Don’t just sit there playing with yourself!

As the title may illustrate, to an observant reader, I’m pretty much a giant five year old. And, once again, I’m sure you can deduce my mental state!

I feel as though I should offer some sort of reason for my mental state – but it’s definitely not an excuse.

They took the fun out of weed and made it legal. Seriously, legal weed is like decaffeinated coffee.

Wait… That’s a horrible analogy…

Legal weed is like buying beer after you’ve long since reached the legal age to do so.

That’s slightly better.

Which is to say, some of the magic is gone.

The only rational way to put the magic back in it, is to find a way to make it illegal again. See? I’m a man of sound first principles!

I don’t want to be too specific, but let’s just say I decided I’d grow a whole lot of pot last year. To put this in perspective, I could have 12 plants flowering at a time – legally. I exceeded that amount, significantly.

Harvest season nears again and I have an unusual problem. I have more pot than I can possibly smoke. Some people have already harvested their early stuff and people seem to just give me pot. Granted, one look at me and I’d probably offer me pot, but it was a pretty strange trait to adjust to when I moved here.

It might be selection bias, but I’m pretty sure most of Maine smoked pot before it was actually legal. I don’t think I know anyone who realized pot was legal and said, “You know, I think I’m going to start smoking pot.”

Nah… They all smoked it before it was legal. It was decriminalized, long before I moved here.

I realize that this might be because of the people I generally associate with – but I associate with quite a few professionals – but I don’t actually know many people in my area that don’t smoke pot. It wasn’t entirely uncommon to see someone smoking or partake myself, while walking down the street at a regular festival – even before it was legal.

They had whole hemp-celebrating festivals, long before it was legal. I know this, ’cause I’ve been on the stage at a few of ’em. They don’t actually hide them – they advertised the hell out of them. “Come on in. We’re gonna do a bunch of illegal drugs and jam!”

Which, you know, is a pretty good party. But, it’s legal now. I haven’t been to one of their festivals since.

I should mention that selling marijuana is illegal without special paperwork. But… You can give away up to two ounces. A whole lot of bartering is frequently referred to as gifting. Someone gifted me a whole bunch of fresh stuff recently and I can’t even (realistically) gift enough of my own to my friends and neighbors.

It’s a very unusual problem to have. On this subject, I’ll add that every musician should be reasonably adept at hiding and security a decent stash of excess drugs. That’s actually a fairly frequent problem.

See? These are things you don’t learn in a music book!

By now, you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this. “Oh, TheBuddha is just stoned, again.” Which is true – but I have a point!

And, remarkably enough, my intro is even topical! You’ll see…

It’s okay to play with yourself in public!

Y’all took your regular history lessons at school. Most of my visitors are from the US and pretty much every American studied music – at several stages in their scholastic career. You might have learned to play a recorder in 3rd grade, or a violin in 4th, or whatever. They even might have made a bad attempt to teach you to read standard notation.

Some of you went on with that, and joined school bands. Some of you went on with that, and even played in college bands.

Remarkably few of you will actually play your instrument regularly after that. Frankly, that’s horrible!

The point is, that you might have even learned a wee bit of music history. Well, it was probably very incomplete and misleading. Music history is a rich and vibrant history. Music has changed cultures, politics, economics, and even goes to war with us. Every single culture has music.

So, in your music history exposure, you’ve probably heard about the days before writing and how everything was passed down (often in verse and mnemonics) and you may have learned that the fancy people with degrees will call that the ‘oral tradition.’

Very, very few of them actually talk about the ‘aural tradition.’ I’ll try to explain.

Every culture has made music. I further speculate that every culture has its own version of a bitchin’ solo.


What’s the least bitchin’ solo music on the planet? Western Classical? Nah, if you think they don’t have solos, you don’t know your classical music. Ever seen an orchestra? Yeah, that shit is pretty much set up in a hierarchy and that’s so they know who’s capable (or at least allowed) to play a bitchin’ solo. It’s the *first* chair that gets the violin solo, for example – and they have solos.

How about military tattoos and march? Damned right, they have solos. Shit, what do you think taps are when played on a bugle or regimental calls? How about when they sound the order to charge? On many battle fields, music was a weapon of terror and propaganda. They pretty much played the most fearsome music they could think of and then finished it up with some guy saying, “I’m gonna play a bitchin’ solo on this ram horn – watch this shit and then we ride to meet our gods!”

