Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lost Music, Sometimes Found

George Harrison and his Turkish Angora cat Corky

It’s an early Sunday morning and I’ve just watched the movie “Now and Then” for the second time this week. For those who may not have seen it, “Now and Then” is the female version of “Stand By Me.” It is set in 1970; the main characters a year-and-a-half to two years younger than I was at the time, but there wasn’t much difference between what they did to keep themselves occupied during the long summer months. I remember the summer of 1970 very well; I’d graduated from 8th grade, and we started the summer in Lodi looking for Nazi gold (seriously! One of my father’s dearest friends from childhood felt there is Nazi gold buried on a property near Lodi, and my dad and uncle gathered the brood and we all watched and waited for a bulldozer to find it—needless to say we didn’t!), and I ended the summer with a bang by starting my period a week before reporting to high school. In between we’d ride horses during the morning and evening hours (sometimes with a transistor radio looped over the saddle horn, though the local AM station really played poppy stuff unless you requested something else), and hang out by my parent’s new pool during the heat of the day. Probably the “worst” thing to happen that summer was coming to the understanding that the Beatles had indeed broken up, the breakup having been announced that spring—and just as I was getting old enough to fully appreciate their music to the point of picking up a guitar and teaching myself to play.

Music used to be a big part of my life. From the 5th through 7th grade I took clarinet lessons in school, so I used to be able to read music. The clarinet doesn’t really have a place in rock music though… I have always loved guitar-driven music with creative vocal harmonies and catchy lyrics—not to the point of being a fan of the really “poppy” stuff, because the guitar licks just were not there. Besides loving the Beatles’ music, I also liked Cream, and the Beatles’ protégées Badfinger, and I especially remember a song called “All Right Now” by a band named Free being all over the place that summer. Notice a trend? They are all British, and all very guitar-driven!

Unfortunately for me, I chose not to have a whole lot of fun in my high school classes. I’d wanted to graduate early, so I took nothing but college prep classes, which left no time for any music classes. I changed that my junior year when I finally had enough and dropped out of Spanish III to take guitar; during my senior half-year I took choir, where my voice was identified as being contralto and when I discovered that when acting I could do nearly anything, including sing, though I did my best singing when stoned on pot. Yep, I was quite the little pothead.

I bought all of the Beatles sheet music and taught myself the rhythm parts (I had two sets of Beatles’ music books—one with rhythm guitar tabs, the second lead, which I never really got good at). I came to appreciate just how hard the guitar is to learn, and I’d chosen to learn to play on a steel-stringed Yamaha acoustic I bought for $75 with my own money. I learned to change strings, to tune by ear, and by the summer of 1972 was comfortable enough to play in front of people, to the point I traveled around Spain for 6 weeks carrying that Yamaha acoustic and jamming at night. I’d never be a George Harrison (though he was my favorite by that time, hence I’ve used this photo of him I recently tripped over—what a beautiful man he was!), but I could play and sing most of the Beatles’ songs, a couple of Badfinger’s songs, and some Neil Young stuff, too.

Every so often I’ll hear songs from the early 1970s and remember that there was good music despite disco being shoved down everyone’s throats by the middle of the decade. I’ll wish I still had that Yamaha acoustic—my stepbrother learned to play on it and I think he sold it, which makes me very sad, that guitar had truly gone to battle! I’ll listen to certain songs that fit my vocal range and sing my heart out. Tonight’s song was from “Now and Then”—Badfinger’s “No Matter What.” That lead to a pair of Badfinger songs: “Baby Blue” and “Day After Day.” And yes, I used to be able to play those songs, and in public, too!

There are times I am tempted to buy another acoustic guitar—I’m betting I still can find my Beatles’ sheet music! I wonder if returning to music might be good for me …


design by