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Thursday, July 1, 2010



Due to the proliferation of Facebook I was able to reconnect with my long-lost bandmates from high school. Some of them actually were lost, but due to advancements in GPS technology, ended up finding our house by traveling along the railroad tracks.

The reunion was a lot of fun- I had assumed some of them were weird and reclusive for not getting in touch with me all these years. It turns out that they just had sound judgment. The guys are all still talented, and have been playing all these years. Kenny used to play bass once in a while, and his brother Jeff plays bass now in a band. Chris switched from keyboards to bass in 1984. I wasted most of my adult life playing bass. And Ronnie, our bass player, coincidentally also plays bass. I thought about suggesting that we all play bass on one song, which would have been funny probably only to me.

Since no one else was foolish enough to volunteer to sing, I was forced back into action. Back in 1975 I could sing very high. Meaning after smoking half an ounce of pot. These days my range is much lower, possibly because that is where I have set my sights. I seem to have the same range as Frank Sinatra, only with a horrible timbre. When I sing the “Star Spangled Banner,” I have to start it so low that only whales can hear. One time someone said, “Shut your blowhole,” which I assumed was a snarky whale. If Frank Sinatra were alive and knew “China Grove,” believe me I would have suggested him.

Plus I still don’t know the words to any song ever written. I had to go online to find the lyrics to each song, which was a headache, because what these sites desperately want is for you to download a ring tone. Silly-sounding ring tones and people snoring are all I hear on the train these days. Everyone wants to show off a little piece of their personality that is usually better kept under a rock. Am I smarter and more cultured than I look, with my mullet and lower lip pierced so that from far away it looks like I have a social disease? YES! Because I have Beethoven’s ninth as my ring tone! Sorry I fell asleep and Beethoven’s ninth runs an hour and five minutes! Hey what about ME! Even though I work for Geek Squad and wear a bow tie, I am friggin’ JAUNTY because my ring tone is “Pop Goes the Weasel!” Now you can download a ring tone that sounds like a telephone ringing, but no one recognizes the sound anymore. I would prefer if people downloaded a ring tone of someone snoring on the train since I am used to that.

My annoyance radar senses that this is just the beginning of silly ring tones. Where will it end? When my microwave goes off, will I hear, “Come and Get It?” Will my alarm clock sound James Brown’s “Get Up Like a Sex Machine” every morning? If I really had a sex machine I could sleep later, by the way.

Not being able to remember anything makes giving a speech unfathomable. I cannot imagine being a politician back when you had to memorize the speech: “Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth… Let’s see… they brought a fifth of vodka, probably a beach chair, a snack... to be honest I can’t remember what they brought. I’d like to take the remaining time for a short Q & A period.” That empty feeling when the next line of the song comes and you remember NOTHING is a glimpse forward to Alzheimers. So I usually sing the line like Gregg Allman, and nobody notices. We did two Allman Brothers tunes, and I didn’t have to learn the words to either one of them.

It seemed very natural and easy to jam with the old crew again. But there are some important distinctions between now and then: Back then it was still a dream to become an overnight sensation. Now you are more likely to be an overweight sensation. Back then the purple pill was mescaline. Now the purple pill is Prilosec (what would happen if you take acid and an antacid at the same time?). Back in the day you could garner a large following and make a splash in the record business. Now you can garnish a salad and hope not to make a large splash in the pool. Back then you could still believe that practice makes perfect. Now it just makes you perfectly exhausted.

There is a commercial for Blue Cross or something where this gray-haired rocker is jamming out with his buddies. His keyboard player is in a wheelchair, his drummer is bald with a pair of readers on, his bass player is blind with a seeing-eye dog and his rhythm guitarist is just a torso with no head, arms or legs. At least that’s the way I remember it, and I would look at it and go jeez I hope I don’t look like that, so I always remove my readers when I play. The words “rock and roll” and “Medicare co-payment” should never appear together in any sentence other than this one.

Anyway, the reunion was a lot of fun. Even all these years after high school it seemed that with a few hours of work we could make sense of the material. Could the same be said for trigonometry? I have enjoyed music every day of my life since graduation, but I have never enjoyed one sine or cosine, and it hasn’t been for lack of opportunity. I know what you’re thinking: I am off on a tangent this very minute.

Incidentally, Beethoven’s ninth symphony was completed in 1824, and contained the famous “Ode to Joy,” which is based on a poem by Friedrich Schiller called “To Joy.” The poem was written in 1785 and revised in 1803. I wonder what he thought of 18 years later that he forgot? I’m not sure, but he might have been thinking of our reunion and added this line: “And whoever was never able to, must creep Tearfully away from this band!” The fourth movement contains the choral elements that approach the climax of the piece. Every once in a while I bring in a chorus near climax too, so it doesn’t get too lonely. Beethoven wrote the symphony when he was completely deaf. Quite an achievement, but to be fair, he had the use of a hearing-ear dog. Which explains why many of the passages refer to bacon.

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