The other day, I came across a list of roadie rules over on boingboing.net. The rules were on a flier found hanging in the house of a former hard-rock roadie; writ upon it was a code by which to live. Titled "The Ten Commandments of Rock and Roll," the rules are self-effacing, bordering on masochistic; they obliterate the roadie's personal needs, replacing them with the goal of working toward the greater good of the tour -- or, more specifically, the benefit of the band. Spare and utilitarian as it is, the list conjures up scenes from the most debauched tales of touring, like the ones chronicled in Hammer of the Gods or Motley Crue's Dirt. I imagine (or hope, I suppose) that the commandments represent an antiquated mode of roadiedom, though they certainly represent a timeless mode and mindset of work itself. These days, the rules on the flier are just as likely -- if not more likely -- to be tacked to the wall (or embedded on the brain) of a corporate employee always on the verge of Dilbertian ennui. And the list is relatable to anyone who has suffered through years of working toward someone else's grandiose dream.
When my own band used to tour, we joked about our lack of Behind the Music-worthiness. There were no groupies or drugs, no ant-snorting or trashed hotel rooms; just a handful of books and computers scattered around the dressing room, perhaps a bottle of whiskey with a few ounces missing. (I still have a bottle of Jameson that I took home at the end of a tour. Sad, so sad.) The hedonistic lifestyle is difficult to achieve when you're still carrying your own gear. Trust me that you don't feel glamorous with a 60-pound amp in your arms; it's a lot less sexy than toting a vodka gimlet and impossible to do in heels. You want to make out? Here, hold my Vox AC30.
One night at Oberllin College we did manage to come up with some guidelines for tour.
The rules of the road are something we all fantasize about, especially as fans. We want access to that secret underbelly of touring -- the pre-show rituals, the making of the set list and the outlandish rider requests (a young woman intelligent enough to discuss current events and who lives no more than a $10 cab ride away from the venue, removal of all brown M&Ms, dwarves, a doctor on hand to give B12 shots, etc.). These are our way of knowing -- of further understanding -- how the artists we love transform from their often inchoate recorded presence into a palpable and corporeal one. It's access to the touring life and stories that provide clues into who these musicians might be as people; we yearn to know their rituals and the cadences of their days and nights, hours and minutes.
Even though the "Ten Commandments of Rock 'N' Roll' is for and by the roadie, it's still a glimpse into whom they're working for. The flier tells its own story -- one of loyalty and of subjugation, but also one of intense roadie pride.
If you were to make your own list of commandments for your job, rock or otherwise, what would that be?