Live fast, die young

August 30, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

Driving down my neighborhood street I saw the headline on today’s post emblazoned on the back of a young man’s t-shirt.

Now, I too was once young and headstrong (today, I am old and headstrong).

But, I was struck by the absurdness of this statement. Had to come from somewhere.

Turns out the original quote is “Live fast, die young, and have a good-looking corpse”is a quotation from the 1947 book Knock on Any Door by Willard Motley, also found in the movie version of the book.

It’s also the title (without the corpse) of a biography of James Dean and…wait for it…a 1981 song by the US punk band Circle Jerks from the album Group Sex.

The Circle Jerks?

Sorry. I know this is a very strange post today but sometimes life and culture baffle me beyond words.

End of today’s rant.

Back on to audio tomorrow.

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51 comments on “Live fast, die young”

  1. There’s a guy who won the Nobel Prize for literature and one of his most famous songs, Visions of Johanna … well, no one really has a clue what it’s about. He can’t sing either, went to his Tempest show and it was like listening to a chorus of frogs. And after 40+ years I still don’t know whether The Enid was a spelling mistake.

  2. You’re definitely not alone in being baffled. When I was 15 I decided that I really didn’t understand people and in an effort to do so I elected to use a tried and true scientific method, observation. I drove to the local mall and found seat on a bench near a inside corner drugstore. After watching for about an hour and a half a 20 something year old guy came past, obviously in a hurry. The drugstore had a big post on the corner that was open to both sides but blocked by strategically placed shelving and a stamp machine. One of the old blue things on a post welded to a car rim. Instead of taking the few extra steps around the corner he moves the stamp machine aside, steps past, returns the stamp machine to it’s original position…and says “excuse me” to the stamp machine! At that point I decided that humanity was just too weird to understand and left.

  3. The ’27 Club’
    Nat Jaffe,
    Rudy Lewis,
    Robert Johnson,
    Dickie Pride,
    Robin Roberts,
    Alan Wilson,
    Jimi Hendrix,
    Jim Morrison,
    Janis Joplin,
    Brian Jones,
    Pete Ham,
    Garry Thain,
    Kurt Cobain,
    Amy Winehouse,

    Honestly; I’m surprised that I’ve got this far down the line 😉
    (You never know when you’re time’s up)

  4. Yes, “People are strange”.
    I even heard that there are people who like to watch skinny men and women in tights making strange moves.
    Not me. Gives me the creeps 🙁
    I’d much rather listen to this “guy” that can’t sing, e.g. his “Tempest” cd, or to the “guy” that sang about strange people 🙂

  5. I must confess, that I never heard the album Group Sex by Circle Jerks.
    I was only 9 years old when that album came out.
    But I guess that was some music that was made in Britten.
    But I can remember going to Italy when I was 16 to help my boy Luther Vandross lay down some tracks for his song Searching.
    Unlike here in the United States where we have speed limits, there wasn’t any speed limits over there in Rome.
    The same thing is also true about places like England Verlan and Parris.
    You could drive as fast as you wanted to, and the law man couldn’t or wouldn’t say anything to you about it.
    I kept going over there for one reason or another.
    That is, until I lost the ability to see shortly after I turned 20.
    But even then, no part of Group Sex by Circle Jerks reached my ears.

    1. Hi John,

      Until today I’d never heard of the Circle Jerks either but their history may be more interesting than a cursory glance at the name suggests. I’m afraid Great Britain can’t take the credit as they were formed in 1979 in Los Angeles by former Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris and Redd Kross guitarist Greg Hetson, RK being the only name familiar to me. Circle Jerks have released a number of albums, so perhaps not so jerky as their name, and Google lists Black Flag alongside many other punk luminaries including The Clash.

      Which gives me a reason/excuse to post this link. Heard it on the radio the other day, so much energy.

      1. Good morning Richtea!
        I checked out the video you sent me a link to.
        I’ve never heard that track before until just now.
        That track sounds pretty cool thoe.
        My only wish, is that You Tube didn’t compress the living hell out of it.
        Then it would have been worth plugging my computer in to my stereo system I have here in my living room.
        But if it wasn’t for the heavy compression, then I would have never settled for listening to the track on a pare of Tivoli Audio Mottle 1 table top radios that I’m using for computer speakers.

        1. Hi John,
          I was only 9 years old when Led Zeppelin’s 1st album came out, but that didn’t stop me from being absolutely amazed at their musical magic.
          Age is no excuse 🙂

          1. Good morning FR!
            Nice to hear from you man!
            That group, yoost to be one of my favored groups.
            But what year did they release their very first album?
            I’m guessing, sometime before I was born.
            I’m only 49, so that should tell you something about my age.
            Enough about that, how is life treating you these days?

