Let It B

IMG_1232I got my 4yo son a drum kit for Christmas, not some little flimsy Toys R Us unit, but a real miniature one by way of our local pawn store. B loves it and has already declared it the best Xmas present he received. I set it up down in our shed and have taken my electric guitar and amp down there, too.

So far, I’ve gone down and turned on the space heater and let it warm up a little before we get bundled up and head down to the shed where B sits at his little stool and gets going by whacking away at the skins. Then I begin to play, usually just an E chord with the “gain” turned up for maximum fuzz, which B seems to approve of but depending on where I go from there it can all come to a halt.

B and I have been jamming for months and months, me on the electric or acoustic guitar, B on an old single drum that one of my brothers was going to throw away but instead bequeathed to us. For weeks and weeks, months and months, I’d play a simple blues chord progression and B would bang away. I also introduced a couple other tunes, like a bastardization of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” or Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and far Away,” or just a few crude melodies I’ve strung together on my own.

At some point, B began to pick up the beat and as he did so he gained confidence in his perceived musical abilities. This is when he began to seize control of our band as I quickly went from band leader and lead singer to merely the guitarist.

Now when I play something he recognizes, he quickly stops drumming and barks at me to stop. “That’s an old song,” he says. “We’re not playing any old songs, only new.” I shake my head. I have limited abilities on the guitar and am stretched to create on the guitar but nevertheless shrug and begin banging on an E chord again but reach for other chords.

He also changed the name of our band. I initially called us Hot Junk which I thought was a good name for a garage–or shed–band but then he overruled me. “Our band is called the Camo (as in camouflage) Color,” he announced one day, and he reminds me of it every time I drift into a familiar riff. We are only supposed to make new music, and when I don’t and he brings the hammer down on me I just swallow his abrupt direction.

It’s kind of funny to me, but still a little abrasive being bossed around to such a degree, especially within a creative context. It always reminds me of the famous scene from the Beatles’ film Let It Be when Paul McCartney tries to tell George Harrison what or not what to play. “I’ll play, you know, whatever you want me to play,” George says, “or I won’t play at all if you don’t want to me to play. Whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.”

I need to memorize this quote and start saying it back to B. I know he will be unfazed by my truculence, but maybe it will make me feel a bit better about being bossed around. Either way, we are Camo Color and we only make new music. There is no changing that.


Thanks AC/DC

I had one of the greatest things happen to me this morning. A couple of months ago my youngest brother gave me a small guitar amp and an old beat-up electric that I occasionally strum while baby G bounces in his jumper. Usually, four-year-old B–if he’s not at school–will sit and play with some of his toys.

In the last couple of weeks, though, he’s started to take an interest in a small classical guitar I have lying around and has adopted it as his “electric guitar.” After Mama left this morning, I threw B in the jumper and plugged in the electric and started to play a rudimentary version of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (itself a very rudimentary tune).
G did his usual bounce along to my playing but out of nowhere B announced he was grabbing his electric guitar and held the classical to his chest and with his fingers on the frets strummed along. He was sorta jumping and singing the chorus, I was head banging and laughing, G was pogoing up and down with a big smile on his face like he was either our hype man or in the audience.

It was one of those pure moments that make all the other stuff–the crying and fits and the poop and pee–all worthwhile. Thanks AC/DC.

“Baby G, Baby G, Is Getting Some Teeth.” Play It With Me.

I probably spend an hour each day–sometimes more–playing guitar while my now nine-month-old baby bounces along in his Fisher Price jumper. He appears to love it when I pick up the instrument and strum the first chords, in particular the pattern of one progression that is a crude take on the blues. I’ve played it for months and months it seems, but he always picks up on the rudimentary rhythm and bounces in time, occasionally he even sings–or moans–along. I always toy with different words, but this weekend stumbled across a few about G’s just getting some teeth. Any baby’s name would fit where his does, so feel free to adapt it to your own uses, I’ve got no copyright. The tab is below:

(E) Baby G, baby G, is (A) getting (open chord) some (E) teeth.

(E) Finally, finally, may (A) be (open) even (E) three.

That’s it. Play it over and over until you both enter a trance, you’re hoarse and your fingers hurt, and the baby’s about to sleep. It works almost every time.

Things I Can’t Live Without (#2): My Guitar

Most mornings, I put baby G in the automated swing so he can go to sleep. At first, he usually fusses, but then I pick up my acoustic guitar, pull up one of B’s little desk chairs and strum for him. G immediately stops crying and stares into my eyes, listening as I usually just mess around, stringing a few chords together and singing nonsensical lyrics (although lately I’ve sung him Paul Simon’s “Was a Sunny Day”). That I have only remedial skill at the instrument and a flat, off-key voice doesn’t matter. Usually within five minutes the baby is passed out and then I can play with B and get us all ready to get out the door.

More than being useful, I also secretly hope it is inspiring some latent love of music in the little guy, that perhaps he will later pick up the guitar himself, and one day be standing on stage at the Grammys thanking his old man (although no one ever thanks their father, do they?). Even if that never happens, though, the guitar is still a big help.