Hey, I'm Doug, and I play guitar, and this is my story.
I'm a uni student, studying engineering. I'm 21 and I work in a camera store. I started learning the clarinet when I was about 9 years old, but only picked up the guitar at 15, and now I'm 21. In that time I've owned a number of guitars and amps, ranging from shit to pretty good. My main guitar is a black Strat and my amp is a Marshall stack. My Strat is a genuine USA-made 80s strat, so not exactly vintage but not brand new either. I love it. I can play a few instruments, like clarinet, saxophone, piano, drums and bass. I love classic rock. So that's a bit about me, but now here's the story of my first rock band.
As I mentioned, I love classic rock, and in particular Pink Floyd. At uni one day, I was at one of the coffee shops waiting around the counter for my coffee. I am in and out of that shop so much that when the barista sees me, he makes my coffee without asking. Coffee; a necessary evil of studying engineering. Anyway I standing around waiting for the coffee, and I saw a guy standing there wearing the same Pink Floyd t-shirt that I have. He was fairly tall and skinny, and had a short but dense beard. He wore glasses and his hair was about shoulder-length. I looked at him and said, "Nice shirt dude."
He turned out and said, "Thanks. Do you like Pink Floyd?"
"Shit yeah," I replied. "They're my favourite band." I pulled out my phone, and showed him the wallpaper - the cover of Dark Side of the Moon.
"Sweet dude. What a shame about Rick Wright, hey?" he shrugged.
"Yeah, I always had a faint hope that after Live 8 Waters and Gilmour would sort it out and there'd be another album. But not to be, I guess." I would have given anything, and I mean anything, for another Pink Floyd record or tour.
"Are you getting coffee?" he asked me. What a guess, I thought, given we were standing together in a coffee shop.
"Yep, a bit of fuel for the brain, you know how it is. Engineering," I explained, holding up a textbook.
"Ah, I'm studying commerce. Second year."
"Cool. Yeah, I'm fourth year, now, not long to go." I was so close to graduating that I could almost taste it. Only another nine or so months of school until I would have the degree in my hands.
"Ha, yeah I can't wait to finish either. But I've got a fair while left," he said, rolling his eyes. My coffee came at the same time his did, and he nodded his head towards a table, saying "Do you want to sit down with me?"
I followed him to the table. "I'm Scott, by the way," he said, holding out his hand.
"Doug," I said, shaking his hand. I felt the callouses on his fingertips against my palm. "You play guitar?" I said.
"Bass, actually," he replied, looking at his fingertips. "Is it that obvious?"
"Ha, same story here," I said, holding up my left hand and showing him my calloused fingertips. "I play guitar."
"Awesome," he said, "what sort of music do you play?"
"Well, Pink Floyd for one, and other music from the 60s and 70s mainly. But pretty much anything with a good guitar part."
"Cool dude. That's all cool music. I'm pretty into Pink Floyd, and Led Zep and The Who. I love Entwhistle's style. I also like Flea, he has a mad style that's like a guitarist soloing," Scott said.
"You certainly know your bassists. How long have you been playing?" I asked.
"Um, for about 10 years or so, I guess. I used to be in a band, but we split up. We have a record and everything. The songs are pretty shit though. Our main songwriter did a lot of drugs. He's in jail now though," he explained.
"Oh," I said. "I'd be interested to hear your record."
"Ha, don't bother. The only thing worth hearing is the growl of my Ric," he grinned.
"You've got a Rickenbacker?" I asked, surprised.
"Yeah man, a 4003. Blue one," he said, and I could see he wasn't used to this reaction to his gear. "Got it a few years ago. Cost me a fortune, but I love it."
"That's so awesome, I'd love to see it. Hell, I'd like to play it!" I said, getting excited at the thought of just holding a genuine Rickenbacker.
"Sure man, I'm glad to show my gear around to people who appreciate it. What guitar do you have?"
I told him about my black Strat. "Sweet guitar dude. Perhaps we can swap instruments and have a jam sometime?" he said hopefully.
"Sure, I'd like that. I don't really have a proper rehearsal space or anything though, I share a place just off campus. It's a shame really, I only ever run my stack through headphones, because it's just too loud for the place." What was the point in having a big stack if I was only ever going to turn it up to 1/10? I don't care, I love my amp, even if I only got to turn it up occasionally.
