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rock and roll dreams

May 5, 2010

There is a tragedy so many of us face. As we get older, our dreams grow smaller and smaller, and dry up and start to die. Sometimes though, a dream getting smaller is ok, as long as one keeps it alive. I don’t often dream of being a rock star anymore, or fantasize much about making a living as a musician (although I still do like to think I can someday earn extra cash playing in a coffee house or bar).  Yes, we adults have responsibilities that take up lots of our time. Some of us have had many many horrible disappointments and faith in practically anything and everything destroyed, or at least on the ropes.

But, I think we still can dream.

A dream that stays a dream really ain’t worth much at all though. It becomes just an idle delusion, and doesn’t do anyone any good, including the dreamer. No, for a dream to be more than just a sunny place in one’s head, that eventually turns dark or worse (you might have read a poem by Langston Hughes about a Dream Deferred), the dream has to be acted on.

This can be a real shock to the dreamer. This is because dreams take a LOT of hard work, and also, sometimes we dream of things we are just not very cut out for, and this is a lesson we learn after doing a lot of hard work. So, the dream requires some adjustment. But, I am hoping, at least to some degree it can become a reality.

I still have rock and roll dreams, inspired by some of the most amazing music I’ve ever heard, but I hadn’t been listening to rock much lately. Past few years, I’ve been listening to jazz, electronic music, a bit of classical, lots of Celtic music, folk, and some tunes that don’t quite fit into any genre.

But, a few days ago, I realized I was greatly in the mood for some R-O-C-K. I went for a long drive, and cranked up Stone Temple Pilots, and listened to them before I went to bed (which wasn’t very wise – hard to wind down and sleep after listening to very rousing tunes by STP). The following day listened to early Pearl Jam songs for quite awhile. The day after that, I made a ’90’s playlist – which includes not only STP and PJ, but Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins.

Then,  I went back further into the past, watched a documentary on John Entwhistle, the astonishingly influential bassist from The Who, and I dug up some tunes by The Kinks. British Invasion tunes have been going through my being periodically, because 5 of my favorite movies were made by Wes Anderson, and English groups from the ’60’s are quite prominent in these films. I have Kinks tunes in my head right now! I’m going to listen to that band more, very soon, I can tell you, and more of The Who as well.

Rock and Roll movies – 2 nights ago, I watched “Pirate Radio,” which was set in 1966 – more classic music! A fun movie too, as long as you don’t expect it to have much of a plot – just go with it.

And tonight, just finished watching “Bandslam.” A teen flick? Correct! But, a surprisingly good one! Lots of great music (even tunes by David Bowie), very good performances, lots to like! I really enjoyed it, and it got me thinking.

Actually, I’d been dreaming for days about being in a band, but after watching “Bandslam,” I felt I really should write a blog about this, even though it was almost 3 am when I finished the film. Since I know I can’t sleep right away anyway, might as well write!

Yes, I still want to be in a band. I was able to put that dream away for awhile, because a dream can really hurt! It was too painful. Sometimes hope in general is far too painful for me, except for a most basic hope – like, “I hope this movie is going to be good, and this beer I bought will make me feel better, and maybe tomorrow won’t be awful,” that’s as far as I can go.. a lot of the time.

I don’t quite dare to have much hope of being in a band. But I have a little.

Why do I not have much hope? Besides the fact that so many things I have hoped for have not only not turned out, but gone terribly wrong, I struggle struggle struggle to learn how to play instruments. I have such a damn hard time! I’ve owned guitars since the late ’80’s and have tried playing them off and on since then – I’ve spent tons of hours practicing, and can still barely play a few chords, and have had nervous breakdowns about trying to play the guitar, and tied my self worth up in knots over it.

I can’t not try though. I had planned on packing up my aunt’s guitars after my rather unpleasant college beginning guitar class was over – that was last week, but while getting ready for the recital and final test, I started to sing and play, (songs I wanted to play, not what I was being tested on) and felt.. pretty good! My voice ain’t exactly stellar, but I got potential. As for guitar playing.. I think perhaps I can eventually play the chords well enough, and do just enough finger-picking (I prefer not to use a pick, usually) to accompany myself while I sing.

I’m working on “Atlanta,” by STP, “Bad,” by U2, and “Southern Cross,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash (I still can’t remember if Neil Young is also on that tune). These songs have mostly easy chords, except for a few barre chords that are part of “Atlanta,” and yes, at this point, barre chords are still tricky for me, but, I’m doing it damnit!

