27 September 2013

So Long, Guitar Man

This is a song I wrote and recorded over 10 years ago that I have had on my YouTube channel for a little while. I'm posting here because I just realized or found out this week that I can’t sing anymore and I am discovering that this is a much bigger deal than when I discovered I couldn't play my guitar anymore. I've kept my guitar. I fumble with it from time to time but can barely play one song straight through due to arthritis and degenerative disks (one of which is currently flattening a corner of my spinal cord).

The singing, though…hmmph. I figured if I couldn't play my guitar, I could always at least sing. Let’s face it, between you and me, my playing was nothing to write home about. A friend back home, who ran open mics all over the county and state, once told me that I was neither a very good guitarist or singer,
but that it was the combination of the two that worked. He told me how he would watch the room/bar when I played and how he could see how I could capture everyone’s attention and hold it. That I had…something. Who knew that the greatest compliment I would ever get was being told that I ‘wasn't’ that great a guitarist or singer. That was why, he said, he always through me back up for a second set. That and that some of the club owners would ask him to in an effort to keep the crowd around. Another compliment.

But I’m not full of myself. I don’t think I ever was though I probably came off that way sometimes. I was probably more confidant than I should have been, if anything, and even that was an act half the time. I was usually scared shitless and more so when I introduced a new song that I wrote. Not all of them…hell, only a few of them, ever really stuck or got a good reception. Oh, but those few…those moments…they were more than I could ask for as far as feeling like I nailed it.

I don’t know why I can’t sing. I quit smoking, almost a year ago. And I haven’t been really doing any singing, any real singing…and..I never knew how to sing ‘correctly’. My voice has changed. My range isn’t even half of what it was. I feel like someone has their hand around my throat when I try to sing. All the power is gone, the strength. To sing comfortably, I sound like a cross between Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, and some incoherent wino that got kicked in the balls. Combine that with my ‘in-ability’ to play and the fact that I can only do both rather slowly and I’m a mess. Not a hot mess. Just a mess.
Knowing I won’t ever be belting out any tunes vocally, ever again…is hard to take. So, I look at my guitar and can’t see much of a reason to keep it. I remember nights playing on the boardwalk for hundreds of people, open mics, gigs at bars, festivals, writing songs for church that they actually let me play for services…..and now the instrument seems foreign to me.

I keep going back to the lyrics from American Pie. 'The day the music died.' Meh. Totally inappropriate, really. If I am going to be honest, I have to be a lot more cheesier and go back to 'The Guitar Man' by Bread.

Who draws the crowd and plays so loud, 
Baby it's the guitar man.

I loved that song. I loved to play it on the boardwalk. I enjoyed playing on the boardwalk more than anything else. I could get a crowd of a hundred or more people and they all stopped because they wanted to...not because I was the only act in the bar that night. I would play for hours, straight through, no set breaks or anything. Sometimes I made enough money for a slice of pizza and a set strings for the next night...sometimes I would make my rent in 4 hours.

Then the lights begin to flicker and the sound is getting dim 
The voice begins to falter and the crowds are getting thin 

and then, apparently, it's just gone. over. done.

I used to dream of making it big. Yeah, I allowed myself that illusion. I dreamed of singing with Stevie Nicks (I wrote so many songs I had hoped I would get to play for her or that she would play). At the very least, I had hoped I would at least have her autograph on my guitar...and Neil Diamonds (Don't laugh. The man rocks and was almost all I would play when I first started. If you never go to another concert, go to a Neil Diamond concert and you'll get it.) I never made it. I never got the autographs.

I'll probably throw the guitar up on craigslist. It's a beater, anyway.  I still have the CD. A little over 10 years ago, I was lucky to win a drawing at a local open mic and put some of my songs down on CD. I have a few 'live' recordings around as well. I like to listen to them, close my eyes.......and I can almost smell the cigarette smoke and the beer...I can almost hear the voices of friends and fellow musicians...and if I concentrate really hard...I can even go back far enough that I can smell the salt air of the Jersey shore and hear the surf behind me and remember the faces and crowds and how raw and raspy my throat was by midnite as I belted out 'Cherry, Cherry' or 'Love The One Your With'...I can hear my friends singing along...and I would be so high on all of it that the applause actually startled me between songs.

Then the lights begin to flicker and the sound is getting dim 
The voice begins to falter and the crowds are getting thin 
But he never seems to notice he's just got to find 
Another place to play, 
Fade Away. Got to Play. 
Fade Away. Got to Play.


  1. I'd like to think it is still inside you, Noah. It just needs a different form of expression.

  2. A beautiful comment sboothe56, and I agree 100%...it is inside you Po, just needs a way out.