28 April, 2008

memories... a musical chronology

Location: the past
Mood: reminisceful

I am scared at the myriad of tangents that could be spawned by attempting this topic. But I will try to dump it all out here, and then perhaps fill in the details of the various chapters as I go along. Consider this to be an attempt at highlights of my history. How I got from there to here...

1980 or thereabouts... Camp Grossman. When I was not busy making out with Sheri Klayman, I was starting to think about music. My camp counselor, Barry Mael, who was a 450 pound teenager, was also a guitar player. And if memory serves me correctly, I think it was Barry that first showed me some chords. But it might have been this dude, Lance, another counselor. Who knows? It was around this time anyway. There were 2 acoustic guitars in the house when I was growing up. I am not sure why we had them, but I guess my brother had left them behind when he moved away, and they were always there. Missing some strings. Out of tune. Not very high quality. And I didn't really know what to do with them. I was clueless. (Here come the tangents). I remember only 2 things about those guitars. The first thing I remember is that I learned how to play the song "As Tears Go By" by the Rolling Stones. I did not yet know chords, but I had an ear for music, and I figured out how to play the melody. One of those acoustic guitars was traditional looking, with the hole in center, and natural acoustic guitar coloring. The other one was a strange avocado green color and had F-holes instead of the center hole. If I am not mistaken, I destroyed both of these guitars.

Around the age... not sure... maybe 11-13 years old? I went through what could best be described as a destructive phase. I am not sure why, and I don't know if I will ever have an avenue into knowing or understanding this. But I remember the destruction. I remember 4 distinct things of value that I destroyed:

1. The acoustic guitar(s)
2. My Matchbox cars (that was me and Ricky Schneider, in the garage, with a hammer)
3. My models that I built (I would build, and then have temper fits, and smash them)
4. My 45 RPM records (I recall setting up a wire that ran from one corner of the family room to the other, and I would put all the 45's on the wire and then slide the records down the wire, which resulted in their gradual smashing and destruction)


Who knows. Testosterone? Puberty? Have I repressed something I am not even aware I was repressing? I don't know. I don't think so. But I destroyed shit.

In high school, it morphed slightly into a brief period of vandalism. Some of the vandalism was part of the track team's efforts to terrorize particular kids, or prankster-like behavior. But other stuff went way beyond the line.

Worst thing I've ever done? Worst case of violence and destruction with an unknown victim?

One time, when I was about 16 years old, we had gone out in a group to a shopping mall or something - I think it was in Braintree, Massachusetts. And I was with a group of my friends who were definitely pranksters. I think it was Chris, Joe, Eric and maybe Scott. And we were in the parking garage. And I saw a beautifully restored VW Beetle. And in Boston, those are far more rare than they are out here, because of weather being harsh on them. And the idea got in my head to kick a very large dent into one of the fenders of this vehicle. I have no idea why I wanted to do it. But I did it, before they could stop me. And they were yelling at me, and telling me I was an asshole, and asking me why the fuck I did it. And I couldn't even try to argue or defend it. We dropped the subject, and nothing ever came of it. I was not caught. There was no consequence.

I am not sure if that was an extension of the destructive behavior of the earlier age. And I never did anything of a vandalizing nature since then, other than the team pranks I mentioned above.

Off the subject though...

1981... I was about 13 years old. Around this time, my cousin Jimmy gives me 2 Beatles tapes (Rock and Roll Music Volume I & II, and Beatles 1962-1966). This is my first exposure to them, really. Previous to this, I had been listening to things like Kiss, Devo, The Cars - I remember in 7th Grade, listening to The Cars album "Candy-O" over and over, every night, while working on my Swiss Family Robinson english assignments for Mrs. Levitz's class. I guess by this time, I had already gone through my first guitar, and on to my second. Because I know I had that second guitar by the time The Cars were in my scene.

