One of my favorite early Beatles numbers is “You Can't Do That”, a splendid burst of churning guitars (it's as if the Talking Heads based their first two albums on this one song!) wherein John Lennon lets loose with a snarling, jealous diatribe at a girl who entertains other suiters besides him. It's an almost perfect Rock & Roll song—short, to the point, emotionally potent, if not a bit too angry. The two guitars interweave so as to enhance and bring to a boil the tension the narrator feels. George never really takes a formal solo so much as he pitches the rhythm to the bursting point, giving vent to the Lennon's frustrated, angry young man.
You Can't Do That. It's a great four words, a message we've all given or received, to and from family, friends, co-workers, lovers and enemies. Often it's not spoken, but implied in a million subtle and not so subtle ways.
About a year ago, I started playing guitar in earnest after occasionally noodling around it with for almost 30 years. I'd owned a couple, played friends guitars, even sat in with buddies for some atonal plucking, but I'd never really dug in and applied myself before.
As a career cartoonist, I've devoted most spare moments of my life to slapping ink on paper with passion and gusto. I've put out plenty of comic books and graphic novels and gained a certain notoriety. All my life it's been pretty clear to me that I came to the planet to write and draw comics. However, due to a confluence of forces, I was utterly compelled last year at the age of 51 to embrace singing and playing in earnest.
I've been playing in a “Oaxacabilly” band of expats here in Oaxaca. We get together Thursday nights and play country, blues, rockabilly, rock & roll and yes some sappy pop ballads too. The biggest fun for me is singing and playing my own tunes, of which I've written a few. The words come easy for me, the chords I just grab from basic blues and country blues progressions.
Which brings us back to You Can't Do That. I'm intensely naïve and the king of the faux paux to boot. So it was surprising to me that my friends and family, among others, have less than no interest in hearing me caterwaul and hack away at the guitar! Who woulda thought?! And so it is that I realize, here I am, just another mid-career indie cartoonist with a musical penchant, doomed to croon away in my garage. Well, there is the Thursday night band, and the fact that I'm having an insane amount of fun with this music stuff. All in all, I can't complain, but I have learned my lesson—I ain't gonna go outa my way to make anyone listen to my tunes! Except of course, anyone reading this blog can go ahead and play the video to Ballad of the Bug by clicking on the link here, and heading over to You Tube for a listen. It's a song I wrote with my pal Todd Spiehler, and hell I think it's good--but I would, wouldn't I?
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