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Mike Randle


“Musings of a Lead Guitarist” (part one)
February 20, 2003

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines the word, “Musician” (myoo zish’ en)as: “A person skilled in music, esp., a professional, composer or a conductor.” If i am skilled and if i am professional i feel blessed, because it wasn’t always that way. *****************************************************************************

“Musings of a Lead Guitarist” (part one)

My cousin, Larry, is currently serving the tail end of a 13 year Prison sentence for bank robbery. Every Xmas he sends me a card and i try to write him back as much as possible (although he moved to a different Prison so i need to make a note of the address change.) and, although we never had anything in common growing up (and he was 9 years older then me), he always kind of looked out for me. It would be years later before i would truly understand (or appreciate) the little things he did for me. More on Larry later.

I was dreaming last night, sort of remembering when exactly did i get interested in playing music and really at what point? Was it an event? Several events? I remembered being 13 or 14 years old. I had a nice girlfriend, Angie. Now, when i mean girlfriend i mean we held hands, did a bit of “pecking” and saw a movie or two. I actually played football with her older brother so i saw more of him than her (and he ALWAYS seemed to have a broken arm, for some odd reason…the cast just never seemed to come off…)

But Angie played an interesting part in the pubescent stage of my life. See, i loved listening to music and was 100% certain (in my snobby way) that my taste were better than everyone elses. I proved this by the fact that, if most of my friends decided a song was great (Like Leo Sayer’s “You make me feel like dancing”), and i thought it was shite (rightly so), i wasn’t supposed to say anything. But since i had been collecting 7″ singles since i was 9, i had a whole knowledge of music to fall back on and could care less what they thought. So, the real question was; what was i going to do with it?

The summer before my 15th birthday, my step-brother, Eddie (who played bass in a local church band), gave me his Tascam 424 4-track cassette recorder because he couldn’t figure out how to work it. Unfortunately, he’d lost the manual (and there was no internet back then!) and simply felt helpless. So i took it home and stayed up late nights trying to figure out the concept of multi-track recording. It took about 4 months and, not only had i figured out how to record on it, i’d also figured out how to “ping-pong” tracks, which entails transfering pre-recorded tracks together onto other tracks (or in this case, i put tracks 1,2 and 3 on track 4.) Blah Blah Blah…

As i became more and more intersted in recording i also began writing songs, as i had just started to play the electric guitar. I wasn’t good by any definition, only knew 4 chords and had no clue as to what i was doing. Still, i wrote 6 songs in that first week. And they were all unbelievably HORRIBLE. And they were all about Angie, though she never knew because i never told her. She was an interesting person, in that she came from a very religous family (her dad was a preachy, i think), yet she was so wild (isn’t that always the case?.) The way we met was because i was dating one of her friends, Joyce, and Angie simply STOLE me from Joyce (i was that easy…) But now i had fallen deeply in love with music and pretty much lost interest in Angie. She was hurt at first, but she soon got over it, found another boyfriend (whom her brother eventually beat up, breaking his arm in the process) and after 9th grade graduation, Angie and i stayed in touch every now and then until we were in our early twenties.

It was around this time my neighbor, Charly, and i decided to start a band with our other neighbor, Tony. I was 15, Charly was 16 and Tony was a whopping 26! He was very immature for his age as well as a little creepy (he liked really young girls..like 13 year old girls) but held the high distinction of having attended Pasadena City College in the mid-seventies with Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth, Alex and Eddie Van Halen. He said, back then, they were called “Rat Salad.” Of course, they eventually changed the name to Van Halen. That was good enough for Charly and I; he was in.

When i started high school, i was still 15 and wouldn’t turn 16 until November which meant everyone else was older than I was. It seems trivial now, but at the time this was a big deal. I had to really prove myself because everyone else kinda looked down on me. So i joined the school’s stage band and also jazz ensemble. I had this really small amp, a “Peavy Side-Kick”, which was very portable but you coun’t really crank it. The stage band would play school assemblies and such and i would get opportunities to play guitar solos, which i’d work my ass off at home practicing before an actual performance. I knew i had to set myself apart from the rest of the band, who were all better musicians than myself (at the time.) But i still had a problem of volume and set about fixing it.

Turns out, the guy who worked the microphones of the public address (P.A.) system, Mark Moons (everyone called him “moonie”), owed my cousin, Larry, $50. See, back when i was in high school (and before HE started robbing banks), Larry was one of the most successful pot dealers in the area. He didn’t act like a tough guy either. He didn’t have to. He spoke very little and always carried a 9mm gun (which he never used in his life.) So i cut a deal with both Moonie and Larry; Larry would forgive Moonie’s debt and in exchange, i’d wash Larry’s brand new VW BUG every other saturday and Moonie would personally put the mic in front of my Peavey whenever i solo’d. It worked out better than i could have ever imagined.

One of the girls i always thought was cute in High School, Maria, saw me play at the assembly and wanted to know if i wanted to go see the movie, PURPLE RAIN, with her. But see, i had a crush on a girl named Nancy for the longest time and it just wasn’t the same to go to a movie, knowing it wouldn’t be Nancy (But nancy was already spoken for by a real asshole trombone player in the ensemble.) I declined the offer (though i did see the movie with Charly-we both loved it) but did wind up on a double date with Maria, her friend Leslie and Charly. Even though Charly and i were trying to get to 2nd, 3rd and 4th base (and eventually home plate), i was really just going along with it, hoping things wouldn’t escalate to that point. It meant more to Charly than to me. I wanted to get back to my 4-track recorder and make music.

After i turned 16, i pretty much stayed home on weekends working on music or doing homework. My mother could tell you stories of me sitting on the back porch FOR HOURS, practicing guitar. I felt it was my duty to turn down party invatations and just concentrate on playing and writing songs. I probably missed out on a lot, but i don’t regret it at all, to be honest. From age 16 until just after my 18th birthday, i didn’t have any contact with girls, except on a friendship level. All i did was practice music at Charly’s house and go to school. Being a year older than i, Charly started school at the “College of the Canyons” in Valencia, California, which is about 90 minutes north of Los Angeles in an area called “Canyon Country.”

The group Charly and i had went through many transformations and by the time i was nearly 19, Charly was out of the group and my friends, Garfield (singer/guitarist) and Chris (Bass) were in. We had our sights on a young drummer, who was still in high school, named Rusty Squeezebox. He jammed with us a Mod party one night and we decided to look no further for a drummer. After Rusty graduated from high school, we immediately started to play Universities, hitting the road up and down the california coast, sometimes doing 15 shows a month. It was around this time that i discovered three important things that would change my life; a BOSS super-distortion pedal (along with my FENDER TWIN), beer and COLLEGE GIRLS. There was no turning back.

Mike Randle


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