Music 1977-78

Like yesterday, I didn’t get any reading done, but when I played the bass this afternoon, I finally tapped into my right brain and things started grooving much better. The right side of my head is rather mysterious to me and has a language of its own that isn’t verbal. It understands music, especially rhythm, and has very simple ideas. It operates in shapes and space; basically geometry. But its verbal vocabulary is quite limited. It seems to remember a lot of songs I’ve heard. So I played around with some Steve Miller stuff, ending with “Swingtown” from Book of Dreams:

Come on and dance

Come on and dance

Let’s make some romance

You know the night is falling

And the music’s calling

And we got to get down to Swingtown

We’ve been working so hard

We’ve been working so hard

So come on baby baby let’s dance

I imagine you’ve probably heard it on the radio a million times, on the classic rock stations especially. I really like Book of Dreams, even better than Fly Like an Eagle. It was released in 1977, when I was a fifth grader at Silver Lea Elementary— 45 years ago. Steve Miller was very popular up here in the Northwest. My nephews and I could get tunes on our transistor radios when we messed around outdoors. I always listened to AM radio during grade school. Paul McCartney and Wings was big at the time. Remember “With a Little Luck?” My mother was nuts about that song. We’d just had a tragic death in the family and everything seemed overturned and topsy turvy for us. She happened to turn the radio on in the truck and caught this Wings song. Actually pulled over to listen to it. I recall that the original version was much longer, with an extended synth interlude: very sweet. And of course Paul on bass was brilliant…


Peace; Absent Friends

Eight fifty.

I really don’t like King Crimson, the prog rock band, anymore, due to the element of demonism they trade on. It hasn’t been a healthy influence for me since I started following them in high school. What a strange shtick for a rock band. I don’t understand the point of it. But maybe I’m the weirdo? I remember feeling psychotic after my mother died and seeing the devil everywhere in rock and roll. Perhaps it’s just as well that rock music is dying or dead already. It’s definitely a thing of Western culture, based on something biblical, and the music makes it scarily real. Whatever people were thinking, the strategy worked and we bought it. Was there something more to it than marketing; something more than money? Why did we find it necessary to raise hell? Maybe now there can be peace on earth…

Eleven twenty five.

It’s a day when I realize how much I miss my parents. The October light is amber through the smoke, somehow conjuring up the ghosts of old friends but my parents most of all. And they were my friends as well as my kin. Probably there’s no bond stronger than friendship. It’s hard to write about. I will go and play my bass for catharsis even though Dad and Mom have been gone more than twenty years. I have to work my way through it every autumn and it doesn’t get any easier with time. 

Pretty Good

Ten o’clock.

We went to breakfast as we often do and had jalapeño cheeseburgers. The fog burned off and now it’s clear as a bell. I miss doing music with other players but it’s really difficult with their decisions on using drugs. I would feel weird about walking into Guitar Center today, sober as a judge and clear headed. It’s a different culture from what I live with every day. I feel like an island. Suddenly I remember playing “Detroit Rock City” with Blueface the springtime after my mother died. I had a good time doing that. We were a pretty good band and had a good fan base that grew more and more over the months of that year.


Alcohol really alters your behavior, makes a Hyde out of Jekyll, and in your own mind you are supreme: your self esteem is puffed up beyond what is realistic. Everything is about your ego; it orbits around your selfhood. I hope those days are done forever… As Gloria was getting ready to leave for the day, I advised her to “manejar con cuidado.” She took up the joke and said, “Si, con mucho cuidado!” and started her Subaru while I went inside and let Aesop out of his room. I’ve been chilling with the second Snapple tea and the sunshine at my back. Life is pretty good for a change. 

Dynamo 2

One o’clock.

I practiced my bass guitar alone for a while. At first I played a bunch of meandering notes without much meaning, until I felt inspired to do some lines by Pino Palladino, a Welsh session player whose work was popular during the Eighties. So I tuned down a step and picked out “Come Back and Stay” and “Wherever I Lay My Hat.” The last song I played was one by Go West called “Innocence.”

