Saturday, October 01, 2005


I miss real records, the kind that came in 12 x 12 sleeves, and crackled when the needle hit the grooves. I spent hours as a kid flipping through my father's record collection - Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones. I remember the neatly groomed young men on the Meet the Beatles album, that morphed into military regalia on Sgt. Pepper, and long-haired hippies crossing Abbey Road. I envied the way my dad talked about waiting for a new Beatles album to be released and listening to it the first time. What must that have been like to witness such a phenomenon where it wasn't about media hype, marketing, and trying to make people want to drink more Pepsi? It was about art and great songwriting. It was simply music.

I learned to play guitar from a Beatle's song book a friend left me before he went to college. I was 10 and while my friends were dancing to Madonna with hairbrush microphones and lace gloves, I was strumming away to "Strawberry Fields" and "Taxman." My dad played bass in a band as a teenager, so he was very pleased when I picked up the guitar. He was even more pleased when I learned to play "Blackbird." I've played that song for 20 years and other than telling you that it's in the key of G, I have no idea what I'm playing. My hands just know where to go when they get there, and the minute I start to think about where I'm going, I stumble. Muscle memory is an amazing thing.

On Saturdays, my dad would ask me to go for a ride with him. We'd somehow end up at some music shop, and he'd take a guitar off the wall that we both liked and put it in my hands. We'd plug it in. Picking up a new guitar is like meeting a fascinating, challenging new friend. Each one has it's own tone, it's own feel, and yes, personality. That inanimate object somehow changes the way you play. It asks to be played differently, and demands that you check yourself and see what that guitar has to show you. The test for whether or not my dad and I liked the guitar was how "Blackbird" sounded on it. Even though that was technically an acoustic song, I've tested it out on everything from Les Paul's, Fernandes, Parkers, and G&Ls.

One Saturday, we found this gorgeous Rickenbacker guitar: maple body that sunbursted out to a darker hue. A single F-hole, and rosewood neck. My dad handed it to me, and we went through our usual routine. It passed the test. My dad looked at the price tag and said, "Not sure how we're going to afford this, but your mom will understand when she hears it." I still wonder how they managed to buy me as many guitars and other musical equipment over the years, and still kept us fully clothed and fed with a roof over our head. One year for my mother's birthday, she asked for a Tascam 4-track recorder so she could give it to me. I had been writing songs, but needed something to actually capture them. I still well-up when I think about all the sacrifices they both made to give me gifts like that.

So, here I am, finally an adult with money of my own. My dad's birthday was at the end of September, and I really wanted to do something special for both of my parents. Dad is a huge Paul McCartney fan and has never seen him, despite seeing so many great shows in his life. Both of my parents are Beatles' fans as well. So, I jumped on eBay and bought them tickets for a McCartney show in DC.

When my dad got home, he called me. "That was amazing. It was the best show I've ever seen in my life. It was like seeing a living legend." He sounded like an excited little boy and I was so pleased. That was exactly the kind of experience I wanted him to have. He, of course, complained about how much it must have cost, but the joy in his voice was priceless.

I listened to him excitedly recite the songlist, "Get Back, The Long and Winding Road, Jet, Band on the Run, etc..." Occasionally he would stop mid-sentence and keep listing out song titles, like he had a sudden case of ADD. He said, "I never treat myself to stuff like this because it's so expensive." I marveled at all the Saturdays he took me out and would drop $900 that he probably didn't have just because he liked the way I played Blackbird on a guitar. I only wish he would start to treat himself as well as he has always treated me.


At 2:27 PM, Blogger Duke_of_Earle said...

Damn. You made ME "well up."

Great post. I grew up (well, some would dispute that) playing more of the folk stuff than the rock. But I can relate to your comments about an inanimate guitar's feel and yes, personality. But a single f hole? I thought they always had two... (??)

Hope your dad reads this blog.


At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice posting. I came here on John's advice. While I never played a guitar (I would have like to- but tone deaf) but i was around a lot of guitarists over the years. Beatles songs were the ones that most of them learned to play on.

At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, even for a non-musician! But what is an f-hole?

At 9:14 PM, Blogger kenju said...

I enjoyed this post; and I thank the Duke for sending me here. I loved the Beatles too - and still do.

At 4:00 AM, Blogger Karyn Lyndon said...

I loved records too and I'm glad that CDs are at least miniatures of the old vinyl. It's funny how parents spend so much time putting their children first that they forget how to be indulgent on themselves. How nice that you are able to indulge them for a change.

( I refuse to say anything about the F-hole)

: )

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Duke_of_Earle said...

You’ve been tagged! Got weirdness? Reveal five different things about you that are “weird,” and then pass the tag along to five others.

See my blog post of yesterday and today to see all the fun I had with this one.



Post a Comment

<< Home