Many years ago, as a teenager, I played drums in a rock band. An awful, awful rock band. There was much covering of Kiss and April Wine and Metallica and Steve Miller. Every song written by one of the the guitarists was…well, exactly the same. There were shows at fire halls and weddings and high school gyms. It was an equal mix of painful and hilarious. It was like a tragic hoot.
The band went through multiple names and lineups (including me…I left/was replaced near the end of high school) but the one constant was my friend Adam. I’ve known Adam for as long as I’ve known anybody, and we were good friends growing up. He was the one with talent…good songwriter, good guitarist, great singer. But he was also the one who believed in it the most.I liked playing the drums and hanging out with Adam, but I never believed it would go anywhere and knew I’d be going off to university. Others, like Adam’s friends Bruce or Jason or Mike, or his brother Justin, seemed to be in it mainly to have a blast or get girls.
But Adam wanted to make music. Always. In the summers he worked with me on my dad’s farm he carried around a little hand-held tape recorder so he could capture all the little songs he’d make up or piano tinkling he’d do if he was in our house. The music was one of the fun things about being in his orbit. He had determination and a nice voice and a friendly laugh and, most of all, a good heart, and so he managed to charm a beautiful girl named Sonya (in spite of himself…I was there that night…it wasn’t the smoothest) who he would eventually marry. After high school he moved to Ontario and recorded an album with a whole other set of guys, but didn’t stay long. Back home, there were more bands, more albums. Nothing really stuck.
Adam and I didn’t see each other much after high school. We kept in touch every now and then on email and Facebook. But he’s living there and I’m living here and I don’t see him much when I get home. We always kind of moved in different circles anyway, apart from when we played together. But I’ve kept up with how his music’s gone. He always managed to get me a copy of whatever CD he’d just put out with whatever band. It was hard to keep track sometimes, honestly.
But in the last few years his band Big Deal has done well locally. They were playing bigger shows…big bars in other towns, ECMA satellite shows. I watched them on Halifax’s Breakfast Television morning show. Despite Adam’s massively fucked back (I’ve lost count of the surgeries that my mother recounts on the phone…I think maybe Adam has too) they were getting attention and selling records and winning fans. A song he wrote about Sonya became a pretty big local hit.
So earlier this week, when I read this story by our mutual friend (and reporter) Andrew Wagstaff in my old hometown newspaper, I couldn’t stop smiling. Big Deal, consisting of the three guys I’d played with and known since childhood, and the drummer who (I think) replaced me all those years ago, had been signed to a record deal with Attack and a distribution deal with EMI. I know there are four guys in the band, and I’m sure there’ll all pretty happy about it, but the guy I’m truly happy for is Adam. My good friend, after all those years of shit bars and back spasms and teachers telling him he’d never amount to anything…he just willed his band into a record deal. He just got the letters E, M and I attached to his music.
Today, as I write this, I probably miss Adam more than I ever have. I feel sad that I couldn’t be there last night when Big Deal played a for-old-time’s-sake show at the local community hall, just like we did as kids. I feel a little bit envious that he’s chased something for so long and just gutted it out. But mostly, I’m proud of my friend.
Kick ass, brother. Just don’t hurt your back when you do it.