rage against the dying of the light
TO BOOTS WITH LOVE
lead singer of the legendary 222s,
arguably Montreal's first punk rock band, Chris is now a
freelance writer based in Montreal. You can check out his
writing at looselips.ca.
where he combines the sardonic humour of David Foster Wallace
and the deliciously contrived irreverence of Anthony Bourdain.
only got to know the entity commonly referred to as Bootsey X
[aka Bob Mulrooney] towards the end of his life. He was already
sick by the time we were introduced and I could often read between
the lines of our correspondence to recognize that his illness
had begun to colour his attitude towards the world somewhat. And
fair enough. We should all be as stoic as Bootsey when confronted
with the knowledge our days are numbered and even better, that
they’ll likely be dominated by unfathomable pain until the
sweet black angel of death finally pops by to put us out of our
never been one to casually throw out the ‘ol “hero”
handle just because somebody’s had the misfortune of contracting
a terminal illness. How anyone determines that dying from cancer
or ALS or whatever is somehow heroic is beyond me. You get sick,
possibly find yourself attached to a shit bag and/or suffer similar
indignities for awhile, everybody around you cries a lot and you
eventually die. Hopefully sooner rather than later for the sake
of all involved. I dunno, I just can’t find any Rambo’s
or Che Guevara’s or anything especially valiant in that
end I always appreciated that on bad days the Bootstah wasn’t
afraid to tell me how he really felt about the hand he was dealt
in life and how his story was playing out, knowing full well he
was on the final chapter and it sure wasn’t looking like
the narrative was working its way toward a surprise happy ending.
KIDS GOTTA ROCK
all, a happy ending would’ve been totally inconsistent with
the rest of Bob’s saga – as I understand it, at least.
Others who knew the man better might have an entirely different
interpretation of the Bootsey X legend. I sincerely hope they
do and further hope it’s a far more accurate take than mine,
because I can’t help but see Bob’s tale as a tragedy.
In that respect, I suppose Bootsey’s tenacity in trying
to make decent records at a time when decent records were arguably
in short supply, the 1980s, could possibly be construed as vaguely
heroic. But my guess is that Bootsey was one of those guys who
just HAD to play rock and roll, that it was in his blood and to
NOT be out there writing songs and doing gigs for 25 people after
30 odd years of trying was an even worse fate than actually doing
it. Guys like that really do exist, I know because I’m one
of them, it’s just something you sort of have to do, no
matter how degrading, demoralizing, and downright depressing it
can get at times.
not sure why I feel such kinship to a dead man who, for the most
part, I essentially only knew through fuckin’ Facebook and
a series of private exchanges we had towards the end of his days.
But I liked the guy immediately, maybe because I recognized the
fellow rock and roll lifer in him and partially, I admit, because
I’d learned he was a fan of my own musical offerings throughout
the ages. And as everyone who knew the man already knows, Bob
was a walking music encyclopaedia, I mean, this guy really knew
his stuff, so having his seal of approval on my own material really
meant a lot to me.
be told, I’d never listened to any of Bootsey’s records
until we’d gotten to know each other a little, and even
then, I’d only paid attention to a few songs here and there.
You see, the god honest truth is that I’m used to things
sucking. It’s far too rare that I hear anything that actually
moves me. So when Bob first emailed me a few tracks of his to
listen to, a couple new songs he was working along with the Lovemasters’
“Pusherman of Love” single, I didn’t have especially
high expectations for it.
listen I remember thinking his stuff was good, but good like a
thousand bands can be good. Which is already encouraging for someone
as jaded as I’ve become but still, nothing really jumped
out at me, I didn’t hear anything special in it. Nevertheless,
out of simple respect for Bootsey I felt obliged to give it several
listens anyway, I’m always honest when asked my opinion
of other people’s music and to do so intelligently requires
repeated listens – for me, at least. Chore or not I felt
I owed Bob that much.
as it happens Bob was actually the one doing me the favour, because
as per usual with records I eventually come to adore, I found
myself enjoying Pusherman more with every play.
