Chapter 34 1971 - I Gets Heavy

I had mastered the clarinet, the piano, the guitar and a number of other instruments, but still felt something was lacking. He thought back of his pronouncement three years ago to his father that the bass guitar required no talent. But things had changed in music. No longer was the simple ‘thump, thump’ of the bass the technique that failed to get attention. Bass guitarists were using as sophisticated licks as the lead players, and many had stepped into prominence.

I realized he was developing a grudging respect for players such as McCartney, Entwistle and Jones, and knew that perhaps he had finally found the calling that had eluded him.

And so it was, in the summer of 1971, I bought his first bass guitar. When he came to Henry for advice on his purchase, Henry was quick to point out that I should get a Fender Precision Bass.

“There has been nothing finer ever developed,” Henry insisted. “It is the one instrument I’ve always wished I had.”

I agreed, and laid out his hard-earned cash for an entry model. He did not have enough for an amp, though, and Henry fronted him the money.

“You just be sure to pay me back when you get famous,” Henry joked.

I spent the entire summer mastering the instrument. He could play fills faster than any he’d ever heard by any other bassist. He created lines of melody that would make birds swoon. He was as serious about the instrument as anything he’d ever tried in his life.

One day, a knock at the door interrupted his practice session. He answered it only to discover it was his former neighbor Spike. They had not spoken in years. Their prior relationship had broken down so completely he figured he’d never see him again.

“Spike!” he exclaimed, with some trepidation. “Where’ve you been?”

“I’d rather not talk about that, but I’m here with a proposal,” he said mysteriously.

“I’ve been playing the drums for a while, and I think I’m pretty good. Word around is that you’re playing the bass now. I was thinking about putting a band together, and a bass player is all we need to get it off the ground.”

“A bass player and a drummer aren’t much of a band,” I remarked.

“Well, I do have a couple of others ready to go for it as well. My cousin Ozzie does a fair job on the keys, and believe it or not, Isaac can play some pretty mean licks on electric, at least when he’s not stoned.”

Those were two more names that I hadn’t thought about in while.

“And I’ve got a perfect name for us already,” Spike continued. “Golden Fingers. I bet we could go all the way to the top. We could be the World’s Greatest Band!”

It was obvious that Spike had been thinking about this for some time. It was no flash in the pan idea.

I told Spike, “I have some songs I’ve already written. Maybe we could start with those.”

The two agreed to set a practice for the following afternoon. I checked with Henry and he agreed to let the guys use his workshop as a practice space. “Just don’t get too loud,” he told them.

Isaac, Osgood and Spike arrived the next day. There was a whiff of grass clinging to Isaac and I asked him about it. “Nah, man, I’m cool.” Isaac replied, “Had a quick toke, but I can still play fine,” and began setting up his equipment.

Osgood carefully laid out a colorful blanket in the ground, then set his keyboard and its stand upon it. “I like to be a little classy,” he explained.

Spike’s gear was the biggest surprise of all: two bass drums, four toms, three snares, a wood block, tambourine and seven different sets of cymbals. I wondered if there would be room for him among all the equipment.

It took nearly an hour to get everything set up and when Isaac struck the first power chord, the lights immediately went out and the silence engulfed them.

Henry came running out of the house at the noise and saw the predicament. “I told you not so loud. You’ve probably blown a fuse!”

He looked at the tangle of wire on the round and saw the real problem. Everything was plugged into a single outlet.

“Here,” he said. “Let’s spread this around some. I know power, and when I built this workshop, I made sure it could handle it.”

After replacing the fuse, they tried again. This time the results were much better.

“Please keep it down to a dull roar, at least,” Henry pleaded.

I pulled out some lyrics and chords and provided them to Isaac and Osgood. “Here’s something I wrote. Let’s give it a try.”

Isaac immediately hit a power chord and I protested, “Let’s start it off sorta mellow. It’ll build up as it goes along.”

Isaac strummed a simple “A” chord and I began to sing

All my life I've been so meek and mildly mannered
When I wanted to speak up I was always hammered
‘Til I made up my mind that the kid would get heavy

Kings may come and king may go, but Rock will reign forever
Power lies in these bass lines, when the kid gets heavy

I signaled the band to start picking up the tempo and intensity


The clarinet was not the place for me to stay
So I picked up and learned the bass guitar one day
And I made up my mind that the kid would get heavy.

Kings may come and kings may go but rock will reign forever
Power lies in these bass lines when the kid gets heavy

“OK, now bring it home!” I shouted.

I'm down on my knees
But I'm not pleading.
Playin' my bass if you please
'til my fingers start bleeding.

Kings may come and kings may go but rock will reign forever
Power lies in these bass lines when the kid gets heavy

“That was wicked, man,” Isaac exclaimed. “We were cooking!”

They “cooked” for two hours.