…I may be the guitar hero of my teenage dreams.
The foam universe theory is the theory that our universe is just a bubble in a foam of countless (I hesitate to use the word “infinite” even though it’s practically a synonym, for the simple reason that I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it, be it numerically, temporally and spatially) other universes (I’m reading Lawrence Krauss on and off at the moment, and he knows this stuff). Some of these universes may differ greatly from the one we inhabit, others only slightly or imperceptibly. Another term for this theory is the multi-verse theory.
Some of you may or may not know that I played guitar (not very well) in a band in my teenage years and dreamed of becoming a rock star. My first guitar was a Wilson copy of a Gibson SG stained deep mauve that I nagged my mother to sign off on for a payment plan. All of you should by now know that that dream didn’t turn out very well for me and I pursued other avenues in life (still searching, by the way). I discovered girls for one thing (ironically enough through my meager fame as a guitar player in a band), sold off all my music gear and bought a car, a Vauxhall Viva ca late 1960s with plenty of rust (which also proved very reliable as a pussy magnet), but it ran even though I didn’t have my license yet and by the time I was 20 all dreams of rock stardom were gone and I was hellbent on becoming the biggest, baddest bodybuilding motherfucker the world had ever seen (this didn’t come to fruition either, but that’s a different bag of spoiled shrimp.)
Most people have solidly established their preferences in music, art, food, literature, movies etc. in the formative teen years of their lives, hence, e.g., my love for classic 1970s rock music. There are very few new bands/musicians that I’ve really latched on to in a big way in later years. For me it’s always going to be Black Sabbath, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, AC/DC and so on and so forth. (I was also going to mention KISS, but I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I still like them. Quite a lot, actually.) With two very noticeable exceptions.
Around 1990 (I would have been 30-or-so years old), I discovered Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, and got hooked. I mean really hooked. Not a bad word about Jimi Hendrix (true and tragic trailblazer as he was), but these guys could have played circles around him, blindfolded and with one hand tied behind their backs, and it wasn’t just showing off either, guitar masturbation if you will. They create and play real music, wonderful music, unbelievable music where the guitar is the centerpiece and not just a tool that produces mind-numbing riffs for traditional heavy rock (still not taking anything away from the classics, understand; I mean, who can get the opening riffs of Rock & Roll, Smoke On The Water, School’s Out and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath out of their minds, even if they tried?). But if you really want to have your mind blown away and your socks knocked off at the same time, watch Steve Vai: Where the Wild Things Are in a live recording from Minneapolis in 2009. Like it or be square!
Imagine my surprise, then, as I surfed Wikipedia (as I often do when I’m bored; I find it to be a wonderful and surprisingly accurate source of all kinds of information (and I even recently made an edit to an article that got accepted)), and found out that there was very little that separated Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and yours truly, both temporally and spatially in our early years. Joe Satriani was born 1956 in Westbury, NY; Steve Vai in Carl Place, NY 1960; and myself in Oyster Bay, New York, 1959. Three small towns all located in Nassau County on Long Island. We were practically within pissing distance from each other; Steve Vai even took guitar lessons from Joe Satriani around 1970. Of course, by that time and in this universe, due to circumstance beyond my control, I had moved to Norway where I would spend the next 30 years of my life.
In a different bubble in the foam-verse it is entirely possible (or so Lawrence Krauss insists) that I might have hooked up with Joe and Steve and formed the most awesomest guitar based band in rock history, no matter which bubble we’re comparing with.
I still have a Fender Stratocaster and a small Marshall combo amp gathering dust somewhere in the house; haven’t touched it for years and I am just as untalented a guitarist as I was when I was 16. So I didn’t get to be a guitar hero in this life or universe, but I am still very happy that i discovered Joe and Steve. I even got to see Steve Vai in concert in Oslo, Norway, in the early 1990s; a small, but not insignificant experience in my life. I am forever grateful for their musical genius. Music is one of a very few things that bring joy to my life, and these guys deliver. Domo arigato, mio amigos!
And I can always dream that I’m performing with my could’ve-been–buddies Joe and Steve in any number of bubble-verses out there. Maybe I’ll even dust off my guitar some day and annoy the neighbors just for the heck of it.
Finally I’m not saying that good music isn’t made today (Shinedown would be a good example of a departure from my 1970s rule), and it would be unfair to contemporary bands anyway, to compare them to the legends of the 60s and 70s. First of all there is much more competition these days, and it’s my firm belief that the pool of truly inspired music and musicians making it bigtime (earning it through talent, hard work and sheer practice, rather than through corporate sponsorship and promotion) is very small. At the risk of sounding like my Mother, “it all sounds like they’re skinning a live cat”. I also doubt very strongly that 50 years from now people will be standing in line for days for tickets to a Justin Bieber or Britney Spears concert