Oh Words, Where Art Thou?

First AffairBack in the late 80s, I played keyboards and sang in a rock band in Las Vegas. We called ourselves “First Affair.” At our highest point, we were being billed as “The Hottest New Rock Band in Vegas!” Well, the fact that I am now a programmer working on a writing career should tell you how that ended up. Still, it was a lot of good times. We played at places like The Main Gate out by Nellis Air Force Base, and the legendary Moby Grape on Tropicana, neither of which is around anymore. This old scanned Xerox copy of our publicity photo is the last shred of evidence I have of that chapter in my life. I’m the guy on the left. Fortunately for all of us, the spandex is long gone. Hmm, for that matter, so is a lot of the hair.

And how sad is it that when my own mother saw this picture way back then, she thought I was the guy with the shades on?

I loved being up on stage, playing and singing my heart out. When I was on stage, I was a different person. I left plain old Dave in the car. The Dave on stage was a rock star! While I was under those lights, I could do whatever I wanted without feeling nervous or self-conscious.

Of course, it wasn’t always like that…

I remember the first time I sang on a stage. We were playing a showcase at a place called The Courtyards. I’m not sure it’s still around either. It was a nice little dinner club. Let me repeat that: It was a nice little dinner club.

We were a loud rock band. (“These go to 11.” Bonus points if you know where that quote comes from.)

The showcase only consisted of two songs; I was supposed to sing the first song and Dale, our lead guitar player and main vocalist, would sing the second. Considering the style of music we played, I still, to this day, don’t know how they ever let us in the door. I’ve often wondered if Dale actually told them we would be singing “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin, and “Love Me Tender” by Elvis. Um, yeah. As they used to say: NOT!!

My song was “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol.

Did I mention it was a dinner club?

With nice men and women who could have been the parents of some of our friends.

To say it wasn’t quite our target demographic would be an understatement of epic proportion. Still, it was exposure. Even if they didn’t like us, they would definitely be talking about us! And if their hypothetical sons and daughters heard them saying how loud we were, and how much they hated our music…

Can you say instant fans?

Meanwhile, back at the stage…

We had rehearsed our material more times than I care to remember. Dale and I were both perfectionists, so we had played these songs over and over and over and over and…

Sorry. Had a bit of a flashback moment there.

So anyway, we start playing “Rebel Yell,” and I start singing. First verse went fine. Went into the little bridge between verses. Guitar riff. Second verse coming up. I’m getting ready to start singing again, when…

My mind is a complete and total blank. Like an Etch-a-Sketch shaken by a frustrated six-year-old.

What are the words?

Eh, hem… Words? You there?

Oh words, where art thou?!

AAAAAGGHHH!! WHAT ARE THE FREAKING WORDS?????

All of this is running through my brain at warp seven. Just in case it ever comes up on Jeopardy, the human brain is capable of an entire nervous breakdown and an 87.4% recovery in 0.37 seconds, give or take a stray nanosecond or two. Take it from a man who knows. To my credit, I still managed to look like a cool rock star while enough sweat to irrigate a corn field immediately began pouring down my back. No fainting. Not even a smidge of hyperventilating. Still had no clue what the words were. Nevertheless, upward and onward, Horatio! I opened my mouth with no earthly idea of what was going to come out.

Don’t let anyone tell you that a million hours of practice isn’t worth it. Until the words—the correct words, I might add—were coming out of my mouth, I honestly had no idea what I was going to be singing. But apparently, My Sharona, Our Lady of Syncopated Rhythm, was watching over us that night. We finished the showcase with no further incidents, packed up our stuff, and left moms and pops with their jaws hanging open and food hovering on forks halfway to their mouths. I’m happy to say, that was the only time that ever happened to me. But, believe me, once was enough!

It’s kind of like that with writing sometimes. (Not the jaws hanging open part. Well, maybe sometimes.) Once in a while, when I sit down to write, especially blog posts, I’m not sure what’s going to come out. Fortunately, at that point, I’m only performing for an audience of one. At least until I send those words out into the great big world. Still, it can be a little nerve wracking. And I still even have the occasional mild touch of panic when a blog post deadline is coming up and I don’t know what to write about.

AAAAAGGHHH!! WHAT ARE THE FREAKING WORDS?????

I suppose that’s like being in a band and going through the endless rehearsals as well. Just keep doing it over and over, and eventually, my fingers will know what to do. After I’ve been doing this long enough, say ten or twelve years, some mysterious figure in the back of my brain will just step up and take over when I have those moments, and keep going until I’m ready to take the helm again.

So, I’ll just keep writing. I hope you’ll keep reading.

Upward and onward, Horatio!

You ever have moments like that?

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