The Tom Hanks Rule
by Eric J Baker
[We’re pleased and relieved to have caved into the relentless pressure from daily PFC commenter Eric Baker and given him his own posting. I want it to be about music, but he’s very stubborn for a future bottom bitch, so who knows. — JK]
So Killough says, “Gimme a music piece.”
I cringe. I’m like, “Aw, come on. Can’t I write about something else? How awesome the brakes are on my Civic, perhaps. That thing has stopping power. Like a .357 Magnum, only different.”
Killough says, “Music piece. You’re a musician. Do a music piece.”
“I got it!” I say, not listening, hoping my exaggerated enthusiasm will somehow convince the man. “I’ll write about how Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is the most underrated Japanese giant monster movie of the 1970’s. Leagues better than Godzilla vs. Gigan, despite both films having been directed by Jun Fukuda.”
Killough does that quick head shake that means he’s getting irritated. “I do the movie talk here. And anyway, what?”
After a few more minutes of back and forth nonsense, I cave in and agree to do the music piece, mostly because I’m dealing with an extremely stubborn person (no wonder my former lover, Susan Blais, didn’t like him). But I come away from the exchange aware of two things:
- Killough views himself as the dominant male. Even when he’s dealing with a straight guy, he still has to determine if I’m a “bottom bitch,” at least hypothetically. Being a waspy suburbanite, I was not aware of this term until I encountered it here, though I intrinsically knew what he meant from dealing with him. Frankly, I have almost as many control issues as James does, so I can’t see myself being the one biting the pillow.
- I have no idea how to write a music piece.
I can place images in your mind of what it’s like to be a long-haired metal drummer playing in a ratty dungeon of a rock club in New Jersey or Pennsylvania in the 1990s [For a sampler, put on a CD with the treble all the way down and the bass all the way up, hook up a cheap florescent light, stand next to a cinderblock wall, and pretend your ceiling is black. Got it? You are in a club owner’s basement office, arguing about getting paid, while another band is on stage upstairs].
But Killough has this thing about his blog being current events, and the most recent CD I have is The Killers’ first album from 7 years ago. While solid, it’s mostly recycled U2 and The Cure. Ruminating over the modern rock music scene, I decide the only American rock band that has put out consistently good music over the past 15 years is Green Day.
So I went out this afternoon and bought a CD by Green Day. It’s not even their new one. Don’t tell Killough.
Here’s where I talk about music, making this a music piece: Green Day is good, first of all, because they aren’t characters whose music is secondary or tertiary to their public persona and freak-show fashion statements (I’m talking to you Lady Gaga). They are good because they don’t have contempt for their fans and don’t throw away careers that the rest of us would kill for (Hiya, Scott Weiland).
Green Day is good because they write their own damn songs.
As a songwriter, I’ve long resented… well, lots of things. But one of the things I most resent is recording artists who have praise lavished upon them when all they do is screech somebody else’s words and music. Awards (I know. Who cares?) have been foisted in bulk upon the likes of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion for doing exactly that.
Eventually these frauds pay for their crimes against humanity. Houston got hooked on drugs. Dion accidentally put a dress on backwards and got photographed in it. Like Sammy Davis Jr. sang in the theme song for Baretta, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”
Credit should also go to the backup singers for singing, “Don’t do it,” right after, which punctuated the line nicely. Of course, Mr. Davis didn’t write that song, so I have to clarify that I’m not praising him, just pointing out that the lyrics he sang are particularly poignant for this middle section of my music piece.
I forgot the fourth reason Green Day is good: They aren’t over produced. They are three guys with guitars and drums and that’s how it sounds. Computer-manufactured synthetics are fine for pop or whatever else they call fake music these days, but not for rock. Name a rock band that went synthetic and didn’t instantly start sucking.
Finally, Green Day doesn’t talk smack.
It’s gratifying to talk smack, just as it’s gratifying to make love to a woman who is not your wife. But, in both cases, it’s not worth it. The smart artists, like Green Day, give not unto temptation but put their faith in Him to guide them through the valley. And who is Him? Jesus?
No. Tom Hanks.
That’s right. Green Day follows the Tom Hanks Rule, and so should you, if you’re famous.
The Tom Hanks Rule is Be Likeable.
The Tom Hanks Rule kicks the crap out of any rule in the bible, largely because it’s short and wholly free of “thou” and “thee” and “shalt.”
America likes Tom Hanks. Why? Because he’s not an asshole and he’s not weird. He’s been married to the same woman since whenever. He doesn’t slam other people’s movies or art. He’s open and friendly and always the same smiling guy whenever he shows up on TV.
A short list of people whose careers were or are in the process of being ruined for violating the Tom Hanks Rule:
Prince – No one can argue that he is not an amazing musician. But he’s also fucking weird (yes, I know I’m violating the Tom Hanks Rule right this minute. Believe me; if I ever become a public figure, I’m burying this post faster than you can say “Thou Shalt be Likable”). People don’t like his weird antics. They don’t listen to his music anymore, either.
Axl Rose – If this guy had died of a heroin overdose after Appetite for Destruction (a true rock and roll album if there ever was one), he’d be Sid Vicious X10. He’d be the all-time died-young legend in the history of rock. But tragically, he lived.
Kevin Smith – Kevin is a funny fellow, but you can only trash your contemporaries on speaking tours and then release the highlights on DVD for so long before people start distancing themselves from you.
Megan Fox – People like their pin-up girls to be sweet and dumb, not icy and opinionated. Never mind that everything she says about Hollywood is true. You shouldn’t call the guy who discovered you “Adolph Hitler” and then wonder why your latest film is going straight to video.
By the way, Killough, the more you begin to look like Ms. Fox, the closer your fantasy of converting this straight guy becomes reality. I’m big on petite brunettes with long, straight hair. Are you a petite brunette with long, straight hair? Call me.
I don’t mind Megan’s iciness. In fact, I married a petite brunette with straight hair who’s a little icy. My wife is not a psychopath either, which is a nice trait I never found in any of my ex-girlfriends.
Terence Trent D’Arby – Does anyone remember Terence? Vaguely? He was the budding superstar behind the late 80’s hit “Wishing Well,” who alienated his fans by repeatedly telling everyone he was an arrogant genius. These days, he offers his music for free download. It’s probably pretty good, but I’m not clicking anytime soon.
Note to people who plan to be famous: The American public does not like its celebrities to be superior, arrogant, or hyper-critical, and it prefers that they don’t live in weird amusement park ranches.
Then again, a lot of Americans think the Earth is 6000 years old and that Cain and Abel strapped saddles onto their pet dinosaurs. So maybe some Americans’ judgment isn’t 100% reliable.
Oh, wow. I just spontaneously discovered one more reason to like Green Day. I’m sure, from listening to their lyrics, that they do not believe the Earth is 6000 years old. They may not care one way or the other, which is probably the right attitude, but, if they are like me, they probably think “old Testament” refers to the early albums by the 80’s thrash-metal band Testament, not the non-Christian half of the bible.
There’s your music piece, JK. At least 1/3 of it. For the second part, I was going to write the specs for my guitar in fascinating technical detail. The last part was going to be a recap of my drum and cymbal configurations over the years. I’ll save those for next time so the massive click traffic doesn’t crash your blog.