336. New Model Army: Vagabonds

(Don’t forget to vote in the DGC Reader Poll to let me know who you want the next back-up story to be about… Vote here: https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/1904. Meanwhile, donations this week so far have triggered a bonus post for both this Saturday and next! They will appear barring holiday madness keeping me from writing! -ctan)

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Carynne didn’t wait until we got to the bus. We stopped on the pavement between the two buses and she said, “I think it’s an easy call to make, but I can’t make this decision without you.”

The sun was getting hot but it felt good. “You mean the decision whether to play the show tonight or not?”

“Yeah. I think we should do it.”

“So, he’s going to be okay?”

“Well, here’s the thing. He had a cortisone shot…”

“Was there blood?”

“When he had the shot…?” She gave me a confused look.

“In his throat. If there was blood, we should cancel.”

She gave me another look, like she was wondering when I became a medical expert, but said, “No blood, just really swollen and sore. The shot is going to help and we have a day off tomorrow. Doc said he should still avoid talking, absolutely nothing that would stress him, and I think what we should do is shorten the set a little. Give the opening bands another one or two songs each, cut a few of the ones from our set that kill him the worst.”


“Ziggy already made a list.”

“Okay, let’s see it.”

We climbed into our own bus. Marty was already in the drivers seat. “Where to, boss lady?” he asked.

Carynne looked back at me.

“Detroit,” I said.

Marty gave me a crooked grin–he wasn’t capable of any other kind with his lumpy face–and got on the radio to the others to spread the word. I followed Carynne into the back.

Ziggy was still in the same spot in the back lounge, his blanket spread around him and a phalanx of guardian stuffed animals around him.

I held the nearest pole and said, “So let’s see this list?”

He pulled a piece of paper out of his notebook and handed it to me. Grenadier, Why the Sky, Rain.

“Not Candlelight?”

He snorted and wrote on a piece of paper mostly covered with other things he’d “said” to people: Piece of cake.

“Why the Sky is the only one that really hurts to cut.” I thought of Detroit as a hard rock town, so losing Grenadier was tough, but it hadn’t been a hit. Why the Sky was still in video rotation and people might clamor for it.

The drive to Detroit was about four hours, I guess? We arrived early afternoon. There was food. I tried not to stalk Ziggy, which would only annoy him. He seemed mellow enough, carrying his writing pad everywhere and reading a book.

The green room was cramped and lit with fluorescent lights, two of which flickered constantly. I went back to the catering table, which was set up in the hall.

Out there, Magenta and Bart were talking. They both looked at me with interested expressions.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“We’ve got an idea,” Bart said.

This is how we ended up teaching all of Why the Sky to most of Wednesday’s Child and one of the Blissmen that day during soundcheck. It wasn’t hard to teach them. They already knew the song.

It made sense. It wasn’t unusual for an opening act to join the headliner for an encore at a show. The tech crew had to rearrange some stuff to make sure everyone was heard, but honestly, it was a great idea. A real lemonade-from-lemons idea. And it gave me something else to think about besides Ziggy.

I asked Colin if he wanted to get in on the jam. He just laughed.

So I was doing okay until halfway through Wednesday’s Child’s set. Which was when all the anxiety I’d been tamping down all day started making my hands shake. I’d sat down in a folding chair in the emptied-out storage room they’d given us for a green room and looked at my hands.

I started to think I was going to go and puke, but I hadn’t gone to do it yet, when Ziggy came up to me. He knelt in front of me and took my hands in his and said, out loud, “I’m fine. Stop it.”

Hearing his voice for the first time in almost 24 hours gave me a kind of jolt. “You’re not fine and we shouldn’t pretend you are.”

He swallowed. “Seriously, Daron, that was a miracle shot. To be on the safe side, I’m taking the day off tomorrow, but really, I feel awesome. I’m about to go do a slow warmup. Come sing it with me.”

He was lying. He was lying, he was lying, he was lying, but I wanted to believe him so much, I wanted it to be true so badly, that I said, “Okay.”

I got my stage guitar and we went into the men’s room, where the acoustics were best and we couldn’t hear much stage noise, and sang through a warmup routine he must’ve learned in choir as a kid. I’d heard him do it before and always thought it sounded like Tibetan monks chanting, cycling through the vowel sounds with different consonants: mah, may, mee, moe, moo, dah, day, dee, doe, doo, and going gradually up the scale.

Now that I think about it, it probably had the same effect as Tibetan monk chanting. I was a hell of a lot calmer when we were done.

I still knew he wasn’t okay, though. “Listen,” I said, as we were walking toward the stage. “If you feel anything go, you stop, okay? We’ll finish the song without you. We’ll deal. Promise me.”

“Okay,” he said. “I promise. Now, no more talking.”

“Right.” I had been about to ask him about how it seemed to me like he hadn’t taken a painkiller. It would make sense for him not to, so he could feel what was going on with his throat. But I wondered how he felt.

Then there was no more time for wondering. The house PA went quiet, the lights went down, and it was time for us to rock.

(This song was a minor hit in 1989, mostly in the UK. I’d forgotten about the violin somehow, but there it is, which makes is fitting for this chapter, especially in this live version. -d)


  • My sense of dread, let me show you it.

  • deb h says:

    loved it ,I never trust doctors,that one was a bit to free with the drugs never a good thing for a rock band doc.I hope Ziggy will be ok and not push it.

    • ctan says:

      Rock docs are a real thing, too, a special kind of drug-pusher. I’ve known about them forever, but just read about the experiences of Scott Stapp from Creed. Maybe I’ll quote from his autobiography in the next liner notes about the subject…

  • Songquake says:

    Okay. I’m not down with the rock doc pushing valium, but really I think that the cortisone shot is the absolute best thing Ziggy could have done as a professional singer. It’s not fabulous for one if you do it too often, and he’ll need to do better with vocal preservation in the future, but for the situation he’s in…when I was a teenager, it was something that family docs were offering those of us who were serious singers if we were losing our voices during show week. The first time I heard about it being offered to a fifteen year old, I kinda freaked, but he turned out fine. Seriously, he’s a pretty clean-cut professional now, Broadway and stuff. And when docs prescribe total vocal rest (the standard of care for what Ziggy has going on), it’s supposed to be a week of total rest with a slow build-up after.

    You can’t do that during tour.

    So you need to figure out how to manage the side-effects; the insomnia is already a problem for Ziggy, so that’s what worries me the most and I’m hoping he’s not gotten any sleeping pills from the doc.

    The ‘roid rage, though. If that happens, that’ll be something.

    • daron says:

      I’m just hoping that at this point the side effects of all the various things he’s on/not on will cancel each other out.

      I know. Not too likely.

    • Bill Heath says:

      Forty-odd years ago I got a panic call from a middling German opera company (I was living in Germany at the time). Their Papageno (Magic Flute) had Z’s problem, the doc gave him a steroid shot and forbade him to sing. I knew the role so I stepped in with an hour for blocking and cues. Review was “better than adequate” which I took as high praise.

      I can sing around a stressed set of vocal chords, but will not use steroids as a short-cut. I’m sorry Z did so.

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