(The site was down a bit over the weekend so if you haven’t read the Liner Notes yet, now’s a good time to: https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/3884)
It’s hard for me to judge just how fast I got jaded or even exactly when it happened. They say taking a hit hardens you, and I had taken three pretty hard ones, basically–one from Digger, one from Mills, and one from Ziggy–but you know, I can’t even say it was that. Working with Sarah, working the studios in LA, working with Jordan… I learned pretty intimately how the damn sausage is made. And the illusions I had clung to, those last few about alternative rock being special–about Moondog Three being special–Jordan stripped away pretty forcefully. He forced me to be a realist, I guess.
I always accepted certain things as fact. I accepted that I worked in an industry that fucked people over often and didn’t necessarily reward talent. But I didn’t accept that people had to be dicks or that the dicks had to always win.
Somehow Remo always managed to stick to his principles and succeed. Nomad never had a canned hit foisted onto them by A&R or a producer. Not yet anyway. I didn’t ask Remo if they’d had to fight that or if it had just never happened. Maybe I’d find out the next time they went into the studio, but that would be a while if what Martin had said was true.
I should tell you one more Jordan story before I forget.
I should tell you about how Jordan and I decided not to sleep together.
This is the thing. You’ve seen the pattern. People I get close to, people I get emotionally intimate with, if there isn’t a reason NOT to have sex–like either I’m the wrong gender or we’re related or something–we tend to fall into bed eventually. It’s the business partly, the rock and roll “lifestyle” if you want to call it that, which is that the regular restrictions on what’s acceptable to normal people don’t apply. That’s the whole allure of being a rock star, isn’t it? I confess there had to be some of that in why I wanted to leave school to make it big in a band, but even now I can’t tell you how much of that was wanting to leave the tightly restricted world of classical music and how much of it was I was desperate to establish sexual autonomy of some kind–any kind. But a lot of it was subconscious. I didn’t sit around thinking how great it would be to fuck anything that moved. That wasn’t how my brain worked.
And it still isn’t. A lot of the people I end up in bed with can’t really be called one night stands. Not when you know someone and are friends or roommates or working acquaintances for years before you finally get together, even if it ends up only being once.
Anyway. When you’re in the business there aren’t a lot of barriers to doing it with whomever. Even the barriers I thought should’ve been there–between bandmates, between journalists and their subjects–weren’t really there. I mean, for fuck’s sake, you heard stories about guys who really pushed the envelope as if breaking taboos was actually required or they’d lose their rock star union card. You’d hear stories about farm animals and underage groupies and whatever else. I could never tell what was just a story that got embellished with the telling versus what was true versus what was flat out made up. Then again remember how long it took me to stop equating my normal sexual hungers–gay though they were–with sick shit like that. I wasn’t about to judge anybody based on what could be reputation-inflating rumors.
My point is musicians and the people around them have a lot of sex that quote-unquote “normal” people wouldn’t. So me and Jordan were looking at each other one night after we’d laid down a track together… and it was one in the morning and I was missing Ziggy fiercely because it was a song about missing Ziggy… looking at each other and having that simultaneous thought: hey, we could do it. I knew that was what he was thinking and he knew that was what I was thinking.
We were at the studio, not his place. Not that that would have stopped us.
“How are you feeling?” he asked, sitting down on a stool. He’d been playing the keyboard standing up.
“Horny as shit,” I said, laying the Fender into a stand.
“What do you want to do about it?”
I thought about that for a couple of seconds. Well, no, not “thought,” more like I “felt around” about it because I wasn’t really thinking at that point. “Might depend on what you want to do about it,” I said. Typical me answer but it was true.
Jordan licked his lip. “I want to ride the edge.” He took a deep breath and I waited for him to explain what he meant by that. “I want to stretch out the thread of desire between us and ride that edge of want as far as it’ll go.”
“Want to see what kind of music we make when we’re like that,” he said, entirely sensibly.
I was about to tell him I wasn’t at my best when I was like that, but then it struck me, maybe I was. I thought about how much music Ziggy and I had written together when the attraction between us was so thick it took a saw to cut it.
And here Jordan was saying we could do that on purpose. Knowingly. Wittingly. That was a radical concept.
“Okay,” I said.
We recorded “Infernal Medicine” that night. I know, I know, I’d said I wouldn’t sell that song to someone else, so what was the point of making a demo of it? But I wanted to play it and I wanted Jordan to hear it, and he wrote a bass line that was really like something Bart would have come up with.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I left Jordan with sixty songs in inventory by the time I went back to Boston. I’m also not exaggerating when I say I was a lot closer to Jordan when I left than I had been three or four weeks before. It wasn’t all about the thread of unrequited sexual stuff, either. I was kind of amazed how that could sink into the background when other aspects of our friendship were at the fore.
I came right out and told him, the day I headed back, “I am really grateful we get to work together.”
“Why’s that?” He was making me a last pot of coffee before I headed to the train.
“Because there are so many douchebags and assholes in this business, it’s always kind of a blessing when you get to work with a good guy. And even more of one when you get to work together more than once.”
He handed me a full mug, cooled already with fresh cream, just the way I liked it. “Likewise. Not everyone gets invited to stay at my place.”
I gave myself a cream-and-coffee mustache. “I think Zig was kind of jealous. He was so certain it was going to happen between us.”
Jordan took a sip from his own mug, then gave me a sloe-eyed look over the top of it. “It did happen between us, Daron.”
Yeah, I guess it did. “Just not the ‘it’ he expected.”
Jordan nodded. “When are you hitting the road?”
“Train’s at 10:20.”
“No, no, I mean, with Nomad.”
“Oh. There’s a couple of press days here in the city March 24th or so, and first actual gig is March 28th in Atlanta. But I’m flying to LA to rehearse on like…March 14th? I think?” Carynne had booked the flight. It wasn’t for a couple of weeks.
“I’ll probably see you during the press junket, then,” he said, and set his mug down. “Now if you’re going to make a 10:20 train, you better book outta here.”
We exchanged a complicated handshake that I think we’d come up with originally in 1989, followed by a one-armed mutual hug, and then I was out of there.