It shouldn’t be hard to confess at this point that I get obsessive about certain things. Right? I mean: I know it, you guys know it. It’s not news.
But I got sort of embarrassingly obsessive about trying to hear that song again. I didn’t even know what it was. A new single? A B-side? I knew I should call Jordan to pick his brain, but I wanted to hear it first. And the thing is we were just starting a run of three shows in three nights: Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland. So we were living in buses for the foreseeable future.
I wore down my batteries and then discovered the bus had a stereo built into the back lounge. And then I drove everyone a little crazy while channel flipping the radio. So it went for most of the drive from Detroit to Cincy until Martin convinced me that everyone else was going to commit guitaricide if I didn’t stop.
The obsession only got worse, of course, the one time I caught a frontsell. The deejay made a Dr. Seuss-type rhyme, hinting at “something new from the former frontman of Moondog Three, a song that is a mys-ter-y,” but “coming up in the next thirty minute music block!” Oh, disk jockeys, I hate you. I had to wonder if the guy was being cagey just to keep listeners interested or was there something really weird about this song?
Sometimes my instincts are good but my brain is swiss cheese. After hearing that bit on the radio I tried again to call Jordan and ended up leaving him a message from a payphone backstage in Cleveland. I was literally leaving the message when I realized there was a cassette in my pocket. Okay, maybe that’s why this obsession was so embarrassing. Because I had a copy of the song all along. Do you remember Jordan sticking it in my pocket without any comment? Because I barely did. When I pulled it out, though, and saw his handwriting on it, and the words “It’s a secret,” I suddenly remembered.
I took the batteries out of my wireless rig, which was still attached to me from soundcheck because no one from the crew had taken it from me like they probably should have, and I put them into my not-Walkman. I put the cassette in and pressed play.
And a few seconds later I heard the actual intro to the song and realized, fuck, that’s ME playing, and then Ziggy’s voice came in and I had to press stop and go somewhere no one would find me for a while to listen to it. So I wandered into the back of house until I found a supply closet with a light where I could sit on an upturned janitor bucket and listen.
And listen. And listen. And think. And listen some more.
Jordan had taken recordings of me playing and married them together with vocals of Ziggy. And a bunch of synthesizers and stuff, too. But. But.
So my brains pretty much leaked out my ears at that point. It was a good thing I’d had my big emotional crash a few days before because otherwise I would have had it right then. I just sat there, rewinding the song and listening to it over and over for…probably an hour? Two? I don’t know. Some of the times I hit rewind and I got lost in my thoughts and it took a while for me to hit play again.
Breaking the chains
Playing the games
The game, the games, of broken chains
I was in la-la-land in my own head long enough that I lost track of time and came shooting out of the closet in a panic with no idea what time it was. I could hear the opening band on the stage, which was good, because it meant I wasn’t actually late-late yet. Well, it was their last song. Still. Phew.
When I saw Flip I rubbed my eyes like I had fallen asleep somewhere and he didn’t say anything, just held the guitar strap so I could slip it on easily. And like a dork I went onto the stage like that, having forgotten that I had taken the batteries out of the fucking wireless.
In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that big a deal. It was a one-minute delay while they swapped out my “dead” box for another one, but I wanted to die every second of the delay while Remo vamped to the crowd.
I had two choices. Go into my shell, play it safe, and keep everything calm during the show. Or say fuck it and use all the adrenaline and angst and bullshit churning through me in my playing. I think it’s easier to roar through that kind of shit when you sing or bash the hell out of the drums. It’s a little trickier when you’re putting it through a guitar.
But only a little.
Yeah, we set another city on fire. I did not retreat into my shell. What shell? I came through the show and by the time we took our bows I felt on top of the world.
It didn’t last, though. We got into the bus for a five-hour drive to Indianapolis, where we’d have a day off. Three shows three nights in a row didn’t feel that tough to me personally but I know the crew were exhausted, Clarice and Fran wanted to rest their vocal cords, and Remo looked dog tired.
Maybe that’s why he was in a mood. Or maybe it really, truly was my fault.
I was sitting in the front lounge, where Martin had handed me an article about how great the live shows in NY/NJ had gone over. The national press was starting to beat that same drum: see this band now.
Remo sat down across the bus from me at the little eating table by the microwave. “When’s showtime in Indianapolis?”
I didn’t look up from what I was reading. “I don’t know. Is it an early town?”
“Don’t you think it’s your job to know?”
