Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Instrument Landing

My parents may not have had a lot of money when I was young, but that never stopped them from finding a way to make sure I received such important things as music training.

Unfortunately, at the time my musical destiny was being decided, the Lawrence Welk Show was a big hit in the US and so I ended up being trained to play the accordion. This instrument has gone from being very popular in the 50s to being one of the least liked half a century later. And I can tell you it was not the instrument of choice at anti-war rallies in the 60s.

It was so in vogue when I was young that even a little place like Rutland had an accordion school, where dozens of us would troop off to Mr Coutermarsh's with dreams of mastering "Lady of Spain" and eventually graduating to very fast polkas.

There was one problem for me, though. To play any musical instrument well requires a good sense of rhythm and tempo, which I lack. But that was trivial to the other requirement of playing the accordion well - physical dexterity and coordination. Even thinking about it now, I am amazed I was able to play it at all since it required playing the melody with your right hand, pulling the bellows back and forth rhythmically and playing the bass with your left hand on those silly little buttons you cannot even see. Let's face it, this is one of the few musical instruments where you literally have to strap yourself into it.

Nonetheless I did persevere and learned to play some easy songs poorly. But I am pretty sure that somewhere around 1958 my folks abandoned their dreams that I was going to replace Myron Floren if he and Lawrence ever got into a fight.

My own dreams lasted a bit longer. In 1965, the same year that Mick sang "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" and Sam the Sham did "Wooly Bully", I convinced some friends who were forming a band that a fairly unskilled accordionist was just what they needed. Two rehearsals later they convinced me to go solo.

A few years later during my university days, I would go to parties and jealously watch guys pull out their guitars and they would soon have people sitting around listening to them, some times even singing along. It seemed so unfair that they could get away with it. If I even brought my accordion along with me, people insisted I leave it outside. In the years of the countercultural revolution, the old squeezebox just wasn't going to cut it.

Oh well, this all came back to me today because I passed a second-hand store that had an accordion prominently displayed in the window. I looked at it quite a long time, and was wondering how much I could negotiate them down from their $280 price tag.

But then I thought about it. If anything, I am surely going to play less well now than I did before. Even more importantly, Linda and I have just spent a couple of nice weeks together while she was on holiday. I just don't think I want to add accordion stress to our life together. I don't even think it would help were I to learn to play "Smoke on the Water".

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