Some good really can come from this coronavirus mess.
In the middle of boring COVID-19 isolation, I just spent more than an hour with 10 friends, some of whom I go back more than three decades.
I love technology … when I understand it.
If I can handle Zoom, anyone’s least-brightest pet probably can, too. In this case, the subject was music, which is really the best one. It’s the bedrock of my longest-enduring relationships, and it still takes precedent over political, spiritual and personal differences–all of which developed after we decided music was the basis of whatever club we’d joined.
As usual, we talked ’80s rock because that’s when our friendships formed … and because it makes for the most ridiculous jokes. We discussed the record stores and clubs we used to frequent, who snuck into what show, who got into which fight, and what those bands are still doing today, if anything.
A lot of them seem to appear on cruise ships.
Rarely does a group of middle-aged men speak for more than an hour without mentioning kids, jobs and spouses. Rampaging viruses only took over in the context of what it’s doing to the live music industry.
In a nutshell: It sucks.
I’m a believer in making lemonade out of lemons, especially when the lemons are killing people who can’t get out of the way. So: While this thing lasts, my friends and I are going to meet once a week and discuss very crucial, important topics circulated to all the members of our new group beforehand, so everyone can study up ahead of time as to not look foolish.
This week was—as you probably guessed—about rock bands that released EPs in 1983.
I won’t bore you with details. You certainly already understand how Ratt disappointed us all so profoundly only a few short years later.
The conversation went better than anticipated. It’s a well-worn cliché that music can save the world. It’s our common language, it’s a conduit to God, it’s powerful enough to get Billy Joel women, etc.
But it did bring 10 50-somethings together—some thousands of miles away from each other—to have an hour of laughing and remembering. What else could possibly do that? Maybe a funeral? And you’re not supposed to laugh at funerals (I won’t name names).
There’s plenty of lemonade to be made out of this. Musicians–like all of us—are feeling cooped-up, helpless and challenged.
Which likely means they’re going to squeeze some great music out of this.
In a separately strange convergence, a couple days before our rock summit, I texted the other four guys from my first band–three of whom were on our later Zoom chat. One was in Boston, one in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco. I saw an opportunity. We’ve talked about getting together in the past, but five middle-aged guys with families and careers, living around the country, just can’t find that sort of time.
Three of us planned months ahead and managed to get together in 2011 in L.A. for a couple days. We wrote and recorded two songs, without vocals. We left promising to get right on those vocals and get together soon to finish. It’s been nine years and counting. Nine years is like an entire marriage for some of us.
Riffs are now electronically flying between coasts. I’m learning a new program for drum stuff, which has gone better than usual, as I’ve only picked up my computer to throw it across the room once. Some of us are going to get back on Zoom and mess around with ideas.
I had another friend just tell me—after swearing off music for a couple years because it chewed him up and spit him out (it does that)—he’s been playing guitar three hours a day since COVID-19 hit. We’re seeing people broadcast live music from their living rooms. Others are getting on YouTube and learning how to play in the first place.
When this is done, we may have a new musical baby boom; the birth of all kinds of art and relationships we wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s almost the same reason why music spoke to us in the first place. Besides, like then, we really don’t have anything better to do.
Follow music critic Tony Hicks at Twitter.com/TonyBaloney1967.