            1. Led Zeppelin 1 (1969).
              In our 9th week of CoViD lockdown here in Sydney, Australia.
              My wife & I have moved into separate bedrooms & we just grunt when we pass each other in the hallway…it’s the perfect relationship now 😉

              1. Good morning FR!
                Sorry for getting back to you a day late.
                There were some things that I needed to take care of.
                But getting back to Led Zeppelin’s first album.
                I could be wrong about this.
                If I am, then please correct me.
                Lemmon Tree is what both I and my wife think their first album was.
                Is this correct?

                1. Hi JP,
                  ‘Led Zeppelin I’ was their debut album released in January 1969.
                  ‘The Lemon Song’ is the 3rd track on the ‘A’ side of their second album…
                  ‘Led Zeppelin II’ released in October 1969.

                  1. Hi again FR!
                    So, let me see if I got all this correct.
                    They released two albums in 1969.
                    And Lemon Tree is the third track on side 1 of their second album.
                    My wife pulled up the video of Lemon Tree, on You Tube on my iPad.
                    I don’t really trust the dates that they post on You Tube for some songs.
                    If you’re anything like me, then you know exactly when they hit the charts.
                    But my wife told me that the date they posted for the song Lemon Tree is in deed 1969.
                    But sense you’re telling me the same exact thing, then I believe it’s true then.
                    My friend, you have me, by 12 years between our ages.
                    Perhaps you were never a DJ.
                    Again, if I’m wrong, then please correct me.
                    But perhaps you can tell me something about the song Lemon Tree.
                    When I was listening to it on my iPad, it sounded like the lead singer was very far away from the microphone.
                    My wife says that, he was right upon it.
                    Is that what you see too when you pull up the video to watch it?

  6. I find Hunter S Thompson said it best about how you should live life “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

  7. This reminds me of a quote attributed to a Robert Owen that my dear old dad often used.

    “All the world is queer save thee and me, and even thou art a little queer.”

  8. Growing up I was a big Billy Joel fan (still am), but I never quite understood the relevance of “Only the good die young”. I always thought it was a rather silly sentiment.

    Life large…but live…

    1. The sentiment is that if you’re good (keep your sins to an absolute bare minimum)
      you’ll get to heaven quicker; hence only the good die young.

  9. How about the song “James Dean” by the Eagles. They sing “you were too fast to live, too young to die, bye bye!” Truly a rebel without a cause! Love his 3 movies. Awesome actor, I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed an actor that could move into a character role so convincingly.

  10. As we all know there is a lot of stupid nonsense out there. What I am about to say isn’t funny or cute, it is morbid.

    When I was 55 and in much better shape than I am today I had a very bad heart attack. It came on with no warning signs and felt like somebody had put an axe in my chest. Within a few years two guys that I worked with who were younger than me but not in as good a shape as I was died from the same kind of heart attack. I found out that cardiologist refer to the kind of heart attack I had as ” the widow maker “.

    FWIW, if you are old ( over 50 ) take the best possible care of yourself that you possibly can, but always remember any day could be your last.

    1. In my early 60s I almost died from “the widow maker” (blockage of the left anterior descending artery). One evening after dinner as I was washing the dishes I felt weak, nauseous, dizzy, clammy and utterly drained. I knew something was wrong. I did not have any chest pain or shortness of breath, so I wasn’t thinking myocardial infarction (heart attack). Not knowing what was wrong, I had a friend drive me to ER, where they drew blood samples, checked my vitals (BP, blood chemistry, heart rhythm, etc.) and said “everything appears normal; we want to stick around so we can check your blood one more time before we send you on your way.” After four hours of feeling much better and waiting to be released, they found tell-tale amounts of troponin in my blood (a diagnostic sign of heart attack), so they recommended I stay overnight for observation as a precaution. By then, I felt fine and wanted to go home but I agreed to stay. They had just moved me to the observation ward when suddenly I felt my arms go numb, pain in the arms and pressure on my chest. The room faded to black as I was losing consciousness and sensed my life slipping away. I could hear the warning sound of the heart monitor and the commotion of concerned medical staff shuffling around my bed doing things. Finally, in the darkness I sensed the metallic taste of a nitroglycerin tablet placed under my tongue. After only a few seconds the pain in my arms and chest disappeared and I could see again. That miraculous little nitroglycerin pill, combined with whatever IV injections they administered, dilated my blocked LAD artery enough to get blood to my oxygen starved heart and brain, giving the hospital time to administer anticoagulants and arrange for my angioplasty and stent installation in the blocked artery. The next morning my cardiologist greeted me with the news that I almost died, and probably would have died if I had not been at the hospital when I had the attack.

