I spent some time last week with a borrowed electric guitar while I was ‘helping’ Shawn choose some plugins for the home studio set up. (All that means is, Shawn was dialing in sounds while I was playing along with old Judas Priest and Metallica, haha)
Suddenly, I was a young teenager again, with my SG plugged into a Marshall Valvestate combo, rocking out to all my old favorites. Songs that were and are loud and intricate and raucous – and so deeply satisfying.
On this recent occasion, Shawn put the album on and cranked it up as I took this borrowed axe into my lap, hunched over it, hair covering my face – just as it did 30+ years ago – and somehow, like riding a bike, my fingers remembered where to go, stumbling a bit here and there, and each crunchy power chord thrilled me just as much now as it did then when those same big six-string yells cut through the drafty old house of my childhood. I played along as best as I could with Glenn and KK’s relentless riffs, all while singing along with Rob Halford’s shattering voice:
Well I’m riding / riding on the wind
Yes I’m riding / riding on the wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind
holding that last note forever right along with Metal God…
Contrast that recent experience to the one I had this past Saturday night, when my friend Leah and I were making our debut as our new duo, Peaceful Means. No raucous power chords that night. Originals that are all about peace and harmony – and covers, too, by folks like John Gorka, The Indigo Girls, Bill Withers. These notes were all sweet and gentle and joyous – and just as deeply satisfying.
I met Leah around the same time that I was playing along with those headbangers. She and I started off in a rock band together, and then our musical relationship evolved and moved into other places, most of which involved singing in intricate vocal harmonies with each other.
As I get older, I realize that, for me, there is no bright line between all these forms of music, these dialects of the same shared language. Music that moves is music that moves. Why not recite every word of N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton album and then sing every single note of every instrument of The Allman Brothers At Fillmore East? Or scream along with Rob and scat along with Ella, hang on to every slip note of Floyd Cramer’s and then marvel at Oscar or at Art Tatum? Life’s too short to do otherwise.
So whether I’m rockin’ out at home, or sharing the stage with a dear friend, I intend to keep on riding on the wiiiiiiiiiiiiiind………!