I know I have some talent. I believe that with voice lessons (which someday I hope to afford) I can greatly improve my voice, and at least sing in a band, which is a pretty damn cool thing in itself. I don’t just want to be a singer though. I’d feel too weird trying to dance and gyrate on stage during the times I’m not singing. I’d like to play an instrument too.

Will this instrument be a guitar? Perhaps.. but it might be one with 4 strings. A bass guitar.. yes, that could be it.. easier to learn the basics on, I think, yet masters of bass guitar, such as John Entwhistle, who I already mentioned, John Paul Jones (from Led Zeppelin) Dean DeLeo (a rather underrated player – he’s in STP) the bass player from Faith No More (whose name I really should know!) and tons of others have shown how wondrous music can be played on the bass.

I’ve owned 4 basses already, but none of them was quite right for me. I am very particular about instruments, not only how they sound, but how they feel. A bass with a neck that is narrow causes my hand to cramp up, for example, and as far as sound goes, I’m old school, I like passive pickups – the kind you find on Fender basses. Active pickups require a nine volt battery and more circuitry, and just have a too processed sound. This sound works great for certain forms of jazz playing, but that is not  what I want to do. In the immortal words of Twisted Sister, “I Wanna Rock!!!!”

I don’t have a bass now, all the ones I owned, I sold, except for one I gave away. I didn’t feel too bad about that. It was a good instrument, but uncomfortable for me to play, since the neck was very very narrow, and I have very very long fingers, and it was given to me, so it felt good to pass it on.

I’ve had much difficulty finding the right bass. The ones I’ve liked best, have of course, been prohibitively expensive. I found a made in Mexico 1950’s-type Fender Precision Bass, which felt quite good, had a maple fretboard, which I like, sounded great and looked cool, but it was close to $800 bucks, yikes! Found a G&L Tribute bass (Leo Fender, who started the Fender guitar company, later went on to design basses for G&L – G stands for George – whose last name I forget – and L stands for Leo, and also for the Ernie Ball/Music Man company). The G&L Tribute models are or at least were made in South Korea, and therefore cheaper than the G&L models made here in USA, but still worthy instruments.

I have been obsessively craving a bass guitar! It might be crazy – I could still have difficulty learning it.. and likely will, but, if I get one, I might persevere and learn how to play it! I could be a little like Jack Bruce (from Cream) and Sting, who play bass and sing, oh yes, Geddy Lee from Rush does this too! So does Dug Pinnick – singer and bassist of one of my all-time favorite bands – King’s X! Yes, lots of inspiration out there!

I don’t have the money for any sort of bass guitar. I do have a saxophone that I have decided not to play. I should get it appraised. Selling it could be tough. I know from experience that selling a wind instrument on eBay, and getting anything close to a fair price on it, well, let’s just say it’s pretty damn hard to do. I’ve tried already – sold two trumpets, which I decided not to play, and didn’t get near what I paid for either of those.

I could try selling the sax locally though, on craigslist. That might work. I almost hate to part with the sax, though, it has such character. It’s not a famous brand, but it is at least 60 years old, and has silver-plate and good tone. Hmm.. well, I’d likely get much more use out of a bass, IF I buy the right one this time, and maybe I can find a good use, or just buy a cheap one that isn’t too bad. Fender has a cheaper line called Squire, and some of those models are ok, I suppose.

I guess I should not let myself get down about attempting to sell the sax and buy a bass, it could work, couldn’t it? Is the bass the right decision for me? Certainly worth finding out, once I get the right bass.

And, regardless of if I get the bass or not, I will pluck away at these two acoustic guitars I got in my room, and sing, and if on a particular day I can’t play or sing for very long, that’s ok, I won’t beat myself up for it, or tie my self esteem to this instrument or that. I can still attract a wonderful woman anyway (although finding one I am great for and who is great for me has proved even tougher than finding the right bass!) But ..

I still got these rock and roll dreams..!!

I just want to be good enough to jam with other musicians, and find some cool guys without ridiculous egos who I can be in a band with. I want to play and sing, and feel fulfilled and make people happy, even if the main place we play is in a garage or someone’s living room. And maybe, just maybe we could get some local gigs, make an album on a home computer (tons of great software and gear for that) and sell some CD’s and spread the music on the internet..

I no longer dream of being famous, and don’t expect to make my living mainly as a musician. I’m not much interested in touring and touring, which can be exhausting. I don’t tend to sleep well in vehicles. It ain’t about money and it ain’t about fame. It’s about the MUSIC.

So yeah, I’m going to hold on to, and pursue..

my rock and roll dreams.

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