When I left my old band, I didn’t close the door on performing electric music. I didn’t know what I wanted to get into, but figured I’d know it when I found it. Now I’m not so sure.
I thought I’ d now enjoy filling in for occasional gigs with my old band, but have found myself turning down the last three offers. One was for yet another series of reunion gigs in Colorado. I went last year, but the weather was horrible (way too hot) the drive was boring, and there was no adventure to it. I really just wanted to get out of the house, and there were better and less expensive ways to do it. The music had its moments, but one song I was looking forward to doing (Evil Ways in which I had a good keyboard part) got cut from the set.
The other two gigs were local, one on guitar, the other on bass. Other than the reunion gigs, I hadn’t played guitar with Void in ages, and getting the sets together would be done with the idea of getting to adequacy. Bass is much the same way. Although I’ve subbed several times for them of late, it’s always a rush to get ready. Which brings me to a startling realization about what I want in a musical venture.
As much as I liked Void, it wasn’t the performing that I liked. It sure wasn’t the money. It was perfecting songs. I think the best moments came from rehearsals, not gigs. When we’d get a song right, really right, it was heaven. Subbing just doesn’t provide that. So I’m going to pull back from subbing.
So it is that in reviewing my accumulated gear, I have excess. First and foremost is having two identical amps with speaker identical cabinets. Why two? The extra amp gave me double the power if I needed it (which was rare) and a backup if I needed it (which was never). The extra speaker was because it was better to give full coverage to large or odd-shaped venues. But I just don’t see myself playing those kinds of gigs again. I have a few other odds and ends that I really should part company with as I settle into my low-volume, low gigging reality.
At the same time, I’m still trying to build up my skill set. Of course, guitar has been my first instrument since I was twelve. I also managed to play a fair amount of harmonica through the years. Nothing worthy of showing off, but good enough to back up a band on the Romantics “What I Like About You” or Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” which I did many times over the years.
But one skill I never developed was playing both guitar and harmonica together. Neil Young did it frequently, as did Bob Dylan and John Lennon. These tended not to be
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Last update: April 7, 2022
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virtuoso pieces on either instrument, but the effect was always very entertaining, and had I been able to do it in my bands, it would have spared me the grief of having to pick up the harmonica really quickly as I stopped playing guitar, then putting it back down as I switched back to guitar.
I’ve had harmonica holders like the kind the above artists used for as far back as I can remember, but I could never get them to work for me. I don’t know what the problem has been, I just couldn’t get up the coordination to play even the simplest harmonica part with the simplest 3-chord guitar part. It really can’t be that hard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely a big fan of Dylan, but he was certainly never a “rock god” on either instrument. Still, he could put the two together and make credible music. As I play more and more on my porch, just me and my guitar, being able to pull this off is very inviting as a way to vary my routine. I swear I should be able to do it, at least a little.
Well, I recently found the perfect song to start on, Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” Both parts are dirt simple. I’m finding I can get through it, if only marginally. Yeah, the harmonica holder is cumbersome as I try to sing. But it’s coming along. I just have to stick with it. Perhaps it was because I was only twelve when I started, but singing and playing guitar together came easily. Singing and playing bass was harder, but it too came around. Of course, singing and playing harmonica at the same time isn’t likely, but going back and forth as I play guitar is kinda the whole point. It’ll take some work. We’ll see.
The recording, lyrics, and back story to "My Brain Is Too Small", a song I wrote and recorded in 1990.
The video, lyrics, and back story of the song I wrote and performed for my retirement party in 2006.