Saturday, November 24, 2007

The King and I

It’s been great to play the drums so much lately. Before this month’s little Talent Show event, I hadn’t played with a whole band in over two years, and even then, we only formed for the one gig. You’d have to go back to my days with the Neil Diamond boys in the spring of 2003 to spot my last regular band.

Since the Talent Show, Greg and I have been getting together off and on to record some demo’s of our songs. He and Dan had already put down scratch tracks of the guitar parts, but never really added any drums until I came along.

I don’t know if I’d call it an enthusiastic hobby, a passionate dream or a huge tax write-off, but I know that Greg has invested more money in recording equipment than I’ve probably spent on dates in the last ten years. While I stress out about whether to drop $200 on a microphone for my video camera, I show up to Greg’s place and see that he’s already got a different microphone looming over every single piece of my drum kit, all hooked up to this vast computer setup in his basement. The miracle of it all is that when he plays back one of my tracks, I actually sound like I can drum worth a darn. All this time, all I needed to do was hook up seven grand worth of microphones to my kit…

I’m sure Elvis would be proud.

Well, let me rephrase that: I’m sure Randall would be proud. Randall is the guy who taught me how to play the drums. I met him about a week before I entered the MTC (that’s “Missionary Training Center” for the benefit of the random non-Mormon blog surfers who will stumble onto this piece after running Google searches for “The Wonder Years”, “The Great Divorce”, or “Mosquito Flatulence”—currently the leading tags to my site). My buddy Breto and I had concluded that our post-mission destinies would center around our construction of a rock band, and since I couldn’t play anything on the piano besides “Get Back”, we thought I should learn to play the drums.

Enter Randall.

Randall was a friend of Breto’s from his home ward, a middle aged heavy-set fellow who had built a reputation for being a…”colorful personality”. By day, he was a lawyer, but by night, he acted in local plays, loved loud rock music, and played the drums like nobody’s business. Legend had it he also ran for student office at BYU under a totally bogus campaign, then had to immediately resign after the inspired student body voted him into office.

For the first hour or so after we arrived at his home, Randall entertained us with an extensive lecture on what music is good (Three Dog Night), and which music sucks (pretty much everything else). He provided examples from his extensive record collection to provide evidence (remember, he was a lawyer).

Then he set up his massive drum kit and began to play along with the songs to further illustrate. About the only thing that could match his knack for wisecracks was the manic pounding of his drumming. It was clearly out of my league, but with his patient persistent instruction, I managed to pick out a basic four/four beat that I would tap on tables, desks, and Ford Escort Wagon dashboards for the next two years.

When our drum lesson was complete, Randall decided it would be necessary to go out for ice cream, so we hopped into the back of his minivan with a couple of his kids and set out for the Arctic Circle that used to be in front of the Albertson’s in Centerville. On the way back, as I worked on my vanilla cone, I met with one of the watershed moments of my young existence.

As we drove east on Pages Lane through the quiet evening, still talking about the finer points of rock and roll, Randall suddenly lurched the minivan into the Dick’s Market parking lot and stopped.

“I’m sorry,” he declared, “I have to do this.”

Breto and I watched in confusion as Randall reached over and turned up his car stereo as loud as it would go, then stepped out of the minivan and faced the street. As numerous commuters drove by and looked over in perplexed curiosity, Randall gyrated his hips, waved his arms, and lip-synched to the Elvis Presley classic, “Burnin’ Love”.

I can’t quite imagine what people must have made of this portly fellow who dancing at them at the side of the road, as he’d point at their passing cars and rock his knees when they’d go by, especially since they couldn’t hear the music he was doing it to. But inside the minivan, Breto and I could hear the music, and we saw a thing of divine, albeit twisted beauty. It was a joyous statement of anti-social enthusiasm. In a way, I saw what I wanted to be when I grew up.

When we returned to his house afterward, Randall matched his eccentricity with his generosity, and gave me his copy of the Blind Faith album from 1969. I was especially grateful because it was the alternate edition that had the photo of the band on the cover instead of the photo of the naked chick holding the airplane.

Three days later, after listening to “Presence of the Lord” three-dozen times, I entered the MTC, and put Elvis, the drums, and my dreams of rock and roll superstardom on hold. When I got back, I made a couple more visits to Randall’s house to fine-tune my developing skills and listen to more cool music. Then he took a job in Nevada and moved away, and I haven’t seen him since.

I got word a couple of years ago that he took another job in Utah, and was back in the area, but I haven’t seen him yet. I should probably look him up. It’s been a while since I’ve had some ice cream.