An Exclusive Excerpt of Steve Almond's Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, Part One

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Austin singer-songwriter/musician Bob Schneider will perform at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room on Wednesday, March 24. To go along with this appearance, we're going to run an exclusive excerpt from author Steve Almond's new book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, which Random House will publish next month. Part one is below; tomorrow and Wednesday, look for parts two and three.

Bob Schneider, coming to a Duck Room near you! - Jeff Swensen
Jeff Swensen
Bob Schneider, coming to a Duck Room near you!

A Frank Discussion of My Mancrush on Bob Schneider I have to start here, because if I don't my wife will eventually read this and say something like, "Aren't you going to mention your massive mancrush?" to which I'll respond, "Shut up! I so totally don't have a crush on Bob!" to which she'll respond, "Then why do you talk to the poster of him on your wall?" to which I'll respond, "I admire him as a musician. Why do you have to make it into something dirty?" Then I'll slam the door in her face and throw myself down on the bed and stare up at my Bob poster, the one with him looking all yummy and stubbled, and wail, "Don't listen to her, Bob! She's just jealous!"

Nobody wants that.

So let me start by noting that every Fanatic is entitled to at least one homoerotic crush, which means, for gay Fanatics, a heteroerotic crush, the point being that there's some musician out there whose talents and manner and physical presence completely jam our normal sexual circuitry.

This all started back in 2002 when I went to see Bob play for the first time. I expected ragged versions of the catchy stuff from his new album, Lonelyland. But Bob utterly destroyed the template. He thrashed his prettiest ditties into punk screamers. He segued from bluegrass to cabaret to drugged-out dub and made everything seem effortless. At one point -- this was during a mambo -- Bob swung his guitar behind his back and sped the time signature. His bandmates followed suit, including the keyboard player, who hoisted a very heavy-seeming electric piano onto the back of his neck. The song became a sweet torrent -- and nobody missed a note.

Steve Almond, author of "Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life," with his wife, Erin
Steve Almond, author of "Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life," with his wife, Erin

When it was time for an encore, his guitarist ripped off a Frampton talkbox solo circa 1978, which somehow led to a four-part harmony of "Mercedes Benz" only with guitar riff lifted from "Sweet Home Alabama," though at a certain indefinable point you realized they were playing "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and none of this, not one note, came off as glib. On the contrary, these covers were entirely devout. Bob was saying to the crowd: Here's where my music comes from. And here. And here.

Though in fact, Bob spoke very little to the crowd. He didn't jump around. He didn't need to jump around. He had his chops to recommend him and his physical magnetism, which was that of a leading man -- Tom Hanks, say, if you drained off the goofiness and retained only the required assets: the jaw, the penetrating gaze, the husky baritone. He knew there was a row of hotties camped beneath him in pushup bras and fellatio dreams. He could hear the frat boys hooting. He recognized the desires and pleasures of the crowd as a condition of his being. I'd never seen such poise.

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