On July 6, 1957, John Lennon was introduced to Paul McCartney in between shows by Lennon’s band. McCartney, it is said, could tune a guitar and sing Twenty Flight Rock, and that was that – musical history was changed. It’s a nice story, but not nearly as rock and roll as the night in 1964 when a 17-year-old Keith Moon showed up at a show by the Who, claimed he could play better than that night’s drummer (Mitch Mitchell), and proceeded to destroy that drummer’s kit – and get the job. And that doesn’t hold a candle to the night in 1971 when Clarence Clemmons met Bruce Springsteen and the E-street Band in a New Jersey bar. In Clarence’s words: “[W]hen I opened the door the whole thing flew off its hinges and blew away down the street. The band were on-stage, but staring at me framed in the doorway.”
I like these stories, just as I like the recent wave of rock and roll biographies hitting bookstores. But as much as I like reading about how Keith met Mick, say, I don’t think any rock and roll anecdote has given me so much pleasure as the rather scatological tale of how young punk (and my friend) Liu Jian met his rock and roll partner Shi Di back in the 1990s – and later went on to form their band, Cocoon. That story was recounted in Liu’s 2004 semi-autobiographical work of fiction, Rock Soldier, which describes a youthful career as a Chinese rocker, and how – bit by bit – that led to a voluntary stint in the People’s Liberation Army. It’s a marvelous yarn, and interesting – if you like music biographies – for how much it shares with the rock and roll stories (and spirit) that are now topping US bestseller lists. Only, it doesn’t.
Rock Soldier was published in Chinese, and hasn’t been available in English until – quite recently – Joshua Dyer translated it. Alas, the translation has yet to be published, so – with permission – I’m going to post an excerpt. One note: early on, Liu mentions ‘cracked kids,’ a reference to young men (mostly) in the 1990s who purchased and listened to cassettes of foreign pop music that had been cracked in vises after being seized by the authorities. Liu was a self-professed “cracked kid” whose love of American rock and roll was informed by such cassettes. So, without further introduction, the meeting of Liu Jian and Shi Di, and the origins of Cocoon. Enjoy … Continue reading