Is our choice of instrument indicative of our lifestyle ?

It has to be admitted that, historically, saxophone players have never been good role models, with a history of drug abuse and alcoholism; to a degree seldom found in other fields. I was reminded of this last night at a gig where the bass player commented that the saxophone designers had been considerate enough to provide a bottle opener on the instrument. He was referring, of course, to the yoked octave rocker….perfect for removing a crown cork.

It occurred to me that this was part of a pattern, as I used to park my cigarette (before the Nanny State) by jamming it between the flying crook brace and the neck of my R&C tenor. I have seen other players who, with great aplomb, could unerringly  & quickly locate the interstices of the low C guard.  Further, someone once said that the soprano was unpopular with players because there was no-where to hide their drugs.  Racking my brain, I can find no such conveniences on the oboe.

( post courtesy of Lewis Pelham )

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13 Responses to Is our choice of instrument indicative of our lifestyle ?

  1. alan says:

    It’s amazing how many ‘icon’ jazz musicians have gone thro’ a debilitating drugs phase, including Stan Getz…

    When Coltrane joined Miles Davis, it was instead of Sonny Rollins – who was, at the time, going thro a drugs dependency – but then Coltrane himself later succumbed, and was replaced in the band by a cleaned-up Rollins.  Obviously very much an occupational hazard – pushing back musical boundaries results in more than just musical experimentation. 😕

  2. Lewis Pelham says:

    Alan.
    Generously you mention just three of the many…you talk of "pushing the musical boundaries"…many were also pushing the medical boundaries!
      Was it a myth to say that "to play like Bird, you had to be Bird"?
     All very sad, but perhaps the degree of drug and alcohol dependency was a result of the venues in which they played, and the hours; plus the curiosity of perhaps it would take them to a new & unexplored, musical level.

  3. alan says:

    Maybe a possible parallel with the number of people who tried LSD in the 60’s – with sometimes tragic results – often in the hope of seeing a more psychadelic and inspirational world… 

    Intead of which, some even believed they could fly – with tragic consequences 😦

  4. Mal-2 says:

    I’ve always held that drugs shouldn’t be illegal — but being a d*ck on drugs should be punishable exactly the same as performing the same acts sober. If you can’t control yourself, get a sitter and lock yourself in the house.

    About the only really stupid things I can remember doing while tripping (psychedelics are much more my bag than coke, speed, or booze) are: riding a bicycle when I literally couldn’t tell where the ground was (not so bad except for a few brief moments of terror when I had to cross streets with traffic), and accidentally locking myself out of the house while on mushrooms. I had to convince the neighbors to let me hop their fence so I could go in the unlocked back door. Neither one of these exactly qualifies as a disaster.

    Some drugs (like the aforementioned mushrooms) are by their very nature an occasional diversion. Tolerance builds fast, the effects get bland, and there is no physical compulsion to keep taking them. Others become a lifestyle — and that is where the problem lies.

    That said, I find pot to be at least as effective a stage fright remedy as alcohol, and not as debilitating. To say it has no effect on performance would be a lie, as it definitely leads to moments of inattention, missing cues, and generally bad sight reading (not so important when playing the same song for the 37,000th time). But alcohol does these things and then some, and there is no level of inebriation I have found that properly balances the calming effects with the loss of motor skills. If I drink on a gig, it’s (1) because the drink is free, and (2) because I don’t think it’s going to matter. I’m much too cheap to pay nightclub drink prices. :mrgreen:

  5. Lewis Pelham says:

    I tend to agree Mal.
        Pot is probably the best as it is such a relaxant; to the point sometimes where you can forget where you are and what you should be doing.
     I know many gifted musicians who cannot get up on the stand unless they are three parts drunk…it seems to me that they are the last people who need to be in that condition…shyness or insecurity perhaps.
     Why is it that people talk of drink and drugs; they are both mind altering so both comply with the definition of drugs. Perhaps, because drink is legal, there are some who over indulge in drink & feel qualified to deplore someone, far less impaired who has had the temerity to toke on some "illegal" weed.
     Heroin, and it’s use I will never understand…knowingly walking into a minefield with prominent warning notices.

  6. alan says:

    I’d heartily agree with the use of ‘pot’ over alcohol as a relaxant – much more sociable.  However, good old normal pot is fast becoming unobtainable here, it’s usually been ‘skunkified’.  Now, skunk does have (imho) quite a different effect, a much harder drug.

    I’m slightly amazed that a website like this one  ( set up your own skunk plantation )  can legally exist !

  7. Lewis Pelham says:

    Absolutely agree Alan. Over the years I must have smoked my own bodyweight in resin, but I had a very nasty incident with skunk…so now I do not touch it.
     With regard to the  "illegal"website, I realise what you are saying…and you are right. However, half of me says "who are these people who can tell us what we can and cannot do".  Inbred good manners & knowing how to behave properly should be our limitations.
     Regrettably we seem to have spawned a generation where decency & polite behaviour is unknown. I wonder do they have a vacant spot on "Grumpy Old Men"? because I tend now to walk about in blinkers, trying not to notice what is going on.
     Was it all perfect in the early thirties where, it seems, all the chaps sported cricketing flannels, the women were ladies, as distinct from just fat and female, & one’s car was a Delahaye with coachwork by Figioni & Falachi. Gad…those were the days sir!  😦

  8. alan says:

    Indeed, and in those days any gentleman could carry a ‘service revolver’ in his pocket quite legally – to protect polite society against the riff-raff 🙂

    Now the riff-raff carry kitchen knives or cleavers, and all the gentleman has is wit and charm !

  9. JonF says:

    In the old days, I used to jam my spliff in the low Bb guard on my tenor. No-one ever seemed to even notice, much less care. Bass player had one in the machine head, drummer just left his permanently in his mouth, but all he had to do was remember how to count to four.

  10. alan says:

    Jon – you had a drummer who could count ????  😆

    Endangered species, hope you took good care of him !

  11. Lewis Pelham says:

    I remember playing in the Midlands with a Reggae support band. The dressing room was so full of smoke that we had to grope to find our instruments….passively stoned before we went on.
     I even remember a bit about the party afterwards.  🙄

  12. Gandalfe says:

    My drug of choice, not counting the doctor prescribed stuff, is  caffeine from coffee and theobromine from chocolate. Never tried the other stuff except for a ‘controlled burn’ when I was an officer in the Army. Apparently knowing what pot smelled like because "I went to college" doesn’t stand up in the US courts.  😎

  13. alan says:

    Interesting concept, that bit about "college" – seems, at times, that just about every UK politician – when challenged on his past – will admit to "trying it once at university, but I didn’t like it…"

    Except maybe for Tony (Wedgwood) Benn, who seems to be still on it – and poor old Gordon, who, I suspect, with all his woes, would very much like to be on it…

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