a couple of days I got back to Bob to tell him what I thought
of the stuff he’d sent me. I was very happy to be able to
honestly report that I actually dug it, that with the “Pusherman
of Love” single I was really impressed with how he was able
to work the well-worn “Kick” out the Jams/Loose riff
into something new and, yeah, I’ll say it, unique. No mean
feat, for sure. I also told him I thought the Lovemasters were
a great band and that I got a kick out of his lyrics, all stuff
that was true. What I somehow couldn’t see then though,
is that it would take me another full year before I recognized
this Bootsey X and the Lovemasters stuff wasn’t just good,
it was fuckin’ BRILLIANT! That there’d soon be times
this jaded old fuck I’ve become would play “Genius
from the Waist Down” five, six, seven times in a row, dancing
and singing along to this fantastic song pretty well every day
for weeks on end, as enthused about this piece of music as I’d
been about anything in . . . seriously, god knows how fuckin’
long. Whooda thunk it?
Bob Mulrooney might not have been what most people consider a
great singer, but I’ve come to love the guys voice. You
can hear his love of rock and roll in it, it’s right there
for anyone with ears to pick up on, just Google Genius from the
“Waist Down” and you’ll know what I mean.
by the time I realized just how much I admired his work the fucker
had gone off and died on me. Looking back on it now, I’m
concerned my original critique of his material might have come
off as condescending. Deep down I know it probably wasn’t
but still . . . Anyway, condescending or not, Bob was pretty gracious
about it all, as any non-idiot would be when presented with a
sincere critique of their music.
correspondence we’d had before he died was essentially a
diatribe of his inspired by a simple query. Said query being,
“Hey pal, I haven’t heard anything from you in awhile.
Hope you’re feeling okay.” A few days later he responded
– and it wasn’t good. He told me that in fact he was
doing terribly, that his latest prognosis had definitely not been
good, that he was weak and sick all the time, had no money, no
place of to live; he essentially he went on for a good thousand
words about how miserable this brain cancer business was making
AT THE DOOR OF A ROCK’N’ROLL LIFER
somewhat taken aback by his response. Yeah, I knew he obviously
wasn’t in top form but I guess until then I hadn’t
fully digested the fact that this shit was eventually gonna kill
him. Bitter and fucked up as it was, I appreciated his diatribe,
that he had enough respect for me to be honest about his misfortune,
to let me know just how hard it fuckin’ sucks to be dying
at his relatively young age. I wasn’t quite sure of how
to respond. I mean, what do you say to somebody in such a totally
fucked up situation as Bob was at that time? Even though he wasn’t
looking for pity or money or anything along those lines, there
wasn’t anything I could do to help him out with anyway.
me a few days before I was finally able to muster up some sort
of response, a simple “yeah, that sucks, Bob. I’m
so sorry to hear you’ve been having such a rough time of
it lately. Do you think you’ll be up to finishing those
new songs you sent me anytime soon?” He got back to me immediately
with a “yes,” he was hoping to finish them off as
soon as he recovered from this latest bout with the cancer eating
away at his brain. It actually sounded somewhat encouraging to
one month later I learned that he’d died. And that was it.
Not that it would have made a huge difference to him or anything,
but every time I put on “Genius,” or “Pony Down,”
or “Pusherman of Love,” or any number of great Bootsey
X tracks, it kills me I was never able to let him know how much
admiration I have for his work. People who really knew him always
go on about Bob’s great sense of humour, his passion for
records, what a nice guy he was, these sorts of things. And I’m
sure it’s all true. I believe I got a glimpse of his good
character in my own limited way. But the only thing I can truly
know about Bob is what I hear on his records – and to that
end, well, fuck, some of it is just so good. I only wish I’d
been astute enough to clue into his talent a little earlier in
the game so I could have told him as much. Unfortunately, this
little tribute to the man [eulogy?] is likely the closest I’ll
get to it now.
by Chris Barry:
Spring Fatness to Fitness
Out: Is It Any Easier?
Trip Story: My Inner Idiot
Boxer: Milford Kemp
12-Tone with Patti Smith
Pageants: The Golden Years
Clubs as Safe Zones
- Swinging Ad Extremis