784. American Music

After the shows at Nassau Coliseum, everyone had two full days off. Most of the band and crew took those days off in Cleveland, where the final leg of the tour would start. I stayed in New York. The first day was a Monday and I slept until I couldn’t sleep any more, which was to say about 1pm. Hunger woke me. I was gentle with myself, took my time scrounging some food and getting ready to leave the apartment. (Ziggy was already out somewhere.) I called Artie, didn’t reach him, so I called Carynne instead.

I ended up going up to the WTA offices to get the rundown on where we were with trying to get something nailed down for Star*Gaze and to run the idea by her as a practice before running it by Artie. I played her the tape of Remo and me doing the acoustic morning drive version of “Safe Haven.” We were in Barrett’s office because he had a tape deck and he wasn’t there at the moment.

I was sitting in the chair nearest the stereo. “I told you Remo wants to do an album together, right?”

“You did, and you told me you weren’t totally sure you wanted to,” she reminded me.

“This is what I want to do,” I told her. “Just him and me and two guitars. Nothing else. No overdubs, no backing tracks.”

She put her chin in her hand in one of her classic “thoughtful girl” poses, leaning against Barrett’s desk. “Why?”

“Because it feels right.” I know, I know. That wasn’t any kind of answer, but it was true. “I think Artie will understand.”

“And you want to pitch this idea to him?”

“As a trial balloon. Before I try to sell Remo on the idea.”

“I thought it was Remo’s idea to make a record together?”

“It was. Is. But not quite like this.”

“What’s different about this?”

“It’s organic.”

“In the earthy-crunchy way?”

“Well, in the natural, unadulterated way,” I admitted.

“I can see why you’re practicing this pitch on me,” she said with a skeptical tilt of her face.

“I think there’s a… magic? No, that sounds corny as hell. Charm? Same.” I racked my brain a little for the right word and still didn’t find it. “There’s something special about Remo singing like that, no filters, no triple-tracking. Raw. It’s moving. It’s real. It’s… alive and vital in a way that, honestly, the current Nomad album isn’t.”

She winced. “You wouldn’t seriously tell Artie that an album he shepherded doesn’t sound good, would you?”

She was right. That probably wasn’t the tack to take. I tried to argue anyway. “It’s not about ‘good,’ it’s about the fact that slick overproduction kills what’s best about Remo’s performance.”


“Look, slick production isn’t inherently bad. Think of it like deep frying. Lots of people love deep fried food, in fact, who doesn’t? And it’s super commonplace in modern restaurants all across America. It’s the dominant thing in American cuisine, even. But you don’t deep fry a steak. You don’t deep fry a fresh-picked apple.”

“And what makes you think this back-to-nature approach isn’t just going to get you booted out of the rock department into the folk ghetto?”

“That’s the best part. The more bare-bones it is, the easier you can justify sticking it wherever the hell you want, rock, pop, country, folk. I won’t even give that a second thought.”

She still looked skeptical. “I’ll see if I can convince Artie’s secretary to give you a meeting time tomorrow. After your next hand followup.”

“Wait, already? It’s only been a week.”

“It’s on the schedule,” she said with a shrug. “Just a check-in, I think, to make sure everything’s going as planned and that you’re not having problems.”

“Okay. What time?”

“Two o’clock. Should leave you plenty of time to drop by Artie’s afterward.”

“Perfect. I’m still jet-lagged from doing morning drive the other day.” In fact the couch in Barrett’s office was starting to look kind of inviting.

But instead of lying down I went with Carynne back to her desk, which was in a cubicle a few yards from Barrett’s door, and we went over various logistical things I don’t know remember. Most of the pieces of paper tacked to the cubicle wall related to me in some way. Here’s the one my eyes kept coming back to:

Aug 21 Cleveland
Aug 22 Detroit
Aug 23 Cincinnati
Aug 25 East Troy (WI)
Aug 26 same
Aug 28 Bonner Springs (KS)
Aug 29 St, Louis
Aug 31 Knoxville
Sep 1 Birmingham (AL)
Sep 2 Biloxi Coast

Ten shows in thirteen days. I was certain that when I saw the doctor the next day I could get 14 more Flexeril without pushing. Which meant I was going to make it. The finish line was in sight.


  • s says:

    Now I want a deep fried apple.

    • daron says:

      Batter dip it first and it could be good. Otherwise you just ruin the apple and the oil you’re frying it in.

      • Maelia says:

        *here to read comments to chapters read in the ebook yesterday*
        Wait… You mean deep fried apple donuts aren’t a common thing everywhere?

        • daron says:

          Uh, at the apple picking places in New England we have deep fried apple CIDER donuts — but although you have to go to an apple orchard to get them there’s no actual apple in them besides the cider in the batter.

          • Maelia says:

            Here it’s really slices of apple (cut after removing the apple’s core in order to get round slices with holes in the middle) dipped in donut batter (at least I think it’s the same kind of batter), deep fried then sprinkled with icing sugar. It’s notably a typical treat at funfairs here in Belgium, along with some Belgian specialities that can’t even be found in France – but the beignets aux pommes = apple donuts can (and there are many recipes on French websites), so I didn’t realize they didn’t exist in some places were non-deep fried donuts are common. It’s funny to find out things like that.

  • marktreble says:

    Slick overproduction is like cooking raw vegetables. You lose half the nutritional value.

    • daron says:

      But at least everyone can digest it, right? Goes down easy. For some things, slick production is the right thing, just like a honey glaze works on donuts or ham alike… but not lasagna.

  • TJ says:

    Some days there’s nothing like chicken fried steak. Others there’s fresh grilled veggies…

    • daron says:

      The problem with chicken fried steak, which I’ve eaten a ton of while traveling through the South, is that it doesn’t at all satisfy one’s craving for a STEAK. It is not a steak. It came from a cow and might be best called a cow cutlet but it is not a steak.

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