The bass I got that week was a big, clunky wood tone Fender Squire, later to be replaced by a more gently shaped Fender Jazz, which I still have. It was autographed by Bauhaus bass player David J in the late 80’s and remains a personal treasure. I remember hauling the heavy Squire bass into my parent’s living room (where the stereo was located) and putting on Tones on Tail’s album POP, and playing the simple song “Happiness” over and over until I had it down. My poor parents! God they were so tolerant of my musical phase. My dad affectionately called my musical dirges and experiments up in my room “The Concert,” but in retrospect I know it was anything but. Bless them and their patience.
The amazing part was that I could actually do it. Create sound. It felt visual -- I could “see” the heavy basslines as they wove and contorted with the other instruments. As I practiced my hands got more used to the instrument and while I was NEVER a very GOOD bass player, I could pull off enough to make original music. We all could. It was the 80’s. It was about ART. It was about coaxing sounds from your instrument that made your music different from everyone else's -- distortion, flange, delay pedals on a bass...really? YES. I recently read an article about Daniel Ash (the guitarist that played last night) and learned that he was not a “trained” musician himself, that he built his unique style from the ground up, learning and growing as he went. Discovering completely original sounds on his guitars and writing with them. Creativity at its finest.
Last night was classic emotional time travel. As soon as the band hit the stage I was slapped with the thought -- “They look so..so...OLD!” followed quickly by the thought of my own age. But I am still that sixteen year old kid, aren’t I? As the opening slow and jazzy drum beats of “Happiness” started to roll, I went back in time to my living room, holding the fragrantly overly polished guitar in my unaccustomed hands, feeling the notes vibrate down the heavy, rope-like strings. Wait...is it 1983 again? 85? 91? That’s about when this group stopped touring. Until last night.
I think back to that kid who at sixteen had no idea of what was to come out of this thing called life, yet in my head and heart I knew that art mattered. I had no plans for college, for teaching, for anything, really. Just waitressing, playing music, drawing and stitching, and surviving a home environment that while supportive of my creative ambitions was emotionally very, very difficult to endure. My headphones and albums got me through it all. Amazing, really, at how things fell into place for me and I am eternally awestruck and grateful for such a good life now.
Last night’s show contained multiple flashback songs of my life played with such precision and beauty that I admit to getting a little teary at times. “Slice of Life,” a Bauhaus classic, transported me back to those days, with its delicate twelve string acoustic progressions saying more than lyrics ever could. Music about the uncertainty of life, made certain through music. In a nutshell. “GO!” about getting out of your own head and thriving without self-imposed hold-backs. Hits from various post-Bauhaus configurations and interesting covers sprinkled throughout -- “Ball of Confusion,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” even (of all things) Adam Ant’s “Physical,” so many songs, so many memories.
What a great show to see as I hit the mid-century mark. Bookends to a creative journey. I do not think that this group will tour that much more in the future, and am so happy they came by Boston last night. The night was made even more special by meeting up with Walter Newell, who was the drummer in our group back “in the day.” Very special night, very special music, very special memories. Now if only I could get my hearing back and find out what my birds are asking for this morning...