633. Teardrop Explodes

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.


  • Jude says:

    Remo is still being a control freak asshole. It’s none of his goddamn business what you do when you’re not onstage or needed on that bus, and he bloody well knows that. He picked that fight purposely, trying to get you to either submit or quit.

    Seriously, if he’s pulling this crap on Melissa, neither she nor the kid are going to be in that house when the tour ends.

    • AshleyM says:

      Seconded. Really really starting to dislike Remo. I’ve been wondering for awhile why Melissa waited so long to tell Remo she was pregnant. I think I know why, now. ๐Ÿ™

    • daron says:

      Well, to be fair, I actually did *twice* let my obsession with Ziggy make me act in a less than fully professional manner, and if he’d come to me as a friend and said, hey, can we talk about my concerns? that would’ve been one thing, but to go all paternalistic on me? What the fuck.

      I think Melissa’s spending the month with her mom in Atlanta or something like that anyway.

    • Bill Heath says:

      I sympathize with Remo. He’s lost control of his personal life (anyone with a spouse and a baby who thinks he is still in charge of his personal life is delusional). He’s lost control of Nomad, not just because Daron is the de facto musical director, but because it’s an entirely different band with Daron.

      And he’s lost control of Daron. I don’t think he ever believed he was in control, just that he was Daron’s paternal figure. He does, though, realize somewhere in his psyche that he had enormous influence over Daron and his personal and professional development, and that’s faded.And he is certain it will continue to fade.

      Remo is “acting out,” just like we say of a teenager. But, the teenage boy never completely dies in a man.

  • chris says:

    I can feel my heart beating in my ears. What a day!

    • ctan says:

      I wrote this a month ago and kept thinking, it is this week? No, phew. Is it this week? Oh here it is. Blam. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • s says:

    Oh. My. Fucking. God. Way to join the Douchebag-of-the-Month Club, Remo. Oh, Daron, I just want to hug you and cry with you…and then smack the shit right out of Remo. Wtf is he thinking? You didn’t disappear with some random stranger without telling anyone. It’s Ziggy! Your … (sorry, I couldn’t resist that. I wish I knew how to fill in that blank, too)

    I’m gonna go reread the part where they used YOU in Ziggy’s song…cause that was pretty awesome.

    Ziggy, dearest Ziggy, can you please find some way to magically see him…he really needs you right now. (And while I’m asking for the impossible, could you maybe not have something going with that woman that answered the phone when he called…??? And maybe just not do anything to hurt him…)

    • daron says:

      And you know what? If I did disappear with some random stranger, that’s my business, too. In the end I don’t think it’s about that, I think it’s about Remo going through some stuff and taking it out on me without realizing that’s what he’s doing.

      • s says:

        Yeah, Remo’s reminding me a lot of when Chris went into Homophobic Dickhead mode. He’s definitely out of sorts, most logically because he’s now a father. Parental worries don’t just apply to your kid, but your kid’s friends, nieces/nephews, employees, and that-kid-whose-mom-you-slept-with-but-can’t-be-yours-because-humans-aren’t-pregnant-for-11-months-but-you-still-got-to-watch-him-grow-up-and-he’s-family. From THAT perspective, running off with a random stranger would make one say, “Fuck, we have no name to give the police when his body turns up…” (perhaps I should lay off the crime dramas…)

        I’ve read this chapter at least a dozen times now (excellent writing ctan…just excellent!) and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to fill in the … about Ziggy. I’m curious whether you realize that the version of ‘boyfriends’ you had with J is not the ONLY version of boyfriends that exists. The word doesn’t automatically land you in suburbia with a 2-car garage, 2.5 children and a dog. It doesn’t make you June Cleaver (though that image is cracking me up). It just implies someone who is special to you and you are romantically attached to. Any other meaning, rule, or definition is yours to make. I also have been wondering for awhile how Ziggy actually felt about you saying you would NEVER be boyfriends with him, if that hit him about the way him saying “It’s not as if I love you” hit you. Just some food for thought…

  • Sue says:

    I’m getting the feeling Remo wants out, he seems very unsettled and unhappy with his career. Maybe it’s time to revamp his band with a different lead singer, maybe you Daron? Mull it over.

    • ctan says:

      Remo’s definitely questioning a lot of the choices he’s made in life and reexamining whether he’s still happy with them.

    • daron says:

      No way. I’m not a front man and Nomad isn’t my band. Me taking over would be like when a chef leaves and his sous chef takes over–it can work for a while maybe but the sous chef really wants to open his own restaurant, not keep doing what someone else came up with.

  • Iain says:

    Are they ever going to figure out the insides of their heads enough to talk to each other and understand what they do and don’t want and need?

    It’s becoming blindingly clear, possibly to everyone but Daron and (oddly) Remo himself, that he’s moving Daron in position to become the front man and leader of Nomad.

    It’s also clear — to us, if not to either of them or possibly any of the band — that Daron doesn’t want that at all, and that Remo has … control freak issues with doing it in the first place. Knowing you need to let go of something and actually doing it are, after all, two different things.

