I didn’t find him before Remo and the Mazel brothers emerged from their conclave, all three of them grim-faced, but they weren’t fighting anymore. Visibly, anyway. We went through a short soundcheck. I then floated through the timeless void until the show because of Flexeril–or who knows, maybe I had a great time and some deep conversations and I just don’t remember it now thanks to Flexeril, but as far as I’m concerned if I don’t remember something then it’s pretty hard to include here, yeah?
The show was in a similar timeless void. I forgot to worry about the fight and worried about my fingers instead. They held up without obvious pain or malfunction. I skipped the post-show party and took a very expensive cab ride back to Ziggy’s and was unconscious by midnight.
The limo came for me at seven in the morning. I had slept about six hours and was painfully groggy, as I knew I’d be, so it wasn’t like I could complain, really. I knew what I had signed up for. When I arrived at the station, Remo was already there, along with one of the young Wenco reps I had met once before but forgotten the name of (and have forgotten again). A radio station person made me a very large coffee with lots of half and half and sugar and they also had donuts. A very good chocolate-glazed donut goes a long way toward improving my mood.
Advantage of radio over television: if you have chocolate glaze on your face, it doesn’t matter.
While we were waiting to go on and the deejay was talking to one of the other radio staff people, I said to Remo, “If we’d had time to rehearse it I would’ve said we should play that song you sang yesterday.”
“Stupid little three-chord ditty,” he said.
“It wasn’t stupid and you know it.”
“Calling out the alcoholics in the room was.”
“Was it? I thought it was smart.” I tuned a little while the commercials were playing. “Song reminded me of ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky.'”
“And just as corny.”
“A classic,” I said. “I can’t believe you just said that.”
“It had its time.” He shrugged.
“I don’t believe you believe a word you’re saying right now.”
Remo shrugged again. “Ask me again after a second cup of coffee. Maybe I’m just not awake yet.”
I sat back, firm in my conviction that the guy who sang the song yesterday was the genuine Remo Cutler and that the guy sitting here right now was the doppleganger he sent out to to publicity. Of course it was. I guess before that it hadn’t occurred to me that people other than Ziggy might be like that–Remo in particular, who for most of my life had seemed so perpetually unchanging.
We had discussed what songs we were going to play at some point the day before. “Safe Haven” was the favorite early hit from the first Nomad album and “Riptide” was the current single being flogged, so we went with those.
“Stay with me,” I told Remo, meaning follow my lead musically, in case it wasn’t clear. “In case my hand freezes up or something.”
He nodded. I wasn’t actually worried that my hand was going to freeze up. I had plans to try the same technique he had on “Freedom in a Bottle,” slowing to half time before the last verse of “Safe Haven” to make it heartbreaking, but I didn’t want to tell him that. So I didn’t.
Instead I let it happen live. The buzzword for a raw, genuine performance is “organic.” Like it’s as good for you as roughage and vegetables or something. This was delicious, crunchy, genuine organic. So much so that Remo got a little choked up on the last verse of “Safe Haven” and then said, as the staff in the studio were clapping when it was over, “You know that goddamn song is about you!”
“I thought it was a story about a battered woman girlfriend of yours,” I said. One of the engineers hurriedly swung a mic in my direction and I had to repeat myself.
“It’s supposed to sound like that but I actually wrote it about you, in those days when I used to get up in the morning and find you asleep on my couch.”
“The good ol’ days,” I said with a wry laugh.
“Daron Moondog, ladies and gentlemen,” the deejay said. “And Remo Cutler, of Nomad, the pride of Red Bank, New Jersey. Is that true? Daron used to sleep on your couch?”
“When he was a kid, yeah. Rebellious teenager. So that song was really about him, but you know, had to make it a love song so that’s where the whole saving her from her abusive relationship even though it’s cheating theme comes from.”
A lightbulb went on in my head. That song was about my mother as much as it was about me. It was about Remo wishing he could play the hero. And since he never could play hero for Claire, he’d done his best for me, instead. The idea didn’t bother me as much as it had when I first considered it two years earlier.
When we got off the air Artie still wasn’t there–probably was intelligent and sent the young guy in his place and then slept in–and I still hadn’t asked him the thing I wanted to ask him the day before when I hadn’t found him. So I checked with Remo that he was coming tonight–yes, as far as he knew–and then I nagged the person who’d brought me the coffee for a dub of the aircheck. (Translation: a taped copy of the microphoned parts of the interview, i.e. everything including the singing/playing and talking but not the commercials or pre-recorded music.) It took a little bit of time but we ate a couple more donuts and chit-chatted with the program director while they made a tape for me. Thus I walked out of there with a cassette and an idea. It was still a vague idea at that point, which was why I wanted to talk to Artie.
Then the limo dropped me back off at Ziggy’s and I went back to sleep for another two hours. I think maybe that is one of my favorite pleasures in life: climbing into a bed where my lover lies warm and dreaming, and joining him in sleep.
(Uh, trigger warning for totally unabashed native american cultural appropriation by British rock stars in this one. I’d like to say bands know better now but actually I’m not sure they do. -d)