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From a very young age, I was a music fan. The first popular song I remember trying to sing was, “Moon River” the Henry Mancini hit, recorded by Andy Williams and sung by Audrey Hepburn in the great film (if you don’t count the whole Mickey Rooney role) “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”. When I sang it at age 3, the second verse came out sounding like this: “Two dwiftahs off to see da wood.” Still, it was better than my cousin Stewart’s version of “Michow Woah da boat ashow – Awwewuya” which was more like
Porky PigElmer Fudd without the “eh-eh-ehs”. The point is, between being raised by a recital-trained former pianist and an Irish tenor who had a thing for “Danny Boy” and Nat King Cole songs, I grew up to be a music lover. So, it is not surprising that as I matured and developed a fascination for members of the opposite sex, I also developed a keen interest in boys who liked to listen to and play music. Bad idea.
Any woman will tell you, that when you fall for a musician of a certain age, you are up against a number of things – their love of the music, their love of their “craft” and their love of themselves. Yes! The ego of a man with a guitar is something to behold. Even the worst musicians – air guitarists, quite frankly– can have egos the size of the Rock of Gibraltar!
Let’s face it, men like to be adored. They like to be up on that stage (or pedestal) pretending to be the lead singer of “ACDC” or “The Doors”, or, in my case, “Duran Duran”. They love to find themselves the centre of attention, in unison with their instrument, wailing their lungs out to a crowd. Come to think of it – they’re just big baby- boys, standing upright!
My first encounter with a “music-man” was in high school. The weird thing was, he wasn’t actually a musician – he was just fanatical about music. I met him at a party at his house. My girlfriend, who was a cheerleader (there’s a whole other story there) had met a fellow from a nearby school and she was invited to a party at his friend’s house. I tagged along. In my preteen years I had been listening to popular music on the cube radio that sat on my night-table. I used to jot down the Top 40 countdown on CKOC radio out of Hamilton, every single week. I knew all the lyrics, could sing the songs and loved to “shake my bootie“. As I got a bit older, my tastes evolved to the more alternative side and by Grade 13, I was listening to a radio-station out of Brampton, called CFNY, created by a frequently stoned musicologist called Dave Marsden.
When I walked into a party at this cool side-split 60’s house with a pool, I heard the most incredible music! Rachel Sweet (a Britney Spears predecessor) was belting out “B-A-B-Y” and the kitchen stove was piled high with records like, “Blondie”, “Talking Heads ‘77”, “The Boomtown Rats” and “The B-52s”. I yelled out, “Who owns this place?”in the cocky way I had back then. When I was introduced to the guy who belonged to the house, I was already in love – not so much with him (yet), but with his obvious incredible taste in music. We started dating, but the road was not smooth. Why? Not because he didn’t like me – when he had a few drinks in him, it was patently obvious that he did, but when he was sober, he was a painfully shy guy in high-tops and leather bomber jacket, struggling to find his identity and work out his feelings about girls (me).
At one of the parties we frequented, we ended up staggering around on the front lawn, having one of those semi-drunken conversations.
Tell me if you remember these: Me: “But I thought you liked me.” Him: “ I’m not sure how I feel.” Me: “But we’re so good together.” Him: “But I like being with my friends – hangin’ out, going to concerts and listening to music and stuff.” Me: “You’d rather be with your friends than me.” By this time, we’ve crossed the street and we’re at the local school, leaning up against a wall. (Don’t worry – we didn’t cross the line.) Him: “ I really like you, I just can’t spend so much time with you.” Me: “I care about you too.” Him: “I li—and then we kissed). Crisis averted, sort of.
In broad daylight, after the cobwebs cleared, he decided to break it off. After our passionate kiss, I was stunned, mystified and broken, but I got over it. In high school, there’s always another guy right there ready to fill your mind with new fantasies and dreams of a big wedding.
Funny thing about that guy, a few years later, when he got his act together, he wanted another shot, but for me, “Once bitten, twice shy”, so he had to be content with a very strong friendship, that has lasted to the present day.
Now you would think, that I would have learned my lesson about men and music, but that was not the case. In fact, I was about to get myself entangled with an even less fruitful relationship; I met a man with a guitar!
It was my own fault really. I was working as a d.j. for my campus radio station. I had a Friday afternoon show which I called, “Mental Notes”. Get it? I spun tunes strictly in the alternative and classic genres; I was an innovator. I pre-programmed all my music around themes and I made it as eclectic as possible.
One day, I happened to notice an odd looking fellow hanging around the radio station. He was very tall and skinny with red wavy hair and he wore army pants and a sweatshirt with a Jackson Pollock-like pattern of paint streaks on it. He had an infectious laugh, a sarcastic wit and was obviously very educated since his vocabulary was highly intelligent. He was also just 19 years old. I was going on 21, but I liked younger men – always had a thing for those Grade “Seveners” when I was in Grade Eight.
