The other night I found myself wandering along what I’ve always considered Rock Central in Sydney – Parramatta Rd Annandale. There are half a dozen guitar shops along the strip, and I spent many hours window-shopping there during my uni days, carefully choosing the equipment I’d never buy for the rockstar dreams I wouldn’t fulfil.
I’m a bass player, so my favourite shop is The Bass Player, which has a nice clear name that we simple folk who play the low notes can understand. It’s Mecca for bassists, the only music shop in Sydney where my kind doesn’t feel like second-class citizens. They used to hand out car bumper stickers saying “Like other musicians you are following the Bass Player.” That’s the kind of thing us bass players find funny.
Don’t think that bass players are all simple-minded, though. Sting’s one, and he’s extremely profound. Actually, do knock him – he deserves it – but leave the rest of us alone. The old muso joke goes that the drummers are the dumb, unmusical ones. “How can you tell when a drummer’s knocking on your door? Because the knocking gets faster.” Which reminds me that Sydney’s best drum shop, Billy Hydes, is nearby as well – but don’t try out that joke there. Drummers carry sticks.
The rock purists, though, head to Jackson’s Rare Guitars, a wonderful emporium of gorgeous but unaffordable instruments. Every time I go there, I fantasize about being Jimi. The playing awesome guitar licks part, not the drowning in your own vomit part, incidentally.
But my rock dreams only got as far as one night in 1997, when I entered the Sydney Uni Bands Comp along with my brother and a few mates under the oh-so-ironic name The BeDazzlers, which we’d stolen from The Late Show. We only performed one gig, and it was definitely the most embarrassing night of my life that didn’t involve asking a girl out.
I couldn’t get there until the end, so we’d organised to play last. But then students being what they are, two of the four bands dropped out. So the drunk, rowdy crowd who’d come to see the quite-good first band were stuck there for over an hour until their mates could win, and spent the time angrily chanting “Where the #$*% are the BeDazzlers?”.
I arrived there breathlessly to discover that not a single other member of the band was there, ready to go, as they were supposed to be. Awesome. It turned out my brother’s car had broken down in the middle of Parramatta Road with all the gear, causing another half-hour’s delay. I think the crowd were actually throwing stuff at me by this point.
When we started playing, it only got worse. We started by murdering a song by my favourite local band The Clouds (two of whom are playing again, I’m glad to see!) and then went onto a bunch of incredibly lame, teenaged original compositions. Of mine. And no, I’m not going to reprint any of the lyrics. I do have some shame – nowadays, anyway.
The only good moment was when my extroverted brother grabbed the mike for ‘I will survive’ and improvised new lyrics that abused the hecklers who’d been giving us a hard time all night. I hung up my bass for good shortly afterwards.
We do talk jokily about playing another gig, as “BeDazzled: The Australian BeDazzlers Show.” We want to be Australia’s definitive BeDazzlers cover band, and I think we’ve still got the lack of talent to make it happen.
We won’t do it, of course. But at least I know where I’d buy the equipment.