Friday, 29th May 2020

This Month's Magazine


The musician dissected by Pete Black

Where do you start on such a diverse and varied subject as ‘The Musician’? After a lot of thought, I decided it would be best that after around 35 years of being one, the best course of action would be to start at the beginning and finish at the end.

There seems to be a constant supply of genetic ‘throwbacks’ in the world musicians. Music, as we know it, was given to us by Cro Magnon Man, along with body adornment, tattoos, and sculpture, among other things. The funny thing is that ‘Cro Magnon’ means ‘empty space’, which in my experience sums up lots of genus Musicus, notably the sub-species ‘Drumicus’, who in many cases really should live on another planet!

A prime example is Keith Moon, drummer with The Who, who self-destructed on September 7th, 1978 at the ripe old age of 32; who else would drive a perfectly good Roller into his own swimming pool after a bust up with the missus? By the way, I must give a personal thank you to my old friend and drummer Rob James of Carmarthen, for doing my hearing in on the right hand side, as I used to play on his left!

Drummers are radical, specific personalities, but are always extreme. A drummer might be the funniest person in the world, the most psychotic or the smelliest. Drummers are uneasy because of the many jokes about them, most of which stem from the fact that they aren't really musicians.

Now moving through the ‘back-line’ of the band, we come to the bass player (sub-species Bassicus) this creature is a very close relative of the drummer, (but much more reserved in behaviour) they have to work very closely together. This involves getting the basic ‘groove’ ticking away nicely with accents in just the right places.  One notable exception is bassist Mark King from Level 42, who, despite coming from the Isle of Wight (sorry guys), went on to front this very successful band, around since 1980 and selling millions of records.

Bassists are not terribly smart. The best bassists come to terms with their limitations by playing simple lines and rarely soloing.

They are built big, with paws for hands and are always bent over awkwardly. If you talk to the bassist during a break, you will not be able to tell whether or not he's listening.

Then of course we come to the Guitarist (sub-species Banjoicus Maximus). This musician can in fact be separated into two types, the rhythm guitarist and the lead guitarist. Both differ from general musicians especially the lead guitarists, throwbacks to the earlier hominid, ‘Homo Erectus’. I don’t think that I need to dwell on this point, as you all know where I’m coming from. Classic example of the guitarist is Keith Richards of the Strolling Bones, 63 years old, with more energy on stage than many a quarter his age. This is scientifically explained by the enormous quantities of raw testosterone (and other substances, mostly illegal) flowing through the guitarist’s veins.


Guitarists hate piano players because they can hit ten notes at once, but make up for it by playing as fast as they can. The more a guitarist drinks, the higher he turns up his amp.

Now we come to what most people regard as the most important member of the band, the vocalist, or lead singer, (sub-species Poseurus). There has always been a bone of contention between keyboard players and vocalists. The keyboard player’s view is that the vocalist just stands out the front , posing, singing a bit and pulling all the birds, while he’s stuck behind doing all the important work and let’s face it, without a keyboard, a band sometimes sounds a bit on the thin side. The vocalist couldn’t care less; he’s getting the birds, whatever happens! An example of the vocalist is of course Freddie Mercury, except of course he didn’t pull any of the birds!

The star of the show, the keyboard player! Of course, if as I do, you sing as well, then you’re on a winner! But first a few words about pianists in general, they are intellectuals and know-it-alls. They studied theory, harmony and composition in college. They are usually bald. They should have big hands, but often don't. They were social rejects as adolescents, as they had to stay in and practice instead of going out kicking a ball like ‘normal’ Homo sapiens. But perseverance wins through, and all those hours of practice, theory and the rest of it, is worth it because, think about it wouldn’t YOU like to play a keyboard?

Thanks also to Mr.Don Leslie, inventor of the fiendish Leslie Rotary Speaker for damaging my left ear! This was a self powered PA speaker, only rated  90 watts rms (probably less than your home stereo)  but consisted of 2 horizontally opposed rotating horns which on fast speed, ‘threw’ the sound of your keyboard outwards. Lethal if you were too close, which I invariably was!

Pete Black studied at the London College of Music and is currently appearing in Puerto de la Duquesa at Bar Blu Thursday & Friday nights. You can contact Pete at

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