So the reason Barrett was there that morning wasn’t to trigger an existential crisis in my artistic life, but to drive us to San Diego. He didn’t trust that we wouldn’t end up dead in a ditch, and given that neither Ziggy nor I had really slept an appreciable amount, I had to agree it was a wise plan. I wondered where Tony was, but I figured if I was supposed to know, they would have told me.
They had a hurried, whispered conversation while I carried my bag and guitar to the elevator. When they caught up with me I said, “You don’t have to whisper. I know I’m being moody and weird.”
The two of them looked at me with identical “oops” expressions on their faces.
“You coming to the show tonight?” I continued.
They exchanged a glance and Ziggy said, “Yes.”
In the car he fell asleep leaning on me and ended up with his head in my lap. I refrained from playing with the gelled curves of his hair and instead put my palm on his chest, feeling him breathe. Barrett was inscrutable behind mirrorshades in the driver’s seat.
Now that I was thinking about it more, I realized that the process of transforming Ziggy from lead singer of an alternative rock band into an entertainment business commodity had started with Digger. And Mills, to some extent.
No wonder Mills had wanted to get rid of me. It wasn’t just the PR liability thing of me being gay. It was the artistic liability thing of me wanting to do music that was fresh and original and not created purely to be commercially “easy.” The annoying thing about that was I knew all about commercially easy and I was fucking good at it if Jordan Travers was any judge (and he was), not to mention the number of hits I’d written for other people at that point. If BNC had come to me and said we need this next album to be super-viable in the commercial marketplace or else, I have no doubt Jordan and I would have been able to do that.
I might have hated every minute of it…but I might not’ve. There might’ve been a sweet spot of overlap between commercial viability and songs I loved. Given my track record, I’m sure there could have been.
But they hadn’t given us that chance. That album never came to be. The not-done album that meant they owned us forever since our obligation was never fulfilled.
Man, this industry is fucked up.
I didn’t want to wake Ziggy, but I couldn’t stay quiet any longer. I said to Barrett, “When do you need to know if I’m taking this musical director gig?”
“Assuming the first shows are in November, how long a rehearsal run-up do you think we need? Six weeks?”
“Probably, if you want the band to be involved in the show in any way as opposed to being, like, an unseen pit orchestra.”
I tried not to sound judgmental when I said: “I’m assuming you don’t want an unseen pit orchestra or you wouldn’t be bothering to hire a live band in the first place.”
He looked at me over the tops of the sunglasses in the rear view mirror. “I know you think we’re crass commercialists but we’re not so crass as to use taped musicians.”
I didn’t argue with his assessment of me since it was completely right. “Okay.”
“And I assume recruiting and hiring said band would probably take a couple of weeks?”
“Yeah.” He was forcing me to do the math. “In other words I would really need to get on doing that starting next week, get it squared away before I do the second leg of the Nomad tour. Lock people up before they make other plans for the winter.”
“What we haven’t talked about,” I said, glancing down at Ziggy, who hadn’t moved other than to breathe. “Is what music we’re going to be playing? Are we…going to be doing retreads of M3 stuff? All new? If so, what?”
“There’s an album in the can already,” he said, glancing at me again. “You knew that, right?”
“I sort of assumed but he hasn’t told me anything about it.” I had known Ziggy had been in the studio a couple of times. Trav had mentioned it, and when else would Ziggy have gotten together with him to accidentally cook up the contraband single?
“Yeah. Took a while to cobble this record together. I imagine it’ll take you a lot less time to learn it than it did for us to record it.”
“If I take the gig.”
“If you take the gig.” He nodded. “I suppose you want to listen to it first before you decide?”
“No,” I said, and he turned his head to look at me for a second as if surprised by that. “No, I shouldn’t make this decision based on my chauvinism about genre.”
He gave a slow nod of agreement.
“How much input would I have, do you think? To how the final show comes out.”
“If you mean you’re afraid we’re going to make you dress up as an astronaut, rest assured you’ll have some input to the look. We’ve got an aesthetician we’ll introduce you to. Of course, the earlier you get on board, the more input you can have to that kind of thing.”
I didn’t even know “aesthetician” was a word before that, much less a job description. “Can you forward contract drafts to Carynne Handley so I can look at it in more detail?”
We lapsed back into listening to the car radio, then, and Ziggy coughed and sat up. “Are we there yet?”
“No, Virginia,” Barrett said.
I had a feeling Ziggy might have been awake and listening to a bunch of that conversation. But so what? I had nothing to hide about my feelings on the matter. I just had to figure out what my feelings were. Could I actually stand to become a cog in the machine that was Ziggy Incorporated? Or would I just be setting myself up for a lot more attacks of heartache like I’d had that morning?
(Update on the Amazon reviews campaign! Doing great! Vol Two has 21 reviews now, so that’s done! Vol Three is up to 12, Four is up to 9, Five has 8, Six has 9, and Seven has 14! I dunno if we’re going to make it before October 1st though guys… But all it’ll take is a handful more people reviewing all 5 books that need reviews. You don’t have to say a lot, just that you enjoyed reading it! ALSO although you can’t review it yet, volume 8 is up for pre-order everywhere: Amazon • Apple iTunes/iBooks • Smashwords • Barnes & Noble• Kobo)