At age 54, I finally decided to give up the dream. I’ve realized, finally, that I’m never going to be in a band.
Yeah, you ask, what the hell you play? The answer is that I used to play trumpet in school, and I can read music. (Mostly treble clef, but I can fake it on the bass clef).I know a few chords, some rudimentary theory, but lack the manual dexterity or patience to play guitar or bass, and the coordination for drums, and the ear, along with everything else for anything but the most basic keyboard or synthesizer.
Yet, despite it all, I dreamed. I dreamed it during days, at night, during meetings, while listening to tunes, while watching shows…basically anywhere. Even after I outgrew the fallacy that I could play some sort of college or professional sports (that lack of coordination, dexterity, and other things, you know), I still held on to the music thing.
And it was always a band. I wanted to be part of a unit. Not a solo artist, but part of a living, breathing band.
It first manifested itself when I started to write on the back of my K-Tel records who among my friends would sing the songs that we’d cover. I had four vocalsits, me, a friend, and our two elementary school crushes. Pipe dreamin’ in more ways than one.
It really started in high school. I had friends who could really play, and there were a couple of honest-to-goodness bands from my high school. My best friend could also play guitar. So after my assignments were done (I was pretty quick in doing schoolwork), I’d create bands and albums and what not. I had a main band, and then a couple of off-shoots (the side projects before side projects were cool).
In college, I went from there to actually writing lyrics. A serious girlfriend will do that. But I didn’t write music – the melodies were in my head and I never got them out on paper. I thought these lyrics were the bomb – sensitive, poignant, arty.
I was rather much mistaken in retrospect. Cringe worthy.
This hit its peak when I moved to Indy and had a job that was less than challenging at the first. I had plenty of time, and a cube in the back, where I could daydream. I came up with an entire list of band names (I may still have that somewhere – it included such names as Ethelred the Unready, Topless Waitresses, and the “No” symbol” – the circle with the line through it).
But my big deal was creating a band, on paper, that started out as an indie band, got signed, made 20 or so records, had a couple of hit singles, plenty of original tunes (I could come up with song titles like no one’s business) and our singles would always have cover songs as the B-sides. It had an entire back story, and it ended when we decided to go into production full-time or something. We had one album where every song was listed as a color (not with a title), so Track 1 was a block of Purple, Track 2 Aqua, etc.
When I started to go to grad school for my MBA, and then got jobs that were actually challenging, and started a family that wish-casting was put aside. Oh, I’d do things like buy a keyboard on sale at Costco, but I always returned it or gave it away.
Then, for some reason, the notion came back. It never was really out of my head, but with my streaming catalog and access to gajillions of songs (thanks Google Play) it came back with a vengeance. That and knowing a couple of singers and musicians here at my job at Central Washington U.
So I started to create playlists, and played them in the car and while grilling, or cleaning. It would be my bands set list. It got a bit out of control.
First, the band would be a six-piece. My favorite barista on vocals (she actually sings for a band). My opera singing friend on vocals and keyboards. (She’s a soprano, and the barista’s an alto – it fits well). My best friend and his wife on guitar and occasional keyboards and vocals (backing mostly). I’d be on bass and have the good sense to be quiet, and we’d get some drummer. Hey, I work at a college with a great music program. There are drummers abounding.
When I say out of control – I had two playists. Mainstream (ish) and Alternative (ish). I’d program deeper cuts and forgotten singles, not the big hits. I’d find songs that would sound good with our mix, and if we needed a violin or something (like when covering Camper Van Beethoven or mid-period Roxy Music) I had a former student worker who played an electric violin and would add a hippie-chick barefoot presence on stage.
Oh, these playlist were….huge. Almost 1,000 total. (This doesn’t count the three I made for a band for songs to consider.) It rangerd from “Pony” by Ginuwine (mostly as a hoot, but still), to “Starship Trooper” by Yes, to “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, to “Incense and Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock. And plenty of progressive, punk, classic rock, and new wave tracks.
Oh, I was proud of this playlist and this band that WAS going to happen, if I ever learned to play the bass and got these six people in the same area code. (Hard to do when two live near DC, and one is in the Palm Springs area).
So I was telling this to my best friend about this and he had one comment. “Well, you’d book one show, and that’d be it. Gotta keep the audience interested. This isn’t playing your record collection on stage.”
Well, I never…thought of it like that.
No matter how good we were, this was going to be too eclectic, too all over the place, too much ME for it to work. I still held on, somehow, but in the dentist’s chair a couple of days ago (where all good thinking happens), I realized that even the .0001% chance of it happening was not something to hold onto.
Really, who remembers “Sausalito Summer Nights” by Diesel, much less wants to hear it on stage?
I still have the playlists, and probably will add more to them for the road, but alas, it’s just not going to be limited to songs I’d play on stage.
So the dream is over.
Unless I hit the lottery. Then I can buy instruments, a studio and rehearsal place, and pay my friends to come play with me.
So maybe it’s not over…just deferred until I get that filthy lucre.