I have the most random-ass early memories from my childhood. No context, no follow-up, no motivation … just a few random memories that I can’t forget. Psychologists have determined that we have an inability to remember anything that happened to us before we turned three or four years old. As we age, we also have difficulty remembering much that happened to us before we turned 10. This phenomenon was first written about way back in 1893 in the American Journal of Psychology and the topic was expanded upon for years after that. In 1910 Sigmund Freud coined the phenomenon Childhood Amnesia, which is a great band name. Since it was Freud, however, it was determined that we merely suppressed those early memories because they’re so hardcore sexual in nature.
Right, Sigmund. Right.
I remember talking to neighbors. I remember moving into our first house on Dickerson Street and I remember the first nightmare I ever had. I vaguely remember donning every random piece of clothing I could find and parading around the house holding a variety of toys. Not a lot of detail, but definitely non-sexual memories that after 33 years I’ve failed to suppress.
I’m going somewhere with this, I swear.
When I was a little boy, arguably at the age I should have forgotten by now, my aunt was married to a man I don’t remember interacting with. Ever. I know very little about the guy and only saw a handful of photos of him despite spending the majority of my time with her in the years after their divorce. I do know that he was a drummer. Was he any good? Was he in a band called Childhood Amnesia? Did he sell his kit for drugs? I have no idea. But he had drums. They were black and I remember crawling up onto his throne, picking up a stick that had been laid on the snare, standing on my toes and reaching as far as I could to barely — and I do mean barely — graze his crash cymbal. I dropped the stick immediately and scrambled down because I had been discovered.
The adults discovered me being mischievous while I discovered something way more earth-shattering: percussion.
Over the years, I’ve “air-drummed” more times than I’ve ever played an air guitar. I broke countless pencils drumming on my desks and shoes in elementary school, even going so far as being sent to the principal’s office for excessive drumming. I drummed on an old couch we had in our basement using plastic nunchucks until I eventually upgraded to real, wooden drumsticks. I’d go on to bust a hole in the couch and we got rid of it. I once built a makeshift drumkit in my dad’s basement with metal coffee cans that I’d use to perform country music concerts with my step brother who was using a stringless acoustic guitar and a Nickelodeon microphone that was covered in slime. My Paps also screwed a coffee can onto a stick so I could stand and play a drum in his driveway.
And as much as I loved lead vocalists and guitarists, I’ve always had a soft spot for the drummers in my favorite bands and any time a famous song had an epically long drum solo — i.e. Golden Earring’s Radar Love, Edgar Winter Group’s Frankenstein and, Jesus Christ, In-a-Gadda-da-Vida by Iron Butterfly — I was instantly a fan.
Yet despite the dreaming and the miming and the fantasies and mock concerts, one thing remained true: I never learned how to play the drums.
Even if we had the money and the space for it, my parents would never dream of buying an acoustic drum set for me and electric kits were nowhere near as budget-friendly as they are nowadays. I avoided joining the band in middle school because I was erroneously told that joining the band would mean I was a queer which terrified an ignorant 11 year old boy.
I shared my first apartment with my then-fiance and it was the same thing — no room for a drum kit, certainly no money for one either. We’d later move into a house and I was told that under no circumstances could I have an acoustic drum kit. I maybe could have an electric kit but it would have to stay in my cramped studio and would cost money that should maybe go toward home repairs or future vacations. Adult shit.
I’m now 33 years old. I no longer have anyone to tell me I can’t do it. I have space for an electric kit, I have money for an electric kit. I have (some) spare time to actually learn the drums and I’m not dumb enough to think that learning an instrument is going to make me queer (or any more queer than I already am) so …
I sucked it up and got a drum kit.
My intention was to treat myself to something nice once I got my car paid off but while looking at potential kits, I found the Alesis Forge 8-Piece Electronic Drum Kit at Guitar Center. The price had recently been lowered by $150 and had all the features I really wanted. Alesis seemed to be a pretty reputable name brand in the electric drum kit world and this particular set comes with three toms, a snare, a crash, a ride, a hi-hat and a kick pad. The module allows me to hook up my iPad and my headphones, can record, has a metronome and 70 programmed drum kits of which I’ll probably only use three. It’s exactly what I need for my small space and I’m finally playing some drums.
When I sat down at my kit for the first time on Sunday evening, it all came rushing back to me. The countless nights banging on coffee cans; the numerous times I was reprimanded by teachers for drumming on my desk. I was overtaken by those many nights in my parents’ basement when I thought I was Joey Kramer, John Bonham, Ginger Baker, Adrian Young, Keith Moon, Steven Adler, Tommy Lee, John Tempesta, Chad Smith, Tommy Ramone or DH Peligro.
Or, hell, Dana Carvey as Garth from the first Wayne’s World movie — you guys know what I’m talking about…
I spent a few minutes tinkering with the module and listening to each of the pre-programmed drum kits before settling on the one with the loudest bass drum sound, firing up my iPad and playing a variety of White Stripes songs because I figured they’d be the easiest to learn with. I dedicated every song to all the teachers whose nerves were shot by the tap-tap-tap of my pencil on my shoe, to my dad whose bedroom was directly above the various coffee cans I banged on every weekend I visited him and to my parents who had to listen to my couch concerts nearly every evening.
And to my aunt’s first husband, whoever he was.
Y’all did this.