The Music Men

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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”

Kathleen Mortensen©2009

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38 thoughts on “The Music Men

  1. Musicians, eh? You poor thing. Bad news, but oh the adrenaline. Can't say they were ever my weakness, but I do count a few artists in my younger days. Same ego, different medium. Swore 'em off for life a long time ago!!

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  2. Yup. I hear ya! My husband recently got a mandolin. No worries – he's managed to tune it, but so far apart from a 5 note ditty, he's not ready for the stage yet!(I did the artist thing too. Same difference.)Kat

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  3. Glad you qualified musicians “of a certain age!” But sadly, you're right– young men & guitars can be an almost toxic brew– & I have seen girlfriends & spouses of significant others put in the role you describe, which is sad. Fortunately, both Eberle & I play music, so we don't have that going on.Loved the Moon River stuff– that actually is a really fun song to sing with funny voices.

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  4. So your Mom was a pianist and your Dad a tenor? That must have been a very fun upbringing. You should show us some photos of those days if you have any. Your description of your outfits sounds fun. Fun read Kat!

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  5. John – Yes, I think I may have got out of that circle just in time. Although rotters are not exclusive to the Arts world.Dianne – a drummer, eh? I knew a drummer, but we were just friends. Did you have to listen to him play all the time? Did you have ear-plugs?(More importantly, was he cute?)Brenda – I really must clarify – my mom learned piano from her Aunt in Nova Scotia. She played in the Kiwanis Festivals. She stopped playing when she got older. My dad just loved to sing – especially in church. It was an interesting upbringing – for many reasons.Kat

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  6. My first singing song was “Bye Bye Miss Amerwican Pie. Dwove my Cheby to da webby, but the webby was dwy.”I was made to perform it every where we went by my parents. LOL!I had a few friends that acted the way your musician boyfriends did.I did play the guitar and sang. But I was never interested in “making a band”. I guess I was more of the solo act.But you'll be happy to know that I never put it before, (to be said in a Barry White voice)… “My laaayyydiesss””.I guess I was right opposite. I was never the “breaker upper”, I was always the one broken up with.And who would they leave me for???The guitar hero that treated them like $&*%. Go figure. But like you, they would eventually come running back, but I too followed the “Once bitten” rule.I only took ONE of them back! And wouldn't you know, we'll be married for 15 years this coming May! LOL!Great post as always!Later Tater 😉

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  7. Oh I can relate to this one all too well! Yeah, I was a headbanger… a fan, a wannabe, a follower, a groupie, a girlfriend, even a big sister to a rockin' little brother. All those hours spent sitting in the basement watching these guys rock! All those lousy relationships with six-string wankin' losers! And… then there was my busker classical-guitar banging boyfriend. Damn, he's the daddy of my two kids. You know the old joke: what do you call a musician without a girlfriend? Homeless.

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  8. Kat……..as you know I grew up in the music business, my Dad and Mom drilled my sister and me to never date a musician! I also hung out with them as an adult working in Nashville. Love their Music butthey are all insane when it comes to 'real life'. Enjoyed the post!PS: yes,I did by some books!Has A cat got a tail? It's like taking a gambler to a Casino!

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  9. Oh my goodness, this is so hilarious, so fascinating, such riveting reading. I was hooked from the get go! Guess what? I listened to CFNY too!!Your tales of your misspent youth –actually it wasn't misspent, I just wanted to use that phrase ha ha ha—-anyway, your tales are quite amusing. I never dated a musician, but reading this brought back memories of a painfully dorky guy in my highschool who nevertheless had that little bit of cachet from playing the bass guitar and he was a friend of mine. THerefore I was, by association, cool, if only in my mind. Actually, there was no 'if' about it….hee hee.Poetikat, I think you could sell this post to a women's magazine, it was just as good–heck it was far better—than similar “Dating Tales” I've read. Chatelaine, Elle, Readers Digest, to name a few, magazines like this might very well pay you good money for this story.

