5 January 2006

Joan Baez Made a Man Out of Me

I was born with no musical talent and did not develop any as I got older. I cannot even whistle when the Hammer and I walk past the graveyard. But I love music, always will, and figure my life would have been less than half as much fun without it.

In elementary school they tried to make me play the recorder. The music teacher, a sadist by the name of Mr. Hill, was always hollering, "Someone is out of tune! Who's out of tune?" His Hitler eyes and ears would search the class for the untuned. It was always me until I learned how to pretend to play the recorder. That's right - I was an air recorder player.

We used to like to look down the throat of our recorders to see what was growing in them. Usually there was scary green shit growing down there. I always had the cleanest recorder. As far as I was concerned Mr. Hill could stick his recorder up his kazoo.

After we had mastered the recorder we tried our hands at the ukelelee. The school board, who travelled to Hawaii and got hammered every winter, figured all us kids would like to play a ukelelee. We were a bunch of Don Ho wannanotbes. When we practiced Mr. Hill was sure someone was out of tune and he would search with his disfigured ears up and down the aisles for the retard who could not play. I learned to play the air ukelelee. I thought everybody was a fool being in tune with Mr. Hill. One time when Mr. Hill left his uke in a classroom unattended someone put a frozen dog shit in his instrument. Who's not in tune now Mr. Hill?

After that it was off to junior high. Playing an instrument became an optional exercize. Unfortunately that was about the time my sisters starting practicing their recorders at home. They wanted to be in tune badly. That was when I started listening to rock music. When my sisters were doing their doe-ray- meez I would plant the headphones on my ears, put a stack of Alice Cooper and Deep Purple albums on the automatic record player and play me some air guitar.

When I got to grade 11 I got to thinking playing air school would be a good idea. One of the courses offered as an elective was folk guitar. I was a perfect fit. I could not play the guitar worth a folk. A bunch of my buddies thought it would be a good idea to learn to play an acoustic guitar too. Skills like that are mighty valuable in the real world. In fact that was what my dad said when he heard I had signed up for the course. "Like the world needs another 35 folk guitar players."

We learned Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell songs mostly. I tried really hard to play the guitar. My brothers and sisters probably started listening to rock music after tiring of listening to me twang away in the basement with the spiders. I should have stuck with the air ukelelee. In the back of the class a guy we knew as Jimmy Page would solo away all class long every class. He was on mescaline or something. Jimmy was cool.

Me and my buddies learned the songs good enough to get a pass. Mission accomplished. Our utter lack of talent prepared us well for our later transformation into the worst punk rock band on Earth.

And when the subject of out of control school kids who will be good for fuck all when they grow up comes up, as it does when one gets older, I tell people the same thing. "Yeah, it's too bad kids are not offered more mean nothing electives like folk guitar any more. Because when I was going to school we had lots of options like that to help get us through the horror of school and you know what? We all turned out ok." We turned our musical inabilities and general lack of direction into houses and pensions and taxes.

Let the kids rock. That's what I say.

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