Bell Bottoms and Bass Drums

13 03 2016

Ask any musician and they’ll tell you their most memorable and scariest moment is the Rock _nfirst time they played in front of a live audience. Mine came when I was 13 years old at a “Battle of the Bands” back in my hometown. This is where a number of local rock bands come together, each playing a set of music and the audience votes or a group of judges decides who the best group is. The location was Ole Zims, a barn that had been renovated into a large dance hall perfect for functions like this. My band was a group of neighborhood kids that could play guitars and since I was a drummer, we decided to take a shot at the competition; who knows we may even win.

Besides how we sounded, I really wanted to look good–Rock n Roll Hero personified. I talked my mom into buying me these jeans with large bell bottoms, something quite fashionable then. I also got a pair of black boots with large buckles and a long sleeve shirt with wild, bright colored designs all over it. On the evening of the battle, I donned all my new threads and found them a little bulky and warm. But that was alright, the main thing was I looked good!

Three bands played before we did, which left us all a little shell-shocked; we had no idea of the talent we were going up against. We had just organized the month before and all these groups had noticeably been together for much longer. There was no turning back now. The last band before us was playing their final song. The crowd was already beginning to gather in front of where we were set up. Taking a seat behind my drum set, I looked up and there was a sea of faces staring my way.  All the moisture in my mouth and throat instantly evaporated. The singer yelled out the count “1 2 3 4!” We broke into song and I immediately dropped one of my drumsticks. Not smart enough to put any extras in reach, I had to jump up from my seat to retrieve it only to find one the large leg openings of my bell bottoms was caught in the bass drum pedal. Now I knew how an animal felt when it became snared in a trap! Luckily one of the guitar players retrieved the stick and handed it back to me, but I was still fighting the bass pedal trying to lift my leg as high as possible until finally freeing myself. We finished the first of song and I could see people laughing and looking at me like I was some kind of idiot; and that moment I would have had to agree with them. But now I had other problems, the heavy long sleeve shirt was burning me up and making me feel like I would throw up at any minute. I didn’t, but with all the mishaps my drumming was terrible and at the end of our set there was no one watching us, they had all moved on early for the next band. The other band members were so disgusted, they wouldn’t even talk to me. Finally one said, “We play another round so before it’s our turn again, whatever problem you’re having, fix it!”

I was embarrassed, but I was also angry for letting the others down. First thing was to strip down to my t-shirt and toss that heavy shirt in the corner. Kicking off the boots and finding some duct tape to wrap around the bottom of my pants now freed my legs up for the pedals. This time when I sat down to play I had four extra sticks nearby. There was a determination in my soul; I was ready now, let’s do it!

We began the 2nd set and this time our sound was solid and I played my heart out, even getting applause from the audience a couple of times. At the end I, along with the rest of the band, felt much better with our performance even though we still finished dead last.

Okay I’d say there are a couple of easy lessons here, but let me give you my spin.  Wanting to do something special is fine, but the important part is preparing so that you’re ready for the task. Old Ben Franklin put it well when he said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The desire to succeed is the smallest part; the bigger portions are training, learning, and knowing what you’re doing.  In the Christian life the rules are the same. I can count all the people I know that got excited about Christ, but fell away because they did not prepare by studying, learning from older believers and one of the most important parts, praying.

Ephesians 6:13 – “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.”

The other obvious lesson is getting all dressed up like some big city pimp sure didn’t do a thing to help my drumming, if anything it became a major deterrent to any skills I did have. I was very young back then and I suppose my thinking was by looking like something I wasn’t, maybe it wouldn’t matter how well I could play.  A young man named Alex Gaskarth with wisdom beyond his years put it like this,  “Be real, because a mask only fools people on the outside. Pretending to be someone you’re not takes a toll on the real you, and the real you is more important than anyone else.”

Occasionally, I like looking at the Message, it has a neat way of defining scripture like this one:  1 Peter 5:6-7 – “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”

As we “Travel the Rock Road,” each of us learns who we really are and what gifts we have; and in the leaning process there are no short cuts. When we commit our ways and gifts to the Lord, He’s faithful to prepare and guide us in the right direction.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6).

Follow this truth and you’ll end up a winner.  But if bell bottoms ever come back and you’re a drummer, don’t! Trust me you won’t dig it!!

See ya next time.





One response

14 03 2016
Beverly Crane

Another wonderful article giving us a strong message with a little humor. Will watch for next week’s journey down the Rock Road. Thank you John.
Beverly Crane

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