Thursday, June 18, 2015

Boys of a Certain Age

Well, I think I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up. No, not a fireman, nor a cowboy, nor an astronaut. Give me credit for greater maturity than that, OK? What I want to be now is what I wanted, and tried, to be between the ages of 23 and 30 — a rock star.

Toward this end, I and my comrades have put together a little combo, The Romanovs, which was around 15 months in gestation. First, I and Friend 1, into whose makeshift orchestra he recruited me to play drums at his high school reunion in October 2013 because he’d run out of alternatives, thought we’d invite various musicians over to jam — that is, fool around musically. I met an excellent singer of approximately our own vintage at a birthday party the following February, and invited him, successfully, to form a group with us. We sputtered along for months and months, adding and then later subtracting a succession of lead guitarists, until finally I summoned the courage to invite the legendary Pete Castle, who’d played briefly with my band The Pits in the late 1970s, to consider joining us. 

To my astonishment and delight (he’d become a very much more versatile musician and very much more accessible on a personal level since 1977), he accepted, whereupon he and I and Friend 1 agreed that we weren’t likely to get anywhere rehearsing only three times a month, which was the most our singer could manage. I ran an ad on Craigslist and heard from a young Russian-born woman whose YouTube videos showed her to be beautiful and a fab singer, and to love performing. Various nay-sayers that when she got a load of me, Friend 1, and Pete — combined age 191 — she’d say she’d forgotten something down in her car, and run away screaming. But she didn’t.

We conferred, she and I. I showed her a video of The Divinyls, on the tour they undertook after their single "I Touch Myself" captivated American audiences, performing at Madison Square Garden, and the glorious Chrissy Amphlett being casually ultra-provocative. “I could do that,” Motorina said without perceptible hesitation. Music to my ears!

She energized us. It was very much easier imagining us attracting an audience with her front and center than it had been ever been before. She improved us. None of us three boys of a certain age wanted to look like the group liability with her around — a pretty tall order for me, as I resumed playing the drums, after a 43-year estrangement from them, only for F1’s high school reunion.

Boys of a certain age aren’t supposed to behave this way. We’re supposed to pull our thinning gray hair into ponytails and play "Brown-Eyed Girl" just like on the record. From the get-go, I, for one, wasn’t having that. Let’s play songs no one else is playing as no one else is playing them, said I. We worked up a version of Carl Perkins’ "Honey Don’t" that’s half Bo Diddley and ha;f breakneck rockabilly, breakneck rockabilly also being the style in which we play The Who’s "The Kids Are Alright," which used to be my big vocal number in The 1930 Four in 1967. We do The Velvet Underground’s "Waiting for the Man," which Mr. D. Bowie taught my and F1’s band to play, on the A&M Records soundstage, 20 years before Motorina’s birth. We play Freddie & The Dreamers’ "I’m Telling You Now," perhaps the lamest song of The British Invasion (if you don’t count Chad & Jeremy’s "Willow Weep For Me") in the manner of Black Sabbath. Boys of a certain age aren’t supposed to behave this way.

I dare to imagine we’re going to become the toast of Los Angeles, and then of the world, and will continue to so believe until someone can produce the rulebook in which it’s specified that musicians my, F1, and Pete’s ages are allowed to rock without embarrassment only if we had a big hit in the distant past — a hit that entitles us to Legacy Act status.

I’ve puzzled over this idea in the past, beginning around the time The Magic Numbers broke through in the UK. If the idea is that the deep furrows the decades have etched in our foreheads, and the expansion of our bellies make us too physically repulsive for young audiences to embrace us, how to explain the popularity of so many acts that may indeed be young, but will never in their lives know what it was like to be as gorgeous as F1 and Pete and I were all those decades ago?

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