Up Around the Bend

I started playing guitar when I was 9 years old.  I remember going down to Cap Tone Music to choose my first guitar, a Yamaha acoustic.  I recall the wonder at being in my first music store.  The smells, the stillness, so many various instruments.  It was a very peaceful feeling.  What I couldn’t remember though, is what inspired me to pick up the guitar in the first place.  Sorting through the picks to find the colors and shapes I liked, (because appearance was the only difference in them as far as I knew), is as clear a memory as if it were yesterday.  Reflecting on this, the details were clear to me, but I had forgotten what my original inspiration to play was.

As I started to ponder this question, I first remembered the explosion of rock and roll music.  I was born in 1960, and was in front of the TV set with my mother and sister when the Beatles made their debut on the Ed Sullivan show.  Although I was only three years old and didn’t know it, I was witnessing the beginning of the fabled British Invasion.

Music featuring guitar surrounded me.  At home, my parents were constantly playing music.  They would often have their brothers and sisters come over for pool parties during the day.  In the evening the party would move indoors and my family would often play Twister.  All the while, my mother or one of my aunts would take the roll of disc jockey, making sure the tunes kept rolling.

My parents also had a family business, where I spent many of my childhood hours. The radio was always playing, exposing me to more music.  Even in the car, song was ever present.

So I started pouring through the music that I loved as a child.  First, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, followed by a plethora of artists that now fall into the category of Classic Rock.  I loved it all.  Well, maybe not Joe Cocker or Janis Joplin so much.  I suppose I was too young to appreciate the emotion their voices set forth.

Then, I started thinking about my favorite band at the time, Creedence Clearwater Revival.   I saved my allowance and bought my first album, Cosmo’s Factory, which was released shortly before my 10th birthday.  It was CCR’s latest album and contains the song, “Up Around the Bend”.  There it was.  I remember hearing the intro for the first time.  I could not imagine anything sounding sweeter than that opening riff.

That was it.  I was on a mission.  I could think of nothing more fulfilling than producing that kind of sound myself.  So I asked my mom if I could get a guitar.  She complied without hesitation.  She was as eager to hear me play the music she loved, as I was to play it.

After about six months of lessons, I understood the basics of playing, and by that time I had my first electric guitar.  It was time for me to learn “Up Around the Bend”.   My teacher showed me the notes, and I was ready to play the song.  Or so I thought.

It was then I learned one of the biggest lessons in my years of playing.  It takes a lot more than knowing the right notes to be a Musician.  Music needs expression.  I had all the notes, and played them again and again, but it sure didn’t sound like Creedence!

Now, after 50 plus years of learning, I understand technique and even have some.  When I was first starting, I was so focused on playing the notes accurately and keeping time, that I couldn’t even think about expression.  As in life, it’s not always what you do but how you do it.  So I dropped the song and focused on learning the instrument and all its facets.

Since then I have fallen in love with other bands and songs, practicing diligently to learn them.  Although Creedence has remained one of my favorite bands, I never revisited the song that started it all.  With this in mind, last night, after more than half a decade, I sat down and learned to play “Up around the Bend”.  Much to my delight, it actually sounded like it was supposed to.

“You can ponder perpetual motion
Fix your mind on a crystal day
Always time for a good conversation
There’s an ear for, what you say

Come on the risin’ wind
We’re goin’ up around the bend”