869. Set the Night to Music

I went to find some other members of the band. If Ziggy was occupied kissing people’s asses, so be it. I wandered back through the party areas, slightly disoriented about what was officially party and what was random. (I never did quite learn the layout of that hotel.)

One of the party rooms was a fancy penthouse-type parlor with a high ceiling and a view of the city. Things were still going strong in there with latin dance music and a bunch of people dancing. The only ones I recognized were Colin and Bradley, the latter of which was riding the former’s shoulders. I smiled. Nice to know they were getting along. A loud dance party wasn’t really what I was looking for right then, though.

It appeared that the gals had gone to bed already. I was a little surprised at how little of them I was seeing this tour, given that I’d been with them so much while on the road with Nomad. Maybe since we weren’t the only three queers in this group we didn’t feel the need to cling together so much?

Then again, there was the fact I was–without really admitting it out loud at the time–avoiding my vocal exercises. So I’d probably been subtly avoiding them to avoid being scolded about it, right? I wasn’t aware of being that sneaky, but maybe I was?

I did find the horns sitting in a hotel room with the door open, with Flip. Flip had a guitar in his lap but wasn’t playing it at that moment. It was the Ovation he usually traveled with–similar to mine but a different color, which he usually kept tuned to the Fripp tuning. We’d jammed with it in the past.

Man, jamming would have felt good right then. But I didn’t want to contemplate how much Vitamin F and/or alcohol it was going to take to uncramp my hand from that. I hadn’t come close to trying to use my fingers for finger-picking yet. Just hanging onto the pick was enough of a challenge. “Recreational” music wasn’t in my immediate future.

I sat down with the guys anyway. Mitch had round sunglasses on and I had the impression he was well soused. Next to him sat Lorne, the trumpet player, on the edge of the couch with his back very straight. He had his wavy hair slicked back, but some of the wiry gray hairs had come free and stuck out at wacky angles. “How goes it, boss?” he asked.

Everyone with the “boss” thing. I was never going to have another nickname again. “Fine,” I said. “How about you guys?”

“Can’t complain,” Mitch said. “When do we leave this country? I like it here. Are we here another couple days or what?”

Flip shook his head. “Nah. We leave for Argentina tomorrow night.”

“My grandmother’s from there,” Lorne said. He had a deep voice and he spoke slower than usual, which was how I could tell he’d had just as much to drink as the other two.

“She coming to the show?” Mitch asked.

“No no, she passed away years ago. In Miami. She used to tell me my grandfather was a gaucho. That’s an Argentine cowboy.” He nodded seriously as if we might not know this. I think I only knew it because my junior high school Spanish class had a series of cartoons about gauchos in the textbook.

“The Indy Man,” Mitch joked. Took me a moment to get the joke, but once I did it was funny. He was making a take-off of the Marlboro Man but substituting the brand of cigarettes they were smoking in Chile. “Speaking of which, I could use one.”

Lorne took a mostly empty pack out of the interior pocket of his suit jacket and tapped it against his other hand. “I got you, ‘mano.”

The two of them went out to have a smoke. Smoking wasn’t prohibited in the hotel, but they knew I wasn’t fond of it, so they went to smoke somewhere else.

That left me and Flip. “Hey,” Flip said. “Show me how you do the change from this–” He played a section of “Candlelight.” “To the intro to the bridge. And you hit it again a couple of times… I’ve heard it a million times and I still can’t get it.”

I reached for the guitar without hesitation, aching with sudden thirst for it like an addict. “Here.”

I just strummed with my right thumb and showed him the things I did with my left hand, where and how I added a couple of notes in the transitions from one chord to the other. Unlike on a piano, where one key = one note, each note on the guitar can be played several different places on the neck. Sometimes the best way to get a note you want isn’t obvious at first.

It felt so good to have a guitar in my hands and not be trying to prove anything with it. To just play. I found myself playing around with it and them coming back to the change and slowing myself down each time I made it, and then speeding up again. Strumming with my thumb the strings were pretty quiet, but with just the two of us in the room it was plenty loud.

“Ah shit,” he said, as he watched me. “My fat pinky is never going to be able to do that.”

“Sure it will,” I said. “Just use the tip.”

“That’s what she said.”

Some jokes will never die.

(Today’s 1991 hit is Roberta Flack covering a 1987 Jefferson Starship song, accompanied by rapping from Maxi Priest. If I’ve found the right video, that is… Actually, I can’t find it anywhere and the closest I could come is this karaoke version. Jeez. -d)


  • Iain says:

    Well, it’s not actually a video, but at least it’s the right song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNajXJ9ScbM

  • Iain says:

    Argh. Hit post too soon. I meant to add, Maxi Priest is actually singing here, and not rapping at all.

    Just out of curiosity, how familiar with Roberta Flack was Daron? If he was listening to pop radio in the late 70s, early 80s, he could scarcely have avoided her, but this is one of those “not really a hit but vaguely popular here and there” kinds of songs. 1991 was her “come back” moment, such as it was. (…Was he old enough to know anything about her in the 70s and early 80s? When are we, anyway?)

    • daron says:

      We only had AM radio in the car in the 70s and early-80s so anything that was in the Top 40 I heard a million times. I was born in February 1968 and I’m 23 in this chapter, which is happening in September 1991. (And yeah, her “big comeback” was why it’s in here — most of this year I’m matching up things in the Top 40 chart for a given week with the chapters.)

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