I can do this – for hours.

If you listen to today’s electronic music, of which there are many types, they’ll often change the tempo and frequency ranges. They have various names for them – but if you watch a live DJ with any skill, you’ll see they’re actually doing that by way of playing a bitchin’ solo! The tradition isn’t dead. I’m pretty sure even rap music has a version of the bitchin’ solo.

To get here, we had to pass the music on.

Much unrehearsed music done by people with questionable skills and dubious rehearsal habits is not actually very good. In other words, it kinda helps if everyone knows the song – and whose turn it is to play a bitchin’ solo.

I’d speculate that everyone wants to get laid and the best way to do that is to play a bitchin’ solo for an audience. I bet that’s why orchestras evolved their chairs and formality about who got to play a bitchin’ solo. You just can’t realistically have 150 people all playing their own bitchin’ solo any ol’ time they want! That’d suck balls and would not be musically appealing. Thus, they organized and set some rules down about playing bitchin’ solos.

Anyhow, before the advent of writing, that was always passed on by way of aural tradition. Oral tradition is the information being conveyed with words and aural tradition is the information being passed with sound. Surprisingly, Wikipedia is pretty quiet about the phrase – but they do mention it a few times.

As it was passed on by way of sound, not much of it has survived from antiquity to today. But, the smart people are able to deduce a few things and, as near as I can tell, make up the rest. With that in mind…

As near as I can tell, we were also getting pretty wasted. This is also a human tradition. Getting wasted seems to be in the archaeological evidence for so many cultures that we just kinda assume that it’s true even when the record doesn’t exist. It frequently exists ’cause wasted people leave a mess behind ’em.

You don’t think they were sober after those hunting feasts, do you? Fuck no…

I have every reason to believe that it was those wasted people where music was played. I have every reason to believe that the musicians were themselves intoxicated. Hell, a surprising number of battles have even been fought where people on both sides were shitfaced and they started their battle out with a bitchin’ solo!

Even today, what do bars and clubs advertise? Music.

Where there’s loud music, people are getting wasted. I can’t speak for anyone else – but I have never been to an opera while sober. (I’m not sure I should admit that.) What do you think the opera singers and symphony do after the show? They get wasted – including with some of the audience. The person who played the bitchin’ solo gets to drink good wine with the stars, and the lady in the third cello chair goes home to her cats and boxed wine. Either way, they get wasted.

While the combination of music and intoxication don’t necessarily make for good technical music, you can bet your ass they’re a tradition that goes back to prehistory.

The bonus is that it doesn’t actually require a lot of skill to entertain an audience full of intoxicated people. Hell no… Once again, I point you to modern bars and the quality of some of the successful bands therein. Or, better, I point you in the direction of the Grateful Dead! (I kid! I kid! I’ve had a Steal Your Face tattoo since before it was fashionable.)

See? I told you the intro had something to do with the rest of my article! I wasn’t even kidding – and I’m pretty pleased with myself for remembering getting back to it.

So, I don’t suppose the title makes sense yet? There’s a reason for that specific title, too.

We have this great history of passing on tradition and information – by way of music and getting inebriated.

Getting wasted is a job hazard that nobody seems to talk about. Either that or it’s the greatest job perk ever fucking invented!

That’s probably a matter of perspective, now that I read that in print.

Seriously… Most musicians are a fucking mess, even the professional musicians. The ones that don’t take drugs from a psychiatrist self-medicate with illegal drugs and addiction is a frequent outcome. We are a mess.

The only reason I’m not a mess is that I maintained my professionalism – but areas of my life were a wreck. I dated nothing but crazy college chicks – for years. Like, stab-you-with-a-steak-knife-crazy. I’m actually amazed my children grew up to be healthy adults. I was a fucking mess and made frequent use of illicit substances.

I’m pretty damned positive that’s a tradition.

After Gugg the caveman discovered he could bang out a bitchin’ solo on rocks, he sat around partying all day. This wasn’t productive and Gugg needed to eat. So, Gugg started meandering off to the next village where he could do their drugs, drink their booze, penis their women, and play a bitchin’ solo for them.

They, being also wasted at the time, thought this was a grand idea until Gugg didn’t go away when they had to return to cave-carving on Monday. They eventually kicked Gugg out and he probably walked back and forth between the two villages until he’d done all their drugs, impregnated their nubile females, and burnt all his bridges.

