202. DGC Extra: Flashback: Rock This Town

(To get you all warmed up for new Daron posts again, we’ll start with a flashback story from Remo’s point of view, as promised many moons ago. At least, this section is Remo’s…)

I named my band Nomad because I imagined we would travel the highways and byways of the world–or at least the country. But for a while it became a bit of a standing joke–I mean, in five years we’d never played outside of two states. There were about a dozen bars in the area where we were a draw and we just went around that circuit, over and over.

Not that it was a bad life, you understand–we were all paying our bills for one thing, and we had a nice little following, one or two local cassette-only releases–not a bad life if you can live it making music. So I can’t say I wasn’t happy with it–I could have done that another ten years. But I had to believe we’d travel someday, I had to believe we’d attract some attention sooner or later.

You can’t let yourself get too anxious about waiting for fame, though, because it means a lot of let-downs. If you spend all your time aspiring, you’ll end up with that feeling you get when you are having a wonderful dream, and then you wake up to find you slept in your clothes in the living room.

Ouch. Yeah. The sun streamed in the windows and I thought, is this my house? But it was. I guess it was a good thing I was already sitting up, because I don’t think I would have been able to move otherwise. As it was I sat there for a long time, just looking around the room, trying to warm up my brain before trying anything strenuous like standing up. I had a nice living room–hardwood floors, piano. So what if some of the furniture was secondhand? The room would have made a nice recording studio if something could be done about the windows. Yeah, a nice rackmount reel-to-reel right next to the piano, right where the old cassette player was. I smiled. Nice living room. But not as nice for sleeping in as the other room–the bedroom. At that moment I couldn’t remember what it looked like.

I don’t want you to think I drank to blackout every night back then, because I didn’t. But when you spend as much time in bars as I did in those days, it was sometimes inevitable. We’d been at Maddie’s the night before. Maddie, John Madison, is a good friend of mine, and he never charges the band for drinks. And Maddie likes to have a good time after hours sometimes. That might have been what had happened last night.

So I was sitting there, trying not to move my head too fast, trying to remember what had happened the night before. I remembered coming home, but for some reason I hadn’t moved to the bedroom. Why had I sat down in that chair?

Right. The phone had rung. Had to have been three o’clock in the morning, so I’d tried to move fast to answer it. The last thing I needed was my upstairs neighbors complaining about noise. (As it was I’d had to get the piano written into the lease.) I’d moved too fast, and stumbled into the chair after barking my shin on something while answering the phone.

I recall the conversation went something like this:

“Remo, it’s Martin.”

“Jeez, Martin, there’s people sleeping around here.” Martin was our drummer.

“Did some guy from Arista Records call you?” What Martin lacked in common sense, he made up for with enthusiasm.

“No, Martin, you’re the only one who’s called me in the middle of the night.”

“Sorry.” He whispered as if trying not to wake my neighbors. “Well, John said a guy from Arista was there tonight and that he’s going to call you.”

“Thanks, Martin. I’m sure if he does it’ll be tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. Okay?”

I heard the crackling in the receiver as he shrugged. “Yeah, I knew that. Well, goodnight, Remo.”

So, maybe I would be getting another phone call that day. Or maybe it would be another fake lead. I couldn’t sit there waiting for it to ring. I got up the gumption to move, and headed straight for the shower.

Standing there, listening to the white noise of the water, watching the red wrinkles on my legs disappear, I wondered about this supposed guy from Arista, trying to think if I knew his name. Maybe I didn’t know it and I was straining my tired brain for nothing. I could always call John at Maddie’s and ask him. As the owner of the club, he knew all the record reps and promoters who wanted to get acts in there. And maybe he’d remember more about last night than I did.

It wouldn’t be the first time we got looked at by a major label, if it was true that this “guy” was interested. The first time, long before Martin joined the group, a CBS-affiliated label looked us over. Their A&R people really loved us. Things were going well until they introduced us to their marketing and promotion people–who told us we had to change our name. They wanted the name of the group to be the Screaming Idiots or something.

I said “no.” There was no way we were going to do that. It was obvious to me they weren’t interested in us, they wanted some guys they could make into the band they wanted. We walked out of there and a few months later, some other band called the Screaming Idiots had a hit song on the radio. I wondered who the poor bastards were before CBS got hold of them.

One time, we even got studio time with a producer. His name was Rob Brandon. He was a good person, who cared about the music and we respected him for it. We recorded four tracks with him, and he took them with him to New York, to play for the bigwigs down there, and then we didn’t hear from him for a while. A couple of months later, he showed up in town with our tape and gave it back to us. Turned out he lost his job due to some kind of corporate restructuring. We were lucky he was such a nice guy. He helped us get that tape distributed by one of the local cassette-only labels, and it made us a little money and a little fame. And it made Rob a little money until he got a better gig in LA. I still get a Christmas card from him every year.

The hissing of the water and the ringing in my ears almost sounded like a tune. I reached for the soap. Nice little tune, the sort of thing you could layer with percussion and steel string guitar.

I was in the middle of toweling off my head when the phone rang. That little tune stuck together with some words just then. I sang them out loud. “Broken down by the thousand raindrops… broken down by the thousand raindrops…” I repeated the fragment until I picked up the phone. “Hello?” I wrapped the towel around my waist.


“Uh-huh.” I kept trying to hum the tune in the back of my head. Hm hm…thousand raindrops…

“What was that?”


“Reem’, it’s Digger.”

“Yeah, Dig, what’sup?” Broken down by the thousand raindrops, yeah…

“You haven’t seen Daron, have you?”

“No, why?” Hmmm, hm, hmmm, hm, hm, hm, hm, hmmmm.

“Well, I think he snuck out last night.”

“Digger, you both snuck out last night. I saw you at the bar.” That much I remembered.

“I know, I know. That’s why I’m calling you. I think maybe he ran away after that.”

“Really? Well, he’s not here.” Broken raindrops–no! That’s not right! I glanced at the piano.

“Damn, I thought he might have come to you.”

“Not this time.” I looked around just to make sure the kid wasn’t sitting there or asleep on the couch or something and I hadn’t noticed. “That boy has a real talent, Digger.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s a shame Claire won’t let him practice in the house.”

“Well, when you find him, remind him he can come over here to play any time he wants, alright? See you, Digger.”

Grabbing a pencil, I dashed for my scorebook on the piano. “da da da da…thousand raindrops…da da da da…fill up the sea…” I jotted down the lyrics as fast as they came with some rhythm. I’d set the key later. I sighed.

Then I realized two things. I still wasn’t dressed, and I had just blown off the fact that my friend’s son was missing to keep from losing a hook.

But it was a good hook, and Daron could probably take care of himself. Like his father, he was small but tough and street smart. He was fourteen and hadn’t had his growth spurt yet, but he could bridge the neck on an electric guitar. Whenever he came around, with his dad or without, he always left us wondering whether he was going to grow up to be the next Hendrix or if he was just going to be another hopeful.

I went back to working on the song. It was working out sweet, but I think at the time I was half hoping Daron would show up to help me out with it.

(Continued on Tuesday!)


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