    It also seems clear that Daron doesn’t actually mind being the musical director of Nomad without portfolio, but that Remo hadn’t quite realized that had happened until it was stated just that baldly.

    The one thing that isn’t clear — to either of them, likely — is what exactly Remo’s objection to Daron seeing Ziggy is.

    Saying that he needs to be more responsible about making sure he’s there early enough to run equipment check and make sure he has his batteries and all that is one thing. This … is just freakin’ weird.

    • ctan says:

      “Are they ever going to figure out the insides of their heads enough to talk to each other and understand what they do and donโ€™t want and need?”

      I feel like we we’re asking this same question about Daron and Ziggy a lot (although perhaps we can say they’ve made some progress).

      Remo’s making a lot of assumptions about what Daron wants, or what Remo himself would want if he were in Daron’s shoes.

      • Iain says:

        You know, I just realized that they did tell each other what was going on in their heads, what their priorities and assumptions were, in those last two sets of questions they threw at each other.

        Remo’s assuming that Daron *wants* to be front man for Nomad, that this is still his dream. (I know Daron had a conversation with someone that it wasn’t his dream any more, but I seem to recall that it wasn’t Remo. Not sure about that, though.) Daron has effectively just told Remo that he does value his relationships above his career.

        Whether or not they can realize that those questions have been asked and answered is another thing entirely, of course. As is the issue of what they’re going to do with those answers.

        • ctan says:

          “Whether or not they can realize that those questions have been asked and answered is another thing entirely, of course. As is the issue of what theyโ€™re going to do with those answers.”

          Exactly. I think they both realized they tore the covers off some stuff there, which is why they had to stop. They both need to process now!

  • Chris Cox says:

    Remo is in major paternal mode. Sounds like he’s trying to keep Daron safe from Ziggy. I wonder if he knows something about Ziggy that we don’t. On a more practical note, Remo knows that heartbreak has f*cked up tours before.

    • ctan says:

      Yeah, and Remo’s really not sure how to be a parent, plus Daron’s allergic to anything paternal… and everyone brings a lot of baggage to the table.

  • Averin Noble says:

    Wow, I thought maybe Daron played so well, pouring everything he had into his guitar playing, that Remo felt outplayed/upstaged. Or whatever the musical term is.

  • Cecilia R. says:

    I find so fascinating how you can tap so well into the mess that is feeling something and not being able to communicate that to someone. This is my favorite part about reading DGC, I think, seeing these conflicts escalating slowly through the months and reading Daron first trying to understand what the hell happened and then sorting his thoughts before trying to fix everything

    • ctan says:

      ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m glad you enjoy it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Daron doesn’t enjoy the explosions but he is at least starting to appreciate the sorting out part and the feeling of clarity that eventually comes.

  • Alan Katz says:

    I know everyone is fixating on Daron’s row with Remo. We must not lose sight that Remo knew Daron when he was just a little kid, and was more a father to him than his own father, Digger. So it should come as no surprise when Remo goes a bit paternal. How is Remo supposed to know how to relate to a protege whose talent is outstripping his own, now?

    But what bothers me more was that sneaky little musical betrayal thing going on before their fight. Ziggy has a radio hit (or potential hit) with Daron playing guitar on it. Didn’t Daron refuse to be his “backup band” months ago, despite Ziggy’s repeated requests? And did anyone sign off on a contract with Ziggy’s label for Daron’s guitar work and co-writer status (I’m sure he wrote all his own guitar riffs, right?). Was this Ziggy stealing his work, or something Jordan was doing, and will Daron, at least, get royalties on the song – performance royalties, at the very least – and credit?

    It’s not nice to hijack someone else’s work. I know that this was years ago, but in today’s record industry, there’d be lawsuits flying coast to coast, injunctions issued, the whole nine yards.

    So what the heck is going on with this. It must be profoundly disturbing to hear yourself on the radio in a song you didn’t record or agree to perform on.

    • s says:

      I reread the chapters where Daron did those demos with Jordan searching for when Jordan gave him the tape (still haven’t found it). Daron knew Jordan would use them for other artists and didn’t think he would get any royalties from them. He did, however, think other guitarists and vocalists would be used so there may be something to the fact that it was actually him, I don’t know. He needs to talk to Jordan and Ziggy once his head stops spinning from this fight with Remo, but I’m not sure there’s much he can do or if he even wants to do anything. He hasn’t really had a chance to process this yet either.

      • ctan says:

        Oh, Daron fully expects if anything of the demos he recorded with Jordan turn into anything, he’ll be getting songwriting royalties from them. That was the point of doing it. And he wouldn’t have been overly surprised if some of the actual tracks worked their way into Jordan’s dance remixes and stuff, even if they hadn’t talked about that possibility.

        But showing up on a track *with Ziggy* especially a stealth track that they’re disavowing as a publicity stunt… even after spending an hour in that closet listening to it over and over he still doesn’t know what to think or how to feel about it.

    • ctan says:

      I think the only thing that hasn’t sent Daron off the deep end about this is it’s clearly something Jordan cooked up, and he trusts Jordan enough to find out more before he jumps to any conclusions or jumps down Ziggy’s throat about it.

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