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  10. Sorry for not responding yesterday – it was a “Mom” day, so I wasn't near the computer.Amanda – Yes. I hear you! My husband is bookish/nerdy and I wouldn't trade him for any music-boy er, man.Petra – We do glamourize it, don't we? I know as teens we thought guys who could play guitar were hot! (At least those of us who were into music).Sandy – Thanks!And thank you for taking the time to read the poem. I feel it ties in – “J” is in there.Lavinia – we really must meet sometime. I think we would have lots to say to each other.Remember Earl and Beverly from CFNY? They came to Erindale College pub during the week and I used to go see them. A couple of goofy characters, but I got to hear the music I loved. Did you go to dance clubs in T.O.? We may have run into each other and not known it.I might send it in – see if anyone's interested. Good idea.T&S – Something must have gone wrong with my background template from “The Cutest Blog” – It usually reverts from the original black to a funky/disco green. Sorry you had difficulty.I love your photographs!Kat

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  11. I have always had a thing for musicians, most especially the heavy metal kind (something about a guy with long hair and tattoos headbanging really does something for me) but any kind will do (well, except for country musicians). I've been in several relationships that involved musicians and none of them ended well.

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  12. Hello Kat,OMG!!!!!! I married a musician. I met him at a bar I use to frequent in 1992 while his band was on break. He was the singer. After that night it was love for the both of us. He had a very hard time on what to put first, me or his music. His music career started looking very bright soon after we started dating. He had a famous record producer interested in him who wanted to start shopping his tape to different record labels. I got sooo nervous and sick to think he would leave me alone and always be gone. Now I know that was dumb and selfish of me to feel so insecure and rather angry. I almost felt as if I was competing with his music and his band. There were a lot of cute little local groupies around them when they would play out and I use to get jealous when one would go up and flirt with my then boyfriend, now hubby. We're now married with kids and even though he no longer practices music and his dreams of fame never came to be, he still loves music and everything about it. Though he does regret never being more consistant on pursuing this dreams in singing, when he was being looked at with interest from those who mattered.Thanks for this post. I really enjoyed it Kat!Have a wonderful evening,Lydia

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  13. Lydia – You would be the exception to the rule – who would ever leave YOU behind for a groupie? You're beautiful, talented, kind and generous – they would be crazy!Thanks for sharing your music-man story.Kat

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  14. I too was a sucker for a man with a guitar (back in the day). I used to hang out at the beach with all the musicians until the “rent-a-cops” kicked us off. I had my heart broken many a time. I grew up a bit. My husband is a “certified geek”. He's also taken up the guitar!

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  15. My goodness….that's impressive, singing “Moon River” at age 3. You had grown-up musical tastes from the get-go. Cool. I was singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” then.You certainly have a gift for relating your experiences in a clear and entertaining fashion. Very enjoyable to read! Oh, you're making me wish I would have dated more, though.

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  16. Although at the time I was miserable, I now count my blessings for being the “shy” kid. My best friend at the time ALWAYS fell for musicians and always got her heart trampled. Guess I learned from watching her what NOT to do.Okay so hubby played a trumpet in the high school band, but that's not the same. 🙂

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  17. Neetzy – Good to see you! You fell for that musician-mystique too? Poor girl!Geeks are good guys, aren't they?Jeannelle – Thanks! I was more of a mimic at 3, than a singer. Be glad you didn't date more. Be very glad.Hope – I was shy, sort of. You're right, trumpet didn't count. There was “band” and there was “BAND”.Kat

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  18. Oh this post is splendid. I would have totally been suckered but your “younger man!” I loved guys in eyeliner back then. Hahaah woohoo Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Smiths! I was big into the Smiths and the Cocteau Twins too. I was such a music snob and it's funny how it plays such a prominent role in identity formation and dating. It's almost like a litmus test at that age. 🙂

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  19. What a fun ride that post was. Man, I was right there with you in that first conversation! And, then by the time I got to end with the guy who thought he was Springsteen. Puhhhlease. The great thing about being married is NEVER having to go through the dating game again.

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  20. chuckle – yes, i remember “Moon River” and my dad was a tenor and my mom a choir director – so I did play the gitar and I sang – but strangely I've never liked the guys you wrote about – maybe because I lean more towards the classcial and chanson-style music. cheers.

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