Free to Rock

Hello Trick-or-Treaters!

I realize my “Bloggy Monster” here reaches a worldwide audience, so to my dear Trick-or-Treaters in lands foreign to mine, I hope you’ll still enjoy reading as I take a moment to commemorate my nation’s independence day this past week. 

I have my special “heart places” around the world – like the Vienna Woods in Austria and the Luzern Bridge in Switzerland and the Weinachtsmarkts in Germany and just about every church, cathedral, museum, and gelato stand in Italy and so many other beautiful, magical, meaningful places in other countries – but all the while I feel deeply who I am as an American.  I love my country.

I am grateful to my founding fathers (and their brave wives!) who so daringly forged the country where I was born (which birth happened to be 200 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed).  My personal belief is that the United States Constitution is a document inspired by God.  This is a nation of religious freedom and I hold to that fervently.  Through my studies of music and Halloween history I have met many people of different religions, and I respect and honor their right to practice and worship as they wish.

As a musician, I find founding father John Adams’ words especially meaningful:

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.  My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

My gratitude and the honor I feel run more deeply than I can express.


And so, with said gratitude, I was able to indulge in some hearty, tasty, most excellent rock this past week.  See, I used to play keyboards for my friends’ band, “Checkpoint Charley,” but as my Halloween Carols project bloomed, I simply didn’t have the time to dedicate to them anymore.

A few weeks ago I received a call from Kevin, the lead singer.  I hadn’t heard from him in a while, so I didn’t know why he would be calling.  After the greetings and pleasantries, he bluntly segued with, “So, have you seen ‘The Godfather III’?”

“Uh, no.  I haven’t seen any of the Godfather movies.”

“Well, there’s a line from that movie that goes, ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’”

Right then I let out one of the deepest, lustiest belly laughs I had bellowed in a while.  I knew EXACTLY why he was calling.

It turns out that Jesse, the bass player, was having a high school reunion where “Checkpoint Charley” was to play a bunch of cover songs and a few originals, but the new keyboard player couldn’t make it.

“Just get me some chord charts and program the synths for me.”

We had an epically long rehearsal this past Friday, then played on Saturday.  I was so tired on Friday night.  It was half past midnight and we had one more song to go over.  The cool thing about pop music is that you can fake a lot of things, especially as the keyboard player, so I rested my head in my left hand and used my right hand to fiddle around with the four chords of U2’s “With or Without You” – D, A, Bm, G.

I had to learn about 30 new songs, but I just wrote notes on my chord charts.  Along with U2, we played Journey, Van Halen, The Cure, The Cult, The Pretenders, Toy Dolls, Oingo Boingo, INXS, Squeeze, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Guns n’ Roses, Alphaville, Paula Abdul, Jimmy Barnes, R.E.M., Crowded House, Sting, Poison, Modern English, Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, Electric Light Orchestra, and of course a few Checkpoint Charley specials, my favorite being “Cardiac Arrest.”

Jesse found the exact Van Halen “Jump” synth sound on the keyboard.  I don’t know what it was, but playing those chords with the exact sound just made me laugh and laugh.  So much fun!  Same thing with Oingo Boingo’s “Not My Slave” – that jazz organ sound is unmistakable and so much fun to play with the syncopated piano chords in the background.  I’ve always loved that song, but playing it live made me love it even more.  Such great rhythms and chords!  I love you, men of Boingo.

I was in dreamy-happy land when we played The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”  Oh, he loves her so much, doesn’t he?  Such pretty melodies in there.  “I’ll run away with you … I’ll run away with you …” 

Alphaville’s “Forever Young” is a great song, which I’ve always loved, but the connotations to all the school dances of yore make it hysterical.  I laughed as I played that trumpet part at the end.  So great!  So memorably comedic!  So iconic!

And … sigh.  I’ll say it again and again … I love playing with drummers!  They are magical people.

Thanks, Kevin, Jesse, Mike, and Dave.  I had a fun time!  Now back to my Halloween composition world.  Can you believe Halloween is so close at hand?  But I’m enjoying one season at a time …

… and there is always room for the graveyard in any season.  Summertime in the graveyard is divine because the sprinklers are on and I ride my bicycle through them.  As I was doing just that on a recent ride, I thought of all the “sleeping dust” in the graves around me and how happy I am that it’s my turn to be alive, in my body, using it to ride my bike and feel such wonderful sensations like mists of cool water on my skin.  What a gift life and body are.

I hope you all are having lovely summers!  Eat succulent food.  Be with family and friends.  Listen to great music.  Read good words.  See tasty films.  Be in the water!  Girls, pretend you’re mermaids.  Guys, pretend you’re pirates.  (Hey!  That would be fun to dress up as a ship’s figurehead for Halloween!)

Molly says hi.  I need to brush her more often in the summer months.  Her silky, black coat is in many places these days.

Oh, and I found that Godfather line on YouTube: