My father was, among other things, a musician, an artist and an intellectual. I grew up with him and my mom in a relatively well-adjusted home with lots of plants, books, shag carpeting, macrame, wicker furniture and a guitar in the corner of most every room. My dad's band used to rehearse in our basement, and we had a big stereo with tons of records. Parties and get-togethers would almost always end with late night jam sessions in the room full of guitars, amps and other gear we used to refer to as "the den". So it's safe to say that music was woven into the fiber of my existence since birth, enjoyed by all of us in our house on a daily basis. As I grew up, the idea of me becoming a musician didn't even seem like a conscious decision....It was an inevitability.
By age 15 I had morphed into a shaggy-haired stoner kid who played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, read pretty much any book I could get my hands on, and took up the bass guitar simply because I lacked the patience and dexterity for a six-string. I learned to play it by listening to all the readily available rock records by all the usual suspects of the era: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, etc. I found that the instrument suited my personality perfectly. I was a shy kid who preferred to not draw too much attention to himself, so with my bass I could blend into the background, play my part anonymously and be content.
One day, a good friend who was a bit older than me introduced me to something known as Progressive Rock. Here, the bass guitar played a more prominant role. This was music that was heady, yet aggressive, challenging to play, and demanding to listen to. It was miles ahead, I thought, of the blues based stomp-and-shuffle I had cut my teeth on and wasn't brainlessly macho like the heavy metal that many of my other friends were into. I was hooked, and dove in head first.
Fast forward a few years and my father and I are on the hour and a half long drive to southern Massachusetts to visit my grandmother. I talked him into letting me put one of my cassettes in the deck. After a song or two I asked him for his opinion of this strange, beautiful music I had been immersing myself in with it's odd time signatures, complex riffery, and shameless psychedelisisms.
"Bombastic pomposity." he said.
I was floored! How could he, as a fellow musician, simply scoff at this music's devine complexities? It was creative, required skill to perform, and was technically advanced. These were all qualities he urged me towards as a player. Besides, wasn't his beloved Cream nothing if not bombastic? Wasn't Mahavishnu Orchestra more than a little bit pompous? I was confused, bewildered, and quite frankly, somewhat offended.
It would be years before I would become artistically evolved enough to grasp the dry wit of my father's comment, and I would go on to embrace many diverse styles of music as I grew older (I still don't listen to much of the jazz he attempted to force feed me, but I'm sure he'd be pleased to learn that I just recently downloaded Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew". He was right...Miles is amazing.). Thus began a long conversation in my mind about music's failings and merits that continues to this day. So in an attempt to entertain and achieve a catharsis of sorts, I begin this blog and dedicate it to my dearly departed father, who always encouraged me to be critical, analytical, knowledgeable, and have a good time doing it.
Be forewarned....Like him, I occasionally use 4-letter words when deemed appropriate.