It’s the middle of January and it’s miserably cold. The dog shakes himself head-to-tail, then runs under the table when I approach with his leash. Finally, I coax him into going outside with me because I know, and he knows, there is some business to which he must attend before calling it a night. It’s miserably cold.
Business accomplished and back inside, I’m in full “inspiration mode,” trying desperately to come up with something, anything, to write about. I scroll through pages of half-written paragraphs comprising stories I’ve started, but abandoned for lack of anything resembling a point, a direction, a potential audience. All I can think about is summer and warmer weather. Lounging in the sun, cool drink in hand, warm breeze lifting the sweet sound of guitars and drums through the humid air…
It’s July 4, 2015 and I’d been invited to a backyard party in a neighboring community. “Bring your guitar,” said Kris. “The stage will be set up with even more gear than we had last year.” I arrived as a couple of millennials holding acoustic guitar and electric bass were attacking the microphones. They sang of joy and anger, love awakened and love lost. Only some songs I recognized. One, an Elvis Costello tune. “What am I doing here?” I thought to myself. “I can’t contribute that brand of new wave angst.”
The duo left the stage and were replaced by some guys closer to my age. Kris asked me to join them so I uncased my guitar and set about plugging in, placing my binder of songs on an unused music stand. Making our introductions, we tuned our instruments and decided to warm up with a little rock and roll. These guys all knew each other and played together often as a garage band. I felt like an interloper until they asked if I could sing a Tom Petty song from their repertoire, Running Down a Dream. One of them handed me the lyrics. “Let’s rock,” I said. And with that, we kicked off a forty-five minute set.
The four of us, lead guitar, bass guitar, drums, and me on vocals, did two more numbers from their song list, Spirit’s I Got a Line On You and ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man. I would have been lost without their lyric sheets. One of them pointed to my guitar, which I’d surreptitiously placed on its stand just before we started. He suggested I pick it up and we play some selections together from my binder. Paging through it, he was happy to see chord symbols accompanying the lyrics. By the time I’d strapped on my guitar, the guys had already selected some tunes, beginning with the Beatles’ Eight Days a Week. This was followed by Roy Orbison’s Oh Pretty Woman, and Jethro Tull’s Locomotive Breath. We were warmed up now.
A pair of challenging tunes by Pink Floyd, Brain Damage and Eclipse, and I thought we were finished. It was then our host, Kris, joined us on electric piano. “Let’s do Moondance,” he shouted. Kris and I had played Van Morrison’s Moondance together on a couple of previous occasions and it was one of our favorites. The band jammed on it for about ten minutes, with piano and guitar trading riffs between verses. Finally, we closed the set with Tommy Tutone’s 867-5309/Jenny. What a way to celebrate a Fourth of July afternoon!
It’s the middle of January and it’s miserably cold. But I can almost feel that warm breeze lifting the sweet sound of guitars and drums through the humid air…