Home / We Have a Date With the Underground, Part 3

We Have a Date With the Underground, Part 3

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This is the third in a series. It is the beginning of someone else’s story, told to and transcribed by me. Basically, he gave me the details and atmosphere and lot of the words and I put them together in my magic hat and pulled this out. His voice, his story, my translation. This series will have enough stories that they will eventually get their own page, but for now they will appear here at least once a week, most likely more than that.

I’ve Got Blisters On My Fingers

If you’ve ever been to a punk show you know the thing that takes your breath away is the bass. The guitar will just blow your ear out. The vocals are ignored by most of the people in the show. This isn’t The Who; this isn’t The Rolling Stones. We could give a fuck less what you are saying, you don’t run this show. The only reason the crowd moves is the bass and the drums, and the drums will numb your brain. But the bass, it will reach into your chest and suck the air out of your lungs.

johnI’d watch John Entwistle and I’d stare in awe at his three finger playing. The way his hands moved, the intimidating attitude and stance, the man became a god to me. I’d watch him play and study his movements and it was always like he was holding the set together. While everyone else was having fun, he only had this intense half ass smile on his face that said, “Yeah this is fun but where are we going after this?” Townsend could jump all over the stage and Daltrey could flip his mike wherever the fuck he wants, but without Entwistle the set dies, and he was so cool about it, like he didn’t give a shit about anything. Yet he ruled everything. I got the same feeling years later when I saw Black Flag and Kira Roessler was playing bass, and I was awed at how mellow she was amidst all the chaos. Entwistle was the same way, but even more intense, because you could tell he had the power of the music in his hands, that the grind of his bass held the music together.

kiraHis sound held the music hostage. I wanted that power. I wanted to play an instrument that could shake your bones. Something about that hit me hard and etched the thought in my head that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to play bass.

I was 15 when I got my first bass, a Fender knock off. The first night I had it, my brother told me to play with my fingers and to just keep going, even though I didn’t know how to play, even though it was going to hurt like hell. So I spent that first night, unplugged and in front of the TV, playing until my fingers ached, watching them first blister and then bleed. I did that every night for about a week and my fingertips became so hard I could make sparks fly if I dragged them on the asphalt.

I started to play with other kids, mostly in a garage at one guy’s house where he had a makeshift set. There was a guitar, a mic running thru a guitar amp, a set of crappy drums, and my bass. We sang songs like “Sexual Snoopy” and “I Hate Tuna Casserole.”

The first time you hear your amplified voice boom across the neighborhood so everyone can hear is intimidating. Most kids will step back when they hear their voice pushed through the neighborhood and say “Hey, whoa, this thing is loud!” I was into it. I would talk on the mic about my new comic book and or just laugh and not care that my voice was being carried down the block. In fact, I liked it. That’s how I knew that life on the stage was for me.

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About Michele Catalano