In 1964, the Beatles toured America for the first time, and I decided I’d take guitar lessons and join the movement. Unfortunately, the only guitar instructor Mom could find taught classical Spanish guitar, not rock and roll, and I quickly dropped off the bandwagon—figuratively and literally.
My next musical dilemma occurred four years later when auditioning for my high school graduation chorus, which would perform The Byrd’s chart-topping “Turn, Turn, Turn”. Unfortunately, joining this elite group of vocalists meant scheduling a tryout with Mr. Purdy, the music teacher. After nervously getting only a few bars into my solo, he painfully signaled that I should stop and said, “I know all your friends are singing in the chorus, and you want to join them. If you’ll do them and me a favor and just mouth the words, I’ll let you in.” Obviously, becoming the singer in a rock and roll band wasn’t my destiny either.
My most recent foray into musical performance turned out better, albeit 50 years after the last one. Amy and I often visited neighborhood friends who regularly hosted a basement band playing rock staples. With no playing or singing skills, we only watched and listened, until one night when their drummer didn’t show up. Drafted into tapping out a simple beat all evening, I got hooked. I found an instructor, bought a drum kit, practiced diligently, and joined the band. Unfortunately, our friends moved away the next year, but fate again prevailed when I happened on a band playing at Timnath Beerwerks with three guitarists, all about my age and appropriately named GreyRoc. Emboldened by too many drinks, I approached them at a break and suggested that they needed a drummer, and now I’m happily Ringo to their John, Paul, and George.
I’ve always enjoyed music, especially live music. And while I don’t overestimate my ability, I appreciate the heady feeling of performing, if only for small groups, as the band does most of the time. I’m not ready for prime time and may never be, but I’m having a great time countering Mr. Purdy’s humbling assessment.
Some other musical musings:
My musical tastes remain stuck in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. I believe popular music’s gone mostly downhill since Led Zeppelin took us up that “Stairway to Heaven” in 1971. I once heard the late Tom Petty say, “Rap is short for crap,” about that particular genre. I agree, but I have a different take. Turn on your FM radio and you’ll easily find several classic rock stations playing songs from 50 years ago. I doubt that you’ll hear some of what’s considered today’s best fare even five years from now. Besides, I’m not aware of any ‘classic rap’ stations.
Relatedly, how can Notorious B.I.G get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but my favorite performer, Meat Loaf, who tragically passed away recently, cannot? It’s almost criminal not so-honoring a guy who sings (in “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”):
If you want my views of history, then there’s something you should know. The three men I admire most are Curly, Larry, Moe.
You sure won’t find that profundity in a B.I.G. song.
Perhaps best illustrating my once-misplaced priorities regarding music, in 1974 I owned a state-of-the-art audio system that cost more than my house (although the house cost only $17,500). Playing Steely Dan’s “Aja” at 110 decibels on that system in my darkened living room was a religious experience.
Meanwhile, I believe it’s sacrilegious when some songs get ‘covered’ by certain recording artists (see Susan Boyle’s “Wild Horses”). At last count, I noted 127 covers of “Try a Little Tenderness”, first recorded by The Ray Noble Orchestra in 1932, but it’s Otis Redding’s 1966 version that’s most well-known (and immortalized in the 1988 film Bull Durham, if you paid close attention). That said, I find Three Dog Night’s rendition the best of all.
I’ve had some great concert experiences, including Led Zeppelin; Rolling Stones; Eagles; Grand Funk; Alice Cooper; Uriah Heep; Humble Pie; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Meat Loaf; Charlie Daniels; Monkees; Bachman-Turner Overdrive; Michel Pagliaro; Rick Nelson; Willie Nelson; Eric Clapton; Grass Roots; Marshall Tucker Band; Chicago; Bloodrock; Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels; Wilson Pickett; ZZ Top; Go-Go’s; J. Geils Band; Van Morrison; Beach Boys; Rod Stewart; Jimmy Buffett; Little Feat; and most recently, Paul McCartney.
But none of those shows could top 1980s Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band with the Rootettes. Although I couldn’t find a date who’d accept my no doubt suspect invitation, I had a swell time dancing alone to “I Used To Be A Radical”, “I’m Not Too Old For You”, “(You Broke My) Mood Ring”, and my favorite, “Boogie ‘Til You Puke”.
Rock on everyone (and contact me about booking GreyRoc for your next baby shower).
Phil Goldstein writes Tales from Timnath periodically for North Forty News. Phil is a 12-year Timnath resident who proudly serves the Town of Timnath as chair of the Timnath Planning Commission. Phil is finally using his journalism degree after getting sidetracked 49 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column or suggestions for future columns at NFNTimnath@gmail.com.