When I was about nine years old, my parents approached me with what they said would be a wonderful opportunity: they decided to enroll me in piano lessons. Because I was pre-pubescent and didn’t know any better, I was excited. Who knew? Maybe piano lessons wouldn’t have been such a scarring experience if my teacher wasn’t a 90-year old dominatrix, but I guess it was just the luck of the draw.
Her name was @*&#$% (that actually was her name), and she was old and decrepit, like St. Paul’s College. I remember she told me she liked Beethoven — in fact she macked him in high school. She began each lesson by asking me if my parents had beaten me with a yard stick. I couldn’t tell if she was joking because her face was permanently molded into a scowl. Whenever I played a wrong note, she would squeal ‘til I bled through my ears.
Life was bad enough. Then I would come to school every day and speak to friends who were taking guitar lessons. They told stories of teachers who were cool, and who didn’t put their hands on kids’ knees when they played the right note. All the young dudes were impressing girls, playing riffs from Kiss, or showing off with their rendition of “Wonderwall,” while I was still tickling the ivories with the Pink Panther theme song and The Spider Dance (“La Tarantella”).
Sometimes life is simple and a cigar is just a cigar. Ever since the 1950s guitarists have had a clear advantage with all the single ladies. The Edge, Jimmy Page and John Frusciante are knee-deep in women, not because these axe men are good-looking (although I do like the cut of John Frusciante’s pants), but because they can tear it up on the guitar. Elton John, who’s the only famous pianist since 1940, is married to a Canadian . . . dude, which is not my thing. Pianists used to lead big bands. Modern bands don’t even have room for a pianist. They’ve been replaced by synthesizers.
Which brings me to my recent revelation that I need to play guitar if I’m ever going to spawn. The problem is I’ve got the skin of a newborn baby, and you need calluses to run your hands over the frets. I was out of luck until I decided the only guitar I was ever going to learn to play was a virtual one, so I went out and got “Rock Band.” At first I was tentative, standing in one place like Michelangelo’s David, but soon I was duck walking like Chuck Berry and windmilling like Marty McFly imitating Pete Townshend in Back to the Future. (“Chuck, it’s your cousin Marvin. Marvin Berry!”)
“Rock Band” has saved countless young men who stay home at nights dreaming about their future while watching The 40 Year Old Virgin. “Rock Band” allows them to imagine themselves as Slash (without the top hat), getting the best tables at Whisky Dix and driving off in a brand new Maybach Exelero.
As for me, I’ve now graduated from asking for more cowbell on “Don’t Fear the Reaper” to playing power chords on Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” It’s my wedding day, boys.