Saturday, December 2, 2017

"Saving Grace"

Gene and I had it all planned out.
We knew from a couple of "recording sessions" in my garage that -- although neither of us could actually PLAY an instrument -- we could bash around and make a pretty good, amusing noise. So we thought we'd take my cheap acoustic guitar and even-cheaper drum set out into the back yard and put on a free "concert" for the kids in the neighborhood.
It was the middle of summer and we were bored. I'd been in the neighborhood maybe eight months. I was at that age when everything about music was fascinating and I was devouring everything. I was hearing and learning about new stuff constantly.
Gene helped with my education. He turned me on to The Beatles' "Hello Goodbye" and "I Am the Walrus," The Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and Led Zeppelin's silly "Whole Lotta Love," which I've never been able to take.
So everything I bought got played on the garage stereo with Gene. Todd Rundgren's great "I Saw the Light" (and the B-side "Marlene," which was boring); INTRODUCING LOBO; Three Dog Night's HARMONY; Chicago's third(?) double-album, which I never got all the way through; El Chicano's wonderful "Brown-Eyed Girl" (I never heard Van Morrison's original 'til years later and I wasn't impressed); Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Some of Shelley's Blues"; Bobby Russell's "Saturday Morning Confusion"; Mal's cute and silly "Mighty Mighty and Roly Poly," which made no known chart; Gladstone's controversial "A Piece of Paper." I was a real off-the-wall-45's addict.
Gene and I thought we could do this stuff. We could both sing, sort of. Gene was actually a pretty good singer, I thought, and was great at making up lyrics off the top of his head. He could even get something like chords to come out of that cheap guitar my parents had bought me a couple years earlier. And I could bash the drums, though I had no sense of beat or rhythm. Loved the cymbal -- big splashy noises -- and the cowbell.
Not sure why we stayed a duo. There were other kids around who were just as into music as we were, if not moreso. Right next door was Jim, who turned me on to Creedence's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" and "Hey Tonight." His sisters Sandy and Gayle were big music fans, too. But they were, you know, girls. And I was 12 years old and still pretty scared of girls. Jim and Gayle were in high school and maybe a little too grown-up for anything as silly as what Gene and I were up to. When my parents inflicted the first Osmonds album on me (I'd asked for something else entirely), it was Jim, Sandy and Gayle who suffered through it with me.
On the other side was Mike, who was into Frank Zappa, Black Sabbath, Grand Funk, Eric Burdon and other stuff too loud and weird for me to hear. But he was also a sucker for Tommy James and the Shondells, and tried to educate me by tossing me a stack of gift 45's like Rod Stewart's "Maggie Mae," The Clique's "Sugar on Sunday" (with the GREAT forgotten B-side "Superman"), and others I've forgotten. Mike was a high school dropout and much too worldly and cynical to join a "singing group" led by a couple of 12-year-olds.
So Gene and I were on our own. The first thing to do was publicize our free "concert." I drew up a really ugly flyer, which I then copied a dozen times, and we stuffed it in all the neighborhood kids' mailboxes. We chose a Friday afternoon when both my folks were working for our backyard bash.
Gene thought we'd open with our stunning version of Delaney and Bonnie's "Never Ending Song of Love" (we maybe should have chosen "Only You Know and I Know") to grab our audience's attention with something current, then we'd segue into our own "greatest hits." And then see what happened next.
The afternoon came. We hauled our instruments out into the back yard, threw open the gate, and....
Nothing happened. Nobody showed up. None of our friends in the neighborhood ever even mentioned it.
Probably a good thing, looking back. Any "concert" we'd attempted probably would have lasted less than five minutes. And we would have made a heckuva racket.
But then I might have had a REAL story to tell....
It was the last time I ever "seriously" tried to be in a band or sing in public. Maybe I should tell you about the first time....

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