By Michael Golding (Ice On Mercury)
I never listened to metal or heavy music when I was a kid. In the early years, I don’t remember much music being played at home. My family lived with my grandparents for a few years, and they never listened to music at home either. I guess the first style of music that I was exposed to was early ‘80s pop and church hymns (yes, I went to church every Sunday). My nanna said that I should become an altar boy, so I was there twice on Sundays for mass.
There was an upright piano at my grandparents’ house. From time to time, I had a go on it, not really making much musical sense other than my own version of “Chopsticks.”
During my primary school years (‘84 – ‘91), there was no music room or music classes. A close friend of mine (Steven) got into playing piano (he had one at home). When we caught up after school and on weekends, he would show me what he had learnt. The first two songs that I ever heard him play were “Blue Moon” and the intro to Richard Marx’s hit, “Right Here Waiting.” I tried to pick it up the next time that I went to my grandparents’ house; playing what I knew by ear.
In 1990, my family moved out of a small unit to a bigger home. My grandparents’ piano followed. After a quick professional tune, I had access to a piano full-time. I asked my friend for his teacher’s details. My mum paid Mrs. Schroeder (my soon to be first musical teacher and mentor) for formal lessons. I learned all the basics early on, notes, chords, arpeggios and all the theory using the mneumonic…‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit’ (EGBDF).
At 11 years of age, I began learning the Beethoven classic, “Fur Elise.” Everyone seems to know the intro, but this song is super challenging and very complex from the mid section on. It took many lessons (and lots of practice), but within months, I had this song nailed and committed to memory. Every time I spotted a piano somewhere, I played the song. Another song that was really challenging was the Norwegian Cradle Song, an even more complex piece than “Fur Elise.”
By the age of 12, I was able to play fluent piano. I learned piano differently. I used the sheet music as a guide until I knew the piece well, then (through repetition) I no longer needed it.
I remember my nanna used to take me to retirement homes and I would play their piano for an hour or so, entertaining many people. My mum used to work for the council, driving retired people from their homes to the shops, doctor appointments, etc. Each year, there was a Christmas concert hosted by the council at the Port Adelaide Town Hall in Australia. For two years (‘90 and ‘91), I had a 30-minute slot, playing my best songs for a hundred or so people.
I started high school in 1992. For the first time in my schooling, there was a dedicated music room. It had three pianos, three drum kits and heaps of guitars. You could go there during recess, lunch and free periods. Of course, there was also regular music classes. Having musical instruments available on demand was awesome. Within the first week of starting high school (on one recess break), I went to the music room, sat down at the piano and began to play “Fur Elise.” I played it all the way through without making a mistake. Once I finished, I closed the lid, pushed the chair in and proceeded to go back to class.
As I exited the room, I heard this voice calling out…“Excuse me, can you please come here?” I walked into the main music room filled with seniors. All eyes were on me, so I thought I was in trouble for disturbing the class. Mr. Hayles (the school’s music teacher) asked me my name. I said my name and then he asked me to play the song again in front of his class.
My heart was pounding. I sat down at the 88-key electric piano in the main room. Facing the class, I looked briefly at everyone, then put my head down, took a deep breath and played the song again. Once I finished the song, there was massive applause. I felt pretty good about showing people what I could do. Mr. Hayles then told me about a school assembly that was happening the following Monday, and asked me if I wanted to play in front of the whole school. My stomach turned into a big knot, but after a brief moment, I agreed.
From the moment that I got home that day, and every day leading up to the assembly, I practiced “Fur Elise” over and over again. I already knew the song back to front, but I wanted to be prepared. When that Monday came, I was nervous as hell. Thankfully, the assembly was early on in the day, so I didn’t have much time to worry.
The usual speeches occurred at the assembly, and before I knew it, Mr. Hayles said the words…“and now without further ado, I introduce you to Michael Golding, who will be playing ‘Fur Elise’.” Everyone clapped briefly, and then it was dead silence. The walk up to the stage seemed to take forever.
I opened the lid on the piano, settled into my seat, took a deep breath and started playing. Although the song is only 2 minutes and 25 seconds long, it was an exhilarating experience. When I finished playing, the school erupted into a big roar of clapping and cheering. I took a quick bow, went back to my seat and got slapped on the back by many as I sat back down. From that moment on, I knew that music was what I wanted to do with my life.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2 of “My Rock and Roll Journey” to learn about how my transition from piano to drums began.