Yep, thats me. About Christmas in 1985, playing my Memphis strat copy through a Crate combo amp for the first time. I had never played amplified before this moment and I was scared of the damn thing. The other person in the picture is my step-brother Ward, who came from a family where everyone played music and he wanted me to play something. Anything at that point. I was a deer in the headlights, not knowing any songs and afraid that the mighty 10 watts enclosed in black tolex and fake simulated woodgrain was going to expose me for the charlatan that I truly was.
A horrifying moment for me to have captured on film and sadly the only picture I have of myself playing guitar before the age of 25 I think.
How did I get to this moment? Why was I staring at a cheap amplifier praying that some music would come out of it like a magic radio?
I lost a game of musical chairs I guess.
My small circle of friends all wanted to be in a band together. We all were in marching band and we all loved the popular music of the time. Of course the next logical thing was to form a band, right? Other kids played sports, video games or joined some other tribal sort of activity. We were the band geeks who thought we could be rock stars too.
My friend Greg was the first to get a bass guitar. His parents (and pretty much everyone else’s parents in the group) had more money than my family…he got a brand new American made Fender Jazz Bass. Bryan got a Roland Juno 60 so he covered the keyboard seat. Rob was going to play sax – not much of a leap from the band room but back then there were lots of songs with sax on the radio.
I had three options. Sing (NEVER going to happen I thought to myself), play drums (which my dad would never let me have in the house or help me get around to rehearsals) or play guitar. Guitar at least I could get around with on my skateboard. And a year later when I bought a Marshall half stack with money earned from my first job making pizza I was able to get the amp to rehearsal down the street on the same skateboard.
Turns out that I liked it. I really did. I got to play all the fun parts in an era when the guitar was in the forefront of much of the music a high school kid would listen to. I got into more hard rock and metal and being in Southern California in the 80′s there was a thriving club scene (of which I wouldn’t get into for a while) and parties to play and I felt like I had something I WAS for once. I played guitar. I was a GUITARIST. I think I even owe my first girlfriend to the fact that I was in the “band”.
At some point (of which I have no conscious memory) the guitar went from something I did with my friends just to stay in the group to a central component of my life. There wasn’t a Plan B or any thought to doing anything else. My father (who grew up working from age 6 in Depression-era Brooklyn) couldn’t understand what I was doing. How will I make a living? Will I end up being the dead beat, druggie loser kid always hitting him up for money and never get a real job? Even into my 30′s after working steadily since college as a musician he would ask “how long do you think this music thing is gonna last?”. And to be honest, there have been times over the years where I’ve asked myself the same thing…
I think next week I’m going to tell you guys about the terror of my first “gig/riot”. :)