Speaking as a Child of the Seventies

…and early eighties… Evel Knievel was epic. Over Thanksgiving I saw tons of old pictures from back then and one that stood out was me in mid-flight as I jumped a ramp on my bike. We would set up leaf piles and fly into them or take our rigged up Schwinn bikes into the Forest Preserve and barrel down hills. And as a real young kid I had the Evel Knievel Snake River Canyon rocket cycle toy. This was some awesomely cool shit.

The kid next door to me now has a ramp in the front yard and I have to fight the urge to take the jump–my bike is not stunt-ready, nor is my body, I imagine.

Evel Knievel has died at the ripe old age (for him) of 69, same as Thompson, and I guess I associate the two of them with that era, or that attitude. Or maybe both of them wore those cop glasses real well. Whatever, I have great respect for hard-living bastards who managed to defy death for so long, or simply laugh at it.

I love stories like when Knievel did a shot of Wild Turkey and then goes out and jumps the fountains at Caesar’s Palace, unsuccessfully (which put him in a coma for 29 days); apparently he was drunk for many of his jumps. Thompson, of course, had to finally take matters into his own hands after years of abuse, and great writing. These guys lived on despite themselves. What that says about me, I don’t know, but I get a great kick out of it all.

So then there is this rock opera (which I wrote about most recently here). Yes, it is based upon Evel Knievel, loosely, but it is fictional and takes great liberties with what may or may not have been Evel’s demons and psycho-dramas and women trouble and all of that. And it is ultimately about being comfortable (or uncomfortable) in your own skin, and trying to achieve some sort of redemption for past transgressions. My character, Revie, only feels at home when he is flying through the air, up and over everyone and everything; that’s why he’s so good. But a particularly bad crash sends him to a drunken exile, unable to lift his body or spirit. And then comes a vision. And then comes a shot at redemption. And then…? I won’t give away the ending.

That’s the most basic interpretation of the opera, and while it is mostly written–both lyrically and musically–it’s hard to even think of it right now as we finish up this current project. But soon enough, yes, soon enough… Anyway, cheers to Evel Knievel, hard-living SOB.


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