Wednesday, January 28, 2015

But Who Will Play Lead Guitar?

The high school class of my co-inhabitant, hereinafter Co-In, of the Geriatric Bachelor Pad was going to reunite. Co-In volunteered to provide music. He lined up various instrumentalists, but couldn’t find a drummer. I’d briefly been the drummer in the protopunk turned glam/progressive group in which he’s played bass, and which had changed the course of popular music in the early 1970s. Having no other option, he offered me the position. I hadn’t played with other musicians since 1978, but rather played or programmed everything myself on my many recording projects because I hate having to depend on others. Co-In’s been in a few bands. Performing at the reunion was such fun, though, we thought we’d look around for a guitarist or two to fool around with on an ongoing basis.

A guy who, a million years ago, used to write to me to ask for copies of rare Kinks recordings came over. We jammed — that is, fooled around, making up little bits of songs on the fly. I didn’t much enjoy being him.

A friend of mine told me that someone I’d briefly chatted with about football at a back yard wingding in a heavily Latino area of Los Angeles was a good singer and guitarist, albeit an Apache. (I’m being wry. There was no albeit about it.) I liked his videos on YouTube. I invited him to bring his voice and guitar over to the GBP. He did so, did Richard, and turned out not to be only a terrific singer, but also a terrific guy.

We needed only a lead guitarist. But here the torment began. In every music store in America there's a kid playing 128th-note triplets at the top of the neck, seemingly hoping that someone will say, "Hey, you're hot stuff. Want to join my group?" But no one seemed to want to play with us, our glorious, glorious history notwithstanding. Maybe they thought the cruel tricks the decades have played on our pretty faces would preclude our attracting girlies. Maybe they were right.

Richard brought a long-time friend with whom he’d played in many back yards over the years.  He too was really nice, and a wonderful guitarist, but then he missed a rehearsal without troubling himself to advise any of us that he was going to, and Richard revealed that he might be fatally uncomfortable with the idea of the wealth and fame to which we’d agreed to aspire.

We invited the former lead guitarist of East LA’s pre-eminent chicano post-punk group to audition. His playing was fiery, and he too was nice, but he seemed to have fingers in around 22 musical pies, in spite of having no more hands than you or I, and we soon discovered, unpleasantly, that we couldn’t count on him either. We gnashed our teeth and invited over a guy Co-In had known since the late 1970s. At his audition, I pretty nearly leapt up from behind my drums and gobbled him up like some luscious dessert. His playing was absolutely glorious — melodic, sympathetic, tasteful, inventive, glorious! And he sang! I love vocal harmony!

The rose lost its bloom almost immediately. At our second rehearsal together, at which he arrived 25 minutes late, he took a call on his cell phone, and proceeded to speak for around 15 minutes with someone about the Famous Person with whom he’d been collaborating. By the end of those 15 minutes, I was in a rage such as I hadn’t experienced in a decade or so, and shouted my lungs out at him about his outrageous temerity, about his palpable disrespect for our project. He was contrite, but then showed up late at a short succession of rehearsals he didn’t cancel at the last minute to rehearse with others, and I said fuck this shit.

We drafted a guy we’d met as a result of his unlikely affection for our protopunk turned glam/progressive group all those years before. He could hardly have been more reluctant, in part because he’d been concentrating on the bass for the past several decades. It didn’t appear as though his heart was in it. I thought at any moment he might announce that his other musical commitments and his nursing career precluded his continuing. The whole thing felt too precarious.

Never dreaming he’d go for the idea, I invited the guy who, as a 23-year-old beanpole, had played guitar in my band The Pits in 1977. At the time he played lots of clusters of 128th-note triplets at the top of the neck, and confided that he couldn’t understand why Judas Priest weren’t as big as The Beatles. But the years had greatly broadened his expressive range, and his abilities. He can play country now, and Muscle Shoalsy funk. He’s easy to work with, turns up on time, and doesn't spend big hunks of our rehearsals talking on the phone.

As I write this, I’m daring to imagine this might work. 

No comments:

Post a Comment