This meant that Gugg had to travel to new villages to play bitchin’ solos, get laid, and do drugs. I’m sure they also fed Gugg and asked him stories about where he’d been and I’m going to guess that Gugg wrote songs that told about his travels, the stories they had, and that he even shared some of his own culture’s traditional music with them.

Other people surely saw Gugg and said, “Holy fuck. I can do that and get paid?”

To which Gugg responded, “Damned right. Watch this and learn!” (He then played a pretty bitchin’ solo and made all the fur-panties moist. Some cultures even elevated this dude to a point of power and they accepted the ability of music to do things like call in favor from deities.

What else are shamans but people getting ripped out of their skull and playing bitchin’ solos to appease the spirits?

I’m pretty damned sure of my theory about bitchin’ solos!

So, what’s more awesome than a bitchin’ solo? Not a fuck of a lot, actually.

The only way to make a bitchin’ solo more awesome is to add more of them. It’s the only logical conclusion!

Which they did. They used the aural tradition and passed on their music. They taught other people to play. They played with other people and had merry parties. They’d eventually form things like roving bands, schools, and even formal notations to convey music in text. We’d find a way to record it, to preserve it, and that’s even gone to the point where we do so with zeros and ones, in digital format. (We’ve been using binary to play music for a long time – a music box is a series of on/off switches, as was a player piano.)

The tradition is still very much alive. As near as I can tell, we’ve been doing this since we climbed down from the trees, maybe even sooner.

Raise your hand, if you think that doesn’t explain the title.

It does.

It is our job to keep those traditions alive. We don’t have to be professionals to be tasked with this obligation, but it’s our job. It’s built into our very nature and very hard to deny. When you discover your first bitchin’ solo, the first thing you’re going to want to do is show it to someone.

Which is to say, go find someone and jam with them. If they aren’t very good, teach them a song and jam on that song for hours. You’ll both learn and both improve, even if you’re playing with someone who isn’t very skilled. The best way to know you understand something is to try to teach it to someone who has no knowledge of the subject matter. If you don’t know a song, make one up!

Gotta practice? Go do it in public. It’s kind of funny and actually enjoyable. Even though you don’t ask, someone will come along and listen – and possibly put money in your guitar case. In theory, you can earn a complete living that way – but I don’t recommend it. However, I’ve played outside and had complete strangers give me money. Sweet!

If you’re on the road, there’s not bad odds that you can stop at a nice out of the way diner – or even right on the main street in some cultures, and play your music for them. You’d be surprised where you can play. I’ve done my practicing in hotel lobbies, at 3:00 in the morning. Chances are, the lonely person behind the desk will be happy to hear you.

It’s inappropriate to practice in a music store, of all places. However, if you’re any good – they might ask you to play for a while. I’ve played outside a local music store, multiple times. It’s funny, ’cause people give you money.

Because people understand the ingrained traditions – they’ll sometimes give you drugs and alcohol! They might invite you to parties, back to their house, all sorts of things. It can be a pretty grand adventure – though you don’t actually have to do all that.

Get out there and play. Get out there and share in the aural tradition. If you don’t want to play songs written by other people, get out there and teach your songs to anyone who will listen. Who knows? People might like your music. If not, there’s always wasted people and they’ll listen to anything!

Even if you don’t make money with it, it’s a hell of an opportunity to experience things you’ll never experience. Just walking down the street with a guitar case means you may find yourself getting new and interesting questions.

So, play with other people and, if you can’t, then play with yourself. If you feel the urge to do this, that’s because you’re a human. We’ve been doing this for many, many years.

Music is meant to be shared. It has been shared at pretty much every momentous occasion in history. The powers that be have even tried to control it and even made unapproved forms of it illegal. Yet, music has continued its traditions and has continued to invoke emotive responses and exert power.

While I’m here, I’m going to mention that the bar is pretty damned low to call yourself a “historian.” Though people who call themselves that also usually have a history degree or published works, often with original research and dubious conclusions. But, they’re entitled to call themselves historians – it’s not a high bar.

I’m not actually a historian, and I didn’t play one on television. Still, I’m pretty convinced in my soundness of logic and think there’s merit to my bitchin’ solo theory. The very foundations of society, including language, can probably be at least partially attributed to music – and a big part of that music has been the bitchin’ solo.

