Vox Rockuli

By Joe Daly

Notes

It is the most important instrument in rock and roll and far and away the most underrated.

It takes years to finesse and the cruel irony is that just when most musicians start to master its many nuances, their physical aptitude for it begins to diminish.

It is the voice. The vox. The pipes, the golden throat, the mouthy spitter of words. OK, I made that last one up. It’s late. Cut me some slack.

The delusion persists that while you can teach yourself an instrument like the guitar or the piano, the voice is something you either have or you don’t- you spit out of the womb and either you sound like Aretha Franklin or you’re the next Bea Arthur. Sure, it’s understood that talented people might be able to improve their range with a vocal coach but most are convinced that they either sing like a bird or that they can’t sing for shit. Good luck convincing the latter folk that with a little training they could have million dollar voices.

But they could.

In fact, they have.

My folks had split up. Dad lived four blocks away, up a hill. Miles away, theoretically, a thousand feet off in reality. After a particularly long battle of wits, Mom delivered me to his apartment. First thing the old man said was that it was high time I got a job. He hadn’t been paying attention. While my older brother never seemed to have a summer job, I’d long held a position at the tennis courts on the other side of the golf course bordering his apartment. Rolling them, cleaning them, sweeping them, giving the odd lesson to four year olds barely bigger than their racquets. I’d been doing that since I was fourteen. He should have known better. I’d kept the job because I needed money to pay for my bad habits. I brushed past him, dropped my bags in the living room, and burrowed into his study, clicking on his old Zenith, tuning it to MTV. The dawn of the video age perfectly coincided with my teenage apathy.I slumped into the orange desk chair he set up to overlook the parking lot his apartment had views of, when out of nowhere Whitesnake’s uniquely retardo/erotic videos shot a hot bolt right into me brain, severing any ability to pay attention to anything but that fucking video. The old man started to make conversation, but it was too late, I’d already been zapped.

I can feel your anxiety from here.

Christmas is just over two weeks away and you’ve still got shopping to do.  You opted for the “lots of little presents” route, instead of the “one big enchilada” route, and now you find yourself a few gifts short of a stocking.  Worse, you’ve got one or more rockers on your list, and they’re such ungrateful snobs that you’re afraid to get them anything having to do with music for fear of the inevitable snarky comment ending with the word “lame.”

What’s an elf to do?

Relax- I’ve got you covered.

A main character in my upcoming novel* has feeble short-term memory. His pockets spill over with scraps of paper covered in scribbled notes like tattoos on the leathery arms of an aging biker. A minor character fills her study with bound books chock-a-block with the lists of her daily life.

I’m not a list person, although I often write notes to myself. In the car. In the bathroom. But in a way maybe these notes are lists — things to remember, events by which to gauge time, yet not in list form.

My book deals with memory, history, and the chronology of a life whose gaps are filled by the most unlikely sources.