I know a lot of middle-aging guys who still imagine they’re going to be in a rock band someday, and they’re going to be the lead guitarist – a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, combined with the ability to duck walk across the stage like Chuck Berry. Before we even write a song, or sometimes even learn to play the guitar, we come up with a million names for our bands. Above Average Weight Band. Iron Prostate. The Rolling Kidney Stones. I Can’t Remember Who. King Salmon. Kind of like King Crimson only with a farm-raised fish as the bass. And on lead vocals we have Charlie the Tuna. That cat could really carry a tune.
I admit that I am one of these would-be rock stars. I still imagine that someday, when I get even older than I already am, when I have time for my second childhood, or second teenagehood, when I finally find the right musicians, especially a Grace Slick-like female vocalist and a drummer who doesn’t start playing the solo from “Wipeout” after every number, I’ll make this band happen. We’ll get gigs in local clubs, the kind of clubs that cater to our fellow aging boomers who need to drink Metamucil before we go to bed and really don’t like to go out after dark at all, since it’s difficult for us to drive at night. And sitting on those hard bar chairs, or stools without backs, or standing up for two hours, hey, forget it. We can’t do that crap anymore. Also, not that we were ever that crazy about dancing, but now, after one dance, our knees start to get sore, and if we twist too much, we’ll probably be limping for a week afterwards.
So what clubs will my band play? I guess I imagine that we’ll be so cool, so retro-hip, so in-tune in-synch absolutely fantastic that we’ll find an audience among the young people who actually like to go out to see bands. Why do I think this? I guess because I’m delusional and it’s the only thing that jibes with my long-term goal of becoming a rock star.
So there I am on stage, playing my new hit song “My Heart’s On Fire (‘Cause I Ate Those Mexican Leftovers Again).” I love the idea of cranking up my amp full blast, although whenever I get into a bar where the music is very loud, or even a restaurant where everybody’s talking, I hate it because I have difficulty hearing what the people right next to me are saying, let alone the people across the table. It’s something about what happens to your hearing when you get older. I do my best, but really, a crowded room, a party, a bar, a concert are not the most comfortable places for me to be anymore. The truth is the concerts I like the best are pretty quiet affairs. I like going out to see the Cleveland Orchestra, where the entire audience is so quiet you can hear a pin drop, and when one does, everyone gives the hairy eyeball to the offender who would disturb the pristine environment with their noise pollution.
So what to make of this fantasy? I still like to play music, but it’s pretty mellow and mostly the audience is just other middle-aged guys like me. We get together and play each other songs, take turns going around the circle and everyone joins in as best they can, tries to follow along, adds a harmony, plays a lead, ends on the same note at the same time. We maintain our delusions of grandeur, remembering better times, but mostly just enjoying each other’s company and the company of all the great songs we’ve heard our musical heroes of years past play. They may be dead and gone, or aged beyond recognition, but we still love those songs and play them for all they’re worth.
And maybe we will play out one of these days. The Geezers and Wheezers appearing live (we hope) and in person at the Fillmore East Retirement Village on Sunday at 2 pm. Wear your tie-dies and be sure to have that second cup of coffee after lunch so you can stay awake long enough to enjoy the concert.