I didn’t see Remo when we were getting ready to go the train station, but Waldo didn’t seem perturbed by his absence so I figured he must be off doing promo or something. We got settled in the train for another high-speed trip. This one was going to cross the “inland sea” of Japan.
I wasn’t looking out the window, though. Remo showed up shortly after the train started to move, and sat down next to me with a guitar. He took it out of the case, then sat down again, and I noticed he’d swapped the big cast on his hand and wrist for a smaller brace. He held a pick in his fingers and strummed experimentally.
Then he started to play a song and sing, quietly, singing just for me, not to attract an audience. I forgot all about how I had intended to be mad at him today so I could work through whatever crap about him and my mother was messing me up. He’d written a song about the bullet train, and you could hear it as a love song, but I kind of heard it like it was about us, about how life is short and the faster we go it only gets shorter. And how he wanted no regrets. It had a cool lick that led into the verses.
Honestly. A cool lick makes me forgive so much.
Then, at the Fukuoka soundcheck, Remo announced that he wanted to try playing in the show, too. He’d injured himself on November 26th and now it was December 18th. The doctor had said four to six weeks. Somehow in Remo’s mind, 22 days had become four weeks.
“I’m just trying to hold a guitar pick, not do brain surgery,” he groused.
I didn’t try to talk him out of it. You know how grumpy and unpleasant I had gotten before Mitch showed up to take the edge off? I think that’s how Remo was going to get if he didn’t get to play with us at least a little.
He was at least a little sensible in that he limited himself to the opening number, then the song before the big jam, the jam itself, and then the encores.
It was good. It was really good. I pretty much made up my mind while we were on stage that night that some day, not sure exactly when, I’d do a whole tour with them when we could both play at our fullest.
I pretty much also made up my mind that night, though, that being a part of Nomad wasn’t some kind of ultimate destiny for me. I could see how that would make a good story. The whole “full circle” kind of thing. But just because something makes a good story doesn’t make it true. Nomad was an excursion, not a destination.
Especially since I’d seen beyond the horizon and I wanted to explore Indian music, or maybe Middle Eastern, or both, because in my head the seeds that were planted were growing into something and I had to water and fertilize that to find out what.
So, how does an A-list rock band spend their last night in Japan partying? That heavy drinking would be involved is a no-brainer: I mean what else. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but did you know there are all-night karaoke bars? We took the entire band and crew to a place that was “pay one price” from 11pm to 5am. It appeared to me there was an open bar–I was unclear whether that was part of the “pay one price” deal or if Remo was just running a huge tab.
They had a huge catalog of American music, and Cray brought the house down when he did a baritone rendition of Journey “Who’s Crying Now.” Flip, crutches and all, did Van Halen’s “Jump.” (He did not jump.) I decided I had to top both of them by going straight to Cheap Trick, “Surrender.”
I picked it, of course, because it was one of the songs on the Budokan album, but had been a hit before that, and everyone in the place knew it. Yes, I got a little drunk first–did I mention the open bar?–otherwise I would have been worried I didn’t know the words well enough. Karaoke gives you a prompter though, duh.
I had kind of forgotten, though, that the song is about how parents are weird.
After coming off stage triumphant, I drank a little more, and fended off some attention from some of the women there, which wasn’t hard to do because Flip and Cray were pretty much monopolizing me for a while then. I told you, I don’t have a great voice. But I’m an expressive singer. And when my inhibitions are down, I know how to go for it. That’s true of a lot of people. Rocky got up and showed a side of himself we’d never seen when he did Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” complete with dance moves, though he blushed and hurried off the stage at the end like he was embarrassed.
A little while later, the liquor in my brain decided it was a good idea to go for a second song. Remo had even finally been enticed to get up there and he blew everyone’s minds with a Frank Sinatra impression that had us all checking our eyes to make sure it was really him. I sorted through the catalog trying to find something I knew well enough to sing even if I was potentially too drunk to read the lyrics.
Hey. They had some Moondog Three in the listings. Candlelight, Wonderland, Why the Sky… What was Intensive Care doing on that list? Had it been released as a single here? It hadn’t been in the US, but maybe it had in Japan. We usually did it in our shows. Maybe it had gotten some college airplay and deep AOR…
What the hell. I decided to do it.
The first draft of the lyrics? I’d written them back when I still had that initial crush on Ziggy. Back when I felt so strongly about him, so intense it was painful. It was a love song, but it was about how much love hurts.
I wish I had remembered that before I picked it to sing. Not only did it remind me exactly how much it used to hurt, it reminded me of the exact size of the current Ziggy-shaped hole in my life. I swear I hallucinated him sitting in the audience and then disappearing before my eyes. When you wish hard enough for something, I think you can make yourself see it. But that doesn’t mean it’s there.
And the thing is, I wrote the song, but he’s the one who sings it, you know? I get to stand behind a guitar usually. What the hell did I think I was doing going out there with the microphone? There’s no going back, you know. No matter how embarrassing or ridiculous your performance is. Karaoke, standing there on the stage alone, demands commitment. Songs take on a life of their own.
I did not do something so dramatic as cry on stage. I can hold it together. That’s one of those things, though: when you feel like you’re being sliced up by knives in your chest, holding it all together only makes it hurt even more.
I might have made other people cry, though. I’m sort of ashamed to think I might have and so I’ve never found out for sure. I don’t remember anything else from that night other than learning the word Suntory. (Japanese for whiskey.)