I went back to Sound City the next day and cut the other track they wanted.
This time, the producer-manager-guy had nothing. I mean, okay, he had a cliche for a chorus, which the bass player-band leader put the kibosh on, and when I got sick of them fighting, I just piped up with, “Hey, how about this?” and played them a riff and pulled some string of words out that scanned. I don’t actually remember what the words were now. Something that made sense with what theme they were supposed to do.
We cut the track in a couple of hours and we were done. They were going to do vocal overdubs the next day, but the rest of us were free to go. I made sure they had my number in case something cropped up and they needed me to drive over to do one more, but they seemed to really feel they had nailed it. I suppose that’s the point of using guys who are good session players. There’s nowhere near as much fussing around as when you’re a regular band and everyone’s trying to have creative input and learn their parts and stuff keeps changing…
Yeah, we nailed it. They were so ecstatic about getting everything done in such a short time that they offered me partial songwriting credit. That was interesting for a couple of reasons. One, it meant my name got attached to the project anyway, just not as obviously as it would if I were listed as a musician. Two, it meant if the song got airplay, I’d get paid some more.
I went out for a beer with Pike after the recording was done and we bonded over engineer stuff. If Moondog Three hadn’t taken off when we did, I might be doing exactly what he was doing right now, working as an engineer and hoping to get a crack at producing.
I told him about what a struggle I’d had with that soundtrack thing I did, using the MIDI sequencing software as well as multitracking, and the next thing you know we drove up to Remo’s so I could show him the studio there. And then we had another beer there and played around with the equipment.
When we were tired of playing around in the studio, we ended up sitting on the side of the pool with our feet in the water, and I asked him how much he thought Remo had spent on the home studio. He said he couldn’t really guess. So I asked him instead how much he thought it would cost to build something like that starting from scratch and his guess was about half what Chris and I had paid for the Allston house.
“If you’re thinking about doing it, though, man,” he said, “Don’t. Wait another two years. By then we’ll know if tape is even going to survive, or if everything will be DAT.”
“I thought DAT was dead in the water.”
“For home consumers, maybe, but not for commercial recording. Seriously. Sit tight. I should bring you over to Keith’s place, though.”
“Right there by Sound City. It’s a digital studio called Goodnight L.A. And you’ll like Keith.” He proceeded to rattle off a list of acts and albums equally impressive as the platinum records on the wall at Sound City. I would later piece together that Keith had been the engineer at Sound City until he built the place next door because he wanted to do more with digital.
See, it’s not just me and my band and management who are incestuous and intertwined. That’s just the way the business is.
Okay, here’s where I have the urge to say that Jonathan and I had some idyllic weeks together before the next big trouble arrived, because I realize a lot of heavy shit has gone down recently and it would be nice to think that I had it easy for a while. But it wasn’t that easy.
I got home that night to find him in a bit of a state. Let me see if I can get it right.
It was probably eleven o’clock by the time I walked in. He was sitting in the raised “dining room” at the card table with a bowl of Campbell’s Soup and some crackers. He looked sort of stressed out, though, with circles under his eyes and a drawn mouth. I tossed my jacket on the couch and went over to him to kiss him hello.
“Everything okay at work?” I asked, wondering if this was another writers block situation or what.
He looked at me. “I had no idea you were going to be so late.”
Huh. “I had no idea I was going to be so late, either. Did something happen?”
He gave me an “oh come on” sort of look, which really didn’t seem like Jonathan and switched me instantly into walking on eggshells mode.
I racked my brains for something to say that wouldn’t come off too defensive or inflammatory. “I’m sorry, I must be forgetting something…?”
“What happened is you didn’t come home.” He winced at his own accusatory tone. He picked up his spoon, then put it down again like he wasn’t hungry, and tried again: “I thought we had a plan for tonight.”
For a second I thought he meant we’d accepted an invitation to some party or something. “We did?”
“I certainly thought we did.” He pushed the soup around in the bowl with the spoon.
Okay, I told myself. He was working hard to stay calm. I didn’t have to pretend he was some kind of bomb that could go off if I didn’t handle it right. Be honest. That’ll get you through.
How’s this for honest? “You were expecting me home, and so you didn’t eat anything earlier. No wonder you’re cranky.”
“I am not cranky!” Jonathan put his hand on his face then, like he could hear perfectly well how cranky he sounded.
“Can I suggest you eat your soup before we try talking about it?”
He put a finger into it; it had clearly gone cold.
“Here. I’ll warm it up for you.” I carried it to the microwave built under the cabinets and nuked it for a minute. While it hummed and spun around I stood next to it, trying not to let my anxiety build up. I brought him the soup and then sat down in the chair across from him, hoping that would encourage him to eat it.
