December 22, 2012
I was talking witha 20 year old today. It turns out that he was in a rock band. Played bass and keyboards. Not very seriously, in his case.
“Yeah, me too.”
I was the lead guitarist in Wheel and the Spokesmen. Perhaps you remember us? No? Perhaps that’s because you didn’t graduate my high school in 1968, and even so, we were a third-tier local band. Awful, actually. Sorry, bandies. I played guitar guitar after that, sometimes with others — including a stint as the world’s worst pancake house lounge band in college — and in grad school I wrote a lot of songs that I’m counting on being discovered in a carton in the back of my closet after I’m gone when my works will be celebrated worldwide with a tinge of shame that my culture ignored my genius during my lifetime. But my purist rock ‘n’ roll band days were in high school.
My parents didn’t play in a rock band, probably because rock didn’t exist in the 1930s, but they also didn’t play in a jazz band. This everyone-plays-in-a-band phenomenon began with my generation, I believe. It seems to — that is, I have no actual data — to cross some socio-economic lines, although it also seems to stay largely within gender lines (less so now, of course), and I’d be interested in knowing what the race lines look like. And it’s been going on for a long time now. I’m not sure why. Because the hurdles to playing rock at a minimally acceptable level (a level that Wheel and the Spokesman falsely believed that volume could achieve) are low? Because it has the right mix of group cover and raw narcissism that liberates teens? Because rock and roll is special?
I don’t know. But two things I do know for sure and in my heart: I completely did not expect in 1968 that in 2012 I’d be talking with a 20 year old who had the same experience. And Wheel and the Spokesmen sucked.