I miss being in a band.
I grew up playing in bands. That's what you do when you’re young; find the other misfits and and form your own band of brothers. Didn’t matter how good you were, none of us could play yet anyway. All about the hair, the clothes, and the girls. My first band was called (no lie) The Patagonianists. Flipped open an atlas, closed our eyes and picked. Lasted one gig but we rocked the Maine Endwell dance...and all the sudden I was pretty sure Mary Spring saw me as sure as she saw Paul McCartney! I had been invisible just the day before. From then on I walked around with my Cortez bass, no case, just to make sure girls in my neighborhood knew I was a guitar player.
It was Power. Making noise, plugging in and playing in my garage. The world got better and clearer; and Ed Sullivan, the most un-hip guy in the world, became my guide. The Stones, The Searchers, The Supremes, The Kinks, The Young Rascals, The Miracles, and of course The Beatles.
The long and winding road
I played in bands up and down New York State and beyond. The names changed but the dream was the same: make a big noise. The names got better, The Basket Of Flowers, Beggars Opera, The Faith Band ( that one actually had one hit, a a few albums on Mercury and played with acts like Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Bros, Hall and Oates and more) Movieola, Little Big Men and Blinding Tears.
I played in bands up until my early 30s. Then it started to get harder to visualize sharing my life with grown-ass men. I don’t know how the Stones and U2 do it! (Well, maybe I do. $$$.) But I bet there's still a part of them that feels the same blast I felt for so many years. If you haven’t done it, it’s a tough one to explain.
Bear with me, I swear I have a point comin’. Just as I outgrew the bands, technology helped make them obsolete and I was good with that. The whining drummer got replaced by a Linn Drum Machine, my Rockman made me sound as big as the last guy's twin Marshalls. I could use my Tascam to make noise now. I was a band.
So as my career shifted from artist deals to publishing deals and my writing took off, I was a happy guy. I traveled the world with a keyboard loaded with drum loops, Pro-tools, and a laptop. Even got to write and work with my idols. I was never the acoustic guitar guy. Always needed noise to make the music feel alive. This led to living in Nashville and writing success let me build my dream studio in the country. This was a beautiful thing. Overlooked a creek with all the toys I could imagine. Free to make music on my own, anytime.
Rage against the machines
Around 2002, I felt like something was missing. It was less fun. I wasn’t writing better songs with all this stuff, I was a slave to the gear. Over the next few years I unplugged more and more. A little more acoustic guitar, Strat through a Vox amp, and writing with other writers who made noise and I started to feel that blast again. I always heard the adage that if a song was a real song it will sound just as good unplugged. I agree but I also think some sound best with, in the words of John Hiatt, “A Telecaster through a Vibro-Lux turned up to ten”.
I still love technology...but that might be as simple as Garageband or playing a new idea into my iPhone and e-mailing it. Apps have replaced my racks. Right now I think I’ve come full circle as you can see by this picture of a little corner of my small home studio. Mary Spring would still be proud.
P.S. Got to meet the Stones on the Nashville stop of the Bridges To Babylon a few years back. Impossible not to look at them and think of all those Ed Sullivan shows, trying to learn the licks and do my best Brian Jones. Keith asked who I had been working with or something like that...satisfaction.
Rolling Stones photo: Google Images
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About Mark Cawley
Mark Cawley's songs have appeared on more than 15 million records. Over a career based in LA, London, and Nashville his songs have been recorded by an incredibly diverse range of artists. From Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross and Chaka Kahn to The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing and Pop Idol winners in the UK. He has had #1 records in the UK and throughout Europe as well as cuts in Country, Jazz & R & B. His groundbreaking website Song Journey created with Hall of Fame writer Kye Fleming was the first to mentor writers from around the world one-on-one online. He is currently writing and publishing as well as helping writers and artists worldwide with a one-on-one co-active coaching service, iDoCoach. In addition he is a judge for this years UK Songwriting Contest, a contributing writer to the US Songwriting Competition , a popular songwriting blogger and from time to time, conducts his own workshops.