Monday, April 14, 2014

#742: Part of the chorus

Because I can't play a musical instrument, maybe I hear things differently than some music bloggers out there (Crabby, the late lamented Groove Sandwich, etc). Maybe it just means I'm ignorant when it comes to writing about music.
I tried to learn how to play guitar and drums when I was a kid, but I didn't have the discipline to stick with either. I gave up without even trying to learn the piano. I just wanted to make some noise.
So I riff on a computer keyboard instead. My kids were born with all the natural musical talent, and I'll bet they hear things differently than I do, too. When it comes to musical ability, I have a tough time getting the CD player turned on correctly, sometimes. I like to think I've gained SOME discipline with my writing, but that took years, too.
In that autobiographical rock group novel I tried to write, I had myself playing bass because I thought it would be unobtrusive -- because I could hardly ever hear it, or at least never noticed it. But I've since learned that the bass is supposedly one of the hardest rock instruments to master. I'm sure any instrument that requires rhythm would mean I'd be starting from two steps back.
That's why that rock group novel will be FICTION, if it ever gets done.
Though I've been known to play air-guitar and air-drums and even air-keyboards if I've got some good music playing while I'm working, I think the most I could ever hope for in Reality would be to become a backing vocalist -- part of the chorus. I think I blend in OK, vocally. I'd never want to be a lead singer -- I don't actually think I can carry a tune with a fleet of wheelbarrows, and besides I have ZERO charisma. But I think I blend OK, and I enjoy vocal blends more than a lot of other aspects of music. Something about a bunch of people's voices blending together....
I find the vocal blends that attract me in a lot of the music I grew up on -- from Kansas's "Miracles Out of Nowhere" to Yes's "Your Move" and "Wonderous Stories," from Caravan's "Memory Lain" and "Surprise, Surprise" and "All the Way" to just about anything by the Moody Blues. Or the almost-surreal vocal blends of the middle-period Beach Boys. The Beatles, of course. Even the Turtles and (Ghod!) the Association and (yeezus) even the Fifth Dimension sound pretty great to me, vocally.
The Association's "Everything That Touches You" is sort of a little piece of heaven for me, no matter how uncool it might be. The Turtles' "Sound Asleep" and "We'll Meet Again" and "Lady-O" and "She's My Girl" are all, like, vocal masterworks. And Fifth Dimension's "Carpet Man" soars vocally, no matter how "straight" it might sound these days. To be part of an ensemble like that would be ... pretty cool, I think.
Course I'd want some killer guitar and some dynamite keyboards to go with it, too.
I thought Crosby/Stills/Nash/Young had a pretty good handle on this kind of stuff for awhile -- with stuff like "Deja Vu" and "Carry On" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and "Wooden Ships." But they wore it out pretty quick. The Byrds were masters of this kind of stuff, too -- the vocal blend and the musical muscle. The Temptations -- I've come to learn as I get older -- were masters of group vocals and dynamic instrumentals ... course, they had a ton of Motown producers pulling it together for them. Jefferson Airplane/Starship was always real good for great group vocals and solid instrumentation: "Good Shepherd," "All Nite Long," "Save Your Love," anything on FREEDOM AT POINT ZERO.
And Phil Spector, of course. He could make anybody sound like the Hallelujah Chorus. I'm sure my weakness for Spector is why I'm also a sucker for Bruce Springsteen's earlier, more epic "teen-opera"-style stuff ("Born to Run," "Rosalita," etc).
Just woolgathering here. Hell, I don't REALLY know how badly I sing. And I'm not sure I WANT to know. I've never even done karaoke. But whenever I dream about being on-stage, it's always off to the side, with the backup singers. Where the lights aren't quite so bright.
Anybody know any bands who could STAND me auditioning for them? Not as a soloist. As a blend. In a vocal GROUP, man. In a group.

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