This younger man took an instant interest in me – with my pencil- leg pants and men’s shirts– my mini-skirts, wool tights and black pointy boots– who wouldn’t have? He began to court me in a very odd fashion – writing me long cryptic letters on paper ripped from a notebook – driving me back and forth from university in his mother’s Omni. I fell. Hard.
He had unbelievably good taste in music – loved the New Romantic stuff and the post-punk – Siouxsie and the Banshees, Echo and the Bunnymen, Japan – and even started wearing eyeliner, which I found incredibly desirable. He was quirky, sexy – in a scrawny, gaunt sort of way, but I was mad for him and would do anything to please him. One time, we even dyed our hair the same flame-red in a tiny bathroom in his basement.
On Thanksgiving, he invited me to dinner at his parents’ house. I was choking on butterflies, as I walked up to the front door with him. I could see his parents sitting at the dining table, his father had his back to us. I said, “I hope they like me.” He said, “Don’t worry, all you have to be is witty and articulate.” Great! No problem, I thought.
Inside the house, I hung up my coat, adjusted my clothes and made my way into the front room. When I reached the dining room, I had to stifle a gasp. The man sitting at the table was my Philosophy professor – also the most boring man alive, in my opinion. I nearly passed out.
Somehow, I made it through the meal, but when we finally escaped for the drive home, I nearly killed my boyfriend. He had known all along and didn’t see fit to tell me! That was his idea of a joke. It should have warned me about other aspects of his personality.
One day, he decided to get a guitar (not like Sting’s quirky Steinberger bass – he couldn’t afford that) just a Fender Stratocaster. That’s when things really went pear-shaped. It all went to his head.
You can’t be satisfied with having a guitar and playing it alone in your room for very long. You need to form a band and get yourself some groupies. Being the girlfriend of a guitarist/musician is a lonely role. There are endless practices with the band in small basement rooms lined with egg-cartons. There are hours spent idling while he sits under headphones listening to himself hone his skill for the benefit of those inevitable adoring fans. There are lonely moments backstage – if he gets that far (and, let’s face it, not many of them do) – waiting for the show to be over so you can pile in the car or van and head home with the “band” who are all high on the experience while you smile and gush over how great they were and how amazing in particular your boyfriend ( who naturally is front-man) performed.
Eventually, he grows tired of you hanging on, since he has other fish to fry – idolaters who are nubile and naïve, older women who love to induct protégés into the world of sin and debauchery. But, I digress.
You would think that would teach me, but again, no. There’s something so charismatic about a guy who can sing, play an instrument and charm a crowd. They have this quality about them – a mystique, an indescribable moodiness that makes them intoxicatingly desirable. Go figure.
So, let’s just say, I worked my way through a rag-tag bunch of musicians, dee-jays, and audiophiles. Unfortunately, this world is fraught with drinkers, smokers, tokers and misguided men of all sorts. I don’t want you to think I hung around in seedy bars with a bunch of axe-toting rummies. Nah! I merely attached myself to losers who put their guitar and their “band” ahead of me, every time.
With this group, you often find the fellow who has one particular band that he, himself follows. Such was the case with “J”.
“J” like to think he and his buddy, “R” were cool. They had a pseudo-bluesy band (the name is so insignificant, I can’t even remember what it was). “Practice” came first over being with me– on a regular basis. Once,“J” even left the dinner-table– where I had prepared a slap-up meal for him – when “R” summoned him for “practice”. This was bad, but even worse, was their allegiance to a weathered mid-life musician (who shall remain nameless, since he’s still on the go) who played the grittiest bars in the T-dot-O. He snarled out his vocals and banged away on his guitar. Okay. If I’m honest, he was pretty good, BUT that didn’t mean I wanted to follow the guy around like a bunch of love-sick puppies. Sadly, that is exactly what “J” and “R” did. I know that “Dead-heads” would do anything to get to a Grateful Dead concert and that’s fine – at least they are reputable, long-standing musicians, but at the time, the object of their idolatry, was either a has-been, or not-gone, I’m not sure which.
Two things happened in that relationship that signaled its demise: first, my friend from Scotland, Annie came with me and “J” and “R” to a seedy bar in the west end to see “The Man”. “J” was driving his dad’s Subaru wagon. “J” and “R” proceeded to get tanked. I was not impressed. Neither was I impressed when, while driving home on the Queen Elizabeth Way highway, he and “R” decided it would be fun to chuck old cassette tapes out the window! They nearly pitched a golf-club before Annie wrestled it from “R”. Of course, one of them had to puke too. So mature!
Second,shortly after I gave him the gorgeous hand-knit wool sweater with the cute golfer on it for Christmas, he drove me home, told me he was, “like Springsteen says, ‘Hard to hold” and dumped me!
Despite my acting as a doormat for a number of these music men, I’m proud to say, that every one of them came back later on to try to get back with me. Each one apologized saying, they’d been stupid to let me go. I felt nothing.
As I said, “Once bitten, twice shy.”
N.B. Some of these fellows can be found in my poem: “Tea-totaller”