Tuesday, January 31, 2012

#102 (October 2010)

Maybe I didn’t get where I am today by playing my guitar, but I like to think it had a helping hand. When I left school in the good old UK back in 1974 at the ripe old age of 16, I decided that going to college would be a waste of time for me because, after all, I was going to be a rock star within a few short years. So instead of entering the state-sponsored Polytechnic, I got a temporary job at a factory and talked my parents into financing a brand new maple neck Fender Telecaster to facilitate my meteoric rise to the top of the rock charts. “Don’t meteors go downward?” asked my naysayer older brother. I dismissed such comments from him; he was getting a degree in computer programming which as far as I could see, in the mid-70’s, would be completely useless in the real world. See, I had it all figured out, play in local bands for a while, then scan the pro ads for someone needing me to complete their line-up for their upcoming world tour.
Transportation was becoming a problem; rock stars didn’t ride the bus to work, did they?
A friend of my brothers was selling a 1968 Suzuki T200 two stroke twin, so I made a deal with him to give him a few payments and he delivered it to the factory one afternoon… and just left it there. The good thing about being 16 is; you don’t even worry about these things, a trip to the shop to buy a helmet and get some insurance, and I’ll just ride it home… how hard could it be?
Aside from the wheelie across the intersection and into the brick wall, I made it home without incident. Of course those were the days when you could ‘fix’ the damage with a handy rock to bash the footpeg straight again.
By 1977, I was playing for a living, not exactly the World Tour on the private jet yet, but a summer season on the Isle of Sheppy, located just south of Southend-on-Sea and a favorite spot for Londoners to holiday. We rotated with three other bands playing the same three clubs every night with a Sunday matinee thrown in. The music? Eh, well it was a mixture of standards and pop tunes, typical holiday fare for the time, nothing artistically pleasing, but better than working in the factory for sure.
By 1980, I had the cold, hard reality facing me that I was unlikely to ever get very far in the music business. I was probably good enough to eke out a living, but playing the same old crap over and over just didn’t cut it for me. I might as well be working in the factory again. My interest in motorcycles remained though and by the end of the year I had my first Triumph, a 1975 Triumph T160 Trident.
The next year, I moved to the USA and held a variety of jobs, the decision to not go to college seemed to be haunting me now, but I was able to supplement whatever meager income I had by playing in bands in bars on the weekends. In fact, in the mid 90’s, I bought the beginnings and consequently most of the parts for my Shovelhead with the money I made playing polkas and 50’s and 60’s songs for old drunks once a week.
When I got involved with the magazine in the later 90’s, I put the guitar down as far as playing with bands went, I couldn’t make a commitment to play gigs with the band as well as do what I wanted to do for The Horse.
And so that’s how it was until Edge had the bright idea to have some Horse staffers jump on stage at this years Smoke Out XI… on both ends of the long road. This was going to toss XsSpeed, Steve Broyles, Chuck Palumbo and myself onto stage to play a couple of tunes for a laugh.
I got hold of XsSpeed and suggested a tune I could sorta sing; “Basket Case” by Green Day. XsSpeed suggested a tune he thought he could pull off, and so we individually, in three different states, set about learning these tunes for the big debut in Santa Rosa and followed by Rockingham.
In Santa Rosa, we finally all ended up in the same room at the hotel and tried a quickie run-through. Steve and I had the advantage of being able to do a couple of rehearsals as we lived only an hour apart from each other. The run-through revealed several problems with the ‘set list’ and XsSpeed’s original selection was dumped in favor of a basic 12 bar blues “Johnny B. Good”, coz it’s easy.
Under the best of circumstances, it’s tough to plug into someone else’s amplifier and just play, the sound is always unfamiliar and there’s no time to adapt. That said, we had a blast doing it. Chuck couldn’t make the Rockingham session, so we did it three piece. I don’t think we impressed anyone but we had a great time, and despite many requests, I believe we will do it again next year.
Hey, maybe it’s not too late!

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