates Motel

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I was all set to write about the much-hyped and allegedly scandalous new A&E series Bates Motel this week, until I watched it. I sat there going, “Huh. How about that,” for an hour. If you plan to mix good acting and lurid subject matter, you might want to take a gander at American Horror Story first.

In the drab first half of the pilot episode, the mother and son team of Norma and Norman Bates (Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore) buy a foreclosed hotel and begin renovations. Eventually a relative of the previous owner shows up and threatens them for taking a property that has been his family for generations. I thought, “Okay, here’s an interesting dynamic. Anyone who hasn’t lived in a cave since 1960 knows that Norma and Norman are antiheroes we’re going to root for nonetheless. Meanwhile, the supposed villain has a good point.”

Nestor Carbonell

Nestor Carbonell

But no, he later turns out to be a repugnant rapist who gets hacked up by Norma. Making him a boring cliché instead of a righteous bad guy lets the producers dispatch him in bloody fashion so that the pilot episode can live up to its promise of shocking television, but it takes any emotional conflict away from the viewer. And now that I think about it, mother-son incest isn’t shocking. It’s gross.

Oh well, at least Nestor Carbonell made an appearance near the end of the episode as a snooping sheriff to pique my interest. Actors with intense faces interest me, and he’s got one. I’d like to add it to my collection.

Now there’s a lurid premise, TV people. A show about a face collector. If you want to disturb the viewers at home, I just handed you a multimillion-dollar concept. We promise Mo’ Better Content at PFC, and we deliver.


I’ve probably declared rock and roll to be dead before, and I’m sure I will again. It’s a combination of my inclination toward hyperbole and my inability to remember what I wrote about last week. So, once more, with feeling: Rock and roll is officially dead.

The most important element of rock music is mystique. Would KISS have been a merchandising powerhouse in the 1970s if people had known what they looked like without make-up? Did it matter if Ozzy Osbourne really bit the head off of a bird or a bat or a chicken, or that he acted like somebody who would?

David Bowie convinced a lot of people he was an alien. Diana Ross, a singer who has taken pretending people aren’t there to an art form, was known to admonish her fellow Supremes for stopping to talk to fans instead of whisking past them and into the limo. Alice Cooper used to hang or decapitate himself at the end of every show, no one in the audience knowing if this is the night the trick at last goes horribly, tragically wrong!

If you are a rock singer, you either have to die young or be immortal. Dropping dead from living a life of wild abandon certainly hasn’t hurt the mystique around Keith Moon, Janis Joplin, or Jimi Hendrix. Though they lived longer, we kinda knew Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson weren’t in it for the long haul. Whitney has been dead for a year, and her mystique has never been greater.

But when rock singers become old and infirm, or die from a degenerative disease in middle age, that’s a mystique killer. We received positive confirmation that David Bowie was not, in fact, an alien when he had angioplasty in 2004. I’m pretty sure heart surgeons are only trained to stick balloons into human arteries. And the when KISS’s co-lead vocalist Paul Stanley had hip-replacement surgery that same year… well, that doesn’t quite conjure images of flaming guitars and shock make-up, does it?

While those events were the beginning of the end for rock, the genre formally perished on March 12, 2013 along with former Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr, who lost a long battle with multiple sclerosis.

Iron Maiden in 1982

Iron Maiden in 1982

Although Burr left the band years ago, his iconic rhythm for “Run to the Hills” is something virtually every young rock drummer of my generation had to master before being considered legit. Come on, this was the guy who kept time on Maiden’s Number of the Beast, an album no set of parents in 1982 wanted their kids hearing. With songs about devil worship, hookers, criminal activity, and ultra-violence, led by the glass-shattering wails of singer Bruce Dickinson and a live show full of smoke, flames, and horror imagery, Iron Maiden had enough mystique to whip their fans into a violent frenzy. I recall one notorious performance in New Jersey that resulted in cars being overturned and set on fire in the parking lot.

That drummer – the guy who perfected the heavy metal gallop – died of a crippling nerve disease at age 56. It doesn’t seem right. Complications from heavy drink and smoke have done in a number of older artists in recent years, but MS for a guy who delivered the thunder for a generation of metal-heads? That can only mean one thing: Rock and roll is floating in a jar of formaldehyde and it ain’t coming out.

You win Rolling Stone magazine. James Taylor and Kenny Loggins are still going strong.

By the way, have you looked at Rolling Stone’s website lately? I did a search on Clive Burr’s date of death for this story, and I ended up there. Their content consists of top-100 lists and Getty images of R-n-R Hall of fame inductees. And they included Don Henley on their list of 100 greatest singers, but not Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. Yeah, of course Iron Maiden is corny with their studded leather and devil lyrics. But at least they are obnoxious and piss off your dad, like a good rock band should, and Bruce Dickinson can damage your hearing. Don Henley, on the other hand, is what your dad listens to when it’s time for his nap.


Eric J Baker

Comments: 5

  • JamesTuttle March 24, 20137:51 pm

    Ugh, Don Henley’s in their top 100? It’s no wonder I’ve never physically touched a copy of Rolling Stone. I’m with you about aging rock stars.  At some point, they should pull a Greta Garbo and keep the mystique alive.  You never heard about Greta getting a hip replacement, after all.

    • ericjbaker March 24, 201310:18 pm

      JamesTuttle Indeed. if they really cared about their careers at all, all rock stars would overdose on heroin or crash a sports car into a brick wall.

  • jkillough March 28, 20139:22 am

    I watched the first two episodes of Bates Motel and it is pretty limp, although shows like that tend to pick up.  And Vera Farmiga is such a delight.  She has that Sally Kellerman ability to make every line sound like a voice over for a deluxe Belgian chocolate.  Never understood Freddie Highmore, although his American accent is… as good as every other British actor’s, I guess.  I think it’s Americans who have trouble doing the British.

    • ericjbaker March 28, 20138:01 pm

      jkillough I intended to watch the second episode, but when the time came I just felt like I could be doing other things. I’ll catch up on demand, perhaps. Re: Highmore… what’s with everyone in his school being hot for him? Nerd chic is a myth.

      • jkillough March 28, 20138:09 pm

        ericjbaker jkillough There is so definitely an upcoming catch to the girls being so hot for Highmore. Either that or this show is even more farfetched than it seems on the surface. You need to see the last sequence of episode 2.  I think we’re in for a bit of a ride.  They just needed more than a couple of hours to set up the ride.  I’ll take the long odds on this one. Might be wrong.

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