The year was 1982. I don’t remember where I was, but my family didn’t have cable, so I must’ve been at a babysitter’s house after nursery school. All I remember is lying in front of a television, scribbling half-heartedly in an Incredible Hulk coloring book, and glancing up at the TV to see the coolest person I’d ever seen in my (admittedly thus-far short) life. She was dressed all in black leather, walking down the street with an obviously bad-ass gait, bitchin’ hair, and a mess of eyeliner. I sat up on my heels, rapt. I didn’t know what I was witnessing, but I knew it was clear that this person did NOT have to contend with mandatory naps, oatmeal, or calls to her parents from nursery school teachers asking that she NOT confuse the other children by insisting on being referred to as “David Recipe”; this was the life for me. It was the “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” music video, and my new idol and perma-crush was Joan Jett, and I blame this moment for my eventual transformation into a struggling musician.
I say “eventual” because, although I immediately cut my hair short and started asking my parents for a leather jacket, it took me a long time to actually start playing music. The first attempt was ten years later, when I bought my first real six-string at the five and dime and played it ‘til my fingers bled… okay, that’s not actually true. Technically it was a guitar store and I did not play it ‘til my fingers bled -- in fact, I didn’t play it at all. I couldn’t figure out how. I only bought it because it was a cool color and cheap and I thought that it would be easy. It wasn’t, so I mostly just put on dark lipstick and took pictures of myself holding it in my bedroom.
Despite the fact that it took me twenty plus years to actually attempt to play a guitar, it’s pretty clear in retrospect that I always had the disease. (No, not that disease, although after I started playing in a band, my doctor did get a lot more “concerned” and started testing me for diseases only known to occur in fruit bats and freshwater shellfish while saying things like “Well, you never know what you might have picked up out there on ‘the road.’”) No, the disease to which I refer is the unfortunate and incurable desire to become a musician.
If you’re concerned that you might be suffering from this debilitating disease, please consult this handy list of symptoms to diagnose yourself:
Do you suffer from:
- Problems with posture whenever “authority figures” are nearby?
- Shortness of breath upon seeing a really sexy instrument with, oh my god, the original hardware in a music store?
- Weight loss or weight gain, possibly related to a violent aversion to the gym and a limited diet of well vodka and canned corned beef hash?
- General anxiety which worsens significantly when no one is paying attention to you?
- Intermittent memory problems which flare up when trying to remember your significant other’s birthday or last name, but which dissipate entirely when arguing over the lyrics to “Youth Gone Wild” by Skid Row?
- Severe fatigue when you imagine getting up before 11 AM or having to wear pants that have neither 7-11 chili dog stains nor a giant Motörhead patch only halfway covering a gaping crotch hole?
- Uncontrollable facial tics, such as eye-rolling, smirking, sneering, and loud sighing?
- Chronic feelings of emptiness? (Or wait, that might be hunger… nope, no you just had a can of hash. Emptiness it is.)
- Markedly and persistently unstable self-image, varying from periods of time during which you wear only a burlap sack and carry a trident, to stretches during which you paint your face burnt orange and insist on being known as “The Dark One”?
- Pale pallor, possibly caused by the fact that you didn’t see the sun for 7 days in a row because you were “going through a Yes phase” and needed to listen to “Heart of Stone” on repeat until “the truth revealed itself to you”?
If you find yourself answering affirmatively to any of the above questions, I’m afraid that the news is dire. You are quite probably a musician. Let me express my profound sympathy for your loss… if you don’t know what I’m talking about yet, trust me, you will. Whether it be your significant other, your savings, your walk-up apartment, your Bioshock game saves, or your sanity, the Gods of Rock demand sacrifice, and you shan’t be spared.
To help you deal with your illness, we at Harmonix have decided to launch a new series called “52 Weeks to Rock”. We’ll be kicking things off with a couple of essays that I wrote previously about how to get started (because my genius should not be overlooked) and then we’ll be featuring new content every week from a host of writers. Though we can’t provide a cure for your illness, we can provide treatment in the form of smarmy advice and self-aggrandizing anecdotes.
If you’re ready to make the commitment to music, this series is for you. (Although if you’re truly capable of making any commitment, you aren’t a musician after all.) Regardless, we look forward to sharing some stories with you and giving you a year’s worth of highs, lows, joy, and heartache, all mixed up atop a delicious 7-11 chili dog and served with cheap vodka. It’s a long, long road to recovery, so in the meantime, take your medicine. You’ll feel better.