Several months had passed and I continued to struggle at it. At the very least though, I started to pick up on the fundamentals. In my mind I’d outgrown the buckets and was ready to take the next step. Plus, if anyone found out about the goofy pile of shit that I was playing on I’d never live it down. Talk about ruining street-cred. I gave it some thought and decided it was finally time to buy a set of real drums.
I was already getting plenty of static on the homefront about wanting to be a rock star. There was no way my folks were gonna buy a kit for me. So, I decided to do what every budding non-conformist rocker would do in my position — rebel. Without telling anyone, I drained my savings account one afternoon and headed to a local music shop.
The chime on the entry door greeted me to a subterranean underworld of fantastic instruments. The walls were covered with posters of all of the musicians and drummers that I’d idolized and fallen asleep dreaming about on so many nights. Time stood still in that moment, and everything beyond the doors of that shop didn’t exist to me. Up and down the aisles of the store I walked, mesmerized by all of the strange instruments — a lot of them of which I’d never even seen before.
While navigating the store, something in the corner of the room caught my eye. That’s when I saw it for the first time — a glorious, blood-red masterpiece, shimmering under the store lights. I was immediately drawn to it. I stood in front of it admiring its beauty, and running my finger tips along the smooth lacquer finish. I knew at that moment that this was the instrument that would get me to the stage – exactly where I wanted to be.
I took the kit home with me that afternoon and set it up. There it stood — bored and beautiful — waiting for a talented stroker to give it a ring. It looked so perfect and menacing in its stance. I didn’t even want to play it at first because my sloppy hand-work would surely tarnish it.
After finally mustering the courage, I sat down on the cushy throne with a brand new pair of sticks and began to play. It felt awkward. For as new and beautiful as it was, it felt much different than what I’d expected. It was another demoralizing experience. I felt slightly embarrassed — even without anyone around to witness it. This just can’t be, I thought. This was supposed to be like King Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone – it was supposed to be destiny. This was the weapon that had summoned me to wage war against the conformists. Why has thou forsaken me? I softly laid the sticks on the floor and limped away with nothing left but a bruised ego.
I came back to it the week after. This was no time to sit and sulk, I thought — I had business to take care of. Night after night I sat in front of it playing through the lumps and bumps, and acquainting myself with the sexy piece. Little by little, the sound and timing began to tighten. I could feel myself getting better and I was growing more confident. I would set up a cassette recorder and tape hours of cover beats, then rewind it and listen for the imperfections. After carefully reviewing the tapes, I would sit back down and play it all over again, doing my best to sharpen every single chop. It was still a bit sloppy, but at least I’d detached myself from the stigma of the buckets.
Then one day it happened. I’d finally reached the dreaded plateau. Despite how much time I put in beyond that point, I couldn’t seem to pull myself above the next ridge. Eventually I got so fed up that I snapped every pair of sticks over my leg, scattering the pieces in disgust. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was sick of sucking at it. Maybe this wasn’t supposed to happen…
I felt lost for a period, like I’d just broken off a long-term relationship. The beat that had always accompanied me wherever I went disappeared. For the first time my head was quiet. Everyday when I came home I’d walk past it — barely even acknowledging it. The glimmering sheen that I recalled the day I bought it was now hidden behind a thin sheet of grey dust. The dream of becoming Bonham had crashed and burned to the ground — just like a lead zeppelin.
I never excelled in high school, mainly because I really didn’t want to be there. Instead of taking notes during class lectures, I spent the majority of the day defacing my books with AC/DC logos. My mind was somewhere else. It was all just mindless crap for a bunch of mindless people. I wasn’t one of those people. I was an outsider — a non conformist at heart.
One day in the middle of one of my graffiti projects, a guy next to me that I never talked to before struck up a conversation. We talked about music. The more we talked, the more I realized how similar our tastes were. All of the old hard rock bands that I’d spent so many nights falling asleep dreaming about came up. I could feel a tiny spark inside of me begin to smolder. The bell rang and we parted ways, but not before he casually mentioned one vital piece of information — he was a guitarist, and a damn good one at that. The tiny spark that was inside of me exploded into a full-blown, raging inferno of rock hell fire. It was exactly what I needed to get me over the hump.
I ran home that day and sat down behind the kit like I’d never left it. I flipped the sticks up into the air, and kicked out a newly-inspired beat. It was exciting again. I remembered the feeling again of wanting to be like Bonham.
From that point on everything changed. The two of us spent every weekend together getting ripped on cheap weed and jamming out every Van Halen tune that we knew. Some of the stuff that we played was even original. It didn’t matter what it was — I just wanted to play, and play hard. I could see it all coming together now.
Maybe this would be the ticket…