Friday, September 2, 2016

The Life We Wanted: Another Dispatch From the Power Pop Trenches

Depleted — now we are only three! — but resolute, we drove in separate cars to picturesque Putney, and there unloaded our gear. The sound man reminded me of 1970s employees of the big Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd. in glamorous Hollywood, California. It was apparently his impression that, by virtue of having worked with stars much more luminous than we, he was doing us a huge favour helping us with our sound check. It occurred to me that it would be great fun to drop him off the top of a very high building.

Earlier in the day, we had nicknamed Darryll, our guitarist, Dazza. American readers will be fascinated to learn that the Brits delight in diminutising names by lopping off everything after the first vowel and then adding zza. George Harrison was apparently called Hazza by his pals before The Beatles conquered the world. I think Dazza du Toit (with Toit pronounced in the French way, rather than as toy, as it had been back in his native South Africa) is a fantastic pop star name.

We played pretty well, though, owing to my now having to sing, I can’t play the dazzling multirhythms that used to characterise my drumming, except during Dazza's solos, when I am commonly preoccupied with trying to remember which words come next. As I am singing everything in keys chosen by the former Miss Zelda Hyde, who took early retirement from the group in the late spring, I was mortified that, in the heat of battle, I’d forget some of the strategies I’d devised to avoid notes out of my range, to whatever extent I can be said to have a range. I remembered nearly all of them, though, and nearly all the lyrics in the bargain. My golden voice brought a smile to every face I could see.

I could see no faces. Fun fact: not all of those who wear sunglasses on stage are ludicrous poseurs. You can get pretty well blinded up there in those multiple bright lights. But this is of course the life we wanted.

Before the venerable “I’m Going to Jump,” which my old band The Pits was performing in Hollywood as far back as 1977, I advised the audience that there would be a twist contest during the choruses, on which I play a twist beat (sort of like Ringo’s in “Please Please Me”), and that the winner would receive bassist Andrew Barton’s late-model Volkswagen Polo. Bassist Andrew Barton didn’t seem entirely pleased, but then I declared his lovely bride, Josie Barton, the winner, so: everyone a winner.

The 21 paying customers we’d attracted (on a Tuesday night right after a bank holiday, mind you) wanted an encore, but as we returned to the stage, a displeased little voice — that of our friend the sound man — informed us, rather sniffily, that we’d already exceeded our allotted time by 20 minutes. Which, for the record, we had not.

After our performance, many of bassist Andrew Barton’s friends and family stayed for dinner, with wine. He is no accountant, but nonetheless estimates that the pub took in something close to £500, of which we saw not a penny. We had attracted only 21 paying customers, and the Half Moon pays only if you draw at least 25. With four more fans, we’d have earned a staggering £50 (we’d get £2 for every £6 admission).

We are bloodied, but unbowed. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I Hate Talking About Music

When I was out on the ledge, officer Hinshaw was the kindly uncle I’d never had. I really liked his not asking first thing what I was upset about, but if he could call someone for me. When I told him that I was perfectly capable of calling anyone to whom I wished to speak on my iPhone, but that everyone could just go to hell as far as I was concerned, he winced a little bit, but then, before either of our hearts could beat twice, began telling me about how his younger brother had had cancer. I thought it was going to turn into one of those little talks about how dare I contemplate ending my own life when his brother had died a couple of weeks before. I knew I was supposed to mumble something like, “I’m sorry for your loss,” but I was finished with trying to do what people expected. He offered me a menthol cigarette, but I thought he might try to grab me if I accepted. I could picture feeling really awful if I caused his death, though I recognised that I’d probably feel awful only as long as it took me to, you know, plummet the 19 stories to the ground.

We didn’t say anything for a while. He smoked and I enjoyed the excitement I seemed to have generated down below on Wilshire Blvd.. He finally asked what music I liked, which I thought was a pretty odd question for someone about to leap to his death. I told him I hated talking about music, and would feel no closer to him if we discovered we liked the same stuff. He looked more sheepish than affronted, and I felt churlish.

I asked if he specialised in suicide prevention, or if he dealt with hostages too.  “A little bit of everything,” he sighed. “Kind of whatever needs doing, you could say. Are you sure I can’t get you a sandwich or something, or a jacket? It’s getting a little bit chilly.” He was wearing a suit, I just a T-shirt.  His blue eyes were full of kindness and concern. 

I asked about his surviving family. I liked his saying, “Oh, you don’t really want to hear about my them,” rather than telling me about them in detail while his colleagues down below got the gigantic yellow mattress thing in place, undoubtedly at enormous taxpayer expense. He asked if a girl had broken my heart, or a guy. I liked that he said girl rather than the politically correct woman, though I sympathise avidly with feminism, and that he didn’t wink or smirk when he allowed for the possibility of my being gay. Which of course I am not, having not a gay bone in my body, nor even a tendon.

He pointed out that with the gigantic yellow mattress pretty much in place now, I was a lot likelier to just injure myself horribly painfully than to End It All. “You don’t look like the kind of guy who’d enjoy being in traction for three months, or needing multiple surgeries to pick little pieces of  your pelvis out of your liver and kidneys and gall bladder.” He seemed deeply troubled by the thought of my being in pain, and the next thing I knew I was being roughly pulled inside the building through the window Hinshaw’s uniformed accomplices had managed to slide open soundlessly behind me.

A very different Hinshaw emerged as the two beefy uniformed cops who’d pulled me in handcuffed my wrists behind my back. His eyes twinkled avuncularly no longer. Indeed, you could almost see the steam coming out of his ears. “I don’t imagine,” he said, sneering, “you care in the slightest that my younger daughter had a soccer game this afternoon, and that Joanne’s lawyers are sure to cite my missing it in our custody hearing?” I began to protest — to assure him that I really did care, but he told me to STFU, and read me my rights, in a tone that suggested he wished he could rescind them.

I taken downtown and  booked on suspicion of trespassing, reckless endangerment, and resisting arrest, and taken downtown, where I learned with dismay that the earliest I could be released on bail was the following morning. When I complained to the guard about the very weak WiFi signal in my cell, he offered me a dogearred copy of the March Vanity Fair, which I’d read back in March. I re-read the Jennifer Aniston profile and reconciled myself to having to watch television with other detainees until bedtime, just before which I was surprised to learn I had a visitor — Hinshaw! — who’d come to apologise for his earlier surliness. We chatted at considerable length, and watched NFL highlights. He showed me the photos of his daughters he carried in his billfold. I dutifully remarked on their prettiness, though they were both average-looking at best. By the time he left, I was fonder of him than ever, and after the judge released me the following morning on the grounds that someone so near to suicide had probably suffered more than enough already, we went to lunch together.

We’re now officially an item, Hinshaw and I. Maybe I had a couple of gay tendons after all.