Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mother's only half a word.

When I was in my early 20's, I had just moved back to NY from Boston, where I'd gone to school. I was a pretty good drummer with a very hard head and a ridiculous desire. I had my eyes and ears wide open, I wanted to be playing with the best, and I refused to miss out on any possible lesson that could be learned.

A little at a time, I began to get work. Session work, mostly - it was the early/mid 80's, and if you could hold a groove and knew how to program, you could help to give some of that awful machine driven crap some actual feel, and people wanted you on their record.

So I began to meet people who became momentary mentors. One of them was a bass player/programmer named Rick, who was 15 years older than me, worked with many of my heroes, and took a liking to me.

Anyway, one night some friends and I went up to the Bronx to hear a drummer named Pumpkin play in some club, just a standard R&B gig. "Mustang Sally," "Heard it Through the Grapevine," and "Love and Happiness" until your ears bleed. I'd heard a lot about this guy, and from people who don't give it up easily.

That sonofabitch was the best drummer I've ever heard in my life. And I haven't missed many. He was profound. His technique was effortless, absolutely no thought or even the slightest hint of limits to what that man could do with his limbs. And that was completely besides the point. His groove - Jesus Christ, the groove this man had was just the fattest thing I'd ever heard. I remember laughing with my friends that this guy didn't create a groove, he dug a fucking trench.

Watching him play totally changed my life, but not nearly as much as the conversation I had the next morning in the studio with Rick.

I walked in - hungover and bleary-eyed, ears ringing and my head spinning. I couldn't believe what I'd seen and heard the night before, and I proceeded to rant and rave at Rick for the next twenty minutes, recounting everything, over and over calling Pumpkin the baddest motherfucker I'd ever seen. And asking, over and over again - why hadn't I heard of this guy before? Why hadn't anybody heard of this guy? Why isn't Pumpkin's name flying on a huge banner hanging from the tallest buildings and ringing out in the streets?

"This guy is an absolute Motherfucker!" I cried.

"Scott, man - let me tell you something, because it's something you really need to learn," Rick said patiently, sitting my ass down and looking at me like he was about to impart the wisdom of the universe.

"Being a motherfucker is a given. If you're not a motherfucker, don't even bother. There's so much else that you have to do beyond that to ever even get close to tasting success - if you aren't starting out as a motherfucker, you've already lost. It's a given, man, it's the only assumed part of the equation, and it's everything else you do or don't do that's going to make you or break you."


Anonymous Blindside said...

Hey. I only just started reading your blog, found it through Savage Henry's poop thing, which I found through RMMB. It's been kind of eye-opening reading it, because it's very likely I'm looking at my future in you. When people ask me what I want to be, I say "rich and famous novelist." What if I don't get rich and famous? What's my back-up plan? "Broke-ass writer." I suppose there's an in-between area in there, but the joke's my way of accepting that reality.

Anyway, after reading this post, I'm redoubling my efforts. I need to read and write more, much more, than I currently am. I can live with not being rich and famous. I could sleep on a workbench, if I needed to, as long as I was doing what I love. But after reading this post, I realize I can't live with not being a motherfucker. So I just thought I'd take a second to let you know what you're writing is making an impact on someone.

4:37 AM  
Blogger David said...

Good story MF.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Rabbit B. said...


6:38 PM  
Anonymous RCG Tiburon said...

Fantastic. Summarily stolen, quoted and linked.

2:23 AM  
Anonymous thethirdking said...

I had thought that this post was longer. I suppose it was just hugely significant to me when I read it first about six months ago. Thanks.

9:29 PM  
Blogger sb said...

Thank you, man. I hope it still matters.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous thethirdking said...

It does.

7:30 PM  

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