It dawned on me the other day that at this point in my life, I have been in one rock band or another for more than 30 years. This rarefied status should definitely give me a point from which to reflect a bit, and maybe even dispel some hard-won knowledge, the things that work and do not work within the makeup of a rock band. No?
With no further ado, then, here is a quick cheat-sheet on some of my wise(assy)ness.
1. Find a good and solid drummer first. Without a great backbeat, your band will simply never get out of the starting gate.
2. After that first solid drummer becomes too much of a pain in the ass--jettison said drummer, and repeat step #1. This process could very well end up consuming the rest of your career!
3. I'm kind of kidding about #1 and #2.4. Get a singer that has what we call L.S.D.--Lead Singers' Disease. That person has to have the ability to stand in front on a stage, and usually with no guitar to stand behind--and absolutely OWN the whole stage and venue.
Yes, it takes an odd sort to feel comfortable in this odd situation. It usually takes a person who has very high thoughts about his or her own personage. It WILL get old after a while to the other band members. But hell, by the time the band is sick of the singer's antics, the sychophantic managers will already have found a way to wedge the original band guys out of the group.
5. The use of high levels of alcohol and drugs usually play cozy bed-partners to all persons who are in the later stages of #4.
6. Get a bass player who has a good sense of humor, because inevitably the "bass player jokes" will start to chip away at that poor sucker.
(There was a scientist visiting a lost tribe in the jungles of Africa. He was there to document the village life. On the day that the scientist gets to the village, the tribal drummer is playing for hours without a break, and everyone in the tribe seems happy and tranquil. The moment the drums stop, though, the villagers take off screaming through the jungle, away from the village. Then the scientist stops the chief of the tribe before he takes off, and asks why everyone is so scared and fleeing in such an abrupt fashion. The chief looks at the scientist in a panic and says, "Oh, now comes the bass solo.")
7. Guitarists are always cool from the outside. Their appearance onstage is always the envy of all of the "cool people" in the audience. If your kid wants to play an instrument, steer them to this instrument.
8. Everyone in the band should end up helping carry the gear to and from gigs. One thing that the band guys will have to look forward to, though, is the fact that their fitness will eventually be the best. Yeah, singers never DO end up helping in the endless schlepping of gear.
9. If you think I am only speaking of one particular band that I have been in here in this column, you are sorely mistaken. These steps are commonplace with most all rock bands that I have either been in or witnessed.
10. I have played all the above instruments in one band or another, so yes, I have indeed fallen in the trap of every above scenario!
11. Yes, I DID state that this is a "Top 10" list, but we musicians aren't the best at numbers . . . and letters . . . and names . . . and geography . . . and book-learnin'.
12. Have a GOOD sense of humor. If you take all this stuff (like this column) too seriously, then indeed you are not in on the joke--and hence will miss all the "good times" that being in a band will bring you.
13. And once you find yourself in a band, and you feel that the chemistry is perfect and the music is the best thing you can ever be a part of--just enjoy that time. All the other personal crap that you may have to endure, is just that . . . crap.