NOTE: This blog was originally posted at BretAlexanderMusic.com
Q: What do you call a musician without a girlfriend?
Q: What is the difference between a drummer and a pizza?
A: A pizza can feed a family of 4.
Today, I want to talk about one of the most important survival skill a musician (or anyone for that matter) can have: a sense of humor.
I love hanging with great musicians. The great ones are the most irreverent, self effacing, and hilarious people I know. And there is a reason for that.
Because it doesn’t matter if you are Willie Nelson or Willie and The Moonlighters. If you have been doing this for any period of time, chances are you have had the living rock star beaten out of you… More than once.
Ozzy Osbourne said that when he watched Spinal Tap he didn’t laugh once. He had lived every scene. I’ve lived quite a few myself.
Here’s one of my favorite stories from my “career”:
My band, The Badlees, had been playing pretty much nonstop for a few years. Then one day we landed a great gig…an opening slot for Cheap Trick at a local university. We were all fans, so this was a big deal.
The gig went great. We rocked.
Afterwards, things changed. People were recognizing us at the mall. I signed a CD for the lady at the bank. Finally we were feeling like we were getting the respect we deserved.
The next weekend we went to our Saturday gig at an area club we played frequently.
We showed up in our van all full of piss and vinegar. Hell, we might have even gotten roadies by then. We were bad asses now.
On the way in we noticed our name was spelled wrong on the marquis. It said, “Sat: The Badees”.
No “L”. WTF??
So we accosted the club owner: “Hey Brian, you spelled our name wrong. No ‘L’. What’s up with that?”
Brian looked up from the plate of wings he was making. “Sorry fellas, I needed the ‘L’ for ‘cole slaw’.” And he went back to work.
As Mark Knofler once said, “Sometimes you’re the windshield/Sometimes you’re the bug”.
If you are going to go out and play for a living, you are going to have to keep things in perspective.
The music business is one of those rare industries where you can go from being perceived as a no talent shmuck to a boy genius overnight by doing exactly the same thing.
You have to rise above that. And if you can’t laugh at it all, you won’t survive.
Levon Helm was in Bob Dylan’s band when Dylan “went electric”. Dylan had made his reputation as an acoustic troubadour and the band got booed nightly. In his book, Wheels On Fire Levon spoke of going backstage after the gig and listening to the recordings of the show. They sounded fantastic. The next night they would go out again, sound great, and get booed again.
Levon spoke of how the more the audience booed, the more Dylan smiled.
Today that stage of Dylan’s career is considered one of the most influential periods in rock and roll history.
So you gotta go out there and play hard and often. Take it seriously and have thick skin but realize it’s only rock and roll… or jazz, or country, or hip hop or whatever.
And remember to laugh, my friends.
I saw an interview with Bruce Springsteen where he said, “I tell my kids to be thankful for the time we were born in. Because if we were born a few hundred years earlier, you guys would be riding in a cart and I’d be wearing a jester’s hat.”
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that if that were the case Bruce would already be on his way to the gig.
’til next time.
Bret Alexander is the owner of Saturation Acres Recording Studio as well as the guitarist and chief songwriter for The Badlees.