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Tuning Up: Junkie Medicine for Sad Sacks & Mofos

Tuning Up: Junkie Medicine for Sad Sacks & Mofos

A shred god’s snide declaration sets off PG’s editorial director (again) and gets him ruminating on what unites the unwashed guitar masses.

Some time ago I read an interview where a super-famous guitarist answered a question about how someone could determine whether a career in music is “right” for them by essentially saying, “If you have a choice, then it’s not for you.”

In less cryptic terms, I suppose his point was: Life as a musician is brutal, so you better have it in your blood else you shan’t survive.

The thing is, while I guess that kinda makes sense, it is a bit simplistic—not to mention somewhat dramatic and self-aggrandizing. We humanoids are multidimensional beings. Only the most doltish among us don’t have many interests and potential avenues for employment. Many change focus over the course of our lives either out of necessity or simply so that our existence will be a rich, varied tapestry of experiences. Besides, equating a career in music to some purity test is laughable. We all know plenty of players whose primary motivations for a career in music are fame, fortune, and sexual exploit, not some inexorable drive to be a 6-string artiste/martyr.

Still, I’m not poo-pooing the idea that one could be so passionate about music that they can’t imagine not doing it for a living. But the world is a wondrous place with scores of laudable, fascinating fields that can and do compete for dominance in the brains of music-crazy people the world over, every day.

Anyway, my point here isn’t to get into a “who among us loves music the most?” pissing match. Whether one chose/chooses a nonmusical vocation out of practicality, as a backup plan, or simply because they’re a well-rounded individual who finds ecology or teaching or programming or forensic science or whatever equally compelling, I don’t believe it adds up to weaker or inferior love for the magnificent noise we all love to generate.

There’s simply no solace quite like getting lost in the aural wonderland conjured forth from vibrating metal and wood.

Regardless of our paths, the beautiful truth is that each of us has found a sanctuary, a means of regeneration in this thing called guitar. Whether we spend our days in an office or a tractor trailer, our nights monitoring a hospital ward or strutting a stage, when the cumulative exhaustion of life threatens to break our will—be it born of fatigue from the daily grind, soul-wrenching news so dire it literally induces pangs of heartache, or something somewhere in between—there’s simply no solace quite like getting lost in the aural wonderland conjured forth from vibrating metal and wood. When words can neither convey nor console the sorrow, anger, confusion, or ennui settling into our limbs like leaden sediment, solitude with a 6-string dissipates the melancholy and transports us to what at least feels like another plane.

This, my friends, is an absolute wonder. A miracle—even for those of us who don’t actually believe in miracles. (A miracle of evolution, perhaps, but a miracle nonetheless.) It’s also the true measure of whether you’re head-over-heels, 100-percent, hopelessly, completely, and irretrievably in love with guitar. You’re a certifiable junkie when your brain and body go into withdrawals and you feel a gnawing emptiness when you go too long without. You’re especially hooked, whipped, etc. if you actually sometimes feel harried or not quite right in the head when you’ve been unable to give release to the army of musical ants pacing back and forth from your cranium to your empty, yearning hands.

So take heart, fellow captives and willing slaves. We may not be world-famous, or even town-famous. We may never have our pictures on anything other than a driver license, and that’s perfectly fine. We chose to fall and fall hard, and in the end what matters is that it’ll get us through another day.

Peace out, fellow travelers.