So this flyer pops up on the ol newsfeed now and again.
Understandably, people are amazed.
Whoa, dude! You guys actually played with The Ramones?
And then: so how old are you??
Yes, that gig happened, and before you ax, no we didn’t get to hang out with them as they were pretty much hustled in and out of the shed for their set.
I did, however, get a quick glimpse into their green room where – swear to God -I saw Johnny eating a slice of pizza.
I was thrilled to see an actual Ramone eating pizza, perhaps a gastronomic satisfaction on par with actually witnessing a lioness take down and feast on a gazelle.
Johnny looked up at me, then over to a roadie, then the door was slammed shut.
You would think this would be the absolute pinnacle of our career, the full-circle fantasy of playing alongside the very band that got us into, and finally out of, the garage.
But when I see this poster I am really reminded of the sad condition we were in as a band, and how the final days were telegraphed, if not tattooed in all of our inner eyelids.
That show was on a Monday, and just the day before we came home from an awful, decadent Midwestern tour.
We were alcohol bloated, burnt out, squeezed into mildewed leather pants: all aviator sunglasses & cowboy boots, trailing a cloud of AquaNet Pink responsible for a acre-sized hole in the Ozone layer.
It was the final lineup of CH3 before the reboot: I’m up there being a lead singer, for fuck sake. Kimm and Jay Lansford doing the guitars, hillbilly madman Ron Wood on drums.
The new kid Mike Dimkich has been shanghaied into bass duty on this leaky vessel, wide-eyed and not yet drinking age. That didn’t stop us from forcing him to get drunk nightly and pimping out the cute new kid to the local sluts.
As we swung through Chicago, Detroit, Lansing, Flint–all places that held a soft spot for us in earlier years, we were met with disdain, disgust-and worst of all-no recognition at all.
I imagine that’s how it is for a band like, oh say, SmashMouth these days.
They come back to town, but instead of playing in the decent halls they held court in the 90’s, they find themselves on the grassy outskirt sidestage of Temecula’s Wild Wine Week festival.
How can they not feel a bitter ache as they roll their own amps on stage, following the opener: ShrekMouth (a tribute to SmashMouth)
So when we finally regrouped after that tour and the Ramones gig, the calendar lay plenty empty before us, missing Kimm’s frantic scribblings that usually kept us busy on bandstuff.
And as it so often happens, that stage of CH3 came to a close not in some fiery ball of Gallagher-esque onstage fistfights, but a lazy disintegration as everyone goes off to explore other projects.
Jay regrouped with Steve Jones in The Unforgiven, the rousing Western-themed band that set off a Major label bidding war in the mid 80’s. Another CH3 survivor Larry Lee Lerma later joined them in a pared down version of the group, just teasing us with a full-blown Stepmothers reunion.
Jay was soon out on those big stages that we never quite got the hang of inhabiting, pulling off the outsized rockstar moves with ease.
Kimm and Mike paired off in Bulldog, a tasteful pop rock group that included future Wool and Concrete Blondie Al Bloch on bass and vocals. They were soon grinding it out on the Hollywood circuit, yer classic Coconut Teaser type of act that got all the foxy Westside legal assistants out and dancing at Madame Wong’s on a Friday night.
I had the treat of being left with beloved knucklehead and future Facebook grammatician Ron Wood. We started a little act called Stagger Lee with my old Artesia rock heroes Mike Eldred and Ron Davis, formerly from the band Metro Hotel.
I dunno, we were going for a sort of AC/DC rocky thingy, but somehow our hearts were not really in this new act.
You know when things feel right, and this wasn’t it.
Ronnie soon drifted off to God knows where, and we found ourselves practicing in rented rooms, hustling for gigs, picking up stacks of fucking tickets for a Wednesday night slot at the Troubadour. ick.
One night after a sweaty practice session, we found ourselves at The Embassy Lounge in Artesia, the bar right next to our beloved Gold Brique. The Brique was just beer and wine, so it was next door to the Embassy if you really wanted to get into the hard booze and fuck up your morning.
We sat over buckets of Jack Rocks, drowning those typical sorrows of a band relegated back to opening slot on pay to play shows.
I guess every band has that existential crisis. What the fuck are we doing here–I mean, for what?
How far removed have we become from that kid who first plugged in a guitar and hit a shimmering open E chord that shook the house, if not the world?
What happened to that? That Joy.
The bartender came over and mercifully topped off the highballs, then stopped and squinted at us.
Let me guess, y’all are a band right?
We grunted into our glasses, almost ashamed to admit to being part of this sordid racket.
Well, hell, why don’t you guys get up and do some songs?
She gestured to a darkened corner, and there was a little bandstand I never even noticed before.
“Well, we’re not that sort of…act,” we started.
Every musician is used to this shameful spiel when trying to explain your oeuvre to a civilian who just wants to hear a nice number that they know.
But before we could go on, she chimed in.
Free booze rest of the night?
Nine minutes later we had a combo amp and snare drum on stage, Ron plugging his bass into the house organ’s Leslie speaker.
We knew we couldn’t blast them with our hoary rock shit, so everyone came up with an old standard we could stretch out for 15 minutes and capitalize on the open tab:
Roadhouse Blues? Kansas City? Hey, The Temps–My Girl!
We started with a shuffling blues number, amazed to be playing at a volume so low you could still hear Vin Scully’s melodious tenor calling out the 10th inning against the Giants.
An old soggy couple stopped their ongoing argument and looked at us playing.
They tapped their fingers to the beat for a bit then got up from their booth and actually started dancing.
Tentative at first, then the muscle memory kicking in as they picked up the swing. She threw back her head and hooted as her husband twirled her around, now doing their very own version of the Lindy Hop, a forgotten language of the far better days of their youth.
And they were dancing to music that we were playing.
We looked at each other and grinned at the absurdity of it all.
These people had never heard of The Roxy or soundchecks or opening slots.
They didn’t give a fuck who got a Palladium gig, or burned with jealousy when one of their friends landed a major label deal.
They were in a bar, a band was playing and they were dancing.
We brought the number home and he dipped her down low for a finish, and then placed a rare kiss on her cheek. The rest of the room clapped.
Then he came up to us, put a five in an empty pint glass and we were a bar band.
to be continued