Seems like we’re barely done with Halloween, and the stores are already selling Christmas decorations. If I were Thanksgiving, I’d be pissed.

I myself have many fond memories of holiday celebrations. My mom had two sisters, and every year all three families would get together for Christmas. The “grownups” would drink Manhattans in the living room, while the “kids” (my cousins and I) listened to records in the den.

At one of these gatherings (1980), my cousin showed us a 12” single. (For the younger readers, this was a 12” vinyl record, played at 45 rpm, containing only one song – usually an extended mix of a hit record.)

“This is gonna be the next big thing,” she informed us, then played the record. When the song was over, I offered my assessment: “He’s just talking over the beat,” I opined. “This’ll never catch on.”

By the end of the decade, everyone from Aerosmith to the Beach Boys was incorporating hip-hop into their music. It just goes to show you how wrong a person can be.

Fast forward to when I was putting together my first band, Childhood’s End. I was writing down some guitar chords for our bass player Tim, and reached for a blank sheet of paper.

Tim instinctively turned it over and asked, “What’s this?” “Nothing,” I replied, “Just some crappy song I wrote in high school.” “How does it go?” he persisted.

I showed him the song (a four-chord “Duke of Earl” knockoff called “I Need a Date”) and the band learned to play it. The song eventually became one of our most popular numbers. Go figure.

“Treat other people the way you want to be treated.” That’s the rule I try to live by, both in life and in music. When I play a live show, I try to give the kind of performance that I’d enjoy seeing. But the previous two anecdotes demonstrate that I’m a breed apart from the typical music listener. There’s a big difference between what I like in music and what most people like.

This may explain why I have such difficulty getting booked at local music venues. I play meticulously constructed original songs – the kind of music I enjoy listening to at live performances. But audiences in northwest Pennsylvania seem to prefer half-baked improvisations (i.e. “jam bands”) and boring covers that never make it out of first position.

Things go better when I play lead guitar for Brenna Bone and Seann Clark. We had a very enjoyable show two weeks ago at the Edinboro Hotel Bar, and we’ll be playing at Pine Junction in Findlay Lake, NY on Nov. 23 (the day before Thanksgiving).

Finally, I would like to conclude this newsletter with a possibly unnecessary (but wholly appropriate) feel-good story. My Peavey Bandit 112 amplifier (my “go to” amp during the Childhood’s End days) has gone untouched for the last two years, so I decided to sell it.

I originally brought it to World of Music in Erie, but they offered me a price only someone who stole the amplifier would accept.

Instead, I decided to put it up for consignment at Phelps Bros. in North East. Patrick Phelps related that his father used to have a Bandit 112. When young Patrick wanted to learn to play saxophone, his dad sold the amplifier to pay for lessons. Patrick, therefore, bought my amp as a present for his dad!

I hope a similar spirit of giving characterizes your holiday season: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just a day off of work. Whatever your notion of December 25 is, I hope it’s a very good day for you.

Rock long and prosper,

Frank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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