Monday, December 7, 2009

Who's Mr. Stupidhead Now? [May 9, 2007]]

Around the time I was coming closest (and not at all close) to realising my dreams of rock and roll stardom with my group Christopher Milk, I became aware through mutual acquaintances of a rival combo called Shady Lady, which turned out to be notable mostly for their remarkable clothes. I was forever trying, mostly in vain, to persuade the other members of CMilk to buy something presentable to perform in, the Ladies looked at all times as though they’d just returned from a mass shopping expedition to London, which at the time had the best rock and roll fashion in the world.

I reviewed a show of theirs for the Los Angeles Times — or rather attended it and decided it unworthy of review. They brazenly, leadenly, funklesslyaped the Rolling Stones. The singer couldn’t sing and the band couldn’t play. (Which is to say that they were very much a West Coast version of the New York Dolls, but without a lot of rock critics swooning at the mere thought of them.) There were nearly as many of them on stage as there were people in the audience.

My disdain got around town, and their drummer came to jeer loudly at CMilk when we played the little dive on Sunset Blvd that would later become Rodney’s Bingenheimer’s English Disco, cradle of Western civilisation. He wasn’t much taller than our own drummer, whom we zanily called Pee Wee, but his balls were as big as bass drums — there were six of us, counting our nominal manager and roadie, and one of him. During a break, I took my recently purchased contact lenses out, for fear of their being knocked out, and confronted him. We snarled at one another a bit and then sort of agreed not to denigrate one another. It’s my understanding that he’s now in prison for manslaughter. I pity his fellow prisoners.

They were apparently signed to a fledgling label that had also landed — stand back! — Steve Miller’s former bass player. This new company had a lot more money than sense, and flew anyone who was anyone in Los Angeles rock circles, as well as the Shadies, up to San Francisco to gobble lobster canapes and sip champagne while Steve Miller’s former bass player’s group performed.

At evening’s end, assorted Shadies and a young woman of my and CMilk’s guitarist’s acquaintance (they later wed), hurled themselves simultaneously into a taxicab. According to Mrs. Cromelin (two years earlier she’d married a guy I’d used to play Frisbee with at UCLA at an outdoor ceremony at which many were barefoot and someone’s mom served Spam hors d’ouevres), the ungallant Shadies unceremoniously flung her right back out, and roughly. They claimed later they thought she was just another in the endless succession of young women making their lust too well known, but her account was apparently credible enough to lose them their deal with the fledgling record label, which probably wouldn’t have had any money left after the big party to press records anyway.

When I encountered the lead singer on a public basketball court near my home in West Hollywood around seven years later, he surprised me by being quite cordial. We played together against two others, and I pissed him off by not passing him the ball. You could hardly blame me, as I was on fire that day.

Around 25 more years passed. I saw his name on a Website devoted to getting old Hollywood rock and roll types back in touch with one another. We corresponded on line a bit, and what tales he spun, such as the one about how his group had been on the verge of world domination when they hurled Mrs. Cromelin from the cab. I reminded him that at the Lindy Opera House show I’d seen, they'd nearly outnumbered their audience. He claimed it was only an open rehearsal. He revealed further that, having stayed friendly with one of the guitarists, he was in the process of reforming the group, a third of a century after their dissolution, with a new bass player and guitarist and drummer. He spoke of young musicians being awed to be talking to him, given the Shadies’ legendary status, when they called to request auditions. The poor devil’s delusional, I thought.

But the numbers speak for themselves. Something like 13,000 people have visited Shady Lady’s MySpace page, and listened to what I personally believe to be some of the worst rock and roll anyone anywhere has ever recorded (though there's no faulting the session piano player). In a slightly shorter period of time, fewer than 150 have been to mine to listen to three of the tuneful, wry, provocative, excellently sung tracks I recorded with Ms. Debbie Clarke as Do Re Mi Fa (Cough) in 2005.

So who, I ask myself, is Mr. Stupidhead now?

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