Iíve always loved music. When I was in third grade, I begged my parents to let me sign up for violin lessons at school. My parents obligingly scraped up the money for a used fiddle, and I started lessons. In those days, beginnerís lessons were taught in a group, with a dozen eight-year-olds playing at the same time. A kind person would think they were probably playing the same song. I thought I was doing splendidly, and had a wonderful time. Yet after a few sessions, Mrs. Weems sent me from the room. The next thing I knew, I was the guest of honor at a parent-teacher conference, where the teacher kindly explained to us about tone deafness, and said I couldnít take lessons with the group because it wouldnít be fair to the other students. I felt sorry for them, then had one of those sudden flashes of shame and understanding: She was talking about me, not them. I was tone-deaf. She was kicking me out.
Two years later, still in love with music but mortified by my terrible tone-deafness, I decided to take up the drums. Using birthday and paper-route money, I bought myself a fine new silver snare drum, and signed up for classes. I didnít make it through the first lesson. Mr. Balzar was a nice guy, but had many students and only so much time. It didnít make sense, he told me, to continue - I had no sense of beat. ďWhat do you mean?Ē I asked. ďCount with me,Ē he said, and beat out a pattern on his knees. I didnít quite say, ď1,2,3,5,Ē but I might as well have. I donated my drum to the school band and retired in disgrace.
When I was a sophomore in High School, I found my fatherís old Sears Silvertone guitar in the attic. Wiser than before, I didnít seek lessons. Instead, I taught myself in secret, and it went pretty well. After that, piano seemed pretty natural. Bass was just another kind of guitar, and drums werenít that hard either. More than playing any one instrument, though, I enjoyed writing songs and arranging all the parts. Most of my early songs were pretty terrible, but some were okay. I wrote Changes one morning when I was fourteen; itís still one of my favorites, and I havenít changed a note in twenty-five years.
These songs are dedicated to Mrs. Weems and Mr. Balzar. Wherever you are, screw you both. And, for future reference, donít ever tell me that I canít do music, okay? I may never be good enough for grade school orchestra or band, but I do all right. Iím thinking maybe itís time to try the violin again.
Here are recordings of me banging on things, caterwauling, and jumping up and down. (It's hard to hear the jumping part, but it's there.) In some of the older songs, I did not play all the instruments or do all the vocals.