Blue Collar Rockin'!
By Mick Polich - 05/01/2007 - 10:41 AM EDT
Hello,my name is Mick Polich,and this is the opening salvo in a new column designed to give you kind folks advice and insight from the perspective of a now middle-aged blue collar musician.
Holding down the home front and running two home-based businesses while trying to pursue the music muse was one journey for me. Completing a bachelor's degree in business over a 10 year period while working a day gig at a local music store and gigging up to 5 nights per week during one brief period –yup , did that (studied for tests on the way to the gigs, too). And along the way to 'now' -got married, picked up two dogs , adopted a child, all while trying to write, record, perform, study, and teach music - I was sailing that ship, too! From those trials, all over a 30 year period- I will try to drop some knowledge on what I learned and what I continue to learn.
But first, a study in extremes.
SCENE # 1, 1982 – I’m sitting in my old Dodge Valiant, waiting for the light to change at a busy intersection in the south side of Des Moines, Iowa, my hometown. I’m listening to one of the local radio programs, hoping to hear what the DJ who I gave my tape to told me – that he would play my original song on their noon time “Rock Block” for local talent. I’ve been playing guitar and bass in bands since the late ‘ 70’s, and have been writing music since I picked up an instrument. Yeah, it’s not a major label signing at Columbia, John Hammond didn’t discover me, and I’m not on the covers of TIME and NEWSWEEK simultaneously, but it is my first little moment in the sun, so to speak. Pensive, but not trying to be too overly optimistic, I wait (crap, this is the LONGEST red light in the world! What is going on with this RED LIGHT??!!!). Suddenly, I hear a familiar song intro. Hey! HEY!!! That’s my song, man!! THAT IS IT!!!! A split second, it hits me –I wonder how many other cars are tuned in to the SAME program? How many people in the city, the listening area, are catching MY SONG?? Finally, the light changes green, I pass thru the intersection – but I am BEAMING, DUDE!!!
(note: a LOT of literary license was taken with the former scene. Yeah, I pushed it, I know, but it’s the “Dramatic Moment”, ya know? )
SPEED WAY, WAY, WAY AHEAD TO SCENE # 2, 2007 – Our family - myself, my wife, son, and two dogs - have been in our new Texas home for two weeks. 95% of the move boxes are unpacked, but a lot more work is on the docket to get us even close to being organized. My wife has been with UPS since 1990 - we’ve had 3 moves in 13 years (she’s the main gigmeister). You would think it would get easier after three moves. In some respect, yes, but each move is different because the time frame in life is different.
One morning –son at school, wife at work – I stand in the entry way to the declared ‘music room of our house, looking at the mountain of guitars, basses, amps, pieces of a drum set, plastic containers filled with CD’s, cassettes, music instruction and bio books, art books, recording equipment (man, will I ever SEE that Dean electric 12 string that I got for Christmas AGAIN? EVER??). I stare in disbelief - it has come to this : I CAN’T EVEN GET TO MY STUFF TO DO MY JOB!!! This happens when you downsize by almost 1000 square feet. My long-suffering Catholic guilt overcomes me - (the voice in my head): you wussy , you’re lucky to have a house for this stuff (I know), you’re lucky to live in a nation where artistic freedom is encouraged and celebrated (yes, yes, I know),you’re lucky to be able to still pursue a job in the MUSIC INDUSTRY (O.K., I GET THE POINT!!!).
I don’t know if that was God, my dad, or Dubya talking to me, but I UNDERSTAND, THANK YOU!!!
I’m 48 years plus –in my mind, I’ve pushed my rock and roll statute of limitations beyond the point where the follies and angst of youth no longer apply artistically to the axiom 'young, confused ,and pissed off' – I’ve done used up the points card on that one. Yeah, I’ve got experience on my side, but I still remain open to new ideas in music, gear technology, and the ever-changing whims of an industry based on ever–changing whims. I do feel lucky, and at this point, scared. What if I can’t pull it off again, re-invent myself, and create a gig to keep valid as an artist and semi-reliable breadwinner? A quick comparison to Don Rickles comes to mind – currently, a generation (if they bother to scan the end credits on the DVD) knows him as "Mr. Potato Head" from the “Toy Story" movies. I remember him as a caustic, but brilliant stand–up comedian who helped pioneer the ‘insult comedian‘ genre, making a shock–filled sweep of the studio every time he went on the "Tonight Show" (that’s with the ’old guy’ host, kids - Johnny Carson, also an Iowan!). With deference to F. Scott Fitzgerald, there are second acts for some in life, even third and fourth (look at Aerosmith - they'll quit when they’re dead …… ON STAGE !!!). I should take solace in those facts, but change is hard, folks…..
BUT, the cool thing is now the opportunity at hand to START down the new path, and I am lucky that I can present what I have learned over 30 years in music to you beautiful people. If you’re wondering about that chord progression to that song you’re trying to finish, what tube brand will work in your Plexi Marshall 50-watt amp, or how to create a playing gig with little or no resources, I think I can help. Thinking of teaching a musical instrument? I’ve got some pointers .
Building a home studio? Hmmm, got a little experience at that, too. Thing is, as long as you’re willing to listen, I’m willing to help!
As artists, at any level , we all get the “Three O’ Clock In The Morning Ideas“ – the kind that hit you, and you can’t go back to sleep because you finally figured out how to finish that song verse, and it’s so cool you need to get to the studio, BUT you can’t wake up your spouse, kids, dogs, and pet iguana. At every level, all over the world, it’s the creative process at work (isn’t it a comfort to know that Bono works in the same fashion, except his checks are ALOT bigger ….and, hmmm ,well, he gets TONS of royalties on a BOATLOAD o’ songs, and uh, well, HEY! It’s a target to put your gunscope on, right??? ).
Jodi and I decided on the column name of “Blue Collar Rockin’ “, which, even though I’ve played blues, country, jazz, folk, funk, and pop, my roots are at the ‘shot-and-a-beer‘ level – the weekend warrior stuff, a bar band rocker and damn proud of it, Senator !!!
Miles Davis once said it takes awhile to find you in your music. That is part of my gig here, folks – to help you find you! And I’m sure you folks will have your own experiences to share with me, so bring that on in the e-mail responses! Let’s have some fun, let’s see where the common ground is where so many toil endlessly for the love and fun of it – slugging it out to make a mark, make it matter, and satisfy your soul (and maybe your pocketbook) in a music career!
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