Thursday, May 27, 2010

Feeding the Monster

Blogger's note: Time fades and so does the memory of an old man. If I recall certain events in a seemingly negative light, please realize that I have nothing but fondness for these wacky, wild days and those musicians who were a part of them.

In this business, until you're known as a monster, you're not a star. ~Bette Davis

Bon was very shy on stage, often
interferring with his memory.
  [John, or as we called him "Bon," playing at the student union. He had this long thumb nail that he used to play with. Wicked good player, but petrified on stage.]

Hard Times had some really awkward moments as it limped its way to becoming a band. On certain occasions, the group would have Bobo (Joe) as guest guitarist (best guitarist among us). Bobo wanted to be an auxiliary player; someone who just stepped in for a few tunes without the hassle. Joe was already making fine cashola with a group called Shop - a band that played for whatever the occasion. Today, we might call them music whores, but I digress. He certainly didn't need to be a permanent part of a starting group that had troubles.

[Dan the man during his Grissly Adams period. Oh wait, that was the '70s. Hair was in, baby. Dan would occasionally let forth a satiric barb and break his usual stoic demeanor. ]

How much silence and solitude can one bearded man take?

One night, Joe wanted to do a song by Robin Trower. Before we played it, Joe asked me directly whether or not we were up to snuff on the tune. I assured him we were. We were not in fact up on these songs. What did I know? I liked having Bobo in the group. He was a rock. He didn't have an agenda.

It didn't go well.

Such was Joe's embarrassment, that in the middle of the tune, he said aloud, "Thought you said you guys knew this tune, Jim." I didn't hear what was wrong. We had gone over the tune once. Huh?

Guru Lou was an honest-to-God psychic.
BC, on the other hand, was an honest psychotic.
 [The engine room of BC on the right and Lou on the left. Lou was an occasional player with us. We called him Guru Lou because he was psychic. Yep. Lou could tell you some weirdly personal shit about yourself by just touching one of your personal belongings. Never seen anything like it before or since. BC was a powerful drummer and someone who generated a lot of excitement for the group. He was also central to the character and drive of the group.]

That wasn't the worst of it. The Bob-Robert tension had reached another level. Bob had had enough of Robert's playing, so he hired, without our knowledge, another guitarist to play with us at the next gig. So here we are, this unknown player who was to shame poor Robert off the stage. Truth is, the guy was better than me, and full of Lynyrd this and that, but he only made the situation more confused and chaotic. The truth is, probably none of us knew how to resolve the interpersonal issues. Bands are never without this.

The best gig we did was the one for the student union. Yes, the newspaper ad says Area Code- why we changed the name, I'm not sure. The band may have had a reputation for, shall we say, being a bit boisterous and unruly. I honestly can't recall.

I don't know why it felt right, but I loved it instantly.
 The power, the open stage, the volume, everyone into it: that's an experience which is impossible to describe. If this was what it was to be a musician, then I wanted more. Plus, a girl from the music department, uncharacteristically told me flat out, "You look good up there." Damn if that didn't seal the deal.

[Your humble blogger circa 1979. Dig those red track suit pants, dude. You cant' see it, but that's the Kramer guitar. Heavy damn thing. That one came out in 1977, the 13th off the line. Yep. ]

When the band was on, it had energy to burn. For all of its gleaming and glorious faults, I felt the power of music surge through me when we played. I think that both BC and me played with the intensity of punk, though neither of us would say we aspired to that approach. I was studying classical guitar and he was into jazz drummers. Odd that we should be bashing out a rough and ready version of Sympathy for the Devil.
There are some typical moments on those old dusty tapes (owned by Tipane). As a front man, I was just getting my singing together (Still am really. It's a faulty old croak, but like back then, I'll step up to the mic when no one else will. ) and my PR was pure frat boy profanity. That's how I saw myself and the group.
I do not think the recordings merit any public listening, but rather would serve as an amusing reminder of the blinders of youth to those present. The experience and the lessons learned have continued some 30 years later.
We fought and that energy came out in droves. It was a valuable experience.
The first feeding of the monster. More to come.

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