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Rock 'n' Roll Flashback

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rock 'n' Roll Flashback

We have a show tonight at the Red Devil Lounge ( A benefit for Japan.  You should come.  Besides the show's being for a good cause, I have to say, the band is sounding pretty fucking good.  So good, in fact, that after last night's practice, I think I suffered a rock 'n' roll flashback.

I played music in the '90s, and by and large, I was pretty awful.  This was due to a number of factors, not the least of which, drugs.  The more I did, the further I got from what I wanted to sound like.  My very first band, Something Like Paisley, was my best band, because it was simple, and I sang in key.  Stimulants fuck with your hearing, and when I started doing speed, I lost the ability to access pitch, tone, etc. And that loss lingered for a long time, even after I got sober.  Only recently has my ear started to return.  But this isn't about "what happened in the past" (I promise, Big Tom).  Except for the part about dark, deep recesses of the brain.

Though I haven't done speed in over a decade, after last night's practice, which went quite well, and where we hit a real congruous rhythm and synchronicity, I was getting ready for bed, my ears ringing (despite said "synchronicity," we haven't mastered the ability to play at a reasonable decibel level), I found myself, quite unconsciously, doing the speed/jaw thing.

For those of you smart enough to never touch the stuff, the speed/jaw thing is this weird, like, tick, where you're so tweaked out, you start rubbing your tongue against the back of your teeth, grinding your jaw.  It was so unconscious, when I realized what I was doing, like the music had been the doctor's rubber knob against my knee, and somewhere from those out-of-sight places this reflex kicked in.  It wasn't a bad feeling, just odd, how after all this time one action could tap into an unlinked reaction.

This post isn't about drugs, nor is it intended to "glamorize" a past.  I comment now because it speaks to memory and the subconscious, which is why this blog began.  I am starting a new memoir, and "memory" has been a focal point, not just the obvious parts about the necessity to recall previous events but how and why certain memories stand out, and here this "memory," the jaw grinding, was purely visceral, something hardwired, deeply.  I used to play music for days on speed, no sleep, no food, and after so many hours, you end up in a trance-like state, which is where I returned last night, despite the only "drug" assistance being a can of Diet Coke.

Fishing the past from one's mind's eye, deciding what merits inclusion in any given piece of prose, is not working with an infinite sea.  40 years are whittled to maybe 6 months, or less; I base this on no scientific evidence, only the flashes of vignettes that roll when I try to recall.  I don't have all of 1979 or 2001; I have...moments. Tapping into the deeper is more difficult, maybe even impossible.  But last night, with just some chords and distortion, a real cohesiveness and groove, a response was triggered.  Which I find...interesting.

There is no romance of my old life, and suddenly discovering I was grinding my jaw like a common tweaker is nothing alarming.  I look back on the way I lived all those years ago, and it seems like someone else's life; and I am glad, grateful, that life ins't mine.  But writing, and writing well, requires diving headlong into the past, retrieving from the wreckage, and putting your finds on display.  It's a tall order.  I am thankful for all the help my senses are willing to provide.


The Wandering Jews take the stage tonight (5/5) at 9.  Followed by Citabria and Recliner.  Tickets are $10, a portion of the proceeds going to Doctors without Borders.  Hope you can make it!


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