Sunday, October 07, 2007

And The Beat Goes On...
...drums keep pounding rhythm to the brain...

CONSUMER NOTE: This is a LONG post. You may need to read it in shifts.

It is about 2:30 on a Sunday morning, and I'm beat. Thrashed. Tired. And I've got a nagging pinched nerve under my right shoulder blade. Nothing that a little Advil won't cure...(hint: the "Liqui-Gels" really do work fast)...and I'll be fine, really I will. Why am I doing this? I told myself I wouldn't anymore. Yet here I am, talked into it once again...can I keep up the madness? I don't know. But there is a bright spot in all this...I feel better than I felt at this time LAST night. Ack, awful, terrible, achy and more irritable than I usually am, if that's possible. Okay, so what am I talking about? DRUMS. I didn't think I'd be doing this again. Maybe I put too much into what I'm doing; I don't know. Maybe I'm just getting old, and that much I DO know. I find myself approaching the drum throne with the mind of a 25-year old, but after 4 hours have gone by, my body reminds me all too well that I'm 53. Gosh. Remember when the catch-phrase was "don't trust anyone over 30"? Well, I'm so old now, that I don't even trust MYSELF. Anyway, I began playing drums in the late 1970's, and I hung up the ol' drumsticks in the late 1990's, concentrating on guitar, which I really love. I've heard it said that most drummers are frustrated guitarists...hmmm, could be...

It all started when I began going to mid-week jam sessions at a local bar last December. I'd just moved into this little town, totally starting over, not knowing ANYONE. Sometimes being anonymous is just fine, thank you. And I began going to those jam sessions to develop my guitar playing, and I do believe, in spite of the fact that Eddie Van Halen doesn't have anything to worry about regarding my abilities, I made some progress and got a lot more confident. Before going to these jam sessions, I had never really ever been comfortable playing a solid-body electric guitar, since I'd played nothing but acoustic guitar for years and years. But I got myself a fairly good solid-body electric guitar, and it's amazing, the things a GOOD guitar can do. I began playing guitar in 1973, and I'm yer basic living-room-couch type of guitar player who perhaps knows a little more because I've just been playing so doggone long. No special knowledge or anything, although I seem to have a fairly good ear for melody.

Anyway, at those jams, sometimes the need for a drummer would arise, and me being a total freakazoid stage-hog, I'd volunteer my services in spite of the little voice deep inside me that was saying, "this can't be good. You're too OLD to play drums, and it's not really what you wanna do". And that little voice is right. It really is. But, in spite of the fact that I had not actively played drums for almost ten years, I guess I'm pretty good; people kept telling me, "wow, I didn't know you could play like that". Like 'what', I wonder? All my life, I've listened to music, and I have always had natural rhythm. Sometimes it's a blessing, sometimes it's a curse. And playing drums is just something I can do. I am not technically good; there are many who can drum circles around me, but I can do a pretty good job of backing up a band as long as the music isn't too rude, loud and aggressive. I can just do it. No lessons ever. I just picked up sticks one night and started doing it. It was at a jam session that I played drums for the first-time-ever, long ago. Only something was wrong. I am left-handed, and once I re-positioned the snare, floor tom and hi-hat, everything made sense and I began to drum. Actually, the seed was planted long before that, however...

When I was in high school, and even before that, I would find a couple of wooden sticks, and then I'd get out my trusty plastic-covered notebook, and begin tapping on that. Later on, I got a fruitcake tin, tipped it over and taped a nickel to the metal bottom, and that became my cymbal. And then I'd fire up the record player and go, man, go. I could do almost the entire side-2 of Chicago's second album, you know, the song suite that begins with "Make Me Smile", proceeding thru "Colour My World", reprising with the last verse of "Make Me Smile" before crashing to an end. It is a very intricate slice of music, and I could do the whole thing with wood sticks, a plastic notebook and a fruitcake tin with a nickel taped to it. And I probably drove my folks crazy in the process. I have just always had rhythm, and I am a pretty-fair rhythm guitarist. I can nail the chords and communicate with the drummer, and I just have a grand old time when I do that. Well, the weekly jams I'd been going to came to a screeching halt last month, while I was really sick with the flu...and all of a sudden, I didn't have a musical playpen anymore. Nowhere to jam! Waaaaaaaaah! Oh well, huh?