"No worries, we can play at my place if you like. My parents are local, so I still live at home. They've got a big house and all my sisters have moved out. I'm the youngest of five, and the only boy. But there's plenty of room and my parents won't mind at all," said Scott.
I was getting keen now. "Sweet man, that will be awesome. When do you want to do this?"
"Well, I'm not really busy for the next day or two, so if it's not too short for notice, what about today or tomorrow?" he suggested.
"I have a pretty full day tomorrow, I have a lab session for 6 hours and a few lectures," I said. Tuesdays were my worst day; at best I would spend about 9 hours at school. "How about this afternoon?"
"Yeah, that suits me dude," he said. "I've got another class on in about 10 minutes, but after that I'm going home. So do you want to come to my place at, say, three?"
"Sure," I said. I had another class too, but I would be done by about 2.30 and that would give me time to drive home, load my gear and then drive to Scott's place. I got his address and phone number from him, finished the rest of my coffee and headed to class.
After that lecture was done, I walked back to the car and drove back to my place. It was only a 5 minute drive, and if I wasn't such a lazy bastard I would walk. But I can't be bothered, and over the course of the last few years at uni I lost my fitness and physique that I'd picked up in high school from spending long hours drinking coffee and beer and eating trash like chips and chocolate: the standard uni student's diet. I wasn't fat by any means, but I was unfit. I'll work on that later, I told myself, after I've finished uni.
I got to my car: a beat up Ford truck with a big tray, perfect for carting around amps. That was why I bought it. I had lined the tray with non-slip rubber with foam padding underneath, so my precious amp didn't get damaged in transit. I drove home and walked inside, surprisingly keen to hurry up and get over to Scott's place. I saw my roommate Daniel sitting on the couch drinking a beer and watching shitty day-time television.
"Hitting the piss at 2.30?" I said as I walked past.
"F--k off," he said without looking at me, turning up the volume. Someone's having a bad day, I thought. I made a note to ask him about it later. I didn't really like Daniel that much, but it's better for everyone when he's in a good mood.
I got to my room and unplugged my amp, and gathered up all the cables into a backpack. I grabbed my Strat off the wall where I hang it, and put it in the battered Fender case that came with it. This gear took up about half the space in my room, which was tiny. There was a bed, a desk, a cupboard and chest of drawers. The amp was about the same size as the chest of drawers, and there wasn't much floor space left over when I had the amp in my room. I tried to keep the floor clean, but there was clothes and books and loose sheets of paper lying around. I picked them up and threw them across the bed, adding to the junk that I'd already dumped there.
Fortunately the fellow who I had bought the amp from had put casters on the cabinet. It would have been difficult to shift otherwise. As it was, I slowly wheeled it out over the thinning carpet to the front door.
"Where are you going with that shit?" asked Daniel, again with turning around.
"Playing some music with a mate," I said, surprised that Daniel would care.
"Right, what's that code for, having some gay sex?" he sneered.
"Yes, gay sex, and lots of it," I said, as I got to the door and began to negotiate getting the cabinet down the stairs to the driveway. Once I got there, I loaded it into the truck and went back inside to grab the other gear. Daniel was up at the fridge, getting another beer. One thing about Daniel was that he could drink and drink and not show any sign of drunkenness, and suddenly he would no longer be able to walk. I didn't hazard a guess at how many beers he had already had today. He sat down and ignored me as I lugged the head out and into the truck. Finally, as I was taking my guitar and backpack of bits and pieces out, he turned around.
"How come you're playing music? Don't you have anything better to do?" he asked.
"I dunno, we're just having a jam, nothing serious. And I have shit loads of homework, yeah, but I can't be f--ked to take care of it at the moment. I'll do it later." With that I walked out the door, leaving Daniel to wallow alone in his own repressed misery.
The drive to Scott's house was only short, about 10 minutes, of which about two minutes was spent negotiating the bumpy dirt track from the road to his parents' house. He wasn't kidding when he said he had a lot of space, I thought. The place was massive. I parked somewhere near the front door and went up and knocked on the door. A young woman about my age answered the door.
