Jordan chased me out of the kitchen area when my hand shook holding the kitchen knife while I was trying to help him make dinner.
He put me on a barstool on the far side of the peninsula of countertop that delineated where kitchen ended and living room began. He was wearing goggles over his eyes at the time so he could chop onions and with his very short cropped hair it gave him a very insectoid look. He handed me a cup of herbal tea. “Talking with Ziggy upset you that much?”
“No. No that was a pretty easy talk, as these things go,” I said, but I looked down at my hands. “I mean, maybe a little intense at the end there but…” Okay, I murmured that last part and so I don’t think he heard it. Louder, I said, “I think my brain is still kind of blitzed from New Year’s.”
“Ungh. That’s rough.” He went back to chopping the onions very fine. “I wouldn’t think you’d be in such bad shape. Did you boost?”
“Dose again after a couple of hours?”
“Um, I don’t think so. At least, I don’t remember it.”
“Hm.” He was browning ground beef in a pot and the aroma was making my mouth water. Then he grimaced. “Just thought of something. How much do you weigh?”
“Not sure. I was around 140, maybe 145 when I came back from Spain. But I’ve lost a little of that muscle.”
“And not really gained any fat.”
“There’s a scale under the radiator in the bathroom if you’re curious.”
“Well, now that you mention it, I kind of am.” So I went and weighed myself. One-forty. I reported this to him when I climbed back onto the stool.
He sighed. “You’re half Tony’s size. You realize that?”
“Yeah. Your point is…?”
He grimaced again, and not from the onions he was adding to the pan. “You have half the body weight of somebody big, you need half the dose. No wonder you feel like you spent the night in a cement mixer.”
“Good to know.” I rubbed my temples. “Though maybe a better idea than taking less next time would be to skip it entirely.”
He shrugged. “I’m not big into X anyway. Only for special occasions.”
I laughed. “That’s two New Year’s Eves in a row I’ve spent on drugs.”
He added the onions to the pot and I wondered what he was making. Chili? Tomato sauce? Something else? “Right. You told me about seeing the fireworks in Sydney on acid.” He started to laugh. “And about convincing some waiter to bring you, what was it? A hard-boiled egg or something?”
“Black olives. And I wouldn’t say I convinced him so much as I pointed to the word ‘black olives’ on the menu and sort of begged him with my eyes and a sad puppy face since I think I was non-verbal at the time.”
“That is a trip.”
“That’s why they call it that, eh? I guess next year I should try magic mushrooms or something.”
“Or peyote. That’s supposed to be an incredible trip once the puking is over.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
He chuckled and broke a bunch of spaghetti in half so he could cook it in a small pot, which made me laugh because that was the same thing I used to do until I moved into Allston where there was a pot big enough for it. “They say if you just do the mescaline extract you don’t get nauseous. I get nauseous as hell on mushrooms, though, even when I just do ’em as tea.”
“You can do mushrooms as tea?”
“Yeah. They still taste awful, though. I think the nausea is half your brain saying, dude, that tastes like poison. Even if it isn’t, I gotta do something about it.”
“Huh. I’ve never done a drug that had a… flavor.”
“Not even hash brownies?”
“Do they taste different? I’m under the impression you don’t taste the hash, which is the point?”
“True, true.” He added tomato sauce to the pot, stirred, and then put the lid on. “Speaking of which, should I stock up on weed while you’re around?”
“What, for me? No-o-o-o.” I shook my head slowly.
“No? I thought I remembered you.” The goggles were on his head now and he looked at me with one eye.
“You remember sharing a joint with me at the studio in Boston but that was purely an attempt at me being social,” I explained. “Weed doesn’t do much for me.”
“Good enough,” he said, and came around to my side of the counter. “I always bring some when I meet a new band because it can work as an ice-breaker. But I could take it or leave it myself, too. That wants to simmer at least 45 minutes. Want to see if we can lay down a demo before it’s done?”
We moved to the corner of the loft where the windows were the largest, where a DX7 and a Mac, a couple of guitars, and a conga were arrayed. This wasn’t a recording studio by any means. There was street noise and the acoustics were all wrong, but for just playing around it was great.
Jordan had a mixer not much bigger than a computer keyboard and a really basic half-inch tape setup. He got out a notebook and a pencil. “How many songs did you say you have kicking around?”
“Hundreds,” I said, as I picked up the Ovation and started to tune it. “Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. Maybe it’s between a hundred and two hundred.”
“And there’s no way you’re using all of them, no matter what you do,” he said, repeating something we’d talked about before, but I think this was his way of laying out the terms, making sure I was clear on what we were doing.
“I’ve got a reputation as a hit-maker, I know it, but a lot of that is me being a matchmaker, matching the talent with the right song. Sometimes the demo I play for them is completely bare bones, just a half-assed vocal and the chord progression. That’s pretty rare actually. It’s more usual to have something more polished sounding. Not as much work or as polished as a finished album track of course, but enough that it doesn’t detract from the material. You want it to sound good.”
“Uh huh,” I said. I knew all that already. I paged through my notebook trying to decide what to do first. I had written a lot of songs in Spain. Some of them were half-songs, meant for playing on street corners to passerby who would never hear the whole thing. Eventually most of my busking there had been focused on flamenco and on playing with Orlando and so I had worked on the songs at night, or later. I had written a lot in LA. I had various songs that had been written while Moondog Three was on tour. Some from the Nomad tour. I’d been piling them up and doing nothing with them.
“So let’s start building up that inventory with some bare bones demos, and then we’ll figure out what to go into the studio to lay down.” Jordan started the tape going. “Hit me with whatever you want.”
I played through a little warmup first, explaining that was what it was and no one could steal it, and then went into an instrumental thing that was still waiting for words. I had pages of lyrics, too, but I hadn’t tried matching any up with it yet. So for now it was what Chernwick would’ve called a “guitar thing.” As in “we can put that guitar thing last on the A side.”
That was a concept that was disappearing thanks to CDs. A-sides and B-sides to albums.
When I finished that bit, Jordan asked, “What do you call that?”
“Do I have to call it something?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I have to label the tape with something.”
“Okay. How about, ‘Before Dinner Guitar Thing.'”
For some reason that made Jordan laugh. His eyes crinkled up and he put his hand over his mouth, and he laughed like I had delighted him beyond belief. “Works for me,” he said when he could. “Works for me.”
(Huh. I’d forgotten that Tommy Shaw had both ears pierced. Not that that means anything. -d)
For those of you who missed the DGC video chat from Tuesday night, here it is! Start at 56:04 if you want to skip the first hour, which is about Magic University, and jump right to the DGC portion! I read aloud the homecoming bonus scene between Daron and Colin. -ctan