Many baby boomers can trace their love of music to the evening of Feb. 9, 1964, when the Beatles first hit the stage on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” That night was, indeed, life changing for me, as I suddenly wanted to be John, Paul, George and especially Ringo, all rolled into one.
But I was a music fan even before the Beatles arrived on the scene, thanks in large part to my sister’s collection of 45s by the likes of Pat Boone, Bobby Darin, Shelley Fabares and even Dr. Kildare himself, Richard Chamberlain.
But it was the Beatles who made me want to actually make music, not just listen to records. I wanted to play drums like Ringo. But then John looked so cool strumming away on his guitar. But Paul’s bass lines were mesmerizing, and George’s guitar solos were just right.
Drums? Guitar? Bass? I couldn’t decide, so I tried to become a jack-of-all-trades and ended up a master of none.
When I went off to college, I took an acoustic guitar with me. When I should have been studying for my finite math test, I was instead writing truly dreadful songs using chords picked at random from my Mel Bay chord book.
Many of my early songs dealt with female companionship, specifically my lack of it and the reasons I seemed to repel the opposite sex. Basically they all could have been titled “Woe is Me.”
After college I got married and had kids, and the guitar stayed in its case for months at a time, largely forgotten.
Then, in the mid-1990s, I met a guy who not only wrote songs but also recorded them on a four-track tape recorder. That sounded like fun, so I blew the dust off my guitar, grabbed my Mel Bay chord book and bought a recorder.
I started writing songs again, though they weren’t much better than those I wrote in college. So I took guitar lessons for the first time and discovered these things called keys. Turns out that songs sound much better when you write them in a certain key and use just the chords in that key instead of throwing darts at a Mel Bay book. Who knew?
My lyrics improved a bit too, though I still proved more adept at writing “Woe is Me” than “Happy Happy Joy Joy.”
To properly record my creations, both old and new, I needed more than my old acoustic guitar. Soon my “studio,” which I dubbed Flabby Toad, included drums, bass and an electric guitar. I began to record my songs and assemble them into “albums” on cassette tapes.
I didn’t share these tapes with many people. While I was fairly proud of the songs and my instrumental accompaniment, my singing voice sounds a bit like a walrus with a very bad tusk ache.
Over time I moved on, and my songwriting and recording career fizzled, though I still have my studio. In fact, with the advent of modern computerized recording techniques, I’m tempted to get Flabby Toad up and running again. Who knows? Maybe the computer can even make my singing sound good.
Recently I shared one of my “albums” with a friend to see what he thought. I handed it over with a bevy of caveats.
“Now you have to listen to the quality of the songs and try to ignore the bad guitar playing and bad drumming and the awful singing.” I said. “Just try to imagine what the song would sound like with talented musicians playing and singing it.”
I put my heart and soul into those songs. I just hoped he would go easy on me.
The next day I got a text message from him. All it said was that he thought one song would be perfect for Dr. Demento, the legendary radio (now Internet) DJ who specializes in novelty songs.
Novelty songs? The whoopee cushions of the music industry?
I was hoping for something more along the lines of perfect for James Taylor or Michael Bublé, but Dr. Demento is better than nothing, I guess. So my friend submitted the song, and we are awaiting the good doctor’s diagnosis.
Who knows, maybe the suspicion I’ve had all these years will be confirmed. Maybe my music really IS a joke.