I spent years dating musicians. Not on purpose. But my first love – or more accurately, my first obsessive infatuation – was a guitar player. He was in a wedding band called “The Unexpected!” (punctuation mine) that played mostly 50-60’s classic rock. He was the lone teenager in the band, the rest were in their twenties. I used to go see him play and wait for The Kinks so I could go and dance like Molly Ringwold and gaze up at him, playing expressionless except for the odd, taut smile. I thought this was because he was cool, but now, I wonder if he was just concentrating really hard.
Anyway, our courtship consisted primarily of me gloomily smoking cigarettes and him playing the opening to Ceremony on an acoustic guitar, which never ceased to thrill me. Sometimes we had to walk to the gas station for more cigarettes, and sometimes we made out, but mostly, I think, I gazed at the ceiling and listened to him plink-a-plink. Then I would go home and dash out poems on my electric typewriter about our difficult and doomed love.
One thing quickly became clear. Band practice comes first, girlfriend comes second. The guitar was his object of obsession, as he was mine. This fueled a resentment I harbored gleefully for all of my twenties, as I dated one musician after another. Then I married a painter, and moved to St Cloud and stopped thinking about rock and roll because I had babies and worked in advertising. Rest for eight measures.
When I met Doug, I thought he might be my boyfriend, but it turned out he was going to be my band-mate. This happened when he shoved a microphone in front of my face and said, “let’s see what you can do”. Then he put me in front of a keyboard and said “write a part” and I did. I think I surprised him a little, and nobody more than myself. Douglas does nearly all the hard work; drum parts, rhythm tracks, guitar, bass, mixing, producing and writing lyrics. I was – I am – a rank amateur. But I really, really love making music, and when I show up in his living room studio, I’m ready to work, and ridiculously serious about it.
I played a Chintzeys’ Christmas song for my mom, and she was utterly bemused. “So what now, you’re going to be a rock and roll star?” No mom, I’m not. But I don’t know, is this what it is like for some people who start golfing and just can’t get enough of it? Other people play softball, or build model trains or watch football, and I guess I make weird art-rock, new-wave music with my friend who graciously allows me to do so.
So now I get it. Now I know why it was guitar first, girlfriend second. It’s just really fucking fun. To start the day with nothing and end it with a song is just short of alchemy. Like a secret I’ve just been told, and now I can’t help but blurt out to anyone who’ll listen. It’s not my life’s work, it’s not as important as parenting, or as natural as putting words down on paper, and it certainly doesn’t pay the rent. But it’s better than any high-school boyfriend I ever had. It’s not personal, it’s just I’d rather be doing this.
(Oh, and if you want to hear what happened when that microphone got shoved in my face, it was this.