But...a couple of musicians I'd been jamming with, who had a band of their own, ended up needing a drummer because they had a gig coming up, this past Friday and Saturday night. And they'd had "drummer problems"; I don't know what the deal was, but they needed someone and called me. And why didn't I tell them, "no"? I don't know. I'm not totally out of the woods yet, regarding the flu I had during September...I just know when I'm not feeling right, but I felt good enough to play drums. I've long held the belief that any idiot can play drums, but perhaps, not just any idiot, huh? I love playing guitar much more; I can express myself that way. But, I suppose, like anything else, once you've played drums, you never totally lose it. I don't know. And evidently, my playing was good enough this weekend to keep the band members happy. I never know. I practiced with them ONCE, last week, and then we played this weekend. And, for the most part, we were pretty-much together. They couldn't believe that I was fitting in as well as I did, which, evidently, I was.

I guess playing music involves some sort of frame-of-reference. That's because, we played a whole lot of songs over this weekend that we did NOT practice. Well, I suppose I'm old enough now, to have actually got some fairly serious experience under my belt, and I have heard, and played, a LOT of music over the years. All of us in the band are around the same age, and I was familiar with 99.5% of the songs they threw at me, and I put a downbeat on 'em, and sent 'em back out, and overall, we did pretty doggone good. I just don't know if I wanna keep on doing it...drums take a LOT out of me. But yet, in spite of the fact that I'm not operating at 100% peak efficiency quite yet due to the flu I had, some of what our band did this last weekend was FUN. Fun. Me, having fun. How about that. Do any of us ever grow up, or do we just get older, and that's it? Whether it be a great fireworks celebration, or the sight of a majestic home run leaving the stadium, or a good slice of music, or other things I enjoy, I feel exactly the same now about those things as I did when I was half my present age. And long about the third set tonite, when we launched into a Creedence medley of "Born On The Bayou"/"Suzie Q.", yeah, it was fun, and I was having a good time.

...he's gotta be CRAZY to beat his brains out like that...

I hardly ever do anything 'social' anymore. The need for all that stuff has just passed. A chapter of my life that I don't need to live again. And playing drums is far less important to me than it used to be, and I'm not kidding. At the same time, there are nights when the crowd is responsive, and the band just hits a groove and playing music becomes almost effortless. Other times, playing in a band can be akin to having all of your teeth pulled without novocaine. Pulling teeth, almost literally. But...playing music does kinda force me to socialize a bit, and I ran into some good people this weekend. I'm still finding my way around, down here in Southern Oregon. The pace of life here is slower, which suits me just fine. I can get to the ocean any time I want, and I seek a lot of solitude on the beaches. And I love it. I am so glad I came down here. John Lennon wrote, in a song called "Cleanup Time", "no friends and yet no enemies, absolutely free" and I can identify with that. Maybe everything that went before, pointed to "now". So, like a cork tossed into a raging river, I'm just kinda floating along right now. Will I continue this drumming thing? For a while, probably. Or longer, as long as it doesn't consume me. A bit of 'detachment' is healthy, after all. And the beat goes on...and the beat goes on...


Blogger raymond pert said...

Hey...I didn't read this in's a fascinating post...sounds like a good way to get outside yourself, have fun, and do what you really love. It's sure good news that your move to the coast is working well for you and hope that nagging pinched nerve doesn't keep you from making music.

FYI, I am using Google reader now and I've subscribed to your blog so I'll be over here every time you post.

I enjoy what you write a lot.

Enjoy the ocean breezes.


9:46 AM  
Blogger Idaho Escapee said...

Thanks, Mr. Pert...I suppose I should insert right here, that due to the fact that I am still not 100% recovered from that awful bout with the flu I contracted last month, I've taken myself out of the band, at least until I feel better. What I really want to do is focus on guitar, though. I can play drums...but it's not fulfilling, and gets harder to do as I age.

2:15 AM  
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11:18 PM  

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