Tuesday, June 06, 2006

National Accordion Awareness Month & Me

How could I have forgotten! Actually, I never knew they had a “month” until I heard a story on NPR’s Day to Day. I have this strange l love-hate thing with accordions, you see, when I was a kid (around 9-10) I wanted to take Piano lessons just like all the other kids at school and around the neighborhood. Call it peer-pressure or “the piano-renaissance of ‘84”, or Van Halen’s synthesizer riff “jump” I’m not sure which. But I really wanted to take lessons - bad. I did what any other kid does in these situations, begged my parents and grandma.
I’m not sure how it happened but one Saturday morning (during cartoons!) my Dad took my brother and I to some nearby industrial park. We walked into a non-descript building and inside were small kids with huge boxes –accordions – and an old guy who looked EXACTLY like Geppetto (from Disney’s Pinocchio, white mustache, glasses and all). I remember thinking What the..? Well, not really more like “I don’t get it? This ain’t no piano, pops?!”. Thus, began my accordion career. O.K. so no career, but living a secret life of taking lessons and practicing accordion while hiding it from other kids. My brother and I were ashamed of our (used) accordions (I yelled at it on occasion “I HATE you stupid accordion!! You smell like great-grandma!!”) and we never spoke of “the accordion” during school or anytime else. It was like a dirty secret for around 2 years. My only joy came sometime in ’85 when I started playing Depeche Mode songs on the smelly box. This proved to give me some enjoyment playing songs from “Some Great Reward” and later “Catching Up” albums.
And quite honestly, you’ve never really heard “See You” unless it’s being played on an accordion. But being 11-12 years old, you just can’t walk around outside or into the schoolyard and play it for your friends (I had a reputation to live up to and I didn’t want to get beat-up).
Fast forward to college, well, Art School (Calarts)- I was sitting in the dorm hall, probably eating Cheetos or something like that, and some music student walked in jamming on something. I immediately had flashbacks and my heart pounded hoping no one would notice me and “out” my accordion skills (I don’t know? Maybe accordion players had some “look”?), but to my surprise people got up and were like “Dude, You Rock!!” to the guy. My view of the accordion changed; I got up some courage and was like “Hey Hippie Dude, Let me try the shiny box out”. I did, and played “Just Can’t Get Enough” a little bad at first…but good enough to get chicks screaming in excitement, throwing their underwear at me! No, not really, but people were thrilled and really surprised.

I’m no longer ashamed of the accordion, so if there’s ever a need for a “Depeche Mode playing accordion player” I’ll be ready. I can even start the set with “New Life”.

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