A Life In Music: Part 1 by Jason G Eastwood
Hi there and thank you for checking out my site! Since my new album "Linked In" is kind of a loose concept album about memory and nostalgia, I thought I should tell some of my story so you know a little about how I got here. This is part 1 of the series, look for subsequent parts in the next few weeks.
I first became enamoured with making musical sound at my Uncle Ricky's place where they had an upright piano which my Aunt Amour played quite well by ear. She did a fantastic version of “Blue Moon”, or at least I thought it was when I was a kid. I would go over to the piano and just make music up, and my Grandmother Mae, bless her soul, would be amazed by it. If it wasn’t for her saying to my mom; “Bonita, you’ve got to get him into music,” I probably would have never received my first guitar and I might be programming computers for the army or calling bingo instead of writing about my experiences in music in this blog.
I first got into Rock ‘n Roll at the age of seven after having my world rocked when my mom took me to see the movie Grease at the local theatre. Soon after I somehow prodded my parents into buying the Grease soundtrack on vinyl. Having mastered the family record player, I became obsessed with the Grease soundtrack LP and played it ad nauseam. Although the album was full of classics, for some reason the only song I ever wanted to hear was “Hound Dog”. It wasn’t even the Elvis Version. It was just a like-sounding cover of the Elvis version by Sha Na Na, but I just couldn’t get enough of the groove! For hours on end I listened to the song over and over while dancing by myself like no one was watching. How the hell did they make this music? I thought the magic of this sound coming off the wax then through the speakers creating this three dimensional sonic presence in front of me was astounding. I guess that’s why I cherish my vinyl collection so much today.
When I was eight-years-old, by some weird twist of fate involving one of my Aunts who worked at the CBC and another who ran a daycare, I landed a part in a Canadian Broadcasting Company television special featuring Burton Cummings called “Portage & Main”. The gig involved me portraying a child version of the moustachioed singer-songwriter himself, who was at the height of his Canadian Rockstar status. For my role I had to mimic the song “Never Had a Lady Before” for a scene parodying Burton’s sixth birthday party. To prepare for the role, I sat with my parents at the record player and went over the song again and again learning the lyrics and the phrasing. Then at the shoot, Burton Cummings gave me my first ever music lesson as he taught me how to sing it properly and cued me on the phrasing. He even sang it with me as they filmed. I remember him sitting across from me while I was at the piano in the CBC studios and cueing me when to come in. I suppose the thing I learned really early here was how to mimic, and all about phrasing and timing. The song has a great feel and groove. You can watch the clip below.
Right after the Burton Cummings gig, I received my first cassette tape recorder as a gift for my birthday. It was a simple red unit with a mono speaker and all of the standard features; play, rewind, fast-forward, and most importantly record. I became endlessly fascinated with the idea that I could speak into a small red machine, press rewind and then play, and hear back exactly what had happened several moments ago. This little red machine could freeze time and save it on a pocket sized, plastic casing called a compact cassette tape!
Between doing audio skits including fight scenes featuring a lot of slapping sounds with my friend “Electric” Jon, and listening to Kiss and Jimi Hendrix records in my buddy Karl’s living room, music was strengthening it’s hold on my imagination at an atomic rate. When I was in grade 4 or 5, I had a great babysitter named Don who also was the singer in a band formed by some older neighbour kids called “Speed”. Speed played all Bon Scott era AC/DC and some Scorpions songs like “Can’t Live Without You”. It’s impossible to know now if they were actually any good, but in my memory they were one of the best bands of all time! In fact I even became their “manager” and organized a concert in the bass players basement where I convinced a bunch of the neighbourhood kids to fork out a dollar (or at least all the change they had on them) to attend.
For my 12th birthday I received a Candle Ghetto Blaster that, compared to my little red tape recorder, sounded like a thundering pa system.
Along with my new personal PA system I was also given two tapes, probably on the advice of the clerk at the local Sam the Record Man shop. Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” and Black Sabbath’s “Live Evil” were probably the perfect two first tapes for a twelve-year-old boy in 1983. The music was sort of heavy and cool, but just simple enough that I could sing along with. After a while I started air banding along with, and then actually playing along with when I got my first electric guitar. In the next instalment of this blog series I’ll discuss how the guitar became such a natural part of the way I communicate I sometimes mistook it for my tongue!