Rodney on the Roq I

Ah, the mid nineties.
Has there ever been a more vital period for American Cinema?

Oh, you can keep all those bullshit renegade movies of the late 60’s into the 70’s, when the supposedly young outlaws finally took over Hollywood.

Bonnie and Clyde? Easy Rider?
The Last Detail? meh.

How about some real classics from just 15 years ago, hmmm?
Oh gee, the hits make the mind reel!

......hey, Tarantino--Thanks a lot for reviving this hack's career!

But when I’m sittin there, mindlessly letting the DirecTV guide scroll down the LCD widescreen on an endless loop, I always stop whenever this little gem pops up on VH1’s Movies That Rock! series…..

Forest Gump meets Phil Spector...hijinks ensue!

Alright then, ya fuckin film students, so shoot me for enjoying a little mindless fluff, ok?
We’ll get back to watching Warhol’s Sleep at the Nuart next week, hipsters, but for now let’s venture back to the innocent days of pop music:

Where the musicians are badly acted men-children, the suits are sharp and crisp.
An as-of-yet unbloated Liv Tyler actually looks pretty good, and we weren’t dreading the day we’ll inevitably hear of a Mackenzie/John Phillips type scandal pop up concerning her game show host father!

Forensic artists have come up with this projection of Rachel Ray at age 84

Besides, this baby was filmed right there in the Orange Circle!
See? I always told ya downtown Orange was good for more than just Labor Day food fairs and late night Nazi rallies!

Anyway, I’ll sit through most of the dreadful dialogue and those goddamn Sarah McLachlan starving poodle commercials just for one scene:

It’s the one where our kids first hear their song played on the radio!

I’m tellin you, Hanks got it right with this scene.
I mean, the joy of hearing your own song on the radio…..well.

And though I don’t recall me or Kimm jumping around the appliance store or kissing any cardboard cutouts, it is a sweet memory, that first time one of our songs came out of that box!

And no, I’m not talking about yer XM/Sirius or even a College station, or for fucksake!, Pandora….. no.
We got to hear our song played on an actual radio station, like, you know…!

......what now..? Did that man just sing fuck on the radio, Mother?

When I talk about The old Rodney on the Roq show, and what it meant to us all back in the early 80’s, a lot of kids cock their heads, the dullard’s tell, and shrug:

Ya mean the radio station, the one that plays Enter Sandman and old Guns and Roses every goddam hour?
The one all the Bros listen to? That piece of shit?!

Ah, but it was different back then, see.
Kroq was actually a pretty great station back in the early 80’s, a place where Richard Blade would give ya your fix of Duran Duran and Culture Club, and they would actually play the odd Adolescents or Vandals song during the day as well!

But it was on Saturday and Sunday nights, brother, that’s when the airwaves were speaking just to us!

Rodney Bingenheimer: Man about town, bon vivant fixture of the LA scene for a million years, subject of a fairly recent and melancholy documentary.
The spiky little chap of Zelig-like appearnces at the elbow of whatever Rock God happened to be passing through LA.

He had his own club, probably banged groupies and runaways, (not to mention Runaways), by the dozen……

Goddamn, what would it’ve been like to rock the Sunset Strip back in those days, eh?

Ah geez, I'm hungry for a Quaalude now. Anyone else?

With his affinity for the pure pop that speaks only to the teenage heart, and not the corporate dreck of the day, you could imagine how Punk Rock appealed to Rodney.
Here was a new music, raw enough to harbor a tiny, fierce tribe—- yet explosive enough to inspire a generation.

And though he hardly had a voice that made you think–hey! this cat belongs on the radio!!–you really just can’t think of anyone else doing such a show.

Rodney would come on the air to the strains of MFQ’s Phil Spector-produced This Could be the Night, but that dreamy song would end, you were often given a crazy jolt:

The Weasels’ Beat Her With a Rake!
Or maybe even a test pressing of Motley Crue’s Live Wire…….

Whoo!—and we’d be all, crack the Lucky Lager boys, ’cause the night just started!

The pre-Elektra pre-suckage days...

And that’s when radio could truly come to life in a way that connected all of us drunken brats, from the Valley to the tip of Orange County.

