Fifty beats

Chapter one, Hundred thousand years

Half a century and I have an inner drum roll that is itchy. At this age we accumulate many irritants but there’s usually a pill, cream, or herbal remedy and three days of patience to remedy the problem.

Age has its lessons. I learned early that if patience is harnessed it delivers.

Here is a story of a journey that will reveal itself. It began at the age of eleven, the year 1977, when Elvis died, I wanted to be a drummer. after listening to Peter Criss on a second hand borrowed album KISS ALIVE ONE. He was a grown man dressed up in “make up” mind you, to look like a “cat”. Yep! I know, but it captured my imagination back then. He had the sticks behind the big set of Pearl drums that rose up from the pyrotechnics half way through a song, aptly named, Hundred thousand years producing a solo that went on for ten minutes, by my fading recollection.

It’s taken, it seems, that long, for the acquisition of my first skins to become a feasible undertaking.

The realization of a fickle middle age dream is precipitated by a birthday party that is planned in the early months of next year. I have tried setting goals like loosing ten kilos by that date, four months ago, which only confirmed that my weaknesses are much more dependable.

Driving to the surf listening to classical music in the car having just bought a special bucket hat with a chin straps to cover up my bald spot so that skin cancer doesn’t visit me before the coal fired power stations are decommissioned due to climate change, the music is compelling. Involved in the beats of the percussion section, reminds me I should to switch to the FM station and try to follow the beat of the latest Indie band. Things have changed since Peter Criss and his 30 piece kit pounded a second heart beat on the audience with every hit of the Tom. Now a keyboard or a hand pad can be programmed to fire up the latest beats from a sampled sound that was recorded by someone pointing an Iphone to a croaking frog in the septic tank. Thus, it is a bit more difficult to pick up how the drummer manifests his craft.

On that point I wonder if learning to be a drummer makes as much sense as painting canvases for an artworld that doesn’t require man made wall imagery, when the digital age has made to measure replacements of all shapes and sizes and in many different mediums and can be ordered online for the price of one Windsor & Newton Sable paint brush. Bands will not require the drummer to keep the beat, a machine will sponge that out for nothing, and never miss a step. (Where as I fear, I may…)

So now that I have decided that my life requires this extra complication, I will document the journey to craft myself into a modern day drummer, by using both my drawing skills and my observations to make this an examination of a bloke that likes to make noise from the back of the room.

In the second Chapter I will tell you how I broached the subject with my wife that likes to have some quiet time!


I was thinking about Peter Criss, the drummer behind the seventies rock band KISS, while in the surf today, under my new hat that Kept the sun off my balding head. Why he hid behind a face painted like a cat. For more than a decade,in fact, the four members of the band were never photographed without their make up. It made for great press coverage. The identity mystery grew Legendary even eclipsing their music.

I illustrate, so in the context of this personal musical odyssey to make it easier to understand, instead of depicting myself as an aging white male, taking Criss’s lead, I will find an anthropomorphic version of my maturing persona.

Bull, or a Dugong a sea cow, that would make for very interesting drawings. But how does a creature of the sea that has flippers hold drum sticks. Maybe a half and half creature. A man with a Dugongs torso? A hipp0, rhino, walrus or rooster. It needs To be able to handle drumsticks and be credible as a drummer?

Pondering this question and putting it to one side for the time being, I will tell you how I got around convincing my wife that having a drum kit in our company could bring many advantages to our relationship.

How I finally broached the subject was fortuitous and inspired.

We were on the annual Christmas get together in her home town, a Mid North coast country town, the surf is non existent, which is annoying and all too familiar. To pass the time on these occasions I spend quality time with my spouse having coffee in one of the three options that are presented to locals and holidaymakers in the middle of town. Then we participate with the folk of this hamlet, consuming and buying food, occupying time until the south easterly cools the pavement and before the Utes get a drenching from the afternoon dousing lasting one visit to the only shop in town that sells Amaranth flakes for our gluten free diet.

On the way back to the car I had spotted the music shop filled with many instruments, and because time is neglected when discussion is concentrated on how cheap the organic duck eggs grown by a local farmer where in the health food shop at the end of the street, I could suggest a quick look at this shop I was interested in.

By the time the discussion came around to poaching the eggs I had engaged a nice man with a musical disposition in a passionate conversation that rivaled that of my wife’s with her father and sister as they looked up in disbelief at me holding two drumsticks and battering rubber pads with no audible irritating sounds.

“Where are we?” the only clear sound piercing my headphones filled with a uncoordinated snare beat.

In Chapter three; Convincing has no recipe
I forgot to say that I settled on a cow, and the scribble will help you to visualise pathetic enthusiasm.

Chapter three


David Bowie died this week, sixty nine followed closely by Alan Rickman the man that played a wizard on the Harry Potter movies. Magicians don’t go into the afterlife that early? And Bowie the man that looked like he was healthier than Donald Trump’s bank account, passes to meet Major Tom far too soon. Nineteen Years from now I will reach that Zenith in survival age. I have to get cracking. No time to waste on sizing up which kit to purchase, and how to hide the enormous sound it generates while I practice uncoordinated beats on my wife and neighbors. Buy the kit and don’t edge your bets on getting the one that will get better value for money, soon before you loose interest or time.

The Internet is a great resource for a wannabe drummer, it supplies a multitude of options and I watch many salesman beat the sets with such ease. I think stage fright is already a problem. Looking like an epileptic old cow hitting drums with dyslexic ears is not my goal with this middle age project. Making noise requires the courage to display the creativity within. Yep, this is the same confidence that is on display when one of my drawings is put on display, but if I draw a bad line it’s done in private and I can perfect it until it looks right for public consumption. Also no one sees me at work, but behind the drums the whole purpose is to do the job in front of people. No room for error!!!

Practice is the key. That brings me back to my original thought about the early passing of a great artist. Like Bowie. He did music, that was his thing, me, scribbling cartoons and other visual representations have been my quest. Making music, is a new Lord of the Rings moment that might make me end up in Mordor. But hey like Frodo I’m willing to take on the journey. Dumb cows sometimes chew better grass because they are unaware that they are in the wrong paddock.

The question of Funding?

Musical instruments especially ones discrbed with the prefix “electronic” costs what amounts to the difference between the months household utilities being paid, or fulfilling the exorbident fees of our cars registration. I have had to wait now for a very long time, three months since the decision was made to become a music maker, my car did need substantial funds poured into it when the engine blew up and was replaced. Redirection of the moneys put aside for “the dream”, was not really nogatiable and heartbreaking.

How can a mechanical object that has been with me for ten years decide to fail me when my mind was on made up over another object. Imagine what will happen when I decide to replace it all together with a newer model and it gets a whiff of the changing winds. I will need to drive with an helmet to protect me against this antipethy .

I have been talking long enough. Now about my quest and relatives have got the message.

I went to the bluesfest in Byron Bay thinking that the music on offer would be good but not a buffet of drumming. By Mick Fleetwood. He managed a ten minute solo when the rain started to bucket down outside the tent that was the size of Donald Trumps ego. The rain managed to burst through. The middle of the tent leaving the twenty or so music lovers soaking up the precipitation instead of the beats on offer. This is when activity on stage became frantic as Mick started his solo there was a beat that was produced by the sound of water hitting one off the high toms with a regularity that created plenty of anxiety. He, let me tell you, kept the best going and had the audience in a trans. (I would like to be that sort of drummer one day)

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