Crotchety Man has become hopelessly distracted lately. The object of his latest passion is taking up far too much of his increasingly precious time and is never far from his thoughts. An old love has been rekindled by seductive words in a seemingly innocent email. You see, the ageing rocker has been invited to join a band.
Regular readers of this blog will remember that Mr. Crotchety joined a small orchestra of third agers some 18 months ago, choosing an electro-acoustic guitar as his instrument. Since then his technique has developed to the point where he is almost competent as a rhythm guitarist backing a show tunes band – as long as he has a score in front of him and has had time to practice. Other styles (and there are many) are still beyond him.
My guitar came from a local music shop called Abbey Road Music. Being savvy businessmen as well as music enthusiasts the shop owners took my contact details and have been sending me occasional emails ever since. Then, towards the end of June, they announced their Abbey Road Army project.
This is a venture from Abbey Road Music aimed at mainly mature aged adults either wanting to get back into making music after a time where work and family responsibilities curtailed their rock star dream or those who may have had their guitar under the bed for a long time and dream to get started playing again.
Had they organised this just for me, I wondered? How could they have known that I still nursed that boyhood dream of becoming a rockstar? The inner voice of reason answered dismissively, “In the sixties every young lad wanted to be a rockstar. The ARM crew are just tapping into that rapidly expanding pool of recently retired wannabes”. I had to admit that Reason was right … but I signed up for the Army, anyway.
The registration form, naturally, asked what instrument(s) you play. I put myself down for rhythm guitar and, because I played bass guitar in my long lost student days, added “bass (probably)” in the box for other instruments. This amused the organisers because in real life outside the blogosphere I go by the name Phil Bass (pronounced like the fish, not like the voice). Among the Abbey Road Music shop staff and their friends I am already a household name.
Over the next couple of months some 25 musicians signed up to the Abbey Road Army and most of us went along to the shop about three weeks ago for the main launch event. There we were given full details of what they were organising: 10 sessions had been booked in rehearsal rooms equipped with amplifiers and drum kits, a gig was arranged for mid-November, two mentors had been appointed and every participant was entitled to a £50 voucher to spend in the shop (T&Cs apply, of course).
The 25 names were split into five bands. Other than taking the instruments into account the allocation was entirely arbitrary. Phil “Crotchety Man” Bass found himself in band #4, which consisted of a drummer, two rhythm guitarists and a lead guitarist (who couldn’t be there on the night). There was supposed to be a fifth member, also a rhythm guitarist, but he hadn’t been in contact with the organisers for some time and didn’t turn up at the launch.
Gathering in a corner of the shop the members of band #4 introduced themselves. There were just three of us that evening: one drummer and two rhythm guitarists. None of us could sing and no-one played bass. Even if we included both the other names down for band #4 we’d still have no vocalist and no bass player. Fortunately, though, one guy had joined the Army too late to have been assigned to a band beforehand and he was slotted in as our vocalist and third rhythm guitarist.
It wasn’t long before someone mentioned that bass guitar was my other instrument and the logic of switching the man called Bass from rhythm to bass guitar became undeniable. The curse of nominative determinism had taken another victim.
So we swapped email addresses and the following day Mr. Bass went on the scrounge for a bass guitar. As luck would have it one of the Third Age Orchestra’s players was willing to lend me a suitable instrument (thanks, again, Jon), so I haven’t had to browse eBay for second hand bass guitars or cash in the voucher at the shop. But that still leaves me with the problem of (re-)learning how to play bass.
They say you never forget your first love, don’t they? And that’s just as true for music as it is for people. For me there’s nothing quite so exciting as the sound of an electric bass guitar and when I started to slap the strings of that borrowed bass the memories came flooding back. Gigs in schools, youth clubs, crypts and caves. Arguments in pubs about our band’s name. Humping heavy speaker cabinets around. A mis-spent youth? No, not a bit of it. We were having the time of our lives. And, unlike some of the genuine rock stars, no-one had any cause to complain about what we did.
Band #4 took the name Mister Bigg. The five of us gathered in a pub and thrashed out a set of six songs to learn and perform. The first one on the list was, appropriately I think, Rockstar by Nickelback. Two of the songs I didn’t know; one of those was an Eric Clapton song called Old Love. Here’s a live version with some amazing guitar work by E.C. himself and a mind-blowing piano solo by Chuck Leavell.
Yeah. Old Love. The flame never dies.
Now I must get on. Mister Bigg‘s first rehearsal is in two days and I’m not ready. I’ve got songs to learn and practising to do. There’s no time for blogging now, my friends.