Saturday, June 11, 2011
Who's to blame?
The only way to start these diaries is to explain how I ended up in a band in the first place.
Three parties stand accused of being partners in this crime against humanity:
1) My parents
There was often music playing in our house when I was a kid. When I was seven years old my parents bought me a tape recorder, complete with a cassette on which my dad recorded of one of my mother's John Denver LPs! Fortunately I recognised wretched music at an early age, and John Denver was soon replaced with my first songwriting efforts. When I was nine years old my parents gave me a beat up old record player and a few of their old LPs, including the first few Stones LPs. My parents also bought me an acoustic guitar around this time. This guitar didn't survive long. The closest it came to being used for "musical" purposes was playing open chords while wailing the lyrics to Route 66 or Little Red Rooster! Undeterred, my parents bought me a nylon string acoustic guitar a few years later, which survives to this day - although at the time it only served the purpose of gathering dust.
2) The hottest band in the world, KISS!
The first record I ever bought was (cringe!) Fernando by Abba, followed a few months later by Dancing Queen! The first song that really hooked me was I Don't Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats. Apart from loving the song, I also loved the fact it was controversial, though I didn't understand why at the time. My feeling for Mondays was later surpassed when I heard The Fine Art of Surfacing, and in particular, Diamond Smiles. And when later I saw the video, it blew my god-damned pre-teen mind! So much so that it's still one of my favourite songs.
However, my love of The Boomtown Rats didn't last long - I thought their next single, Banana Republic was such a turgid piece of crap that I didn't listen to the band for many years. But it didn't matter, because by this time KISS had finally hit the big time in Australia, becoming my first real musical obsession. And when all the cool kids had discarded KISS and moved on to the latest fad, my passion for the band only increased - as did my desire to be outside the mainstream. And as KISS got heavier and the make-up came off, I started getting into similar bands, such as Deep Purple and Iron Maiden, until I was a fully fledged metal-head.
3) Phil Howlett
The main accomplices in my musical journey to this point were my brother Paul and my best friend Phil. At some point Phil and I decided to form a band, despite the fact we couldn't play any instruments! And this is where my parents re-enter the story - I asked them to buy me an electric guitar. And despite my lack of interests in my previous guitars, they bought me a cheap telecaster copy. At first I played the telecaster through my stereo. Later, after reading that the distorted guitar sound from The Kinks' You really got me was achieved by overdriving a small speaker, I commandeered a succession of such speakers, plugging them in through the headphone output of my stereo, and overdriving them to the end of their miserable existence. Later I found I could obtain a similar (albeit more flatulent sounding) effect by playing my guitar through my cassette player at maximum input level while it recording.
Inspired by my pitiful efforts, my dad decided the time had come to start fulfilling his latent musical ambitions. He bought himself an electric guitar, and promptly proceeded not to play it. So I ended up with a second guitar, which came in handy as it meant that Phil had something to play when he visited. The first song we learned to "play" was Heaven's on Fire by KISS. After playing this for a few weeks, Phil made the insightful suggestion that it might help if we tuned the guitars! My dad's guitar came with a guitar tuner, which we duly (mis)used to tune our guitars - only to end up tuned to D, possibly making us the world's first grunge band! And it was at least a year later that we realised that the rest of the world tuned to E!
Since I had staked my claim to the guitar, Phil got himself a bass and an amp. I duly purchased my first amp, which was actually a keyboard amp. An amp which I proceeded to blow up at least three times in the next few years, necessitating expensive repairs which I could barely afford.
And when my brother introduced us to a drummer in his grade at school, Neville, I was finally in a BAND!