Wednesday, January 09, 2013
NO ONE HERE GETS IN WITHOUT PAYING:
(an exclusive excerpt from my soon-to-be-remaindered rock memoir)
May 16, 1990, Turmeric Beach: Well, it happened at last. I passed the audition to be the new lead singer of Nobody In Particular. Quite a change from delivering Grade-Q meat to junior-high-school cafeterias, but I believe I'm up to the challenge. It's really funny how the whole thing happened, since I've been a fan of NIP ever since they played the Knights of Akron hall last Thursday. The power, the charisma, the exemplary posture... their music transported me to a place I haven't been to since I drank from that beaker in tenth-grade chem lab on a dare. Like then, it was a deeply spiritual and transcendent experience and I couldn't stop throwing up for three days afterwards. I hung around after they finished their "set" (music lingo), and we hit it off immediately. I'll never forget the way the bass player affectionately elbowed me in the face when I told him how his solo on "Chicken Lips" reminded me of that really cool Kajagoogoo song. I pledged right there and then to make this band my life, to follow them everywhere they go, to be in the vanguard of a new breed of fans, "Nobody-In-Particular-heads" as I like to call us. Well, me anyway. But soon fate intervened, and suddenly my wildest dream came true. Okay, perhaps not my wildest dream, which involves Pia Zadora, the Lincoln Tunnel and a three-legged unicorn with an egg beater for a horn, but close enough in its way.
It happened this way: their lead singer, Adam Even, split with his bandmates after a disagreement over substance abuse. (Evidently he wanted it restricted to drugs and alcohol.) Kind of a shame, as I felt his vocals and lyrics formed the backbone of their sound, although several friends opted for the coccyx, and my brother Peter thought of him more as the tibia, saying that without him the band would list to one side and find it hard to tap-dance. I really admire my older brother and hope that my parents let him out of the root cellar soon. Regardless, the day we heard about Adam's departure,my friend Kendal encouraged me to audition for Adam's vacated spot, recalling my impromptu rendition of "Telstar" in his parents' rec-room when we were twelve. Even though it was an instrumental, he said that I managed to surmount that limitation quite admirably, improvising lyrics where there were none before ("Telstar/ This song's name is Telstar/ Telstar, Telstar/ Telstar/ oh yeah, Telstar"). I was flattered and excited, and summoning up all my nerve and an expertly-forged all-day bus pass, I set out for NIP's rehearsal space in Turmeric Beach.
I'll never forget that day for at least as long as I live. The door to their rehearsal space was slightly ajar, and I could hear the exultant strains of their anthem, "Sing Along Or We'll Cut You Bad," insinuating through the cracks, only without Adam's distinctive yawp. The sound carried me on waves of pure ecstasy, and before I realized it, I found myself singing full-throatedly along. "Yawp yawp yawp/Yawp yawp yawp yawp yawp..." Suddenly the music stopped, though I, transported as I was, kept singing along. In short order, the guitarist, Tito Franco, appeared at the door and regarded me happily. "The fuck are you doin' here, y'little cum-gobbler?"
"I'm here to audition for the vocalist 'gig,'" I replied, all apprehension swallowed up in the warmth of my reception.
"Whaaaaaat?" he asked through a laugh, amused by the serendipity of it all, no doubt. "You wanna sing with us?" Then he called for his bandmates to share the unexpected good fortune. "Hey, guys, you won't believe what the fuckin' cat dragged in! Check out who wants to be our new singer!"
The next twenty minutes or so were a blur of comradely hilarity, finger-pointing, and hair-pulling. When it all subsided, they all nodded their heads in unison, signifying that they'd give me a chance, and went back inside. Clearly, they wanted to ensure that my voice could stand up to incessant "gigging" and the demands of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, so they left me outside, locked the door, and turned up their instruments particularly loud while I sang along with their entire repertoire without the crutch of a microphone. I must say, I was up to the task, and even though my lips had turned purple and swollen and my lungs felt like they had been manhandled by a drunken Highlander by the end of the afternoon, I do believe I had never sung better.
After rehearsal was over, they spent three hours discussing my audition, so intently that they ignored my prolonged pounding on their door. When they finally came out, Jock Michaels, the bass player I had already bonded with (and still had the dislocated cheekbone to prove it), took one look at me and said, "Christ, are you still here?" They had already rechristened me with a stage name! I was in! "Look, Kid, think you could get us some 'weed'?"
I figured he was referring to marijuana, which I had tried once and enjoyed, aside from the hour and a half it had taken me to remember how to breathe. I had never attempted to purchase "boo" before, but if this was to be my rite of passage, then "Kid Christ" wasn't going to let them down. I immediately took the bus to Slabsbury, which I remembered from an article in the Boroughville Onlooker as being "the hub of the region's drug traffic." Certainly I could flag down one of those cars and "score" some "Mary Jones" there.
To be truthful, I don't remember how it all "went down." I do recall being told by the gold-toothed gentleman who took my order that the "primo tea" went for $250 a quarter. My new compatriots had forgotten to give me any money, but I told him I could pay for it with the Visa card my dad had given me for an emergency. He accepted the card, but neglected to return it once we had finished our "transaction." Boy, everyone sure is absent-minded today, I thought just before some kind of heavy object fell on my head and I blacked out.
I awoke on the bus, the "goods" in hand, giddy with excitement in spite of the throbbing baseball-sized welt on my cranium and my sudden, mysterious lack of footwear. The sense of accomplishment invigorated me, sending rivulets of inspiration flowing from my head along with the blood. Swiftly, I snatched up my transit schedule, and, in one sustained burst, scribbled the words for my first magnum opal, "Blues For My Lost Tonsils":
They wouldn't let me keep them
No matter how I begged
I can only swallow ice cream
Though I asked for scrambled eggs
Oh pink flaps of mouth tissue
You will be dearly missed
When I think of what they did to you
I want to clench my...
Regrettably, the muse had deserted me as quickly as she came, and, try as I may, I was unable to come up with a rhyme for that last line. No matter - music is a collaborative medium, and my newfound brothers in rock would surely be able to ease me over this artistic hump.
When I returned to the rehearsal space, the band wordlessly snapped up our "stash" (our inter-band camaraderie being such already that words of gratitude or simple acknowledgment became unnecessary), and unhesitatingly "rolled" a "joint" and "smoked" it, passing over me in deference to my injuries. After a few minutes, Tito turned to me, eyes widened with wonder, and said, "We've been burned (a slang term for "high" I had never heard before)! This shit's oregano!"
"Close," I said. "The guy told me it came from California."
Loogie Casaba, the normally stoic drummer, added, "Scumbag here fuckin' fucked us!" That cleared things up - I had wondered if my new nom de pseudonym came with a surname. It was obviously good "stuff," though I don't remember it smelling so much like pizza. After a few minutes of "stoned" jocularity, with the band members taking turns playfully poking my head wound, I decided to take the initiative and get down to business.
"So, when's our first 'gig'?"
They stared at me in silent disbelief, obviously struck dumb by the momentousness of the occasion - a new era in NIP history was about to commence. "Uh, well," Tito finally said, "we've got a show in Townville tonight, but our equipment's taking up all the room, so you're gonna have to ride in the trunk."
So that's where I'm writing these words, sweaty with excitement and the closeness of my surroundings, listening to the muffled sounds of hilarity outside. Thinking of the speed at which all this happened, I just have to laugh, and would but it's becoming increasingly difficult to do so. Let my peers lose themselves in idle dreams - Kid Christ Scumbag is making his rock 'n' roll fantasy a reality. I just hope we get a bigger vehicle when we go on tour.