I knew that title would get your attention. This being my first and possibly only blog post I was going to originally make it a rant about Squeegy. We had actually worked it out so that we would rip each other apart on the board but we were too busy (read: lazy) for that. Oh well, the time has passed for that so now I'll just regale you with the tale of how I became a Bilge Pump and why the heck I still do it.
I was born a poor black child - no wait, that was The Jerk. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away - crap, Star Wars. It was a dark and stormy night - uh oh, Snoopy. Okay, fine, it all started one fateful day in October of 2005 at my day job where I have the misfortune of working with Maroon. As is our usual way, we were wasting time talking about anything but work. He brought up that Blue was starting to go MIA from some gigs because of other commitments. He asked if I wanted to join the band as a second guitarist to help take up the slack and if Blue decided he was ready to leave that I would be the man. I had played guitar heavily from 1988 until about 1995 and was in a hard rock cover band playing songs by Skid Row, Poison, Motley Crue, Metallica, Dokken, Warrant, Ratt...you get the idea. The playing of music like the Bilge Pumps stuff was never something I had considered and I rarely played on an acoustic guitar unless I was trying to appear sensitive to get a girl to...I digress. I had gotten to a point where I was too busy with my real life to try to become a famous rock guitar player so I moved away from my guitar. I picked it up an hour here or there a few dozen times a year but that was about all.
I told Maroon that I had not played guitar much in many years and that I was extremely rusty. He said that didn't matter because no one in the band was that good. I still tried to find any excuse I could to get out of saying yes but Maroon can really whine like an annoying girl when he wants something. I said I needed some time to think about it because if I was going to do it I wanted to feel like I could do it right - don't know what I was thinking there. I began mulling it over and even turned to my mom to help me figure out what I should do. I could come up with no legitimate reason to say no. I had worked with Maroon for years and been to several of his parties so I already knew John Crow, Phil and Galleon - at least a little bit.
I told Maroon I would do it so he passed me all the music on mp3 and CD, sheets with lyrics and guitar chords and said tell me when you're ready to come to a rehearsal. I spent a few weeks familiarizing myself with the cacophony of howling cat noises that is The Bilge Pumps and working from recordings of Squeegy's guitar. With my trusty sheets in hand I learned several of the guitar songs and made it to my first rehearsal.
Upon entering Maroon's house for my first official Bilge Pumps rehearsal I was introduced to Harvey. His first words to me were "you're not homophobic are you?" to which I replied no. He said I would be fine. He never asked if I liked being molested by creepy old guys though - now that would have made me run. Blue was busy that evening so he missed rehearsal which left it all on me. Maroon asked what songs I knew and I pulled out my sheets. As we played through the first song (no, I don't remember what it was) everyone seemed moderately impressed that I actually played it well. Granted they didn't say I was the next coming of Squeegy (disgusting thought) but they knew I'd work out at least musically. In my time playing hard rock/hair band stuff, I had developed a decent enough singing voice for that style of music. I had what one friend referred to as a "teen angst" voice where I could sing like Bon Jovi and get a good warbling vibrato going. I never had that much confidence in my voice regardless of the compliments I had received. I felt like my singing was limited to the hair band stuff so I told Maroon I'd be okay playing guitar for them but I was not about to do any singing. To his credit he didn't whine at this point but he did start planning to force me to sing - sneaky S.O.B.
We jump forward to January 28, 2006 and Scarlet's Mid-Winter Festival. I packed up my girlfriend and her son so we could make the drive to OKC to check out what the heck I was joining. No, my dear reader, I had never seen the Bilge Pumps perform live. Check out the pic on the Past Landings page. After sitting through a few songs I felt like I had made a huge mistake but need I remind you that Maroon whines? I thought I'd better at least give it a shot and I would probably suck so much they'd ask me to leave. Boy was I wrong...
February 18, 2006 - my first performance. Naturally I had little pirate garb at the time nor was any of it really good for the flesh ripping cold wind that was blowing around the Strand in Galveston for Mardi Gras. I had bought boots and 2 shirts at Scarlet's. My pants were a gift from John Crow and you will see them from time to time. I was allowed to borrow Maroon's cloak so at least I wasn't a Sharkbait-sicle. I somehow managed to play through the songs with frozen hands using my trusty book of sheets. At this point I had NO stage presence or had really put any thought into my performance beyond guitar playing - at least I had my pirate name. The feedback I received from the guys was that I played well considering and that it was my fault it was so damn cold. Blue missed the joy of this gig so it was all me.
The next 2 gigs Blue joined us so I didn't have to remember everything nor use my sheets as much until he left town and the band for work reasons - oh crap! I decided that if I was going to continue as the sole guitarist for the Bilge Pumps that I needed a little help getting things polished. I begged Maroon to bring in the illustrious Squeegy to help. Luckily he was on a break from touring as Barney so he had an opportunity to sit down with me to show me how he did things. My first thought was "I hate him" because he was a much better guitarist. I realized he was actually a nice guy and more than willing to help me figure out what I needed to know about the songs. I began getting a better handle on the songs even though I still referred to the sheets for many of the songs. Once I got to the point of knowing some of the songs enough to not use the sheets Maroon started to force me to join the singing. I resisted as long as I could but he started saying something about how everyone has to sing. He might have said did you know bees sting - I wasn't really listening.
One of the most often received comments about my stage presence was that I seemed to be upset. Fanny often gave me grief about not smiling. I began to think about these comments and realized by looking at pictures they were right. I knew it wasn't because I was unhappy it was just that I was concentrating so much on what I needed to do. I had gotten over my stage fright after about 5 or 6 gigs so I figured I would just play to my strengths and thus was born the Sharkbait Simon grumpy bastard school of piracy. I already had a reputation as being grumpy in my daily life so why not in my pirate life too?
Okay, so now you have the long boring story of my beginnings...Here's the quick wrap up because I don't want Maroon to start editing out all my stuff.
Galleon's departure left a lot of songs up in the air as well as hole in the lineup. I volunteered for singing some tunes and Maroon volunteered me for the joy of Harvey dancing all around me like some geriatric stripper. Being grumpy isn't always a good thing when it gets you assignments like that In order to fill the line up back out Maroon wanted to bring back Squeegy. For once in his life Maroon was a decent human being and actually asked my opinion on having Squeegy back. Naturally since I had put an effort into this mess he didn't want me to feel like I was being supplanted (who knew Sharkbait was intelligent?!). I made it clear that I had no issue with the return of Squeegy - like him and we play well together. Besides, he's much more cheerful so I can I stay the grumpy bastard that I am.
He has definitely pushed me to work even harder. I now rarely ever use the sheets since I can rely on him when my memory fails. Granted I was already getting to the point of only using sheets just before I went on stage to jog my memory or on the songs we rarely ever do. He has also pushed me to sing the songs more while I'm playing. It was something I had every intention of doing anyway once I got to the point where playing the songs was second nature. Now that I read this I guess Squeegy hasn't really made me work harder - forget I said anything.
I may smile more and appear to have more fun on stage now than I did in the earlier days but I will always be "by far the grumblingest guitarist to ever join the band". And lucky for me, you all love me for it...(yes, that's the reason I keep doing it)