Twice bitten

I was 10 when I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. My family usually watched Disney, but we'd heard enough about this impending event that we had to watch. My parents were unimpressed. I was amazed. Pretty soon, I was doing Beatle imitations.

I was actually still a classical music snob, so it was really a few more years before rock music truly got under my skin. I started mildly. The first single I bought was "Georgy Girl" by the Seekers. I loved their harmonies and Judith Durham's voice. I loved harmonies in general. I can't remember which album I bought first—If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears by the Mamas & the Papas (the album that featured "California Dreamin'") or Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. But I was almost a teenager, when peer pressure really ramps up, so it wasn't long before The Beatles were part of my life again, along with The Rolling Stones and other bands of the time.

I saw my first live concert with my older sister when I was 15 at Tanglewood in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Bill Graham was booking shows there at the time, and this was the bill: B.B. King, The Who, and The Jefferson Airplane, with the Joshua Light Show as a backdrop. I can still visualize Roger Daltry in his fringed vest (and that beautiful torso), spinning his microphone. The Who were doing a lot of Tommy at the time. I didn't actually get to see that much of the Airplane, because I was at the mercy of a pickup by parental units. But I do remember seeing my favourite song, still one of my all-time favourites—"Somebody to Love."

I bought a guitar and started teaching myself to play when I was 16. I learned chords (often the wrong way) from fingering charts. I started to write awkward antiwar protest songs and even more awkward love songs. The dream of playing music for real was growing.

I spent too much of my time at university (where I was probably too immature to be at the time) playing music. We'd play both covers and originals. It wasn't until I was 27, though, that I got really serious about making my own music. For that, we can blame The Clash and Pretenders among others. I went into the basement and started to make really loud noises, much to the chagrin of my Grateful Dead-loving roommates. I started a band with my Sweetie on bass. We killed that band and formed another. Then we got ourselves a singer and formed the most successful band we had.

I put a lot of effort into "making it." But I never "turned pro." That's what we'd say about people who lost their jobs and suddenly had no choice but to play music full time. Sink or swim. I always kept my safety net. Sometimes people can still make it that way. I thought I was giving it my all, but I was really hedging. I didn't believe strongly enough in what I was doing. I doubted myself. And eventually I got distracted by theatre acting and left music behind. It was the late 1980s, and the scene wasn't as fun as it had been in the early '80s anyway.

It took me a long time to get over that dream. I didn't have a band, but I didn't stop playing. I kept writing songs. I had a portable studio on which I made recordings. I steeped myself in substances and deluded myself into thinking I still had something to offer.

Just a few years ago, I finally came to terms with the loss of the dream. I have always been a quirky guitarist at best. I wrote some decent songs, but nothing that special. I simply wasn't the creative person I had always wished I were. I had been trying to be someone who wasn't me. The punk and New Wave heydays were where I had really fit, for a while. That was then.

Coming to terms had a good effect. I could finally enjoy watching bands perform! For a long time, I would watch a show and get restless, wishing I could be playing instead of watching. The pleasure of seeing a good band was definitely mixed with the pain of it not being me up there. So it was great to be free of that.

And then rock camp happened. Sweetie and I were in Portland for a few rainy days in February 2007. One thing we did was see some interesting non-commercial films. One of them was Girls Rock! The Movie. We loved it! I found it a moving experience to watch how those girls changed in the process of going through camp and playing the showcase. Sweetie volunteered at the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls in Portland in the summer of 2008. In 2009, Girls Rock Camp Vancouver started up, and there was no way I was going to miss that. I volunteered that summer and this past summer.

Suddenly, I was surrounded by music and musicians again. I was teaching guitar (those who can't do, teach). I got to play with other people for the first time in ages. I was hanging around with women who were making music, and I was really enjoying seeing their bands.

And then Ladies Rock Camp happened. I got to learn how to play drums for the first time in my life. I got to work with a band and play on stage for the first time in decades. As someone wrote in Facebook, how can I not have been doing this all my life?

Damn! I was over this! And now I've been bitten by the bug again. Of course, I'm more mature now (hah!). I'm not bitten in the "I must be a rock star!" kind of way. But I am playing guitar again and working on a song, and hopefully more songs, And playing drums was such fun that I really have to keep doing it. Even though I was never very good on guitar, I might have a chance to be good on drums. And that would totally rock!

1 comment:

Anji said...

You certainly look happy. Second post I've read today about people getting back to music in a good way.