"Hello?" she said. I didn't respond immediately, as at that point I wasn't too focused on talking. My God, this woman was beautiful. Even though she was wearing a tracksuit, I could tell she had a killer body. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a high bun at the back of her head, and her eyelashes bobbed as she blinked at me.
"Uh, um, hi. I'm, um, Doug. I'm here to see Scott," I stammered. She looked at me as though I was a child, and turned and yelled, "Scott, some dude is here to see you!"
She looked at me again, and then finally opened the door for me. I walked in and stood inside the door, facing her. She didn't say anything, and just looked at her nails. I stood there awkwardly, trying to think of something clever to say.
"So, what do you do?" I said, painfully aware of how woefully inadequate I must have sounded.
She looked up at me. "Not much," she said, "just stuff."
"That's cool," I said, even though it wasn't. "Do you work?"
"Sure," she said, looking back down at her nails. The awkwardness grew. She was not making having a conversation easy, and the fact that I had a slight erection wasn't helping. My preference towards slightly tight jeans was biting me in the ass. I put my hands in my pockets to try and block the view. Finally Scott came, and said, "hey dude, what's up?"
"Not much man, keen for a jam?" I said, as the woman walked away. "Come out and help me grab my stuff."
We walked out to the truck and unloaded my gear. He wore the backpack and pushed the cab while I carried the head and guitar. It was awkward and heavy, and because I was out of shape I started to lose my breath. I shook my head at myself and my disgraceful lack of fitness. We pushed the gear in and stopped at the top of the stairs. I put my gear down and bent over, trying to catch my breath. Scott looked at me, slightly bemused. Then the woman walked past, and looked at me as well, though she looked as though she was looking at some dirty disgusting bug or something similar. I immediately straightened up and stooped breathing heavily, and she walked past with a smirk on her face. I watched her as she walked away, unable to stop looking. Finally I turned around to see Scott looking at me, still more bemused.
Finally, after dragging the gear down a staircase, we got to the basement. And what a basement it was. There was not exposed brick or floor down here. It was carpeted and there was a TV and sound system. There was a sink and fridge down the other side of room. All in all, it was about half the size of my whole apartment. And this was the basement. I saw Scott's gear sitting against the far wall, and he told me to start setting up around there. As I connected everything up, I thought about the woman, and wondering how to ask Scott about her. I flicked on the power, and there was the lovely hum of valve electronics as the amp began to warm up. I pulled out my guitar and started to tune it while the amp was getting ready. After a minute or two I was ready to go, and I switched the amp on. I struck a power chord. Even after having this gear for a while, I still never got tired of the awesome sound. Scott had plugged in too; there was the blue Ric in all its glory. His amp was a Trace Elliot combo that looked as though it had two 10" speakers, although I couldn't be sure due to the angle of the amp. But whatever it was, it was loud and clean and pure, and I loved it.
We got straight into it. It became apparent rather quickly that Scott was actually a very good bass player. His rendition of 'My Generation' was flawless. He was amazingly talented, especially so given that he was only 19. We swapped instruments and I realised just how bad I was actually was at bass. I wasn't worthy to play such an instrument. He seemed to be making a meal of playing the Strat too, and we swapped back pretty quickly.
We played all sorts of music, from Pink Floyd to Led Zep to the Beatles and some new stuff too. By the end of it, I was exhausted, but thoroughly satisfied. My ears were ringing too; we had turned the amps up louder and louder as we played. Eventually, Scott's mother Lily had come downstairs, waving her hands to get our attention. She was a sweet little lady, in her late fifties, with a happy face and sunny demeanour. She asked me if I would like to stay for dinner. I politely refused, although it was not as though I had anywhere better to be. She didn't accept this, and informed that I was staying whether I liked it or not.
After this announcement, we started packing up. It was 6.30 - we'd been rocking for over three hours already and I'd barely noticed the time pass. It was the most fun I had had in a long time, and I think Scott felt the same way. I thought now was as good a time as any to ask about this woman from before.
"Hey man," I said as casually as I could, as he was putting the Ric back in its case, "who was that girl from before? You know, the one who let me in?"
"Oh, that's Rachel, my sister. She's staying for a few weeks. I think her apartment is being repainted or something. I don't know," he said, clipping up the case.
