297. Ship of Fools

Grab hold, don’t let go
Not done with you yet

Lady Fame, she’s an old flame
Don’t let her down yet

It was still an uphill battle to get the song together. By mid-afternoon we knew what most of the pieces were but we still weren’t close to being ready to record it in a single take. There were a lot of transitions to get right. We kept getting them wrong. It was too late to chuck it and start over with a simpler song, though. I wouldn’t even dream of suggesting that.

And then the whole thing nearly derailed. It was my fault for setting Christian off. I wasn’t being careful. I was being cranky. I can’t even remember exactly what he did that made me snap, “I’m so sleep deprived I can’t even see straight. What’s your fucking excuse?”

To which he threw his sticks down and stood up. “I don’t have to take that kind of insinuation from you.”

“What?” I was at the foot of the drum riser at the time. Chris is already a whole foot taller than me when he’s not standing on a riser.

“I’ve about had it with the judgmental looks and the whispers and trying to figure out how to get rid of me,” he said. “It’s obvious you don’t need me, I’m just a hired gun anyway, and now I’m a problem. Go on, fire me. That’s what you want to do anyway.”

“Wait, what?” I repeated. Maybe sleep dep really was making me slow. I looked at the others, who looked just as confused. “Hang on, hang on a second–”

But he hopped down. “I’ll make it easy for you.”

“No!” I stuck out my hand even though he was out of reach. “Back up. I… I insist.

He looked at me curiously, like I’d said something crazy. But he stopped in his tracks.

“Seriously. Back the fuck up and say that all again, because I didn’t understand any of it the first time.”

He shook his head like I was really a sad idiot. “Do I have to spell it out for you?”

“Yes. Yes, you do. Because I don’t want to fire you and I don’t know where the hell this is coming from.”

He rolled his eyes a little. “You’ve been cutting me out of the club all tour. Your little clique. Don’t think I don’t notice when you work on things without me. You don’t need me. You single me out. You pick songs in sound check that I don’t know–”

“Hang on,” Bart said. “He picks songs that I don’t know either. That’s the point.”

“Yeah, well, you geniuses can just have fun with that. Some of us working stiffs don’t appreciate being shown up night after night.” Chris’s face had an ugly twist to it.

“You make it sound like I did it on purpose. To make life hard for you,” I said.

“Are you going to claim you didn’t?”

“Of course I didn’t! Chris…” Fuck. I took the guitar off and nearly missed the stand putting it down. “What the hell gave you the idea you’re… you’re in a different class of musician?”

“It’s obvious that’s what you think.”

“That is NOT what I think! It seems to be what YOU think!”

“Look, seriously, there’s nothing I’ve done today that a good producer can’t paste in with some machines and some samples. Or any studio monkey. I mean, come on, why’s that guy here, anyway?”

I looked into the control room and didn’t see anyone other than Jouett, who was pretending to read the newspaper. “Wait, you mean Trackie?” Trackie who was slight bald and wearing a polo shirt and didn’t exactly scream “rock and roll” when you looked at him.

“You think I’m stupid? That new ‘drum tech’ you hired, I know he’s bucking for my job. I know I’m one missed soundcheck away from him stepping in and taking my place. Or are you gonna do that yourself, Dar’? Yeah, come up here and lay down the overdubs. I don’t need to be here.”

Bart was the one who stepped in front of him when he tried to leave again. “That’s crazy talk.”

“Is it? You got rid of Paco on some bullshit story–”

“Paco got rid of himself by getting arrested, or did you miss that part?” I went to stand next to Bart. “Chris, look, I don’t know where you’re getting any of that. But you’re not a hired gun. We all signed the same deal. You know that.”

He shrugged.

“And what’s bullshit is you thinking you’re not… not that good a drummer.”

“You should know since you’re an expert at it,” he said.

“I’m fucking not and you know it.” Okay, I’ll admit, I was thinking if he actually walked out the door he was right about one thing, which was that between me and the new guy we undoubtedly could do emergency drum overdubs and finishing the fucking song today as planned. But I had no intention of letting him walk out the door. I took a step forward but was too chickenshit to put a hand on his shoulder or something. “Do you not realize how much we depend on you? Chris, you’re the mature, sane one around here. You always have been. You’ve never ever let me down before, not musically, not in the studio, not on the stage. You’re always on the beat. We’ve never had to worry about you because you always keep up. Do you know how many piece of shit drummers we passed over before we found you?”

“You hired me because Bart was hanging out with the Miracle guys.”

“We found you because of that.” Technically he was sort-of right. We didn’t audition very many guys but that’s because they were too shitty to even bother. “We knew the first time we played together you were a fit.”

He shook his head. “You still don’t get it.”

“Apparently not. You’re the best drummer I’ve ever worked with, Chris.” Well, on par with Martin, anyway.

“One of these things is not like the others,” he said, but he seemed back on his heels now.

“Listen to me. We need you. We don’t just need you, we want YOU. Not just any drummer.” I didn’t know what else to tell him. The drummer is always in the back, he’s never in the spotlight. And he was right, he would be the only one of the four of us you could replace without having to basically call it a whole new band. But I couldn’t change the facts. I thought of one stupid thing to suggest. “Look. Maybe… maybe you should pick the soundcheck song from now on.”

“Maybe,” he said, not meeting my eyes.

That was when Carynne came in and burst the bubble. Thank god. We saw her exchanging words with Jouett in the control room, but the mic wasn’t on. She leaned over and punched it, shouting at us. “What do you mean you didn’t order in lunch? Are you all in fucking kindergarten? Of course you’re all basket cases. Fuck–” She stepped back from the mic and went to the phone on the wall.

After everyone had a sandwich in them I think everyone felt a little better. I chalked it up to lack of sleep and food and we plowed back into the work.


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