You couldn’t believe you were hearing this on the radio, the vitality and truth, guitars out of tune and singers shouting, the joy crackling.
And then Rodney would come back in with a friendly alright or Amazing! and you could only smile and nod in agreement.

Rodney in the studio with Penelope from Avengers

I always think of those interviews with rock pioneers that namecheck the Grand Ol Opry show back in the day.
They would huddle close to the speaker and listen to the stars of country music broadcast across a ridiculously expansive territory.

Again and again, these old hicks would wax poetic about being alone in their bedroom, often on a dusty acre of farmland, with only the icy stars and the sound of Hank Williams to see them through the night.

But there, in the darkness, they were connected to a world bigger than their own and granted the hope of someday seeing it.

Or hell—they could wish, couldn’t they?—-maybe even being on the other side of that speaker, and making the music themselves.

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Our Last Gig: The Empty Room

One more time, we dye out the gray and trim the nose hairs, and steel ourselves for another goddamn year in the trenches.

A good 18 pounds overweight from the Holiday parties and Turducken leftovers, we slowly get back into fighting shape for 2011 with a quick jaunt North to start things off.

It’s a new destination this time, Central CA, with a Friday stop in Santa Maria, a quick jaunt up to Atascadero Sat and home in time for the Superbowl Sunday.

Or should we say, home for half time, just in time to see the fuckin’ Black Eyed Peas do their aerobics routine and poor ol Slash destroy every last molecue of rocker credliblity he had left!

Ummm, ok. And you say Axl is the one that's out of touch?

The weekend starts off in the usual way: late start on Friday, squeezing through the horrendous traffic of Friday-Lite L.A., then finally breaching the burnt hills of Calabasas to get that glorious view of the Pacific heading North.

A quick stop off in Ventura for a piss and gas, late lunch at Dargan’s Pub, and a quick Pabst at San Souci.

Looking South over the grilled eggplant sandwich mountains...

We press on to the greater Santa Maria area, home of that dry rub BBQ and meth lab explosions.
We check in at O’Sullivan’s Pub and then adjourn to BBQ Land, to sample the local delicacies.

I mean, c’mon! It’s called BBQ Land, people!

A quick and fun bar set with the good folks at O’Sullivans, and then we bunker in owner Josh’s back office for shots of whiskey and reminiscences of Clash concerts past.
Josh, gracious bastard that he is, allows us to leave with the bottle in hand.
Class Act!

Alf with our new mascot

...and these are the import restrooms too, not the later CBS release!

Trading Strummer stories in the back office of O'Sullivans.

Late night, and luckily there is a Jack in the Box open just across from the Santa Maria Inn, and a leisurely taco and cocktail session in Alf’s room brings the night to a close.

Yes, you heard us. That's 32 mystery meat tacos and one diet Pepsi. Four straws!

The BBQ, the fast food shit tacos, the Irish Whiskey and cheap beer: I have a strange dream that night.
Oh, you know the one, the one where a giant Pirate Hat chases you around a cheap soundstage as Charles Nelson Reily cackles his maniacal and somehow pedophilic laugh.

I wake up to find Kimm has left the TV on all night on the local PBS, which starts its Saturdays with a Sid and Marty Krofft Productions marathon.

Childhood bad acid trip revisited

I chew a cold leftover taco while reflecting on the wild improbability of a world ruled by hats or a giant lizard that talks with the white trash drawl of Andy Griffith.
Clearly, these people were on drugs. Good Ones.

C'mon yall--take a gander at these boots I stole off Lemmy!

We load in and continue grazing up the coast, as if we were cannibalistic bovines.
First stop at Jocko’s Steaks in Nipomo on the advice of the locals.

Despite the grammatical nightmare we encountered, we did, in fact, proceed to enter and monkey round!

Oh cartoon cow, we can't wait to eviscerate you and eat your flesh!

Anthony’s Steak sandwich is the star of this table, and at 12 bucks we proceed to order 8 more to go. Something to gnaw on in the car, keep the kids quiet, don’t ya know!

Well, yes, there are two pieces of bread on the plate, so we can safely call this a sandwich.

We make the mandatory stop at the Madonna Inn, solely for the privilege of pissing on a wall length waterfall.

