A noxious pest that hasn’t bothered us for a long time has suddenly returned to haunt us. Actually, make that two noxious pests, what with the return of “American Idol’s” Ryan Seacrest.
The slightly less noxious problem is an electric guitar that we weren’t smart enough to get rid of a long time ago. No. 5 son, age 12, is thinking about learning to play it. He figures since he’s still a few years away from the start of his Hall-of-Fame NFL career, he’ll just spend that time becoming a rock ‘n’ roll demi-god, which will enable him to permanently ditch school bus rides and homework while simultaneously becoming Lorde’s main squeeze.
His legend will begin with a Squier Stratocaster, a guitar produced especially for parents trying to spend as little as possible on an object destined to be sold, barely used, at a garage sale.
We bought our Squier Strat several years ago, barely used, at a garage sale, when No. 3 son was chasing his rock dream, which wheezed to a speedy halt upon his stunned realization that mastering a musical instrument requires a repetitive, not to mention repetitious, routine known as “practice.”
Don’t tell No. 5 this, but for the sake of my cochlea, I fervently hope his rock star gets sucked into the same black hole as No. 3’s. Unfortunately, as I write, he’s in the basement, wowing some neighborhood pals with the famous riff from “Smoke on the Water.” (He can only pluck it out on one string, but it’s somehow comforting that a bunch of hyper-stimulated 12-year olds can still be so easily wowed.)
At the moment, No. 5’s amplifier is dialed to the “May Bruise Non-Vital Organs” setting. I can probably deal with that, as long as he doesn’t crank it any higher. But what if he decides to specialize in the music of Deep Purple, for whom “Smoke on the Water” was a huge hit in 1973? If he emulates those guys, he’s bound to discover that the Guinness Book of World Records once named them the World’s Loudest Band. This will greatly excite him; in all his endeavors, he firmly believes that loudness equals greatness.
There may be no way to keep him from discovering Deep Purple’s sonic supremacy. He’s avidly accumulating all sorts of rock factoids like that. One source of them is his new all-time favorite movie, “School of Rock,” a film that’s sparked the rock fantasies of a bunch of school-kids, since it’s about the rock fantasies of a bunch of school-kids.
In one scene, a schoolroom chalkboard displays a “history of rock” timeline, featuring the names of 151 performers, from Fats Domino to the Meat Puppets (which, in a neat coincidence, are one of Fats’ favorite snack foods).
No. 5 printed a picture of the chart off the Internet, and occasionally asks me to explain it. This isn’t easy, since I barely know my Diddley (Bo Diddley, that is) from my Butthole (Butthole Surfers, that is, and yes, that’s the actual name of a real band on the chalkboard. To those who wish I’d mentioned some other artist, I’m sorry. Although not much.)
Though he sometimes mocks my reminiscences (“Dad! This sounds like the ‘Drool of Rock’!”), he hangs around and listens, mainly because it enables him to avoid practice. Which means I treasure our little chats too.
To enliven these rock chalk talks, I sometimes play samples from my record collection. That’s “records,” as in “33-1/3 RPM,” as in “LPs,” as in “platters.” At first, No. 4 regarded these hunks of vinyl with bemused contempt. But that quickly gave way to fascination. After all, he gets his music in tiny invisible bytes via the Internet, and thus has never contemplated anything as radically incoherent as a ‘60s rock-album cover. They quickly moved him to his own state of radical incoherence. For example, he says he’s through with haircuts and shaves until he’s as furry as a Beatle on “Abbey Road.”
My old albums also got him thinking about the importance of a band’s name. Naturally, he’s intrigued by those that sound vaguely dangerous or anti-social, such as Molly Hatchet, Black Sabbath, and Herman’s Hermits.
But he says those bands will sound totally wimpy after people hear about the group he and his buddies are forming, featuring the most noxious name in rock history: The World’s Loudest Band.