Monday, 24 November 2008

All Those Years Ago

I've been tagged by Don! While I'm not into the whole "tagging" thing, I'll still give this one a go... on a musical theme, just like Dons.

1] The very first guitar I owned was an old battered classical nylon-stringed guitar, when I was about 15. Long since gone (it fell apart, actually!), it got me started on my appreciation of playing stringed instruments. I learnt to play 80% of all those old Beatles songs by chugging along using that classical guitar. I could play every guitar track off "A Hard Days Night" note-perfect. Bring it on, John Lennon!

2] I remember standing in front of my bedroom mirror, miming along to my Beatles' records using an old OLD tennis racquet that had only four strings left on it... four strings, simply because I knew that Paul McCartney played a guitar with only four strings. I had no idea at that stage what a 'bass guitar' was tho! But yeah... standing in front of the long mirror in the bedroom chugging along with a tennis racquet! I know kids across the world have done exactly the same thing! Many guitarists admit doing the same kinda thing. Very kute.

Come on! Who hasn't mimed along to their favourite song with their hairbrush as a microphone as a young 'un, hmmm...?!? hahahahaaa.

3] The first-ever 'professional' pub-music gig I ever played was at the Parkway Hotel in Frenches Forest (Sydney NSW) in late-1985! We finally got out of the garage (and later a proper rehearsal space) and regularly gigging as a band we called "The Party Cones". I'd been playing with the drummer (Ahmed) for about 3 years already, and we were great mates. I turned to him just after we did our sound check before the gig and said, "Well, we finally made it!", meaning we'd finally got to play live in front of an audience!

It was a nice feeling.

I have an old cassette of that gig here somewhere too... ahhh, fun memories!

After the band broke up (the guitarist had a meltdown, basically...), Ahmed played drums on-and-off for a few years, but sadly for many years we lost contact. It was only about three years ago we got back in touch via email. Andy (the guitarist) these days makes and sells his own Celtic stringed instruments like harps. They're actually gorgeous instruments. The whereabouts of Claire (vocalist) and Andy (saxophone) are wholly unknown!

4] My first electric guitar was a Hondo II electric six-string, I bought from my Uncle's music store in Brookvale NSW ! It was a piece of crap, actually, with shoddy machine heads, a terrible action, and sounded dreadful - but looked HOT (if memory serves me well!). It didn't even come with a proper hard case. I remember lugging the thing around on school busses, still in it's cardboard box, playing with the school big band! Gagh!

But - it was mine!

Eventually I sprayed it jet-black, took the neck pickup out, and used it as a punk guitar. Eventually it started falling to pieces from getting a jolly-good thrashing (back in those days), and at one Party Cones gig I actually set fire to it on-stage, much to peoples' consternation and laughter (always do things for the laugh, you know)! Finally, after many years sitting in my old bedroom at my parents place gathering dust... when they finally moved out of our 36-yo family home, I smashed the old broken-down unrepairable worthless guitar into a big yellow mini-skip. Pieces flew everywhere.

It was somehow a very cathartic (?) experience for me.

5] People ask me sometimes... why Bass guitar? Well... (and this still stands true to this very day!), I started playing bass guitar more than just a normal six-string guitar simply because no-one else was! I have never been without a gig since. That was when I was about 18. Guitarists seem to be everywhere... but bass players - nu uh!

Needless to say, I've played with some of the best (and worst!) players you could ever hope to find in so many various situations in so many ways. It's been a brilliant, fun learning experience. And you always have something new to learn on any instrument, no matter how many years you've been playing it.

My very first time I'd ever picked-up a bass guitar was at somebody's 18th birthday party (when I was about 16 1/2), when there was a band playing in their garage. During one of their breaks, they let a few of us jam on some old Sex Pistols and other punky stuff (that's all we could play back in those days! lol). Needless to say, I picked up the bass for something fun to try... and strummed the individual strings like a guitar, rather than just 'pluck' the notes! In other words... even then I was rhythmically playing a bass like a guitar - and in so many ways I still do. There's a tape here somewhere of that night... and of course, it sounded dreadful!