Someone, specifically someone who is not me, should actually try to research this while using the scientific method. I do wonder how much an fMRI changes when someone hears a bitchin’ solo that they really like, or even a new one that they’ve never heard before.

I’m woefully unqualified to do so and don’t have the time, even if I were qualified. There might even be a benefit to the species and we’ve evolved our bitchin’ solo brains for a good reason – perhaps it was the communication aspects of music? I really have no idea – and I’m not sure anyone has actually studied it. My awkward attempts to stab Google for more information have revealed nothing.

There are some studies that show definitive effects, physiological changes, when the human brain is hit with music. There’s even some about “happy” and “sad” music. I can’t find a damned thing about the brain’s reaction while being bombarded with a bitchin’ solo, and certainly can’t find a study where the subjects were shitfaced.

That’s a hole in the research!

Still, seeing the other studies, there is a reaction. My guess, and it’s purely a guess, is that this brain response can be traced back to our very earliest days, perhaps before we were even modern humans. I’m not sure we could ever get evidence for that, but it does seem pretty probable – given the other evidence.

And, given the low level of confidence that is required for a historian to call something a “sound theory…” I’m sticking with it! It’s not very sound science, but this is not an academic work.

Which leads me to my close!

If you don’t have a desire to get out there and play with other people, or perform by yourself in the park, then maybe you can try to find a way for me to disprove my theory that the bitchin’ solo is a cornerstone of our species. For my theory to work, it must make predictions. It should also be falsifiable, but that doesn’t seem to be a barrier with historians.

So far, I find examples of a bitchin’ solo – almost everywhere I look in music. The only times I don’t see a bitchin’ solo was when it was being suppressed. You don’t see much in the way of a bitchin’ solo in early monastic chants, ’cause they liked to demonstrate that they were no fun. I’d not be remotely surprised to find out they had bitchin’ solos when nobody was looking. They were possibly drinking booze, after all.

Other than a time machine, how can I disprove my bitchin’ solo theory?

Anyone not working on that should be on the phone already and trying to find themselves someone to jam with tonight, or someone who will listen to ’em play. Yes, even if you suck – you should be finding someone to listen to you play and, better still, someone to jam with.

If you don’t have anyone to jam with, there’s tonight’s guitar thread. You can come jam with us! In that thread, you can come play whatever you want – and someone will give you an audience. Someone will help you keep the aural tradition alive. You can even ask questions – and someone will try to answer ’em. I admit my bias, but I’m pretty sure it’s awesome.

Tada! We made it to the end of another article. LOL I’m nearing 180,000 words published on the site. I actually sorta try for brevity – but I suck at that. I’m pretty sure weed helps me be brief exactly zero. None help. None…

Oh, wow…

I have a horrible idea. In the spirit of Gugg, our first traveling musician, how about if we (with, or without, permission) invaded various other sites and just popped in to host our weekly guitar threads? It’d be funnier if we didn’t have permission and just showed up on some random forum, made a thread in their “general” section, told ’em what we were doing, and then just did it. ‘Snot like they’ll kick us out – we’re the entertainment and they’re probably wasted! I bet we’d get away with it – fairly frequently. We’d probably only piss off a few people.

Note: That’s a horrible idea. If that didn’t get trimmed out during proofreading, it’s still a horrible idea. It’s such a bad idea, I kind of like it. We might even pick up a few musicians along the way – to join our roving band of merry internet musicians.

Holy fuck! We could go surprise Christmas Caroling!

Yeah, I’m telling you – this is a horrible idea. But, if you’ve never gone surprise Christmas Caroling, you’re missing out. Next holiday season, drive around with your drunk buddies (use a sober driver) and stop at random houses that are festively decorated – and sing ’em a carol.

It helps if you practice this beforehand and everybody knows the words. That’s a riot and nobody actually shoots you. Sometimes, they’ll give you delicious cocoa and you can put your peppermint schnapps in it! Unlike my other idea, that’s a known good idea. Trust me, you’ll even have a good time rehearsing with your friends.

Alright, this mindless drivel has gone on long enough. I shan’t pain you with any more today! I’m not actually sorry for this article, no. I probably should be, but I’m not. Music can take you on grand adventures, if you just let it. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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