Scanning the channels, the signal pauses on an old metal station: Iron Man- Black Sabbath. My husband secures the scan and asks, “I wonder if he’s really talking about Iron Man,” and fades into his secret comic book world.
I answer, as old married couples do, not addressing his question, “This is one of the first songs I learned to play on guitar.” I lay my head back on the headrest of the car seat and try to reconstruct the image. Long winter, Montana, 1976.
“I hate this song,” I say, and then contrarily add, “but I like it.”
Tim answers, “This has got to be early 70’s, but I think the comic came out first.”
In 1976, Jerry got his first electric guitar and a small practice amp. I remember reading a story once about a kid who never went anywhere without his basketball and ended up playing in the NBA. It reminded me of Jerry after he got his guitar. He played it all the time. He would hunker down in his small bedroom of our tiny Montana home all winter, like a hibernating bear, and play his guitar incessantly. On occasion, I would sit at the end of the bed, wrapped in thick wool blankets to keep out the chill of our drafty house and listen for hours as he rotated through his vinyl collection and played along. Reading the liner notes in the same manner I used to read the cereal box as I devoured my bowl of Captain Crunch, I would sit at the end of Jerry’s bed and relish the sensory input. The starkness of the snow illuminated against the dark winter sky appeared in the bedroom window like static on a TV and added to a sense that nothing was happening anywhere else in the world at that moment.
Jerry handed me the guitar and told me to pluck the string while he held down the note at each fret. I plucked along as we negotiated a clunky, version of Smoke on the Water. In a few minutes I was able to play it myself. Jerry put on Deep Purple and I played along as he had earlier. I must have repeated the song twenty times, carefully placing the diamond tipped stylus on the thin shiny black line and then quickly getting my fingers in position on the fret to play. For a microsecond the small lamp on the side table became a spotlight on a smoky stage and my audience of one morphed into a huge crowd. Jerry laughed and I heard the crowd roar. Next up, Black Sabbath.
Tim mentions something about getting the Pepper Potts character all wrong as the song comes to its finale. I open my eyes and we pull into the driveway.