Let There Be Bass

There I was.  21 years old.  I was doing my first stint in rehab.  I didn’t actually have a drinking problem.  But I thought I did.  I was the type of person who would wake up with a hangover and decide I needed help, for that one night of over-indulgence.

I met a fella in there by the name of Trevor.  His last name escapes me.  He was an intensely likable fellow who ripped on guitar.  He also had a bass kicking around.  I had always wanted to be a bass player.  Growing up there was just no money for instruments.  Here I was rock bottom without a penny.  But Trevor had a bass.

I chose bass because it had four strings.  That was it.  There was my logic.  Four strings vs six.  Therefore, it must be an easier instrument to learn.

That was in 1994.

What a crazy year 1994 was.  Not in a political sense.  Well maybe it was but I don’t do politics.  I certainly don’t pay enough attention.  That year started off with a bang.  Well, it started off with a club to the knee.

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Poor Nancy Kerrigan wants to know why something so insidious could happen to poor her.

A figure skater by the name of Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by some goon the ex-husband of her rival, Tonya Harding.  This guy clubbed her in the knee, trying to sabotage her chances in the coming Olympics.  It was quite a funny story.  Very scandalous.  Ultimately neither one of them would win the gold.  Some pretty Russian girl won.  Nancy Kerrigan did manage to snag the silver.  Tonya Harding would be subject to ridicule that only faded recently.

About three weeks after the knee-clubbing incident, Lorena Bobbitt was found not-guilty for cutting off her then husband’s wang.  Apparently she was considered insane.  I don’t know.  I think some people need their wangs cut off, particularly ones who are abusive.

I was kicking ass in rehab.  I couldn’t put down Trevor’s bass.  I was pathologically committed to it.  I was big into The Ramones at the time.  I had seen them live that year at Lulus in Kitchener with my girlfriend.  I was hooked.

Playing bass came easily and naturally.  I played by ear.  I didn’t know any of the notes.  I just played what I heard.

When I got out of rehab I moved in with two other dudes.  One of them had a bass he didn’t mind me using.  It was an old Hohner.  And use it, I did.  Within two months I was in my first band playing Ramones covers.

Then BAM!  It happened.  Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home.  Alleged suicide.  I believe to this day it was suicide and all the sensationalism mongering that goes on in regards to his death sickens me.  But everyone loves a good conspiracy I guess.

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About a month after that they gassed John Wayne Gacy.   I don’t remember his execution as well as I remember Ted Bundy riding the lightning.  John is kinda a blur.

About a month after that, Nicole Brown Simpson and her 25 year old boy-toy were found murdered.  Then came the white bronco chase.  So iconic.  What a weird time that was.  OJ was one of America’s sweethearts.  I loved him in the Naked Gun movies.  Now he was on the run for murder.  It was all so surreal.

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I kept at the bass.  It was quickly dawning on me though that I was a one trick pony.  All I could really play was punk rock.  I was nothing more than another Dee Dee Ramone.  But I had incredible stamina and speed.

The New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in 40 years, beating the Vancouver Canucks.  This prompted the suckiest fans in the league (next to the Senators) to riot and vandalize the city.  It was an embarrassing day for Canada.

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That was also the end of being a baseball fan for me.  I used to be a big Jays fan.  But after that strike in 94 it just completely ruined it for me.  I stopped watching baseball completely.  Also, my obsession with music and bass guitar was taking precedence over just about everything in my life.

Then something fucking huge happened to me.  I was watching Woodstock 94′.  My girlfriend had a “Black Box’.  Back in the early 90s, black boxes hijacked signals for Pay-Per-View channels.  I was a music superfreak and STOKED about watching Woodstock.  I couldn’t wait to see Violent Femmes, Nine Inch Nails, and Porno Pyros to name a few.

The format was a little shotty.  From what I understood there were two stages.  While you were watching a band on TV a little box would periodically show in the bottom right corner of video footage from the other stage.

While Traffic was playing, a little box popped up in the corner that said Green Day.  I had no knowledge about them at the time.  But in the little box, I could see a little guy with blue hair jack-hammering on a guitar while mud soared at the stage like eagles.

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Once Traffic were done playing it switched to the Green Day performance right in the middle of Welcome To Paradise.

FUCK ME.  Bear in mind this is back in 1994.  There was no Minority.  There was no American Idiot or Wake Me Up When September Ends.  This was a furious little punk rock trio of three very young adults.  They were tighter than a frog’s butt.  There was NOTHING like them in the mainstream at the time.

I was floored.  I bought Dookie.  I learned to play all the songs off it very fast.  Mike Dirnt is an enormous influence of mine.  They lost me after Nimrod but all the albums before that are very solid efforts in my book.  They really helped break the chains that were holding me back as far as bass playing goes too.

How was your 1994?  Were you even alive then?  Let me know in the comments below or fire me an email.  Thanks guys.


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6 Comments so far:

  1. Swanson says:

    1994 was a fine year! I released The Lovely Lads fourth demo, Plugged, the first recording I ever made with Jefferson. I put the Lads back together and did a bunch of gigs with new material that had been written after Plugged. The resurgence of punk rock helped me to move on to the next phase of The Lads and Green Day was a part of that.

    I was arrested for the first time and met my daughter’s mother that year. Both would have amounted to harrowing tragedies except for the birth of my wonderful daughter the following year.

    That’s basically what I remember. The second half of that year was less eventful as I was toting around an increasingly pregnant girlfriend and wondering how the fuck I was going to be a Dad.

    • Doug Hell says:

      Thanks for sharing that, Trole. I look forward to more music from you and whatever lads you may be with at the time. I still keep my fingers crossed hoping you will re-unite with the Trole guys. You were the best live band this world has ever seen.

  2. Mr! Erik says:

    I was in that riot in Vancouver. It was a mess. It was kinda cool to skateboard down the middle of Burrard St, but it was over a decade before the city authorized another party. When the clocked ticked over to 2000, every other major city in the world had people in the streets. All Vancouver had were police patrols and black sheets of rain.
    1994. zine, band, poverty. It was a good year.

    • Doug Hell says:

      I’ve never actually been to Vancouver. I also forgot to mention I got a student loan in 1994 I had absolutely no intention of paying back. I used it all to buy state-of-the-art gear. Although I bought a Fostex 4-track recorder from a pawn shop for 350 bucks which was hardly state-of-the-art. I couldn’t figure out how to work the fucking thing. My friend Gav did. We recorded a couple horrible songs on it and then I ended up selling it because I needed money for karaoke at Mustang Sallys. All my other gear was inexorably sold off except for my stereo, but I ended up giving it to my girlfriend for her birthday because it wouldn’t play CDs anymore and I was too cheap to buy her anything.

      I was a horrible person. It was no wonder I had no friends and was practically run out of town.

  3. Ken says:

    I miss singing Kitty Wells (still don’t know who that is/was) at Mustang Sally’s…

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