The first guitar was this crappy semi-hollow body electric made by a company called Masterwork. I think it cost a little over $100, and I was not pleased with my father for giving me only this option. He probably didn't know how serious I would be about the guitar. I knew nothing about guitar, and I only vaguely remember the shopping experience. I am not even sure I was with him for that purchase. He may have brought it home for me. It served me well for a little while - not even sure if it was 1 year. And I don't know what happened to it. But not long after, I wanted a cooler guitar. So I guess we went from the $100 model, to the $200 model. At what was probably age 12 or 13, he bought me the Aria Pro II CS-350 which was a Cobalt Blue guitar that looks a lot like a Gibson SG or a variety of different Ibanez double cutaway models. The amplifier I had was a Peavey Studio Pro 40, which was also pretty mediocre but good enough for a kid.

I was learning to play all those songs. By ear. The Beatles. The Cars. Kiss. Aerosmith. The Police. Pat Benatar. AC/DC. Van Halen. The Beach Boys. Devo. Never bothered with sheet music, or lessons. I don't even remember how I learned to play chords. Maybe from a book? I don't know. It's like a blur to me. It just happened.

I would have that Aria Pro II and the Peavey amp straight through college and graduate school. Those were my instruments until I was about 24. I went through periods of playing a lot (high school) and playing much less (college). At one point in high school, I was writing a lot of completely Mickey Mouse stupid cheesy songs. Usually about romance or girls, or fictional relationships.

I wrote 2 songs that were "halfway decent" in my early days. (not that I have written many since, since I have never been a prolific writer...)

One song was for this girl Amy Houde (mentioned her before) - she wouldn't go out with me because I was too young. I wrote a song called "Pain After Pain" and that almost got her to go out with me. But not quite :)

The other song was written Sophomore year of college, for another girl (Michelle), who also wouldn't go out with me! That one was called "I Can See It In Your Eyes" and that song did get her to go out with me! So I guess writing optimistic songs is better than writing depressing ones, if you want to get the girl. I wish I could remember the words. Probably could strain to figure them out...

Then I went a long time without writing anything.

When I was about 17, I already had the start of my Weird Al Yankovic tendency to be able to parody songs. One time, when I was working at Papa Gino's pizza, I wrote a spoof of "Electric Avenue" based on the biography of a guy who came to work at the restaurant who had moved to the US from Africa. He was a super nice guy, but he was completely incompetent as a worker and was always creating disasters.

The song was called "Blue Hill Avenue" which was a street in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on which this guy had previously worked at a different Papa Gino's. If you know the music to the Eddy Grant song, you can sing along with it in your head (this is approximately the original lyrics - I might be able to find them written on a Papa Gino's napkin in a box of memorabilia, but not gonna bother looking right now):

Blue Hill Avenue

He came to us from Nigeria
Back in year Nineteen Eighty Three
Came to the states to make money
And cook de Thick Pan Mushroom-Pepperoni

Oh yeah
We gonna walk down to Blue Hill Avenue
And visit Emmy Mecca

Who is to blame for that pizza?
Never can get to the one
Burnt to a crisp in the oven
Let's hope Jim Loesher(*) don't carry a gun

Good God
We gonna walk down to Blue Hill Avenue
And visit Emmy Mecca

Out in the streets!
Little Bambino!
Come to de states!
And work at Papa Gino!

That's why
We gotta walk down to Blue Hill Avenue
And visit Emmy Mecca

(*) Jim Loesher was the regional supervisor. When he would come to visit the store, we had to pretend to be orderly - i.e. no making out with the girls in the walk-in freezer, no playing floor hockey with the frozen sausages, etc. He never smiled, and truly instilled fear in all of us, like some sort of army general, which when you think about it, is really quite silly.

Okay. I will pick up this story where I left off... at a date in the near future.

1 comment:

  1. damage incorporated01 May, 2008 17:44

    ...what about smashing the phone and the hole in the wall and the damaged hard-wood floors? hmmmmmm? What about THOSE things??