I ate a cracker while I watched him eat. When he was done he looked less wan and a lot calmer.
“I just didn’t think you’d be so late,” he said, trying again. “Did the recording go late?”
“Pretty late, but it was better to go a few extra hours today than have to go back tomorrow,” I said. “And then I schmoozed with the engineer. And you know how that goes.”
“You could have… called…?” He sounded tentative even bringing it up.
“I didn’t realize you… needed me to…?” I replied, sounding just as tentative.
He looked disappointed.
My instinct was to brush it under the rug and just try to make it up to him, but if I did that, this would keep happening. I reminded myself this was Jonathan, and not Ziggy the cipher or Digger the mercurial. “Can we back up? I’m really having the feeling like you’re having a different conversation from me.”
“Me too,” he said, and I got the feeling the disconnect itself was why he was so disappointed. I’d missed something here. “Which conversation did you think we were having?”
“Well, I don’t really want to come out and say that you’re a grown man and I kind of expected if you needed to eat that you would, without me having to be here or call you to remind you…?”
“Ah.” He blinked at me. “Yeah. That’s not the conversation I thought we were having.”
“Okay, clue me in, then?”
“Remember last night? When I went to bed early?”
“Yeah.” I pictured the scene in my mind. “You offered me a quickie and I said no thanks. I thought that was pretty mature and sensible of us.”
“What I actually said was that you had a choice between a quickie last night or not-so-quick tonight.”
“I don’t remember anything about ‘not so quick.'” And I didn’t have to remind him that my memory was auditory.
“Maybe I didn’t use those exact words…”
“So, wait, this is about you feeling like I blew you off for sex?” Funny, I know, I had thought the conversation was about dinner but it was actually about sex. So much for my one-track mind, eh?
“Well, I wouldn’t have put it quite that way,” J. said, “but I guess that’s what it boils down to.”
Fuck. “Okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t even realize you were expecting it.” It was impossible to stay calm when my heart was hammering and my anxiety spiked as I wondered what kind of hell there would be to pay for fucking this up. Because that’s what would happen with Digger or with Ziggy, wouldn’t it?
But here’s what he said, “Am I setting my expectations too high?”
“I don’t know, J. Didn’t we agree a couple of weeks ago we’d just tell each other when we were horny, and that we’d tell each other when it was time to back off?”
“You’re right; we did.” He sat back, pondering.
“Because if you’re all wound up because you think I don’t actually want you or something, that’s not the case. I’m just a dumbass and I didn’t realize what you meant last night.”
“Just because you’re a ‘dumbass’ shouldn’t mean I have to do all the work,” he said. “That’s no excuse.”
That stung. “It’s not an excuse! If you wanted to have sex tonight, why didn’t you just say so?”
“You didn’t. J. I swear you didn’t. Not in a way that it sank in, anyway.”
He frowned a little. “Yeah, okay. I suppose that’s possible. I’ll try to be clearer next time.”
“It’s very sexy when you’re clear, you know.” It sounded like a line, but I meant it. It was such a turn-on for me not to have to guess whether he wanted me or not. “Here. You pick the time. The next time. Whenever it is. I’ll be there. You want morning sex? Go for it. Saturday morning? No problem, either.”
I was trying to be sincere. I was trying to make it up to him and be solid, make him a promise I could keep. But looking back on it now, don’t I sound like a bullshitter? Don’t I sound like I’m promising my ass to soothe the savage beast? Jonathan is about as far from “savage beast” as you can get. Really. And yet I hear this sort of victim-y tone in my voice. Which means it all comes from me.
I don’t think he heard it that way, either, or he would’ve called me on it. Instead he said, “Saturday morning’s a good idea. But I have an even better one.”
“Yeah. I think we should try it right now. Talking about Saturday morning… got me wound up.”
“Okay, sure. And of course you’re wound up if you thought all day that we were doing it tonight.”
“Hm, that and I think if we do it now, we’ll feel better, whereas if we wait we’ll both sort of brood over it,” he added.
“You’re probably right about that.” I stood up and pulled my T-shirt over my head. “In fact, I know you’re right about that.”
He smiled. “C’mere.” He stayed in his chair, pulling me between his knees and nibbling on one of my nipples.
Click. My arousal had been simmering as soon as the subject of sex had come up, but once he put his mouth on me it was like flipping a switch. Two days of pent up energy from fucking the back of a guitar in the studio suddenly came online. I unzipped my fly and his mouth worked its way down, and pretty soon we had to go to the bedroom because the faux stone floor was a killer on J’s knees.
While we were fucking I was sure we had figured it out. We were in synch. Things would be smoother now. But, you know, while I’m fucking I always think that.
(holy crap that’s Andy Gibb and Marilyn McCoo)