How many girl singers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Answer: Just one, because the whole world revolves around them.
On the small-time cover band level that I’m on, girl singers are a mixed blessing. True, they allow you to perform Sheryl Crowe songs and lots of other material not easily adaptable to being sung by guys. You have to face it — when you’re doing covers, sooner or later you’re bound to run into an audience that wants to hear something by Alanis Morisette. Naturally, you’d say no to that request under pretty much any circumstances, but what about Tracy Chapman or Fleetwood Mac? No matter how much pride you have in your musicianship or the integrity of your song selection, eventually you’ll at least have to consider such requests.
I stopped working with girl singers 30 years ago, not on purpose, but it just worked out that way. When I worked with them, they always arrived late, left early, and carried nothing but their own microphone and maybe a tambourine. On the road they always got their own room, while the rest of us shared. On stage, they were always the complete center of attention, even though musically everyone else in the band had equally important parts. During performances they could never hear enough of their own voice in the monitors. In those days we were lucky even to have monitors, much less separate monitor mixes, so we all had to listen mainly to her.
To be fair, some of them had great voices, some of them had great looks, some of them worked hard to front the band and entertain the people. Self-centered whiner that I am, though, I grew resentful of them. I had to learn an instrument in order to be in the band. I had to buy an instrument to be in the band. And when I sang, I still had to keep playing the guitar. So it didn’t seem fair to me that the girl didn’t have to bring anything to the table but her voice, which she was born with and — in most cases — was completely untrained. Then during the breaks people would say to her something like “You’ve got a good band,” as if somehow the band — and I — belonged to her or were taught how to play by her. In my bitterness I turned to strong drink.
Childish, I know.
So to penalize me now, at this late hour of my life, the universe has thrown another girl singer at me. It’s temporary — just for one show — but things don’t seem to have changed much. We only had time to rehearse with her once, and she arrived almost an hour late for a three-hour rehearsal, and she didn’t even bring a microphone or a tambourine. Then it turned out that she hadn’t had time to listen to the CD I made for her or look over the lyric sheets I gave her. All true to form as I remember it.
It will be fine, of course. We invited her to sing with us because we think she has a following around town from her extensive work in karaoke bars, and frankly, we need to put some butts in the seats. This compromise of my principles is nothing compared to what I would do for a chance to play with Aretha or Tina Turner or Linda Ronstadt.
Our girl didn’t knock my socks off at the rehearsal, but I can see she has the pipes, and nothing focuses you like an impending gig in front of a live audience. The show is Wednesday this week, and she’ll have a microphone, a tambouine and her own separate monitor mix. I expect she will practice her parts like crazy until then, and come out rockin’.
And then the whole world will revolve around her.