The switch to this cool early fall weather has me confused about how to feel. I almost wanted to cry once today. It’s just weird, and I’ve also got the lonelies this afternoon. I recall that twenty years ago in August I was going to volunteer at the UO Knight Library. But the job was so computer intensive and the tasks so numerous that I was overwhelmed and had to abort my plan. I took the bus home and on the way, I remember watching the driver shift gears like a machine servant to a machine: a Lawrentian horror.

In October of the same year I placed an ad in the paper seeking other musicians to jam with, and got a call from a guitarist who was friends with some local celebrities. So we got together at the lot on W 11th and I auditioned with Marc and Tim. It worked out pretty well, so we kept doing that, and did a gig somewhere downtown and made some recordings. My family meanwhile was skeptical of my activities and my mom had been gone for a year. On the sidewalk beyond the lot of woodsheds was a hotdog cart dubbed Dawgs on the Run. When the days were abominably dark and rainy with the autumn I would go buy a Coney Island before rehearsal. But I often got the nagging feeling that I was in the wrong place, hanging with the wrong people. And my mother wasn’t around to justify what I was doing. For a while I was screwed.


Nine o’clock.

I dreamed that my dog could talk. He had a vocabulary of 600,000 words and knew the entire Bible. Then I woke up and fed him breakfast. As he scarfed it down, I said, “Bi Mart to the rescue. Gloria to the rescue. Laurel Hill to the rescue.” An otherwise sunny day is clotted by high clouds. They forecast a high of 92 degrees. The trip to market was pretty dull, and sometimes I consider mixing it up with other places to buy goods. I told a friend I was contemplating getting myself a gift for five years of sobriety. So I went on the Guitar Center website and priced a bass I was interested in. But the thing about it is how the music community here is totally saturated with alcohol and weed, almost to the exclusion of the music itself. Thus it wouldn’t be practical to invest in a musical instrument with such a situation. Another thing is, I saw photos of Robert Plant’s daughter, I guess, “then and now.” In the second picture, she had breast implants so huge that I had to say, “That’s disgusting!” At one time I would’ve liked that look— back when I drank a lot. Now it’s a different ballpark. So I wonder what rock and roll is really about, and should I invest in a new bass guitar? Where will my attitudes be in five more years?

Fly by Night

Seven thirty.

Same old redundant thing this morning. Even the music on the market radio was the same: “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The forecast calls for a high of 93F. At nine I’ve got Gloria today. Aesop, my dog, is spread out right on my foot. He’ll be ten years old next month and I’ll have five years clean and sober. Time really flies, but everybody knows that. Still, I wish it were fall already. I’d love to have it rain again and see and smell the leaves on the ground. Now I’ve got Nirvana stuck in my head. Currently, the trendy ideology seems to be stoicism still, which is far from the Freud I was taught in school long ago. I still see copies of Marcus Aurelius here and there. I can remember when people buzzed about narcissism all the time; and today, no one does that anymore. Last January, Carl Jung and Alan Watts were talked about a lot. To be honest, I’ve felt very lost since the rock band Rush retired after their drummer and lyricist passed away. Late last night, in my head I could hear a passage from the A side of 2112, the part with the oracle. And then this morning I thought of how 2112 kind of foretold the demise of rock and roll. I just miss the voice of the band spreading the news of freedom and happiness all over the world. What are we supposed to do when Neil Peart has flown the earth? 


Seven thirty.

