ASTUTE OBSERVATIONS for the East Side... & beyond

unlocking the secrets

Greetings once again, dear readers of The East Nashvillian magazine; I hope this issue finds you well, rested, and happy. It has truly been a pleasure writing this column this past year and I thank you for reading it.
     Sometimes I fret and such over topics upon which to base my “astute observations” and sometimes the topic falls in my lap.
     This was the latter.
     Recently, I was having a conversation and a drink at The Village Pub with a couple of friends, both of whom are accomplished songwriters and guitar players. Not so shockingly, the topic found its way to music. This was not the typical discussion of technique or of sessions and gigs.
     Our conversation that evening was about youth, exuberance, innocence, and joy. We found ourselves talking about that moment, as a kid, when you got your first “real” instrument. Not the $50 guitar or bass with the action so high you needed the Kung Fu grip to get anything out of it, but the first honest-to-goodness magic guitar like your heroes played.
     Allow me to share my story.
     Believe it or not, I was not the most suave and self-assured young man in town. I was a shy kid who loved rock ’n roll. It was the last day of junior high. After the short walk from the school bus that I happily would not see again ’til September, I made my way down the block to our house. My older brother was waiting inside. He was by then a junior in high school and a great rock ’n roll guitar player. We had a band together. We were good. No singer really, but we could play instrumental versions of pretty much every Led Zeppelin and Rush song ever recorded. My brother said, “Hey, Jim, go look under your bed. I brought a bass home from a friend at school for you to check out.”
     Up the stairs to the room we shared and there I was, pulling out a shiny black case from under the bed. When I opened it, the smell was new and sweet, like polish—much different than the cardboard one that held my student model bass. Nestled in soft blue fabric was a black-and-white Rickenbacker bass. Just like my hero, Geddy Lee, played in Rush. I was really psyched. This was gonna be fun! No more school, and my favorite bass in the world was looking up at me.
     I looked back over my shoulder at my brother and Dad. They were both grinning broadly at me.
     “It’s yours,” my dad said.
     “We just picked it up,” my brother added.
     “Whoa ... WHAAAAAT?!?” I exclaimed.
     I’d like to be able to tell you exactly what and how I felt on that June day in 1985, but it’s hard to describe the feelings of that 14-year-old kid. Excitement, adrenaline, innocence, and joy are the words that come to mind 30 years later.
     Looking back now, I can say that I loved that bass. I was truly in love. It was special and real and powerful. The secrets were in there, and I was filled with adrenaline and happiness and excitement, eager to start right in on unlocking them. It was the greatest bass in the world, as far as I was concerned— the one I found any excuse to visit and play in the music store; the one I read about in magazines.
     It was the most generous gift I’ve ever been given. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t rich either. I realize now what that gift from my parents really meant.
     My friend put it really well that night at the pub. He’d rescued a Gibson EBO bass from a pawn shop. “I stared at that logo every night until I fell asleep. Now I was in the club; the instrument was no longer holding me back. I had the same bass as my hero. I realized it was all up to me,” he reminisced.
     That’s it really. That's what we were talking about: unbridled joy and enthusiasm. Membership. The keys to a brand-new Cadillac that you weren't too young to drive. You’ve got unending possibility, adventure, and fun. It's all in your hands.
     A Rick, a Gibson, a Fender, a set of Ludwigs—the instrument doesn’t matter. It’s the feeling that it’s all up to you, the future is wide open, and it’s gonna be a blast. Nothing to do but play!

Thank you, music!
Happy New Year, everyone!
Best wishes in 2014.

— Once Hags’ dreams of being a musician had been trampled upon by the hard realities of life, he decided to become a bass player. When he’s not in the studio, Hags can be seen eight nights a week playing around town with pretty much everybody. Fortunately, he still finds time to provide The East Nashvillian with his “astute observations” about life here in the promised land.