Healthy stream of urine brought to you by 24 ounce cans of Pabst.

We emerge from the bathroom to find Ant has ordered champagne cocktails for us, and we drink the fruity drinks in the gaudy frills of the main dining room.

Bleh. All this fluff is giving me a headache...a fabulous headache!

Though we don’t quite start prancing about or sucking each other’s cocks, this place has definitely put us in touch with our feminine side.
It is time to get out of here.

Morro Bay, that charming rascal of the central coast, calls to us with its beautiful vistas and dive bars. We discover a giant land mass right off the beach, which Alf promptly names Morro Rock–clever boy!
We while away the afternoon at the Buoy Tavern, watching as the locals wager themselves into a frenzy for tomorrow’s game.

The Mayor of Morro Bay hovers dangerously close to our pitcher of Firestone, empty glass in hand!

The gig is at The Armory in Atascadero, an actual block of concrete on the National Guard Base.
We pull up with that old anticipation of a road gig, wondering what kind of crowd will be here, how long we’ll be signing autographs afterwards, those darn kids!

We first suspect something is off when we pull into the driveway and there’s, oh, 9 cars parked there.

Heh–right, this is an all ages gig, after all.
Lots of kids get dropped off by Mom, right?

But then we pull open the heavy gymnasium doors and take a look inside: we grow older, we really appreciate these floor level stages! No stairs!

I am not exaggerating when I say there are 20 people in a room that would comfortably hold 1200.
We wordlessly go back out to the car and crack a beer, pass around the bottle of Jame-0 that we have thankfully threw in a guitar case.

How can this be? I mean, we’re goddamn Icons, are we not?

We ponder the possible reasons for the small turnout:
The economy, man, that’s gotta be it!
Lucero is playing across the way in SLO, and that’s where the cool kids went to play.
It is Superbowl weekend after all, alright? Am I right?

And then, inevitably, we raise the question that’s been on all our minds from the start.

Can these kids up here have possibly heard how much we actually suck????

The view from behind the microphone. Still want to be in a traveling band kid?

Nah, gotta shake off those thoughts, the show will go on!
So I’ll tell you about playing to empty rooms kids, and ya better listen up to Uncle Mike, because I am considered somewhat the expert in this field!

Oh, we’ve been all over the place and played to the dreaded empty room ya see—a rainy Monday in Gary Indiana, where the crowd was so small we passed round a half pint of Jack–and it made 4 complete rounds of the room before it was empty!
Or that cinderblock beer bar in Lincoln Nebraska, where only the bartender and a lone blind bouncer suffered through our full concert set.

All bands have a story about playing to the empty room, though it’s usually kept quiet, don’t ya know.

But here’s the thing about playing to a sparse crowd–it’s often a great gig, and that’s not bullshit.
For one thing, though both you and the crowd seem to be embarrassed about being there, you have to soldier on.

They can’t very well leave til you played, and we can’t sneak out the back and head for Denny’s—- we’re all trapped!!

And so they come up to you several times in the evening to apologize for their lame scene. You shrug to the promoter at the door, who has started drinking heavily and calling his Dad for a quick loan to cover the guarantee.
On this night, you make friends.

And so we strap on the guitars and go out there, and when they cut off the intro music the room is suddenly, shockingly quiet.
Somewhere out there in the darkness, someone lets out a timid Whoo!, and the ice is broken: we laugh together.

There is no more separation of band and crowd in empty room, it’s just a bunch of people standing together to hear music, even the ones that are supposed to be playing it.
Between songs, I convince the handful of people to gather together for a picture, plead with them to make it look like they are packed together and having a good time!

Come on now, it looks like a good crowd from this shot, eh?!

We somehow play better, as everyone is focused, and the tiny crowd, well, god bless em, they start an honest to God circle pit:
3 guys and one brave girl, dancing in a tight circle in front of us, in the middle of an empty gym in the middle of this State.

By the end of the set we are laughing and joking back and forth, we’ve already memorized everyone’s names.
We end the set and there is no stage or backstage, we simply put down the guitars and start shaking hands.
We sell every last one of the shirts we brought along, cheap! and head back to the motel with smiles on our faces.

Another one for the books.

The ghosts of a Saturday night