Rock 'n' Roll

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On a cool night in 1986, I was invited to take part in an unprecedented concert, held at the Beijing Workers' Stadium. The place was packed. I sang an original tune, Nothing to My Name, which people seemed to like. When the concert ended and I stepped outside, I saw some kids on the street imitating my moves. Few Chinese, myself included, really knew what rock 'n' roll was back then. But we knew it was something that gave out energy. It was music with a message. My musical odyssey began early. My father, a trumpet player in the People's Liberation Army, began teaching me the instrument when I was 14. My tastes were strictly classical. In 1981, I joined the Beijing Symphony Orchestra and played in it for seven years. Things began to change in 1985, though, when the British group Wham! gave a concert at the Workers' Stadium. A year later I heard my first Beatles tape. I started listening more and more to rock and writing songs. I learned to play an electric guitar that a friend of my father's had given me. After the Workers' Stadium concert, I formed a band and made rock my life. I performed at Tiananmen Square in 1989, 15 days before the crackdown. I sang A Piece of Red Cloth, a tune about alienation. I covered my eyes with a red cloth to symbolize my feelings. The students were heroes. They needed me, and I needed them. After Tiananmen, however, authorities banned concerts. We performed instead at parties, unofficial shows in hotels and restaurants. Things are different now. Rock has become commercialized, and the performers want to make money--by playing the same music. Yet there is also a younger scene keeping the spirit alive, playing in fringe bars. Rock 'n' roll is about equality. Some Chinese are slaves to Western culture; others look East. I say f___ all of them and be yourself. That's what I like about rock 'n' roll. You can talk straight.