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Sebastyne

A rock fan. A thinker. A psychic empath and a channel, a Tarot reader. The lover of men, kings, and gods. An eternal romance analyser. A polyandrist. A romantic pervert. (A psycho-spiritual life coach.)

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Nuno Bettencourt – the genius is still alive

Many of you have never even heard of Nuno Bettencourt. If you have, you are very likely to be a fanatic Rihanna fan. If you are not, then you are likely to be kinda old, because you had to be listening to rock in the beginning to mid 90’s. Even then, his name might have escaped your attention, but you’d know More Than Words, I’d imagine, “by the duet Extreme”. If you do know his name, and you think “wowsa yeah, he’s great”, you’re likely to be a musician yourself – and know your way around rock guitars. Nuno Bettencourt is one of the most publically underrated musicians in the world, while his peers know exactly how great he is, and the good news is that he’s still alive.

What to this day pains me to no end is how such musical genius can be so misunderstood that not even his closest ones understood what he was about. To some of them he was “difficult” and “bossy”, and a person “nobody wanted to deal with” according to his recording engineer that gave a talk on an interview conducted by a dude who seemed to be falling asleep all the way through the interview. It’s a disgrace if you ask me, and I frankly wanted to strangle them both, but who am I to say; I’ve been a fan since the day I heard More Than Words when my parents finally got MTV and I fell on my knees. I bought II Pornograffitti straight away without hearing another song of it, and I was surprised to find it a metal album… It was nothing I’d listened to before, but it turned me from a pop-fan to a hard boiled Rock/Metal fan… More Than Words was my gateway drug. To this day, I have not heard another musician who I would, without blinking, categorize together with Mozart and Beethoven, a living legend, the way I would do with Nuno Bettencourt… Apart from Malmsteen of course.

When I was a kid, it was a bit of an embarrassment to be listening to Extreme as your primary idol instead of Guns n’ Roses, Nirvana or Metallica, the cool-approved bands. Extreme was a bit of a nerd rock band, they didn’t have pyrotechnics or even screens at their shows, it was all bare bones, but this was not because of the lack of talent or because they couldn’t afford it – but they simply didn’t want to sell you hype. Rock bands do not become stars by being modest, and Nuno Bettencourt is as modest as people come. As much as I freaking adore Aerosmith, I know their success comes from Steven Tyler’s big mouth – off the stage. For Guns n’ Roses it was their bad boy -reputation, to Skid Row it was the beauty of Sebastian Bach’s face and voice combined that pushed them from being “a rock band” to being super stars, but Extreme didn’t go for that. Everything that it took to be a rock star rather than a rock musician would make the band visibly uncomfortable. Not saying that these bands didn’t deserve their fame because they did deserve every bit of it, but I am saying that what sold these bands to the masses was the hype, the image and their rock n’ roll image. To Extreme, it was stubbornly about the music and music alone, and they didn’t want to undervalue the audience by dumbing it down for them by adding superficial fluff onto what they did. I think they should have. They are AMAZING, but they are also very difficult to listen to for an average rock fan. To really listen to an Extreme or one of Nuno’s other project albums from top to bottom is a full workout really – for your brain! This is too complicated for your average party-rock fan, and they needed help to understand that what they were hearing was a work of a genius and that Extreme was a band you could be a proud fan of. Here is where we get into trouble:

Idealism can get the better of you sometimes, and this is exactly what happened to Extreme. Had they taken such care of their bad boy, or rather a naughty boy public image as they did of their music, they would be up there with legends like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, but they didn’t. They let some mediocre team who didn’t give a shit about them or their ideals handle their music videos and press, and the result was a mediocre reputation of a band that deserved it all. Their videos turned out inauthentic crap with half-naked girls in them making them look nothing better than freaking Poison or Mötley Crüe, or, to the other extreme (ha) pretentious artsiness that turned off even me. Their idealism they shared with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but they had a reputation and public image of the band that wants to be Poison. Their image building team really dropped the ball, and I am sure Bettencourt didn’t make it easy on them to try and sell an image, either. (I really don’t know who did all that, apart from their label that was too busy with other bands to worry about yet another band that wasn’t exactly what the kids were screaming for in the late 80’s.) I figure they were so idealistic and “bossy” about the music that they didn’t want to put people through the same with their public image and decided to focus on the important stuff and trust the fans to see through it all, and you only need to listen to them play More than Words to a live audience to hear who did see through it: Musicians. People who really know music. They can sing along as a choir without making you want to tear your ears off your head.

Edit: about a year after writing this, I saw them play life *WOW* and I got FLOORED here… This was a festival crowd, not a room full of devoted Extreme fans, it’s Finland, where the people are as hard to get animated as a bunch of dead corpses… This was not More Than Words but Cupid’s Dead… Listen to the crowd go after Nuno finishes his solo… And I happened to have the video playing:

What is worse, the man that “they” say is a bossy, impossible idealist who wants everything done his way is actually too modest and non-demanding for his own good. Have you ever seen anyone so uncomfortable with attention as Nuno Bettencourt? Every fiber in his being says “I am not that special, please stop asking me all these questions”, but the trouble is, He Is That Special. He is every bit that special and even more than most people are capable of understanding. I don’t know how to put this so that you will hear me… The dude is still alive, right..? After he is gone, people are going to start appreciating his talent. This will be another unrecognized genius that you’ll be weeping about never seeing him play live. As it happens, and what motivated me to write this post, is that Extreme is going on a tour again (without Paul, who I miss dearly for he was a backbone and a freaking human metronome, but gladly still alive although I made that sound like an obituary) and if you are lucky enough to have them come to your town, please do yourself a favour and go see them play live before that’s too late.

 

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Thinking that you are not vain at all is just another form of vanity, so you might as well. 😉

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