the decaffeinated tuning peg

28 08 2009
J B-J with me on his t-shirt

J B-J with me on his t-shirt

It was when I opened the gig at Wembley as drummer for Bon Jovi that I knew I had realised my dream. I always wanted to be rock-star. I had made it.

I still wake up from this dream, knowing  it could still happen. It was my deeply held belief until I was 25. I mean 15. No, 12. Over time the dream changed, constantly worn down by drummer jokes as I was (“How do you tell if the stage is level? If the drummer drools out of both sides of his mouth”), eventually I wanted to be the lead singer and guitarist. Jon himself. Or even, maybe, Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. It could still happen.

Progress is slow. I am learning the guitar. I started in 2002. I have given up many times. I have started again this week. I long to strum and pick and sing songs of beauty and love and passion, like “The Guitar Lies Bleeding in my Arms”. Ok, these days I want to be more like proper musicians like Martyn Joseph. I crave fingers of dexterity, a thumb that doesn’t keep pointing sideways, and a voice that has an inbuilt tuner. Some say a mute button. I don’t know what they mean.

The rugged musican look

The rugged musican look

I was tuning the guitar this morning, something real musicians do. I plucked strings and twiddled tuning pegs. It was fine until the ‘d’ string. I plucked, twiddled, and nothing changed. Or did it? Maybe the pitch changed. A bit? That time it did, definitely. The red lights flickered. Do you see it? Not sure… must have done. Yes it did.

I convinced myself. Then I realised, by using the full power of my highly skilled musical mind, that I was twiddling the wrong peg. It was making no difference to the string. Oh how I laughed. Everyone on the bus stared. It reminded me of that thing we do when we are lost, and have only brought the printed directions off the computer, and not an actual map. We make our environment fit into our assumptions. The directions must have meant go left, not right. It must be a new roundabout. The ‘d’ string is changing pitch. It is!

Dogs have an expression for it, they call it ‘barking up the wrong tree’. Convincing ourselves of something because we want it to be true. Many people might say that people who follow Jesus are tuning the wrong peg. Believing something to be real because they really want it to be. Maybe they have a point. I really want it to be true.

Maybe I am barking. I think though if was choosing a wrong tree to bark up, I would choose one that demanded a bit less of me. I might choose one that said all you need to do is go to church for an hour a week, or a month, and nothing more. A nice safe tree. Like the one musician Nick Cave describes in the intriguing little book Revelations: “…the Christ I remembered from my choir-boy days was that wet, all-loving, etiolated individual that the church proselytised… I recall thinking what a wishy-washy affair the whole thing was. The Anglican Church: it was the decaf of worship and Jesus was their Lord.” Ouch.

an intriguing read

an intriguing read

There’s lots of people barking up the decaf tree with the wrong tuning peg. I may just be able to convince myself for a while that that was the right tree. Many do. Many know no other tree. But I will go slowly mad. Because I have heard a more beautiful music, and once you’ve heard it, you can’t go back.

Simple ‘church-going’ does tune a string, but not the one plugged into the tuner. The whole guitar will never be tuned. The strings will never make beautiful melodies. It is possible to play a tune on one string. Even an out of tune one. I know, I used to be in a band called Bum Trumpet. But there is so much more!!

The human life tuned to the life, love and character of the forgiving Jesus. A life that brings with it challenges and demands, like strings being made taut and loosened, lives that on their own may seem insignificant, but when played by an actual brilliant musician become exquisitely beautiful, full of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, self-control. Wood and wire transformed into a full-on rock n roll distorted noise. It is what we were designed for. Use the pegs, tune the whole guitar. Make beautiful music. And turn up the amp.

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4 responses

28 08 2009
edgsoni

Okay, so now I’ve become your cyber stalker. Be afraid. I’m not sure what the rules are out here in Blogland, but I’m bound to traverse them and become impossible to regulate.
I feel I should contribute something constructive on the basis that guitar players should support one another. We could discuss the meaning of life, the universe & everything within the ever-expanding confines of three chords and the truth. Or I could show you my human chord trick. Better still, I could teach you how to hide your plectrum in the palm of your hand while taking communion.
But should drummers moonlighing as guitar players be encouraged, or discouraged? Guitar jobs need to be protected for existing guitar players! Why not dislodge a keyboard player instead? They’re unlikely to resist such an infiltration, or even notice. And their t-shirts and haircuts are easier to manage (though harder to wear).
On balance, maybe you should keep strumming. But if you find the lost chord, don’t keep it to yourself.
Knock knock.
Who’s there?
A drummer.
Come in.
Knock knock.
Who’s there?
A drummer.
I told you to come in earlier.
Sorry! I wasn’t really concentrating. Shall we start this again?

30 08 2009
Kevin

Let’s not! The question is, why is being the guitarist always more appealing when I know that being the drummer is obviously the most important? And the most fun. Tho I am proud of having squeezed Geri Halliwell and Bon Jovi into my posts so far. Perhaps they would not be so proud.

3 09 2009
normanandgaynor

Hi Kevin,
Going from drumming to guitar playing seems a very big step to me, have you thought about an intermediate with the swannie whistle and kazoo.
Norman

3 09 2009
Kevin

Well, I have been accused of being “up the swannie” several times, and I do remember a childhood penchant for kazoo playing… so maybe you are onto something! But don’t you worry, I won’t be leaving the drums lying dormant for very long…

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