      I share my experience to reinforce that people should not always expect chest pain or breathlessness in advance of a heart attack. A variety of even vague symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, numbness, heart palpations, sense of doom and gloom, should all be taken seriously. Don’t hesitate to go to an ER or an urgent care center if you feel these kinds of unusual sensations. You want to be at the right place at the right time to improve your chances of survival with the least amount of heart and brain damage. Time is of the essence.

      1. You were very lucky. LAD MIs are not good. That thing in the IV was probably TPA. I remember when Genentech launched that drug, one of the first biological drugs. It replaced an old one that was quite good too called streptokinase.
        I presume you are now on statins and other blood thinners. Possible a beta blocker too.
        I worked on the MI field in the early 80s, and the advances since then have been absolutely amazing. In many cases, now they would go straight to intervention and put a stent in you. The death rate due to AMIs has been reduced very much over the last couple of years. And most drugs used are very cheap. The stent and the cardiologist do charge you a lot of money.
        The best way to help prevent an MI is to keep your LDL low. Won’t guarantee it but it is the best predictor.
        Did you know that women’s symptoms of MI are quite different to men’s?

        1. Oh yes, I’m on atorvastatin (a cholesterol production inhibitor), metoprolol (a beta-blocker that lowers blood pressure and slows heart rate) and Eliquis (apistaban, an anticoagulant). The latter prescription is to reduce risk of stroke because I have mild atrial fibrillation. Atorvastatin and metoprolol are cheap. Eliquis is very expensive compared to warfarin, which is essentially rat poison.

          Yes, the stent procedure is expensive. The procedure combined with the short hospital stay cost something like $25K to $30K–the cost of some hi-end loud speakers. But that is multiples cheaper than the old open-heart surgery routine that could cost as much as a Music Room 2. I was out doing light work in the yard the day after my stent procedure–the day after I almost died!

          Yes, I am aware that women often do not present MI symptoms the same as men. For example, they typically don’t experience angina in the same way and intensity as men. But some men like me do not experience angina either. Most of the common heart attack symptoms are the same for both women and men, so any and all symptoms should be heeded.

          1. Oh, I know metoprolol! I was working actually on that particular drug at the time! I was responsible for the angina and MI areas. I met the Swedish physicians that developed the data for those indications. Amazing characters!
            At one point in time, I also worked in cholesterol before Parke Davis was developing atorvastatin, now Lipitor. It is a HMGCoA reductase inhibitor.
            It is interesting that over time, drugs become cheaper, as they become generic, but medical interventions never go down in price. You can always find out the cost of the drug you take but you will rarely know what your insurance or you are paying for the medical side. 87% of healthcare costs in this country are NON drug expenses….
            I remember doing focus groups with patients that had survived MIs and asking them what their concerns, limitations and needs were. It was really a great project!

      2. My LAD MI was brought on by unstable plaque breaking off inside the artery and that causes a blood clot that completely closed the artery. I had just been given he green light by my orthopedic surgeon that my left knee was ready to go again. I worked out vigorously on my Nordic Track and then went to the kitchen to get a glass of orange juice. Before I could drink it I got this searing pain in the middle of my chest and fell to my knees. Fortunately my wife called 911, they got me to a major heart center in about 10 minutes and into the cath lab. I never lost consciousness. When they broke the clot with the catheter I said wow I feel fine can I go home now. I spent two days in the ICU and one day in the cardio unit before I got to go home. The cardiologist said I probably flexed the heart muscle hard enough to cause the plague to break off and that having my heart fully oxygenated from the work out saved my life. I now take many of the same medications that you do and I also have a stent. I really did not realize until two or three years after my MI that I was really lucky that I did not die that day.

  11. Yes, I’m pretty certain the MAIN objective in life is NOT DYING…
    Unless you’re 25, then it’s that OTHER driven objective…

    I KNEW I never wanted kids, never wanted to get married or even live with someone… but there I was, ALL thru my 20s, 30s and 40s – chasing that thing of which I didn’t want the result.
    Isn’t instinct a funny peculiar thing…?
    Would I do it all over again?
    Hell YA!!!

  12. My personal favorite variation is: ‘I used to be young and foolish. Now I’m old and foolish.”

    And from the film Chinatown (1974):

    Noah Cross (John Huston): ‘That’s because I’m old. Whores, ugly buildings, and politicians get respectable if they last long enough.’

    Or words to that effect. Not sure about that last one, though.

    1. Note: this was a sponsored video, so feel free to click off after time stamp 18:21 to avoid the obligatory shpeel and patron scroll. Such is the life/fate of professional YouTube content creators.

  13. A somewhat kinder/gentler version of that line is an old Faron Young tune which contained the line: “I wanna live fast, love hard, die young and leave a beautiful memory”. Yeah, I am that old, LOL!

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