The Beat Goes On saw “The Wrestler” the other night and was struck by the poignant analogy between Mickey Rourke’s character in the film and all those past-their-prime rockers who are out there, night after night, just trying –in the immortal words from “Bull Durham”–“to finish out the season.”
In the film, Rourke plays a broken-down shell of a man, pulverized not only by the beatings he’s taken in the ring for more than two decades, but by a disolute life that has left him as battered and bruised on the inside as he is on the outside.
But Randy “The Ram” Robinson goes back out, week after week, wrestling before ever-decreasing audiences because that’s all he knows how to do. Plus, the adoration of the lessening few feels more like family to him than anything he’s been able to create outside of the ring.
And so it is for dozens of rock acts out on the road. For every veteran act like Neil Diamond or AC/DC hovering at the top of Billboard’s weekly Boxscores, scour the bottom of the chart and it’s littered with names of strugging new acts hoping to reach the top rungs and road warriors who once occupied the upper reaches slogging it out in the clubs they played on their way up–and surely hoped they’d never see (or smell) again.
While it can be disconcerting to see once-platinum names playing before crowds (and that’s using the word generously) of 200 or so, there’s something to be admired there. Off stage (or outside of the ring), just like “The Ram,” these acts fade into the background, completely unremarkable and forgotten. But for those few glorious moments on stage, especially when they trot out that one hit– just like when The Ram pulls out his signature move–they soar from zero to hero. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, that’s enough to sustain them until the next gig.