But we had a lot of fun!

6] I'm gonna break the rules and add a sixth one.

7] My favourite gig (live concert performance) was not one of our biggest, or necessarily one of our best (in a funny way). This night stands out for me because, out of the 130+ gigs we played as "The Surprise" back in the late 1980s/early 90's, we absolutely clicked together in a very-special way playing together this night, the whole night. Every song just had a certain magical feeling to it, and we totally got into playing together and performing, exploring songs that we were all overly-familiar-with, in new refreshing ways.

The Friday night before, we'd played to c.500 people in a school hall/auditorium, which we normally did about every six-weeks or-so. Twas a good night, don't get me wrong!

The very next night, we played at Emu Plains High School hall (near Penrith NSW), to only about 150 people.

Those 150 people saw us at our absolute peak as a band that night. They (as we were) were absolutely blown away by our dynamicism (?), our light show (oil wheels, projectors, slide shows, the works!), our pure energy that night, the interplay, the presence. The mojo? I honestly don't know how to describe it.

People were still coming up to me like eight years later (no exaggeration) saying they were there that night, and remembered it vividly, thanking me for the experience. That always bought a smile to my face.

There's no logical reasonable explanation why that night in particular was such an amazing night for us as a band. The crowd was way-down on what we anticipated. We had no expectations that that night was going to be any different. It just happened. Years of playing together just really fired on 12-cylinders that night.

I guess we just gave ourselves the freedom to relax and really let go and enjoy playing all our own original songs we all knew like the back-of-our-hands.

I know for me, personally, I was going thru a pretty damn hard time in my life. Playing in the band was for me a total release. I know Alan (the drummer) and I (on bass) were totally psychically linked that night... we played so well together. But it was all five of us, playing off one-another, that made it such a memorable experience.

I have a vivid memory of a floor full of faces just staring almost slack-jawed as we played that night at some stages. It felt that good too for us, let alone for the punters.

There were a squillion gigs we did that we really fired on all cylinders and played up a storm. We played to crowds as tiny as three (yes, seriously! We played an inner-city pub to three punters - who sure got their moneys' worth that night! hahahah) to a 5,000 hysterically-happy festival crowd as well. One extreme to another - as well as almost every possible combination of crowds and venues along the way. We always tried to play our best, even in those 'shitty' gigs - and we got a lot of on-going work out of playing well at those nights as well. And every band has those 'off' nights as well - and we had our fare-share of those along the way.

This was one of those nights, a one-in-a-thousand thing, where we totally went into a different level playing-wise as a unit. It's kinda difficult to explain. But for me, personally, this particular night stands out more in my memory simply because the energy and passion we shared together than night totally gelled 100%.

Alex (the guitarist & vocalist) and I could just share a sly unspoken look between each-other mid gig, a sly winked smile, that simply meant, "Remember that night at Emu Plains...?"

That bought back a lot of fond memories, for sure. Thanks.
Peas be with ewe
Mal :)

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  1. I can tell you enjoyed reliving all those memories. Glad you did this one it was an enjoyable read. :)

  2. Glad you wrote down those great memories, and thanks for sharing them with us :)

  3. Thanks! I enjoyed thinking about pleasant things I hadn't thought of for many years. Blogging can be kinda a nice relaxation tool sometimes. Yet other times it can be just downright demanding! But overall I've enjoyed my Blogging experience over the past 4 1/2 years.

    I need to blog-out (I wonder if that's a legitimate expression? "To Blog-Out" = to get-off your chest, express your feelings via an electronic media? rofl) today's band situation. Hmmm... maybe when it's not 2.50 Monday morning, perhaps?

    Oh, I slept earlier, but awoke after a four-hour sleepie! I'm starting to get pretty heavy eyed right now tho.

    Mal :)

  4. Wow that's amazing! A bass player who can spell!! ;)

  5. Those are awesome memories! Now I know what happened to your old band..damn shame!

    Everything happens for a reason...and life goes on. New memories are being lived. :)