Tuesday, May 02, 2006

My First Band

My first band was called "The Blue Bathtub." At least this was the first band I was in that made money. I was in the eighth grade and had played around the neighborhood with all the guys that had electric guitars, garages and parents who were either deaf or on the back patio, looking for solutions to the world's problems in the bottom of a rocks glass. I played bass on a Teisco Del Rey copy of a 335 with heavy, flatwound strings tuned down as far as they would go. My pal, Don, got to play lead guitar because he had a Kalamazoo amp...with REVERB! I remember walking into his garage one day, it was a week before Christmas, and he was sitting on the top rung of a paint ladder with his guitar cord disappearing into a gift-wrapped box hidden in the rafters where his parents had stashed it. He grinned and whispered, "Reverb!"

There was a high school kid who lived up the street called Dave. He had a sister that let us...oops, wrong story...he had a blond Fender Bassman and an Old Kraftsman short-scale bass and that shit changed everything. Dave wasn't a dropout, he just didn't like to go to school. I would go to his house after basketball practice and he would be sitting next to the radio, playing along with everything. I mean everything, every song, every commercial, every news bump...everything. When I think about all the phrase samplers and tempo slower-downers you can get now to help you learn solos, and all old Dave used was his ears. What a concept.

Every once in a while, Dave would let me borrow his amp and bass for band practice. I would take my skateboard to his house and with the bass slung over my shoulder, I'd put the amp on the skateboard and try to get to Don's house without dumping everything into someones ivy. Don's mom worked late as a waitress at an all night coffee shop and she slept into the late afternoon, which is why we couldn't practice in Don's garage but which also made it perfectly plausible for us to think that his mom really would let us use her car if she were awake for us to ask. Don was just fourteen but had the keys and the balls to use them. So we would load up his Kalamazoo, the Bassman, and Fat Mitch with his drums. Fat Mitch couldn't play that well, but he was the only guy on the block with a real drum-kit, which was enough to pass the audition.

The car was a powder blue Ford Falcon station wagon and we would drive up to Harrison Elementary school, pass the amps over the 10 foot high chain-link fence, plug in and practice on the outdoor lunch area until dark.We played "We Gotta Get Outta This Place", "Shapes Of Things", "House of the Rising Sun" and about five other songs. After practice, we'd boost the gear back over the fence, load up and get the car back before Don's mom had to leave for work. Every once in awhile that crazy bastard would have a hair up his ass and would cut across the grass ball-field spinning dough-nuts in that old Falcon, gear sliding around in the back and all of us laughing our asses off.

At some point, Don and I discovered the Blues scale and we became a Blues band. It was so much easier than learning all those songs. Fat Mitch learned how to play a shuffle, and we just played a twelve bar, sang some bullshit we made up on the spot, and thought we were heavy enough to have a name. That was the birth of "The Blue Bathtub."

There was this rich girl in our school who lived up on the hill above our neighborhood (isn't there always). Her dad was letting her throw a barbeque birthday party. We were loud, somewhat avant garde and poor. Just what she was looking for to piss off her dad, so we got the gig. At the end of the party, she gave each of us a five dollar bill. Man, I was hooked for life! In one night we became professional musicians in every sense of the word. We played music, ate their food, tried to make out with the rich girls... and got paid.

Later in the year Fat Mitch thought it would be smart to stick his head in a bag of airplane glue fumes. His shoes disappearing into the back of the ambulance were the last I saw of him. Don got into motorcycles and the Kalamazoo went back up into the rafters. I started to think I had a shot at playing some real hoops, and that was the end of my first band. But everytime I see the the black and white photos that Astrid Kirscher shot of the young Beatles in Hamburg, it hits me that no matter how much fun it gets to be, it's never as much fun as the first time.

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