ALBANY, New York. When Cynthia McDonald finished pouring her first cup of coffee this morning, she padded into her den in bedroom slippers, turned on her computer and checked her social media accounts, like any other day. “I’m a creature of habit,” she says with a smile. “I enjoy catching up with my friends–most of the time,” she adds with a hesitant tone, before allowing this reporter to look at the tribute page that some of her friends and former classmates at Plattsburgh State College have set up overnight.
Tom Freeb with bass guitar, left, Tim Freeb on rhythm guitar, right.
A glance over her shoulder reveals that Tim Freeb, former rhythm guitar player for “My Unicorn’s Knightmare,” an antacid rock group of her youth, died yesterday of Osgood Schlatter’s Disease, a semi-debilitating condition that is exacerbated if a sufferer does not take illicit drugs in sufficient doses. “I’d like to commiserate and join in all the caterwauling,” McDonald says of her friends’ overwrought reactions to a decidedly minor musical figure, “but I can’t. I’m exhausted.”
“Maybe this inhaler will help me give a shit.”
McDonald suffers from Chronic Dead Rock Star Fatigue Syndrome, an ailment that prevents her from feeling grief at the death of a musician who is mourned by others of her acquaintance. “CDRS Fatigue Syndrome is becoming a national crisis as the rock musicians of the 60s reach the end of the normal life expectancy of a drug-addled libertine,” says Dr. Philip Saleri of the Home for Aged Bass Players in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. “In the fifties you had to be an Italian and live in Philadelphia to be a teen pop music star, but after The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, suddenly you had a flood of white kids whanging away on guitars, often without appropriate musical training.”
“To be young, Italian, and from Philly–it don’t get any better than that!”
Others say a recent upward spike of CDRS Fatigue Syndrome is driven not by demographics, but by a catastrophic period in which an inordinate number of rock stars have passed away, including surf-rock drummer Leonard Delany of The Tornadoes, Johnny Ray Allen, bassist for The Subdudes, and Jim Keays, singer for the Australian garage band Masters Apprentices. “When you think of the heavy toll the past two years have taken on the rock pantheon, it’s hard to even get out of bed in the morning,” says Keith Soppo of Rave! magazine. “I mean, it’s hard for me to get out of bed to begin with, then throw in the loss of an immortal like Gary Burger of The Monks and it’s nearly impossible.”
But no amount of statistical analysis can help McDonald, who says she has to feign grief in order to maintain good relations with her friends when a titan of rock ‘n roll such as Freeb dies. “It’s sapping all my energy,” she says as she hits her “enter” key to “like” a post in which her friend Audrey Friedman recalls the night she slept outside the Albany Civic Center in order to be first in line to buy tickets when My Unicorn’s Knightmare opened for Herman’s Hermits. “I hope they can come up with a drug that would help me care just a little.”