I looked up, my brain already scrambling into damage control mode. He had that undertone of anger that I really hardly ever heard from him, and for a second I hoped I was imagining it. “I don’t memorize the call times in advance, no,” I said tentatively.
“Maybe you should.” Curt. Definitely angry.
I tried again to be neutral about it. “Waldo does a very good job of keeping us all informed.”
But the heat level just kept rising. “You’re not a fucking kid anymore, Daron. I expect better from you.”
I, of course, felt defensive already since I had nearly been late to the stage, but at the same time, I hadn’t actually been late, and I’m not fucking perfect. If I was, I wouldn’t have sassed, right? I should’ve just apologized for being a space cadet that day, but I didn’t. I dug in my heels. “You seriously expect me to memorize the itinerary?”
Now his voice was raised and there was no way everyone in the bus wasn’t listening to this, even though they were all pretending to read or look out the window or whatever. I expected him to go right at me about the fuck-up today, late to the stage and with a dead box to boot. But what he said was, “I expect you not to fucking disappear in the middle of a show!” Unlike Digger, who when angriest at me wouldn’t meet my eyes and would stare at something across the room, Remo looked right at me.
“What the fuck are you talking about? When did I disappear in the m–” I broke off. “Are you still mad about fucking Wisconsin?” That time I’d gotten corralled for vagrancy by the campus police years ago.
“How was I supposed to know you didn’t get arrested the other night in New York?”
Wait, what? “Why the fuck would I have gotten arrested in New York?”
“I don’t know! You tell me!”
I knew he wasn’t making sense, but I didn’t have the balance to deal with that any way other than to flat out argue each point separately. “Is this about me taking off from the Garden?”
“I expect you to take more responsibility. You’re a leader. You’re not a kid. Prove to me that you’re not that kid who got arrested in Wisconsin.”
“Okay, first of all I never got arrested”–just detained–“and second of all, if I’m not a kid anymore I don’t have to tell you where I’m going when I’m off the clock. Especially in my fucking home town!” Never mind whether I could call New York my “home town” or not: close enough for this argument’s sake.
“Like I’m paying you by the hour?”
This was as bad as any of those fights I had that made no sense with Jonathan. They only make sense on some kind of internal logic that makes you keep fighting. “You’re sure as hell not paying me to be your fucking musical director, are you?”
He did a double take as if the sudden change of subject gave him whiplash. “You lead by example.”
See, to me it wasn’t a change of subject. “Do I? I guess that means if a member of the band wants to go see a friend they don’t need a permission slip from me, and I sure as hell don’t need a permission slip from you.”
“You’ve been gone overnight like four times,” Remo said, as if that mattered.
“Do we have a rule against that? No one’s mentioned it to me, but whatever. You want to dock my pay? Go the fuck ahead.”
“This isn’t about…hours. It’s…it’s about priorities.”
Fuck it. Tears sprang into my eyes because I could never learn how to have these kind of fights without being a crybaby. “Fine. If memorizing the fucking itinerary is the most important thing to you, give me the fucking day book and I’ll recite the fucking thing to you tomorrow!”
I think maybe that’s when it began to sink in to him that this argument was stupid. Which might be why he changed the subject again, this time to what was really bothering him: “Daron, this isn’t about just one incident or another, and it isn’t about call times. It’s about…” He looked pained. “When I say priorities I mean…”
I hung there, waiting to hear what he meant.
I was not prepared for what he actually forced himself to say, then. “I know you went to see Ziggy in New York.”
“Wait. Did I miss something? Did you miss something? Ziggy’s my…” Fuck, no word came out. What the fuck was I trying to say? “Ziggy’s very important to me. You know that. You want to tell me I shouldn’t have grabbed the one chance I had to see him?”
“You sound like a lovesick teenager. You know you have to make sacrifices in this business. Are you seriously telling me you’d chuck all this, your lifelong dream, for puppy love? Or to get laid?”
“Is that why you didn’t marry Melissa until you had to? Because ‘priorities’ is code for career rates over relationships?”
That stopped him cold. I was shaking but it was like I didn’t even want to blink I was staring at him so hard. We’d both cut way too close to the bone. Over the sound of the engine I could hear myself breathing hard. I wanted to throw the magazine at him and run somewhere and hide.
Instead I laid the magazine aside very slowly, and got up kind of stiffly, and had to think way harder than usual to remember which bunk was mine, and once I remembered I climbed in and closed the curtain.
I’m twenty-three fucking years old, I thought. I am too old for this shit.