Saturday, October 05, 2013

If Music Be The Food

I was woken up this morning by my youngest boy strumming the fret-board of my acoustic guitar and loudly intoning his ABC (he only got as far as G which musically is rather apt). I'm ashamed to say there isn't much of a story behind that guitar.

It hasn't accompanied me on the road in my teens as a I travelled across America on a Dylan-esque pilgrimage of self discovery. It wasn't used as a shield to fend off piss filled beer bottles as I belted out anti-establishment tunes in some punk dive in East London. It has never been strapped to my back like a samurai sword as I rode my hog to some Hell's Angel's meet out in the back of nowhere.

I bought it in Birmingham, brought it home to Leamington Spa and that's pretty much about it.

In my teens me and my best mate, Dave, decided we were going to learn to play the guitar. Just like that we were going to acquire the skill, form a band, make world changing music and overnight improve our chances of getting laid more regularly. Or, in my case, just getting laid.

Such optimism.

I was a complete failure. My excuse has always been that I was more into my writing than anything else and it is not possible to truly commit yourself to more than one discipline; music was always going to take second place. The truth is I was just lazy. I was unrealistic. I didn't put in the time so therefore didn't get anything out of it other than 3 clumsy chords and blistered fingers. Because I wasn't instantly and instinctively playing like a rock axe-man I got demoralized and invested less and less of my time and effort. I would rather dream the dream than live it.

Dave faired slightly better. At the time I just thought he had more natural ability (he could sing pretty well too where my efforts were, at best, suited to comedy) but I can see now that that dismissal was an insult to Dave. He put in more effort, more time. He worked harder. He stuck with it despite the blisters and pushed on until his fingertips hardened. He learnt to play songs. He learnt to play and sing at the same time. For a while his guitar became an extension of himself.

And yet ultimately we both failed to do anything with the dream. We didn't join a band. We didn't even think to form our own. I bought a cheap 4 track recording device and, sure, we laid down a few tracks but mostly we messed around, ad libbed and felt we were unsung (unsinging) comedy heroes. Ultimately we did nothing with that dream too.

We both got older. Settled down. Had kids. Got sucked into the rat race. Our guitars were put down, lay still and attracted dust. In fact I have no idea if Dave even still has his guitar. I'm not sure why I even kept mine. Certainly not as a permanent accusation; I've long reconciled myself to the fact that I am not a rock god. I think mostly I keep it as a memento to those wild, crazy days of my youth when I dared to dream an impossible dream.

I'm glad I've kept it. I'm glad my boys have passive access to a musical instrument - even if they never pick it up and ask to learn how to play it properly. If nothing else it will save them wasting money buying their own when they hit their teens. And there is a slim chance - a very slim chance - that maybe, just maybe, they will find a virtuoso talent lying dormant within their genes and then that train ticket to Birmingham all those years ago will finally have been money well spent.



16 comments:

Trish Burgess said...

I remember writing a very similar post about a year ago. I bought an acoustic guitar to try and bring back the memories of learning how to play as a child...like you, I hadn't really dedicated any time to learning. As soon as I brought the new guitar home, my son picked it up. It's been in his room ever since.

Steve said...

Trish: at least it's getting more use than mine is!

the fly in the web said...

Thank your lucky stars it wasn't a recorder he found....

Steve said...

The fly in the web: I did, perhaps unwisely, buy him a harmonica last Christmas. Thankfully he has been remarkably restrained with it though I live in fear of him discovering Ennio Morricone.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Maybe you should have modelled yourself on one of the pop stars of your youth to keep your enthusiasm going. I bet the chicks would have been queuing up if you'd made yourself a lookalike for this guy.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: well, the weird thing is...

Rol said...

I played tenor horn as a kid. There weren't a lot of invitations to join rock bands.

Steve said...

Rol: pity we didn't know each other. You would have had me at horn.

The Sagittarian said...

Still got my guitar as well...the piano (sadly) is still stuck in the ruins of our home waiting for whatever fate awaits it, like us all I suspect!!

So - maybe you, me Dave and anyone else with leftover dreams can still form a band (The Arthritics? The Procrastinators??)

Steve said...

Amanda: The Distracted? The Couldn't Really Be Bothered? The Musically Incompetent?

I'm feeling my old enthusiasm returning.

Keith said...

You know what they sY... a Thousand Hours...

Still time Steve, still time.

Keith said...

That should have read STEVE. Sorry.

Nota Bene said...

We all have those unfulfilled ambitions...at least the guitar survived for the next generation

Steve said...

Keith: and the clock is ticking...

Nota Bene: true, but I hoped my list might get smaller with age not longer.

Löst Jimmy said...

I love listening to music but as to playing I'm best kept far apart from any musical instruments, for the sake of the ham race

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: having lived through my own attempts at making music the same undoubtedly goes for me.