We didn’t go out clubbing every night I was in New York. No, sometimes we stayed in the studio all night instead.
Somehow Jordan always had the energy to be awake before me the next day. Sometimes he had to go to meetings. At one point he was gone for almost a day and a half, rescuing someone’s album or song. I didn’t know whose and even if I did I probably wouldn’t be allowed to tell you. Not that you guys don’t already know how the sausages are made, but yeah.
It was in the second week that I started talking about Ziggy. Remember how I said Jordan’s form of giving advice was to act like he was listening (even if he wasn’t) and then say something supportive? It eventually became my turn to bend his ear, I guess.
This was at least partly prompted by the fact that Ziggy had not come back from England when he’d said he was going to. When he was a week overdue, I cracked and called his management company trying to find out where he was and was promptly given the runaround. Okay, I understand that: I could have been any crazed fan or serial killer calling because they clearly had no fucking clue who I was, and what was I going to say? I’m his former (?) songwriting partner and bandmate? If that’s true, why the fuck would I be calling the main office of WTA trying to find him?
You know I don’t crack often. Which is why when I do a deluge can pour out. Honestly I probably would have tried to keep it bottled up so that we could keep working, but the other thing that prompted me to spill my guts was that Jordan was pretty sure me clamming up was hindering rather than helping our productivity. So he plied me with whiskey and I eventually told him…well, everything I’ve already told you guys a million times at this point…and how basically deep down I was afraid Ziggy might disappear again.
“That’s a reasonable fear, given his history,” he said, making me feel less like I was a nutcase than I did.
Of course, deep deep down I was afraid Ziggy might do something much worse, but like I said, that was deep deep deep. Partly because I didn’t really believe it was likely he’d have a sudden turn for the suicidal. That didn’t stop the thought from flickering by every so often.
I managed not to page him ten times a day. Probably because I knew he wouldn’t get the damn pages while overseas anyway.
Jordan and I recorded some real heartbreakers then.
Part of me says Jordan was way too sneaky. I believe he’d manipulate my emotions any way he wanted if he thought a better song would result. But that’s what he was good at. We had a rapport and a trust and I didn’t mind him manipulating my emotions. I felt better afterward and we got some really good songs out of it. Part of me wished we were doing something more than just demos that might result in some publishing and songwriting royalties for me later, but whatever. I had to believe that the day would come when we’d work on stuff for real again.
I know, I know. When did I become such an optimist? The thing is I was always an optimist about my musical career. Because thinking you’re not going to make it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to believe you’re going to make it. You have to. If you don’t, you have no shot.
At the end of the third week, Bart and Chris came down and recorded the additional backing tracks I wanted to mix into the new age album. I know, the plan had originally been to record those in Boston. But here’s a big reason I considered Jordan a friend and not just someone in the business who was using me. Jordan not only engineered those recordings and let us use the studio for free (I never did figure out what the deal was there, if he was part owner of the place or what), he did the final mixdown on several tracks for no money. And no credit. The “price,” if there was one, was he got a bunch of the various instrumental tracks that he could weave at will into “chill” mixdowns when he deejayed ambient sets.
I’ve been blathering a lot, I know, but I wanted to make sure I filled you in on how much was going on. We worked a lot in those three weeks. It feels more like I was there for three months. I probably haven’t even conveyed adequately how many people I met and how many songs we worked on. I don’t actually know how many songs we worked on. Dozens. Same with the people. I was just kind of in a zone while I was there.
I should tell you about one day I went with him to fix someone’s song, partly as a favor to Artie. I’m not going to tell you whose. The singer was not there, and neither was the guitar player, which meant we met a somewhat nervous rhythm section who seemed a little lost and scared. That made more sense when I found out the singer and the guitar player had been hospitalized after some drug-related incident. I should be clear. The guitarist was institutionalized and the singer was in the ICU. So that’s some pretty serious shit.
They had all the vocals already in the can. They had laid down most of the basic tracks. But the guitar parts were mostly unusable on a couple of songs because there had been too much drug use during recording. Or maybe he just sucked. I would like to be charitable and blame the drugs.
I would like not to think about the fact that the record company’s main concern was protecting their investment. It didn’t really feel like that, maybe because it was Artie asking us for help, and maybe because you get into a situation like that, the only thing you can focus on if you’re the band is doing the work. You know the expression “The show must go on”? If you’ve never thought about what it means before, take a moment now.
Whether you’re on tour, in a Broadway show, filming a movie, whatever it is, if that curtain doesn’t go up, you are screwed. And it is everyone’s job to make sure that curtain goes up. Whether that means someone’s second cousin from Indiana has to fly in with a piece of equipment or some assistant has to buy a cassette before a press conference or some security guard has to take a bucket and bail a flooded stairwell by hand even though that’s really not his job or you have to hire a stand-in musician, in a way it’s all the same. There’s a goal and everyone does whatever it takes to get there.
Whatever it takes.
Anyway, we fixed it. If you read the liner notes of albums that came out in 1991 carefully you might figure out which band it was.
It was somewhat surreal dubbing those tracks. I’d done a lot of studio work in LA; I’d worked on plenty of other people’s material. But usually the band was there when I did that. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t weird playing with the recorded vocal of a guy who might not survive to hear the finished song. It was downright chilling at times.
In the cab on the way back to Jordan’s afterward I said, “Maybe we shouldn’t party too hard tonight, Trav.”
Jordan was looking out the window at the dingy, slushy, New York City streets, through the fogged up glass. He didn’t turn toward me but he said, “Just don’t do heroin. Ever. Ever. Promise me.”
Scouts honor, Trav. I never have.