I don't think anyone would argue the fact that the power of music is pervasive in our lives. Just look at the number of people walking around these days with earplugs in their ears. Whether you're an American Idol junkie or a Conductor at the New York Philharmonic, the force of music has crept into your life and is nurturing your soul. What I often wonder is- do we pursue music or does music pursue us? There's a seduction there, no doubt. One would think that the degree to which and individual succumbs can depend on the same social, environmental, and generational factors that would influence any career or pastime but I suspect that when it comes to music there are other forces at work as well, something akin to the moon's effect on the tides.
I'm a baby boomer, born 1953. At that time America was on the cusp of a musical revolution as the seeds of rock and roll were about to burst. By the early sixties when my older sister was given a transistor radio as a birthday gift, a new world was upon me – the world of AM radio! I snatched the strange device every chance I could. At first it was the sheer wonderment of the device itself- a seemingly futuristic, two-toned device the size of an index card. WMCA was the station de jure back then if I recall and it seems as though the Four Seasons and Dion had a new hit every other week. Then came American Bandstand on television showcasing the deluge of R&B Artists of the sixties. It was all magical and I was addicted. By the time the British Invasion landed in America I was ripe for the taking.
In February 1964 the rules changed as thousands of curious and unsuspecting American households witnessed the American debut of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. For my generation- the moon had turned the tides. What followed on the Ed Sullivan show was: The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five, and The Animals, etc. but what followed in America was Garage Band Mania! I started playing guitar immediately and along with a cousin and a schoolmate buddy formed my first band- Danny and the Devils. Our first performance was in the basement of my house in front of a small audience of relatives. We weren't very good. Our limited repertoire of Beatles' and Stones' tunes revolved around the limited chords I knew good, bad or otherwise. But the beauty of performing in front of loved ones at that stage is that no matter how bad you perform you will always be praised and encouraged.
I soon became disenchanted with the guitar and it wasn't until I stumbled upon a revelation quite by chance one day that my true musical passion took hold. It occurred to me one day while messing around in the basement that I could emulate the sound of Dave Clark's snare drum by placing a cardboard box over an empty metal five gallon pail. Now, whether or not it actually sounded like Dave Clark's snare drum is irrelevant – to me it was Dave Clark's snare drum and I couldn't stop banging the hell out of it. Amidst the distraction of haircuts, boots and suits, I was always smitten by the sound of that snare when I watched the DC-5 on The Ed Sullivan Show; It seemed atypical for rock drummers at the time – the high pitch, every stroke sounding like a rim shot! I had found my niche as a musician.
In the late sixties rock music in America experienced a renaissance ushered in by the emergence of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream among others. And for aspiring musicians around the world, this raised the bar considerably. What followed for the next twelve years or so was an onslaught of musical talent the likes of which will arguably never be repeated or matched. Aspiring musicians not only in rock but all genres had the good fortune of being inspired by and reaping the benefits of this unprecedented talent base. If you were lucky enough to have experienced this as I have – you know what I'm talking about. Shows were accessible. Impresarios like Bill Graham held weekly venues on both coasts as his Fillmore East and Fillmore West theaters brought top-notch talent to the masses. This was the time to be young and impressionable if there ever was one. I remember my first show at the Fillmore East. It was 1967 and I was a freshman in high school. I went to see Blood Sweat and Tears. I had no idea at the time that the highlight of the night would be a relatively obscure warm up act named Jethro Tull. I remember sitting in the balcony and being blown away by Clive Bunker's drum solo (he had a pretty cool shirt on too if I recall). Needless to say this paved the way for future indulgences: Led Zeppelin at Carnegie Hall, Jimi Hendrix at Madison Square Garden, etc. Such was the spirit of the time - raucous and sublime.
While I have been a drummer for over forty years, I am not a professional musician. I did not have the courage to take that leap of faith. Along with thousands of others like myself, I enjoy moderate success playing in local rock, blues or jazz venues on my own terms. But if music is a drug, I am addicted to that drug –and proud to be! After all, I have had the privilege of being influenced by an incredibly rich and unique musical era. It is part of my being and always will be. I like to think that all musicians have a ringing in their ears and a fire in their soul. For those of my generation the forces that frame our delicate symmetry are clearly evident.