John Carlson: Rock Camp? It Rocks!

Nothing proves your rock “chops” like playing on your knees. Photo by: Nancy CarlsonNothing proves your rock “chops” like playing on your knees. Photo by: Nancy Carlson

By: John Carlson—

For my sixty-ninth birthday later this year, I considered asking Nancy for a $250,000 red Ferrari.

Silly me.

Now I just want to be enrolled in the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, which is coming up sometime soon  out in Las Vegas. Oh sure, my first thought was it sounded fun, but I should probably skip it.  There wouldn’t be any other geezers my age there anyway. But then I thought, wait a minute, there’d probably be a ton of other geezers there my age.

See, it’s men and women my age who were the pubescent American shock troops of the British Music Invasion back in 1964. More than fifty years later, we’re still hanging out in the bathroom singing Beach Boys songs like “Help Me, Rhonda” every morning, hoping Rhonda is Mother Nature’s first name and that pretty soon she’ll kick our prune juice into gear. Second, the older we get, the more delusional we become. Even now, I lie in bed at night thinking I might still have a shot at qualifying for the Indy 500 someday. It’s pretty obvious that if I’m stupid enough to think that, the thought of finally making it as a rock star doesn’t sound too far-fetched.

Besides, the Facebook advertisement for this rock camp specified one thing is ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM!!! That thing is a total lack of talent.

I just happen to have a total lack of talent!

Over the years I’ve owned five guitars, and thanks to my unwavering personal commitment to not practicing on those five guitars, I have learned to play three notes. Now I’m no mathematician, but I think that works out to owning something like two-and-seven-eighths guitars per note. This means I’d have to buy myself at least four-and-a-half more guitars, just to play the six notes that make up the entirety of “96 Tears” by Question Mark and the Mysterians.

At that rate, there aren’t enough guitars for sale in Muncie for me to learn all the notes to, say, “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”

But guess who couldn’t care less? Joe Perry of Aerosmith, that’s who!!! The same goes for Lou Gramm of Foreigner and Vince Neil of Motley Crue. Those three fine fellas just happen to be the rock camp’s celebrity instructors!

Seriously. Totally incompetent people are welcome, they promise! So I figure if I go to rock camp and add just one killer power chord to my three-note musical repertoire I’ll be fine, even if I only get to play my killer power chord in concert once every two hours or so.

And did I just mention “in concert”? Uh-huh, yes I did.

That’s because at some point, no matter how old, delusional and incompetent you are, every rock-camp camper is gonna be on stage with Joe, Lou and Vince, kickin’ out the jams! Well, the jams, plus  assorted body parts like our backs and hips.

But that’s a small price to pay to gain the rock ‘n’ roll glory that fate unfairly denied us. Mingling with the groupies. Puttin’ it to “the Man.” Casually talking on stage with Joe Perry between numbers, while the jealous fans in the audience wonder what racy tales of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery we’re sharing. This is even though at this point in my life, what I’ll probably be telling Joe is, “I hear the cafeteria is serving chocolate pudding again tonight!”

In the end, what rock camp may really tune up is our geezerly self-image.

But that’s fine. It’s pretty much like the guy who used to impersonate Ricardo Montalban on the old “Saturday Night Live” shows would say. “It is better to look good than to feel good.” Or, in rock camp’s case, “It is better to look good than to sound good.”

Besides, at my advanced age I won’t be expected to move all sexy on stage. No bony booty-shaking. No lewd pelvic thrusts punctuated by screams that now are of actual pain. I’ll just have to stick out my bottom lip while occasionally chicken-hopping across stage like Mick Jagger does. Have you ever seen the movie “Gimme Shelter,” when Jagger is doing his chicken-hop as members of the Hell’s Angels look on? They can’t believe their eyes! I mean, the Hell’s Angels are embarrassed for him.

And what if real rock moves are called for in that single show we play? Then I’ll just drop to my knees with the guitar like Jimi Hendrix did when he set his Fender on fire with lighter fluid back in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival. Heck, I can do that!

I just can’t get back up.


A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.  John’s columns appear on Muncie Journal every Friday.