"Cool," I said, as I picked up my guitar.
"Leave it down here mate, we'll grab it later," Scott said, as I stood up with the guitar. "Let's have dinner and worry about it later."
We walked upstairs and Scott turned down the hallway. I followed him, taking in the splendour of the house. There were large photos on the walls of the family at various points in time, and most recently, a shot of Scott, his parents and his four sisters, all of whom were as beautiful as each other. It almost sounded too good to be true. Not that any of them would ever be interested in me though, I thought. Look at how Rachel talked to me earlier. What an ice queen.
Scott eventually led me to a bathroom where we washed up. We then went out to the dining room, where Scott's father was sitting, reading the newspaper. Like his son he was tall, and wore a beard, only his beard was short, thick and full, and snow white, as was his collar-length hair. He looked like a retired rock star. He looked up, and folded the newspaper. He stood up and walked over to us.
"Hello son, nice to meet you. I'm Alan," he said, holding out his big hand. I shook it, all the while feeling as though I had seen him somewhere before.
"I'm Doug," I said, "thanks for inviting me to stay for dinner. You have a very nice house," I added, not really sure of what to say. He shrugged and sat back down, apparently not interested in how good or bad his house was. I stared at him some more: I wasn't quite sure why but there was some nagging thought in my mind that I knew Alan already. But of course I didn't.
Soon enough Lily started bring plates of food to the table, and I was amazed at the spread. There was a mountain of food here, more than enough for the five of us. Rachel had come out to the dining room too, and she was now wearing jeans and a sweater, both skintight. My erection returned.
Conversation at dinner was minimal. Alan didn't speak at all. The meal was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lily jumped up and cleaned up the plates when we were finished. It was the sort of meal that I very really got to enjoy especially for free.
I looked at Rachel, hoping that maybe she was looking at me. But she was looking bored more than anything, staring at the wall. There were a great many things I wanted to say to her, but I didn't have the guts to. So I kept my mouth shut and internally berated myself for being such a bitch.
After dinner, Scott insisted that we have a beer. I could hardly turn down free beer, and sure enough he brought out expensive, imported beer. Delicious. We sat at the table, talking about music and school, for about half an hour, until I reluctantly said, "Dude, I have to get going. I have work to do for tomorrow."
"No worries. Look, I really had fun today. I'm serious." He turned to look at me. "I haven't really been too keen with the bass lately, but after today I am right back into it. In fact, I am keen to get a band going. What do you say?"
I looked at him. The obvious answer was yes; but I was in my final year of engineering and this year was the make or break year for me. I needed good scores for my classes. I thought about it for a moment, finally realising that if I was in a band with Scott, we would rehearse here. And here at Scott's house was Scott's sister Rachel. Decision made.
"I'm in dude. I'm keen to get a band going, absolutely," I said, nodding my head.
"Excellent. That's great. Dude, I'm excited about this. You know?" Scott said.
"Yeah dude, I know what you mean. I'm excited too," I said, remembering my reaction to seeing Rachel.
"Cool, well let's grab your shit so you can get going," he said, and we walked down to the basement. When we got there, I saw Alan holding my guitar, inspecting it. I stopped. He slowly turned around, not the least abashed, and looked at me.
"This is a fine instrument you have here, son. I hope you know how lucky you are to have it," he said mysteriously. He replaced it in the case and walked out of the room and upstairs without saying another word. Slightly mystified, I looked at Scott, but he was picking up my gear and didn't see me. We eventually dragged it all out and loaded the truck. By this stage it was past 9pm, and I was beginning to dread how late I would have to stay up tonight. But I didn't care; I had had a great time at Scott's house, and I really was keen about being in a band with him. And I didn't mind if his lovely sister Rachel wanted to hang around as well, even if she was a bit of a bitch.
"Well dude, it's been great," I said, shaking Scott's hand again. "I'll find you at school, and we can discuss this band thing we've got going, yeah?"
"Absolutely dude, I'm really looking forward to this," he said, and with that he turned around and walked back inside. I started up the truck and started to drive off. As I did so, possibilities of what could happen flooded through my head. I was in a band now - my first rock band. I really was genuinely excited. If only I knew what I had gotten myself into.