Tech Tip:So You Want to Be A Rock & Roll Star
By Michael Laskow
(Reprinted from 1997)
It's two-thirty in the morning. Your wife and kids are sound asleep, nestled in the comfort of their cozy beds. You sit alone in your basement surrounded by more electronics than were onboard the Gemini space capsules. Not just any electronics mind you, but knobs, wires, CRT's, and hundreds of chips all dedicated to one singular purpose—making music. Why are you here, like an alcoholic, sadly drinking alone? Are you addicted? The answer is a resounding YOU BET! Why did you become this pale, obsessive, solitary figure?
Let's take a Freudian look at your journey in to the dark side of what has become your own personal MIDI hell. A cavern so deep that Freud himself never dared venture inside for a look.
It all began on a Sunday night in the early sixties while watching the Ed Sullivan show. There you sat with your parents as the Beatles took the stage, and the nation by storm. They were the very definition of "cool". You were focused on their every word, every note, every movement they made. You were, in a word, transfixed. Your parents on the other hand were probably leaning more towards utter disbelief. "Why are their pants so tight, and their hair so long?"
You instinctively knew the reasons for both. Girls dug it. In your pre-pubescent wisdom you knew that if you were going to succeed in life that you needed three things-- more hair, tighter pants, and a pair of Beatle boots. By the end of the week, all three were on the shelf at Sears. Remember, you still had a crew-cut (butch wax and the little round brush with the finger loop in the middle), so the Beatle wig was a must. Your Dad wouldn't let you grow your hair long like those "sissy boys" from Liverpool. All this just to make the girls think you were cool. But something was missing. A guitar. Without it you were like James Dean without his bike—very uncool.
For your next birthday you convinced your parents to buy you that shiney red Supro hanging in the window at the music store. If you were from a "wealthy" family you probably got a Fender Mustang with the "tremelo" bar, and a Champ amp. My parents got me a Stella acoustic and several lessons at the Evelyn Brue School of Guitar. The male equivalent of dance lessons. I still haven't forgiven them. How could girls like a guy who didn't have an electric guitar, and how was I to earn the respect of my fellow musicians when I couldn't be heard over them?
Over the next few years little league gave way to music as the hobby of choice. More groups like the Beatles overtook the airwaves, but none as good (unless you were a Dave Clark Five fan). Soon the Farfisa Mini Compact organ became an acceptable instrument to play and for those"sissy boys" whose mothers had forced them to take piano lessons, this was welcome relief. Compact as they were, they were still too heavy to move, so the overbearing mothers became unwilling roadies. I told you this was Freudian.
The Vietnam war soon turned our focus away from making music for the sole purpose of attracting girls. We were now rebels with a cause. Politics we barely understood became fodder for the songs we wrote, and we played our Beatle records backwards looking for hidden messages. Even though we were only high school kids, our understanding of what was happening to our world at that time achieved a kind of depth that our parents would not experience until the eighties. But for all of us who had ever played an open E chord, the dream to be a rock & roll star still lived on.
For many, the dream began to fade while in college. Maybe all who were destined to have stars that burned bright, had found their success. The rest of us were destined to listen over and over to the records they made. Sadly, some of those stars burned so bright, that they extinguished themselves before their time.
The drive to be a pop icon was tempered by the reality of school, the draft, and an insatiable appetite for state of the art component stereos. In a sense, a beefy Marantz had become a replacement for the phallic symbols that were once a Camaro 327 with glass packs and mag wheels. Like the automobile, a hi-fi delivered a sense of machismo, while satisfying the compulsion to tinker. Wouldn't Freud agree?
The eighties found most of us settling down and finding jobs that were far less exciting than Paul McCartney's. Many of us got married, and started families. Instead of our own dreams, we were pursuing the American dream. Some of us found it. Some did not.
Maybe you've been fortunate enough to have found a little disposable income while you were stuck in the eighties. It allowed you to go back in time and pursue the dream that all began that fateful night in the sixties on the Ed Sullivan show. You've moved on from your hi-fi system to a MIDI system, and spend way too much time in your basement. Maybe it satisfies your desire to tinker, but c'mon admit it, even though you are married to that slumbering Venus in curlers upstairs, the real reason you're in the basement is a latent desire to impress the chicks!