When I was 16 in 1965, my brother had a band. In the basement.
I don’t remember its name now — aging does that to a gal — but they were loud and noisy. I was in heaven.
My parents weren’t. The house shook with reverberating drums and a booming bass guitar and my folks were not happy about all this ruckus. Neither were our neighbors.
So in the evenings, dad would hit the basement light switch off and on until everyone got the message. In hindsight, how or why they even allowed my brother and his friends to do this is beyond me, except perhaps peace and assurance in knowing where we all were during those days of drugs, sex and rock-and-roll.
The band, for me, however, was a gift from the music gods.
I was smart — not a good thing in high school — and I was awkward and shy. Friends were not knocking down my door. Until the band.
Having my own in-house group of rockers made me somewhat popular. I had a place in the unstable teen-aged universe of things. I belonged.
My so-called friends would straggle down the basement steps in groups, huddling in the darkness of our basement, all goo-goo-eyed at this head-and-hip shaking display of throbbing pubescent.
And we would listen — to the music of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Stones, and more — our chests and limbs pulsating from the blare of the amplifiers. We would dance and giggle. We were in awe.
I’m not sure what my brother’s intentions were in forming this group. Adulation? Girlfriends? The dream of becoming famous? Or maybe it was about the music, about channeling those newfound energies of angst and possibilities into something “cool” and “fab.”
And, of course, at that age, we all had our crushes. I fell heavy and hard for one guitarist, and then realizing that was for naught, fell for the drummer. I dreamed. I prayed. I wanted to marry him, please God, I’ll do anything if you’ll make him love me and someday we can marry. Ah, such innocent yearnings and stupidity at 16 years of age.
Life goes on and so did we.
A friend of mine did end up marrying that drummer. They divorced soon after. And he went on to have many problems in life. From that experience I learned: Be thankful that God has your back and doesn’t always answer every prayer.
Some of my other friends drifted, lost in life. Some found jobs. Some married and had children. Some died.
My brother went on to become brilliant in the field of physics — go figure — and I went on to a career in journalism and writing.
Growing up as a teenager in the 1960s wasn’t easy. I suppose it isn’t for any teen in any era. Still. We were living in times of sweeping change as Bob Dylan sang, dropping the baggage of patriarchy and rules and regulations, and searching for meaning.
But through it all we had the music.
Today, we still have that music as it has evolved into something this antiquated brain can’t seem to wrap itself around. But I know in my rock-and-roll heart of hearts that a band is forming somewhere even now, in some garage or basement, with its own brand of hip-hop or rap or whatever.
And in the end, some rockers refuse to hang up their guitars despite their age. Paul McCartney. The Rolling Stones.
You can applaud them or shake your head in dismay, but you can’t fault their longevity or ability to draw crowds and captivate with their songs.
Then there’s Eric Clapton.
My brother used to call him “God.” A friend and I went to see him in concert a few years ago and he hadn’t lost whatever “it” is that he had in his youth. He played like a magician, his fingers caressing the frets with agility and grace.
And yes, he was gray. So was most of the audience. I was amused by this, wondering if we ever really let go of our youth. Do we cling to the tiniest piece of it as to keep ourselves young and in blissful denial?
Who can say?
I only know that the bands — whether in a basement, a garage or on the big stage — were about something more. They were about belonging. To something beyond ourselves. And to finding our own rhythm in the midst of change and chaos.
To discovering who we were then and who we would become.
Perhaps they still are. And the beat goes on.