Somebody's Gonna Feel This

I've just gotten off the phone with my new friend, Glenn. He's the publicity director for Atlantic Records -- my pipeline to Kid Rock. He wants to know if the promo materials he sent got to me and when my deadline is. They have, and it's in a week. "I'd like to get this in the can over the next five days," I tell him. "Not a problem," he responds amicably. Glenn's a good guy. Very helpful.

I'm excited about the prospect of talking to Kid Rock. His debut, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast, was an ode to Licensed to Ill-era Beasties and a staple in the skate parks I frequented back in the day. His dirty raps were a tad immature, but so was I -- it worked out nicely. Sadly, the audience for white Midwesterners with eight-inch high-top fades (worth a Google search) didn't extend much past me and my friends. Kid Rock was dropped. This was 1990, and the world would have to wait nearly a decade to be reintroduced to Detroit's son.

Day one has passed without word from my new friend.

Over the course of the early and mid-'90s, while out of the public eye, Kid Rock got himself a backup band and enlisted a midget for good measure. He wowed Motor City audiences with a Fellini-esque stage show, complete with explosions, strippers and ponies. Speaking of explosions, the new music he'd been flushing out -- rap metal -- had exploded onto the mainstream. The Kid caught a break.

Devil Without a Cause was a whopping success. It sold millions of copies and made Kid Rock a bigger success than even he would have ever guessed. The brash, fur-clad Pimp of the Nation was billed as the return of the rock star: a booze-swilling degenerate whose mission was to destroy all sappy, kill-rock-star Cobainists. The self-proclaimed "Bull God" (huh?) raised a leg to tender idealists and a cold Coors Light to excess.

Day two: no word.

I'm going to ask Kid Rock about his new direction. These days he's a lot more Bocephus than Beastie Boy, more Steven Tyler than Reverend Run. He's releasing what his label describes as "his most emotionally raw piece of work to date." In it, he's penning, in his own words, "tear jerkers" about the perils of being a single dad. The cocky Kid seems to have a little sugar in the tank. The new tour is called "The Rock and Roll Pain Train," and it follows on the heels of his new single, "Cold and Empty." This is hardly the rough-around-the-edges American Badass we've come to know and love. Has the Diamond Dave exterior been forever dulled by the beard of Bob Seger? What's happened? Has he traded his Boone's Farm for a robust '94 Cab?

Since the success of Devil, he has slowly been sliding off the radar. Could this be because his audience is confused by (what he'd call) his growth? Perhaps people just don't know what to make of America's foremost rapping/metal/redneck/pimp/sensitive dad. Exhibit A: His album sales have dropped some 50 percent with each release. I want to ask if this is worrisome. "Screw you, buddy. I've sold 15 million records. What have you done?" I imagine him saying. I'd see his point and we'd move on. "In an interview, you once said, 'I'd like to think I'll go away when my time is up.' Don't you think these dismal sales might be a sign of just that?" Then I think he'd hang up, but I guess I'll never know, because day three has come and gone with no peep from Glenn.

I'm getting my notes straight. We all know he's got a serious hard-on for older Southern rock -- ZZ Top, Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd -- but what about contemporary artists? Does he really hate Radiohead as much as he lets on? When he told Spin about his proposed triple album and the interviewer asked, "Kind of like OutKast?" he said, "They can't do it like I could do it." Did he really mean that or was he being braggadocious?

Day four comes, and I've decided to get proactive. I've been watching Dr. Phil, and I'm motivated. I'm my own life manager! I start with an e-mail to Glenn. When that gets no response I try calling him. I leave a message with his assistant. He doesn't call back. Go to hell, Dr. Phil! Now I look like an impatient douche bag. I'll never talk to Kid Rock. We'll never know how he thinks Houston did hosting the Super Bowl or the other brilliant things I have to ask him.

Such as, Who is the real Kid Rock? You can almost hear his heroes in the methadone clinics asking it between doses, and these are the questions I want to ask. Newsweek music columnist Lorraine Ali says that the newer, more sensitive Kid Rock is not to be believed, considering his mook roots. What of that?

Are we to believe that your life can simultaneously be a kick-ass beast of debauchery and a sobering kick in the shins? Can this dichotomy exist, and if so, are you the right guy to pose the question? You're Kid muthafuckin' Rock, not Sir Isaac muthafuckin' Newton! Can you tell me why day five is drawing to an end, and I still haven't gotten a call back from Glenn? What do you pay him for?

And while we're at it, jerk, how do you explain your position as rock and roll's most visible patriot while, at the same time, cutting a hole in the American flag and wearing it like a frigging poncho during the Super Bowl halftime show? A lot of people are pissed, pal. A lot. Pretty soon you're going to be living in a house with Ponch and Vanilla Ice and, "Hello…Oh. Hi, Glenn. Okay. Okay. So he's going to call me tomorrow between noon and four my time. Great. Yeah. It's a little later than I'd have liked, but I'll make do. Thanks. All right. Thanks, Glenn."

I'm relieved. In fact, I've decided to go easier on the guy. I won't bring up halftime or slumping sales or his ever-so-confusing persona. I'll keep it strictly Pamela, and how has life changed since becoming a father? He's going to be on a bus from Tennessee to Georgia. How did the show go last night? What made you choose that particular Bad Company song? We'll play slow-pitch.

Or perhaps I won't be asking him anything. My clock says 4:13 p.m. I'm scouring the Internet for any breaking news about a tour bus careening out of control in the Smokies. 5 p.m. Darkness descends. 7 p.m. I'm giving up hope. Glenn, I'm not mad at you. Sure, for a minute there I wanted to go bawitdaba on your ass, but I'm over it. Today, while talking to friends, I got to say, "Kid Rock never called," and it was hilarious. Please send tickets.

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Brian McManus
Contact: Brian McManus