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I took the Fender into the studio and shook hands with the guys in the band du jour, and we shot the breeze for a little while about how they were liking New York: not much, actually. They were freezing their butts off.
“Back home it’s eighty-five degrees today,” the bass player complained. “You always read about these bands from England going to record in the Caribbean in the winter and shit. Why’d we come here?”
“Somebody’s got to go the other direction,” said the singer. He was a skinny guy with his bangs grown all the way over his eyes. He was wearing two polo shirts, one of which had a hole in it, and I was trying to figure out if that was some kind of ironic commentary on yuppies or masculinity or if he just really didn’t know how to dress. “Conservation of bands per hemisphere.”
Yeah, okay, he was kind of a space cadet so probably he just didn’t know how to dress.
Then we did the usual thing of trying to figure out if we knew any musicians in common. I usually could find someone, between all the bands I’d played with, in so many genres, plus opening bands from Nomad and M3 tours, and so on, but these guys hadn’t really been around very long and hadn’t done very much yet.
It looked like Jordan was on the phone. I could see the manager pacing. I was running out of small talk and the guys seemed to sense that.
“So what did you guys talk about out there?” the bass player finally asked. He was a tall guy, black wavy hair, one of those guys whose voice always has this sort of edge of intimidation in it. I usually associated that tone with Italian guys from New Jersey.
“Trav was just trying to get an idea what kind of sound to go for,” I said, which you know was completely true.
“What’s he think?”
“I don’t know. I can’t read Trav’s mind.”
The singer came at me then. “What are our options? That looked like Rich giving an ultimatum. What do you think is going to happen?”
“Look, I don’t know.” I should have stopped there, probably. “If I had to guess I’d say Trav’s going to ask if you’d be open to the idea of doing a song out of inventory, maybe one of my songs, if we can’t fix one of yours, to give something to the record company that they’ll swallow, and then you can do whatever you want with the rest of the album.”
I couldn’t really put a super-positive spin on the idea, not given how I was feeling.
Bass player asked, “You mean cover one of your songs?”
“No, I mean a song I haven’t recorded.”
“You mean, you write a song for us.” He looked about as scandalized as I felt. “They know we’re not, like, The Monkees or something here, right? We’re a real band. We’re not…fucking…Madonna.”
“No, that’s Warren Beatty,” piped up the guitar player, who hadn’t said a word up until then. That got a little bit of a laugh from the others.
But then I tried to gloss it over. “I know what you mean. But the record company wants a sure thing.”
“Like they know what a sure thing is? They don’t know shit. And they think sending in a ringer is the answer?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know, man. All I do know is Jordan’s been behind a lot of hits. And I’m here because he’s here.”
“Okay, whatever, man.” The bass player sat down, opened a magazine, and lit a cigarette. I decided that was a good cue to go back to the control room.
That was when Jordan and I fought. He and the manager were sitting side by side on the couch talking. I sat in the engineer’s chair and took out the Ovation to have something to do with my hands.
“What was that thing you were playing the other night?” Jordan asked.
“After dinner. We’d ordered Thai food.”
“Oh, you mean ‘Infernal Medicine’?” I played a couple of riffs. I’d just played it one night when we were hanging around. “This one?”
The manager perked up like a hunting dog, like if he had those kind of ears they would have stood straight up.
“Yeah, that one,” Jordan said.
“Oh yeah, I really like that,” the manager said. Then he looked through the glass at the band and frowned. “Excuse me.” He went around and into the studio. I didn’t look to see what was going on because I was looking at Jordan.
To whom I said, “No.”
“What do you mean ‘no’?”
“No, you can’t have ‘Infernal Medicine’ for this band.”
Jordan gave me a look. “Why not?”
I knew it would sound petulant to say “because it’s mine” so I settled for “because,” which wasn’t much better.
“Daron. Seriously. That’d be the perfect fit here.”
“Give me one good reason why not?”
Because it’s about Ziggy wasn’t a valid reason since probably half my songs were about him in some way, shape, or form. “You know what’s a better fit?” I tried to dodge instead. “This one.” I played something else I pictured being good with a kind of buzzsaw guitar, a thing I called “I Can’t Wait.” I think maybe I wrote it in Spain. Or maybe Japan. It had been around for a while. It was angry and simple.
Jordan tolerated me running through it for him. “It’ll sound better with the Fender,” I pointed out, “but that’s the song they should do. It still needs a bridge. They can put their stamp on it.”
“‘Infernal Medicine’ is a much better song,” Jordan argued.
“I know. That’s why I want to keep it.”
“For what? Daron, you’ve got no band–”
“So the fuck what? It’s my fucking song.”
“Don’t delude yourself. Besides, you could always cover it if you wan–”
“I am not going to cover my own fucking song! I’m already stuck in that position with everything I did for BNC!”
“Look, I know you’re pissed off about that, but–”
“No, Jordan, the answer is no!”
At that point the bass player came in, and we put our professional faces back on–or, I did anyway; Jordan always looked like that. And the bass player said, “You faggots got something for us or what?”
Jordan and I locked eyes for a split second–a split second is all it took for that guy to have gone from benefit-of-the-doubt to total-douchebag. The guy didn’t know about us; he probably never would. It was just an offhand comment to take us down a peg–assuming we were straight–made by a guy who was feeling defensive and kicked around by the business. I get that.
Didn’t give me much sympathy for him, though.
Jordan either. “Yeah,” he said, without missing a beat. “I think you’ll like this song called ‘I Can’t Wait.'”
“It’s got a ‘cusp of fame’ theme,” I added. “And it rocks hard.”
The guy shrugged. “We’re ready when you are.”
I followed him into the studio, sharing one last look with Jordan who just gave me a little nod. Douchebags don’t get your best songs.
(It’s time to vote for the Rose & Bay Awards! You may remember DGC won the fiction category back in 2009. Nominations have closed and you can vote on the finalists here: http://crowdfunding.livejournal.com/590749.html)
(I couldn’t post that without also posting the song it borrows from, Rick James “Super Freak.” Rick James, who had to sue MC Hammer over the heavy use of Super Freak in U Can’t Touch This and ended up winning millions in royalties over it. Which he promptly spent on drugs. -d)