The high was 98F yesterday and I didn’t sleep very well overnight. The one thing you can’t stop is change, so you just roll with it. Everything changes, even WordPress. I feel myself growing older day by day, and the projects I wanted to do probably won’t fly. I used to live for fun and pleasure; now I don’t know what I live for. Life has become stingy with everything that gives happiness. Or maybe sobriety sucks? Most of us share the same situation. Gautama Buddha started with the premise that living is suffering, and we suffer because we have desires. The image I remember is of the children playing in a burning house, and their parents outside call to them to come out. There might have been more than one painting like that. The simplicity of Buddhism makes perfect sense to me, except that putting out the fire of desire is easier in theory than in practice. By the way, this reminds me that I’m hungry right now. I hear a dove calling outdoors: what is he saying? The crows reply something different. Either way, it’ll be a hot one today.

Ten thirty five.

Gloria drove me to the Bottle Drop and I redeemed $9.70 for my bottles and cans. It was a busy place this morning, so we waited in line outside a few minutes. Gloria said she doesn’t like rock music, giving Pink Floyd for an example. That wasn’t her generation; she was born in 1942. Rock and roll sets her on edge, she says, and animals such as horses don’t like it either. It seems to me that rock is dead anyway. We killed it.

From My Grandmother

Scuffy the Tugboat

Actions speak louder than words. On one hand I invest my money in my home to make it a comfortable place and on the other I spout nonsense about playing in a rock band. What does this tell you about me? Where does the voice saying I should do rock and roll come from? It comes from a sense of duty, from a conscience put there by other people; but it doesn’t come from my own soul. If it did, then I’d invest in a car to be mobile, and I’d risk danger to live the rock and roll dream. My soul is probably wiser than that. Even if security is boring, it probably guarantees a longer lifespan. It boils down to a philosophical question: is it better to burn out or fade away? Though I used to do self destructive things, I attribute it to my mother’s influence on me, and my grief upon her death. 

All of this reminds me of a children’s book called Scuffy the Tugboat that my grandmother gave me when I was six years old. The little boat gets away from his owner into dangerous situations on the high water. But eventually he goes home and is content with floating in the bathtub, safe and sound. And by the way, my grandmother was a very different person from my mother who loved The Beatles.

One more observation: what is a probable guarantee? 


One o’clock.

It’s a beautiful afternoon with a mild temperature of 72 degrees. I was just pondering why I usually feel so dissatisfied with my life, always waiting for things to get better to no avail. “Lost in losing circumstances, that’s just where you are.” What I tend to forget is that people must be proactive no matter what the circumstances are. I could be waiting here for the propitious time to act forever and nothing would get done.

I finally googled the band I played with last year and looked at their Facebook page. Apparently they did a gig last Saturday in Corvallis with the bass player from before. I guess it wasn’t a big deal— but that’s not the point. The important thing is that they’re doing it, at a time when musicians aren’t gigging much. So I should email my friend on drums to see what he’s up to.

The truth is that I’m stuck in a rut with no car for moving my stuff around. I deceive myself that I’m okay with just walking everywhere, but actually it’s a problem. And the only person who can fix it is myself. First I have to want it badly enough.

“Waiting for the rainbow’s end to cast its gold your way.”

“My ship isn’t coming and I just can’t pretend.”

Love of Music

Quarter after ten at night.

I’m awake since having lots of dreams of the collapse of civilization tonight, and when I got up, my conscious thoughts ran to The Handmaid’s Tale, the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. Now I’m trying to clear my mind entirely and start over again… During the day I played my modified P Bass two different times. At once, the instrument is a war axe and a highly sophisticated piece of technology. In neither light is it quiet and subdued by any means. I did a great deal of shredding on it, eventually slowing down to pound out a few Rush tunes from the turn of the eighties. It makes me emotional to revisit old songs like “Cygnus X-1,” a throwback to happy times as a drummer jamming with friends my age for the summer of 1982. They were no older than 16 and ready to go pro in the L.A. music scene, but my parents protected me from such a future and ensured that I’d finish my education. My path with my friends crossed again in another 15 years for the disco gig. I’m not sure what I learned from that experience, or even how I feel about it. Music as expression and music as a business are different things. Robert Fripp advised young musicians to stay out of the industry if they really love music. From what I’ve seen, I’m inclined to think he’s right.