By: Danny Manslaughter
The remarkable Grammy Award winning multi-instrumentalist and blues musician Taj Mahal penned the album and song ‘Music Keeps me Together’ in 1975. It is an enchanting album of reggae and skank-heavy influences, it remains one of the pinnacles of his career and a deeply touching and important album to me; the most important reason being that ‘music keeps me together’. In 2010, I was sitting down at the Blue Loon Restaurant & Bar in Fairbanks and drinking Arrogant Bastard ales when an older black fellow wearing a Russian fur hat came into the bar and promptly ordered 2 16oz porters and a double cheeseburger with extra fries. After looking at him for a few minutes I realized it was indeed none other than Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, known as his stage name ‘Taj Mahal’. We were the only ones in the club that night (Taj was playing a show the next day) and for the next few hours we laughed, shared stories and drank pick-axe porters.. Actually, at some point the night became somewhat of a blur as I did some ‘time traveling’ so to speak, but from the parts I do recall, it remains one of my fondest memories.
Music really does keep me together. If I look back at my original passion in life it was a passion for punk-rock music starting in middle school. Later, I began to expand my musical taste, until currently now I enjoy plethora (wink, wink) of different genres and sub-genres. Around 15 years of age, I started lifting on a plastic weight set purchased from the Walmart Overlords. Even my pursuance of bodybuilding was a direct result of music, as I found myself insanely motived and driven to be strong and muscular after reading Henry Rollin’s stupendous prose ‘The Iron’. I already admired the razor-like focus, rage and lyrics of Henry. He was certainly known as the most ‘jacked’ musician of his time. I also admired Glenn Danzig and Doyle VonFrankenstein’s evil and powerful physiques (as well as their music, and still do). Before I learned much about actual bodybuilding or the ‘big names’ of the subculture or even a history of it, I was inspired to build a titan physique because of these musical icons. All three of these specimens still look incredible (Rollins now preferring a sleaker, yet still lean look), and Doyle VonFrankenstein seems to have the remarkable ability of touring the country, making incredible music and staying shredded 365 days of the year. These fellas are the Grandaddy’s of the Alternative Fitness movement.
If I miss the gym for a few days I feel irritable, moody and prone to steam up like a tea-pot, possibly on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I’m about to have a nervous breakdown, my head really hurts.. If I don’t find a way out of here… I’m gonna go berzerk cuz I’m crazy and I’m hurt.. Head on my shoulders.. It’s going Berzerk! Sorry, I was having a brief rock n’ roll orgasm as I stroked myself off to musical nostalgia, singing lyrics that have stuck with me for quite some time. If I don’t have music around me constantly I feel like a baby without a bottle. I can go without it for the basic functions like: wage-slavery and clocking in at the ol’ 9-5 (but even then there’s usually some background music), funerals, and other instances where it’s ‘inappropriate’. Alone, I better have something being pumped through a sound system. I don’t watch television, I enjoy reading; no matter what I’m doing I’m listening to music. I get my best workouts when I’m listening to the right music, sometimes combining the two loves into a spiritual, euphoric and painful experience. Simply put, music and bodybuilding (Actually God-Building to be accurate) keeps me together.
I can’t recall how many times ‘Damaged’ by Black Flag has gotten me through a rhabdo-inducing superset leg workout; Bane’s ‘Ali Vs. Frazier I’ pumped me up for a 25 rep set of deadlifts; Pantera’s ‘Regular People’ gave me the courage to strap heavy ass weight on the end of a dip belt. Of course, no workout can ever be really complete with at least 3-4 Madball sings, MINIMUM. ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’, ‘Hold it Down’, and ‘Pride’ are essentially mandatory songs in a burgeoning God-Builder’s or Alternative Fitness Delegate’s routine. I’m currently prepping for a competition, and I’m eating a bird’s diet to be quite frank, and without the power of music I wouldn’t be able to do it. My favorite artists and musicians giving me the fire to do what would be normally impossible for regular people… Most regular people would say ‘it’s hard’ and any streetwise son of a bitch knows ‘don’t fuck with this!’
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