In the morning I got through to Bart and asked him if he wanted to see a show at the Orpheum.
“Why, who’s playing?”
“Duh, I am.”
He showed up at the hotel the morning of the show. He’d cut his hair again, so short in places that it almost looked straight. My own head had a full year’s worth of uncut growth on it. In the back it spilled over my shoulder and now it was long enough that sometimes it got in my mouth. I knew as soon as Bart got away from his parents he’d let it go and soon have the mop of black curls I was used to, but I still gave him no end of shit about it.
Martin took a liking to him right away. We chased down Remo and Waldo and got him a laminated pass, and then everyone got in the bus for the short trip to the concert hall.
The Orpheum was in an unlikely seeming place in Boston, sandwiched between a shopping mall and a beauty school. It was an old building that modern downtown had sprung up around. It was a bitch to find, its marquee all the way at the end of the alley formed by two modern buildings. We entered through another alley so narrow the tour bus had to pull up two blocks away.
As we went into the auditorium, Bart went and sat in the front row of seats. “Come here.”
I sat next to him. “Why?”
“Because it’s probably one of the only chances we’ll ever get to sit here. Unless we win some radio station contest.” He cracked a too-sober grin. “Remember this.”
“You’re weird.” I stood and motioned for him to follow. “Let’s see what backstage is like.”
This was more like a theater than any other hall we’d played in that tour, with curtains separating the wings from the stage. We passed Waldo growling at one of the in-house technicians. “Why isn’t this stuff set up already? This equipment has been here for days.”
“Look,” the guy said. “Squeeze didn’t get their shit out of here until this morning. We couldn’t move until they did.” When Waldo started to sputter the guy went on. “Talk to the union if you have a problem.”
We nosed around the backstage rooms for a while, until enough stuff was unpacked that I could start lending a hand. Once that was done, we lounged around backstage. Bart and Alex were talking about bass playing when Carynne came in and sat down next to me. “Hi,” I said.
“What’s going on?” She settled back in the couch.
“The usual nothing.” I drummed my fingers on my knees. Remo’s Ovation was sitting in the case next to us. “Do you want to hear the song, that song I was, I mean…”
“You’ll sing it?”
“No, but I’ll play it.” I was already reaching for the guitar. I plucked at the strings–it was well enough in tune. I strummed through the first verse and then went into the chorus. She started humming then and I had a crazy idea. “Carynne, would you sing it?”
“Yeah, I keep imagining this Janis-Joplin-type voice doing it.”
She gave me a crooked smirk. “Yeah, so? I don’t know the words.”
I took a piece of staff paper and a pencil out of the case and started writing. “There are a couple of places I haven’t filled in yet.” I sketched out the words and the tune on the lines.
“Great.” She eyed Alex and Bart who had quit their conversation to watch us. “I don’t read music.”
“Here,” I showed her the paper. “The opening melody goes like this.” I picked it out on the top string and she hummed it. “Yeah. That’s it.” I went back and started the chords again, nodding my head when she should come in.
“People, keep walking in time…” She began, then faltered. “I can’t keep the melody in my head and listen to you play at the same time.”
Bart sat up. “I’ll hum the melody, you keep the words going. Daron?” He indicated I should start again.
“People, keep walking in time, walking in line, walking right into my life.”
Alex began patting out a rhythm on his thigh.
“Again,” I said between strums, “Keep it going, back to the first verse.” The second time through was stronger. “Now the chorus, 3, 2, 1,” I came in with a soft harmony, “Story of my life…”
Carynne giggled but I kept playing. “You lied,” she said. “You do sing.”
I didn’t let the rhythm break. “Let’s do the second verse.”
She was nodding her head in time. Alex pulled out another guitar and plucked out a bass part on it and Bart started tapping his fingers. Carynne came right in with it. “Sister, don’t you know it’s true, you got the groove…”
When we came around to the chorus, we all sang. We went around again, Carynne started on the third verse, “Brother, give me a sign, I got the time…” She was putting a little raunchy punch into her voice, now, and it sounded great. We went through the chorus again, and again. And back to the verses.
She started on the fourth and final one. “Father, don’t say it’s true…” She squinted at the paper. “You didn’t finish this one.”
“Yeah, I know.” My rhythm broke, then and I had to start over. “What do you want,” I said. “I got distracted.”
She smiled a private smile at me. “This is cool.”
Bart laid his hands on the strings to quiet them. “Yeah, I didn’t even know you wrote lyrics.”
“Sometimes.” I felt all their eyes on me at once, then. “Maybe I’ll finish it.”
Remo spoke from behind me. “If you don’t, I will. I’m going to have that damn tune stuck in my head for weeks, now.” He came around and sat down in the half circle of couches. “I just came down to make sure you were taking good care of that thing. And to tell you all it’s twenty minutes to places.”
Carynne took Bart by the hand and led him toward the auditorium, leaving me alone.
ummmm .. sorry:
“Why, whose playing?”
— that’s “who’s.”
lots of good stuff here; please ignore me!
Oooh, no, thank you! The stuff’s been proofread by multiple parties and yet somehow things still sneak through. Probably my fault as sometimes I introduce revisions after the proofreaders have already had their say. Always looking to fix the glitches.
Glad you’re enjoying!
Credential: Taught English to college freshmen in 1970.
Comment: It actually works either way. “Whose playing?” is a fabulous perspective.