Thursday, December 22, 2011


Thanks to a surplus of vacation days, my Christmas break has officially begun. As I was working from home this afternoon, Def Leppard's "Foolin'" popped up on my iTunes and flashed me back to one of my first experiences of playing in a band. It was exceedingly brief but also very me, at least.

My parents were always pushing me to take on different activities, mostly designed to round out my academic leanings. I enjoyed playing sports, but hockey was a non-starter with them (too many practices/too expensive) so I ended up playing soccer. My mom signed me up for piano lessons when I was 5 or 6, but they didn't take; I just wasn't getting it (Christ, I was TINY) and I felt the teacher was too strict so I just bailed. About 10 years later, I was interested in learning the guitar so I signed up for lessons with a woman in our New Hampshire town. Mom got me an acoustic and after a few months, picked me up a used Gibson L6-S from the late, lamented Daddy's Junky Music. It was, and is, a sweet guitar. I took lessons for about a year-and-a-half until in a tragic twist of fate, my guitar teacher's husband died in a head-on crash just down the street from my house on Route 125. She was pretty shattered by the whole thing and stopped giving lessons. I never went back.

But I was still very interested in the guitar. I subscribed to the fairly new magazine Guitar for the Practicing Musician, which had tons of guitar tabs of hard rock songs, so I would sporadically try to learn riffs. Meanwhile, in the summer of '84, I was working at the local Market Basket and became fast friends with a fellow shelf stocker named Butch who, as it turned out, also played the guitar. We started hanging out and he mentioned that he was starting a band with another co-worker, Duane, who played the drums, and he invited me to join.

Of course, I said yes immediately and we went to Duane's house to jam. Duane lived with his dad in Plaistow and apparently, dad wasn't around much because the kid's drum set was right in the living room. Since it wasn't my house, this was AWESOME. Butch had an Ibanez Destroyer (basically an Explorer knockoff) and could actually play the thing, unlike me. We plugged in and started learning covers, including the Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and Def Leppard's "Foolin'." We didn't really have a singer, so I tried the vocals on "Foolin'"; I had a tough time hitting the high notes on that one. The "band" only lasted a week or so, probably because those guys realized I sucked. I remember one excursion where we went down to the grocery store and bought a bunch of junk food for our rehearsal, and I remember watching Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Cold Shot" and a Sammy Hagar video on MTV at Duane's house; my podunk town didn't have cable at that time, so this was a luxury. This happened during a week that the rest of my family went to Florida on vacation and I decided not to go, so I had plenty of time on my hands when I wasn't working.

Duane had sketched out a logo and name for the band, which he wanted to call Aria. I didn't really like it because it reminded me of the band Asia, which sucked to high heaven in my opinion. Even though the band, or my involvement in it, was short-lived, we still were friendly and worked at the store. Butch even started dating my ex-girlfriend, which I was strangely okay with. He was a good guy and it was a few months after she had dumped my ass; by that point, I felt he was more than welcome to her. Duane and I went to see Rush together that fall, although we stopped on the way so he could buy weed. I was pretty uptight about shit like that then, so when I ran into some other buddies of mine at the concert, I bummed a ride home with them. I had little or no contact with either Butch or Duane after that (we went to different schools) and then I was off to college the following year.

Since then, my guitar playing has been sporadic at best. I've got three guitars now and they're all collecting dust, but dammit, I will pick them up again if it's the last friggin' thing I do. Between all the extra-curricular stuff I do, it's tough to find the time and/or energy to devote to practicing the guitar, but I keep vowing to do it. Hopefully, I'm not just f-f-foolin' myself.


Anonymous said...

Did I give you a ride home from that Rush concert?

Jay said...

Matt: Yeah, you did. Thanks, by the way!