Friday, November 16, 2007

Performance-enhancing Substances

I'm not going to sit in judgment of Barry Bonds nor discuss the merits and demerits of steroids and other performance-enhancing substances. Maybe Barry used them; maybe he didn't. Maybe he lied about using them. He's innocent until proven guilty.
What I want to know is, who's looking into the use and abuse of "Just For Men"? Clearly there's a "game of shadows" being played in and around the hair salons frequented by our professional athletes. The back room "treatments" and "applications". Call it a "gray area" if you will.
But as the advertisers of this "supplement" make it abundantly clear, the use of their product makes you MUCH more popular with the ladies. If you're popular with the ladies, you feel better. If you feel better, you feel confident. If you feel confident, you're more likely to slug home runs or pitch complete games.
Am I right?
From the looks of things the Red Sox' Mike Lowell has not yet been seduced by these nefarious "trainers" who are lurking in every barber shop in America or peddling their wares in any neighborhood CVS. But as contract talks with the Red Sox bog down, can the temptation be far off?

Friday, November 2, 2007

I Discover Radio!

No, not like Marconi.
In the summer of 1976 it was my good fortune to stumble upon college radio in the form of Dartmouth College's fine station WFRD. For the next 4 years until the quality of the station took a fatal nosedive and became an ultra-bland, ultra-conservative generic "classic hits" station around 1980 there wasn't a day that went by that I didn't have my ear glued to that station, guitar in hand.

Another "think of it" moment. Think of it! Having next to no exposure to the wide world of eclectic and progressive music to find one's snot-nosed self over night listening to folk, folk-rock, prog-rock, punk-rock, classical music, baroque music, renaissance music, medieval music, jazz music, jazz-rock, opera, rock-opera, easy listening, classic soul, & world music and more. God Bless that radio station in those brief 4 years.

It quite literally saved my life. Or is it "figuratively"? Or is that when....? No, "literally". "Literally".

This was my education in "what to listen for in music". Sure, I went to college not too long after this to study music, but without the discovery of radio, without Mr. Marconi and his magic box, surely I would have sunk like the Titanic.

Let me not leave off this post without honorably mentioning additional radio discoveries that took place around that time or soon after. My introduction to classical and jazz music was furthered greatly by also discovering Vermont Public Radio (WVPR) and by tuning in late nights to the far-off New York City station WQXR-AM (thank you, stratosphere!) to listen to the sweet voice of Nimet and her famous program "New York at Night". Oh, I'll need several more posts in the future to wax rhapsodic about Nimet and "New York at Night". For now, I'll leave it at that and only say I wish she would return to the air waves. If you ever had the opportunity to hear her program, you already know what I mean.

continued early guitar life

It wasn't long before I'd taken at least a couple of lessons primarily to learn the rudiments of how to read music. I figured this was necessary. I had no idea that there were musicians who had learned entirely by ear and instinct and practice and innate originality. I thought I needed to know how to read. And I'm so glad I did.
However, this doesn't mean that I completely took to formal music studies. My parents couldn't afford for me to take regular guitar lessons and I didn't really want to at the time, either.

continued guitaring life

I remember playing these three guitars for years.
I began to teach myself how to fingerpick. At that time I thought that in order to fingerpick you had to wear actual picks on all five fingers of the right hand so I went out to the nearest guitar store (in Claremont, New Hampshire near where I grew up in Springfield, Vermont) and bought a couple sets of what must have been banjo picks (one set of steel and one set of clear plastic). I remember these picks nearly cut off the circulation in my fingertips. It's a wonder I survived to ever play the guitar at all.
So, of course, that wasn't working out and I don't believe I practiced with them more than 2 or 3 times.

At the time I had one issue of "Guitar Player" magazine that must have been a couple years old already. It's funny how much that one issue had an effect on pretty much all my musical life to follow. If memory serves (and I'm probably foggy on the details) there was an interview with Steven Stills in which he said that it's vastly more important for young guitarists to learn to play solid rhythm guitar instead of wanting to be a hotshot lead player right off the bat (I took note). There was also an interview with Jimmy Page who mentioned that two of the guitarists that most influenced him were Bert Jansch and Narciso Yepes (I doubly took note). The oddness of those two names stuck with me. Who were they? If Jimmy liked them, they must certainly be good. I believe also in that same issue there was brief mention of a guy named "Davy Graham".

Think of it! Here I was a snot-nosed 14 year old in Springfield Vermont in 1974 and I'd been at least introduced to the music of Bert and Davy (and by extension the whole modern history of eclectic fingerstyle steel string guitar, in my opinion) and to Narciso Yepes (ditto the classical tradition).

I shouldn't say I was introduced to the music, really, seeing as how I hadn't heard it yet! But the mere fact of Jimmy's reference to these players in the one magazine I was sure I would ever possess and the mysterious power that "Led Zeppelin III" had had over me since its release gave me a powerful urge to find OUT as soon as possible what he was taking about.

More about my incipient guitar life

So I began playing these el-cheapo instruments from that day (10/15/1974)
forward. I was 14 at the time.
I hadn't any idea how anything was done on guitar and had no teacher or mentor of any kind (as I said my eldest brother whose guitars these were and who might have shown me a thing or two had already moved out.). All I had was the back cover of "Alfred's basic guitar course, volume 1" which in those days was printed with basic chord forms on the inside of that back cover.
However there was no key to show *how* to read a chord form so I just slowly and very painfully figured it out.
And need I continue on about how cheapo these instruments were? From very early on I was more drawn to the acoustic I had dug out of the attic. Man, was that a hard guitar to play. The strings were more comprised of rust than of steel at this point and I wasn't about to *change* them, god forbid. 2 of the tuning keys were nowhere to be found and so tuning was accomplished by means of a plyers.
Needless to say tuning wasn't really accomplished at all.

Oh, yeah

I suppose I should note that my youtube username is "troubleclef".

From which I've derived this oh-so-creative nome de palco "Tony R. Clef".

I don't suppose anyone is stumbling on the weblog without coming from youtube in the first place, so I didn't deem this information necessary in my first post.

More about me

Let's see:
- I'm 47 years old (as I said)
- I play guitar (yes, I said that too)
- I have played the guitar for 33 years.
- I began playing the guitar on October 15, 1974. (that would make 33 years, 17 days as of this post.)
- I'm not joking. Because for many years, like the nerdy music collector I am, I kept the receipts of lps that I would buy and on that day I bought a copy of the new Deep Purple album "Burn" and listened to it over and over again with rapt attention wishing I could be Ritchie Blackmore. Pipe dreaming on this (I believe a pipe may have actually been involved, but enough about that) I suddenly recollected that my eldest brother had long ago moved out and stashed his cheapo guitar collection in my folks' attic.
- I often referred back to that receipt so that's how I know.
- Rummaging in the attic I found an acoustic guitar, a knock-off Telecaster solid-body electric and a knock-off Hofner bass of the bass-fiddle shape. Wish I knew the make and model but I believe my brother got them at Sears and Roebuck or something. They were not fine instruments by any means.
- Oh, and there was a little amp. Or was it two? There may have been a bass amp also.

more in a moment

About me

This is my first post to my new blog.
I'm a 47 year old guitar player who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
My youtube stage name is Tony R. Clef.
I have no real reason to "hide" my true identity. I just find it makes online life easier to go by Tony.

Ok, my real name is Cary Grant but I just didn't feel it sounded debonair enough.

Back to practicing...

more 'about me' and 'about this blog' to follow.

ciao baby