Friday, November 05, 2004
So this morning was hell. First I get addicted to this damn site, then I find out I can't log on with any new posts. Typical. I was jonesing in a bad way. Then, I go on line and find out I owe Cingular $417.00 for my kids' cell phone bills for the month of October. Both went way over their minutes on the family plan. I almost had a fucking stroke and called them at school, hollering like a crazy woman. This is not like me at all, and while I'm angry at both of them, I'm just as angry at myself for losing my cool. Fuck it all, it's only money. Okay, $417.00 is a big deal, but at least everyone is healthy. Well, I'm not healthy, my blood pressure is soaring, but at least I'm alive.
Anyway, back to the novel. I don't even remember what pic I am posting - I copied the link before I went to work and emailed it to myself, so I guess I'll be surprised - oh wait, I do remember, it's my son, Eric (the one with the long hair in the dark glasses like his mom) and Brandon, the other drummer, playing congos on Black Magic Woman. And in regard to said novel, when I went to work on it last night and this morning, I realized one of the reasons I was so bored was that I was telling it in too linear a fashion, which I know I have to do because it's non-fiction, but I wanted to excite myself so I started typing up some of my notes from Paul's pre-concert pep talk to the kids on the third day in. This is all raw stuff, but I figure, what the fuck, I'll insert it in its proper place later, severely edited of course. So here it is, more of the tour...
“Alright! I’m going to throw out some songs. I want you to grade them., A, B, C. Black Magic Woman.”
“I think it’s a B”, says Dan, one of the guitarists, a nice kid. It’s not his song so he’s being diplomatic and taking the middle of the road approach.
“Why a B and not an A, Dan?” Paul prods him.
“I dunno,” he mumbles.
“He’s right,” says Haffie, another great guitar god. “ I just don’t think there’s enough energy.”
“You’re making sense, Haf. Phil,” he says, pointing at a handsome seventeen year old guitarist with long wavy hair. “You’re a rock star on that stage, act the part. C’mon dude, you’ve got the looks. Do a solo with C.J. You’ve got to sell the audience, you’ve got to play to them. Dance, talk it up, sell our merchandise. We have t-shirts, sweatshirts, tour shirts. No wait, girls – you do it. Smile at everyone, give a little wiggle, ask them nicely to buy them during the break, tell them how it supports the school”
“Okay, okay,” everyone kind of mumbles.
“Stevie,” he says to his pretty blonde keyboard player/singer. "Listen, no lesbian thing when you and Madison sing You Really Got Me. This isn't Philadelphia - the people don't dig what you're doing. It’s not cool. Instead of smiling at each other, smile at and engage the audience.”
The kids groan. They're older and are into being bored and blasé. Engaging the masses decidedly does not appeal to them and Paul senses it.
“Listen, have I been wrong yet? Don’t disagree with me, I know what I’m talking about. Look how it is when Joey sings Italian Restaurant. He hams it up and people love it. Remember that dude we saw on Venice Beach playing guitar with his feet? People were lined up watching! You gotta do shit like that!”
More sighs from everyone. And I’m still cringing over the fact that Italian Restaurant is even on the set list.
“Okay, next song. Gimme Shelter - can be A, but not with this group. Madison, you should own that song. You gotta belt it out!”
“Louie!” He shouts to his premier guitarist, also soon to graduate. “You fucked up the solo in Pigs last night. You’re playing on automatic; there’s no enthusiasm.”
“Paul, the sound guy was horrible. The bartender told me it was his first day on the job and he was all stoned.”
“Don’t blame the sound guy. You always blame others for your fuck-ups. And Dan, you need to work the slide better. Other than that, the song was an A. It should be an A. It’s a great fucking tune.”
“Golden Slumbers! Okay, A, the crowd eats it up, especially when Teddie, Gina, and Allie all sing in harmony. Same thing, Paranoid Android. Teddie, Stevie, the Slicks – A plus.”
Oh man, he’s giving my kids a break? With me sitting here? That’s so not Paul.
“Okay, next song. Dogs. Now Slicks, you sucked on that last night. Worst version ever.”
Ha. Now it is.
“Yeah, it figures. Teddie finally gets her guitar solo right but then the Slicks screw up. Julie, Eric, you've got to keep it together. It’s like you never establish any groove.”
“Paul, we tried really hard. That’s the most difficult song we do,” Julie whines.
“What did we do wrong? I thought we did okay,” Eric agrees.
“No, it’s not good enough. Figure it out, but realize it’s better to play the song good than exactly right. No one is telling you to be slavishly tied to the original version. You two are such perfectionists, you’re too literal. You have to liven it up, you’re not tight enough as a unit. I mean, Jesus Christ, Pink Floyd was the tightest unit ever and of course you’ll never do that so cheat, make it yours. Julie, Eric, don’t just stand there looking at each other, just nail it. You guys gotta work on it. Julie, when it comes to the bass break...don't stop when Louie does - hold an open chord.”
“What do you mean?” Julie sputters.
“I don’t know, anything. Play an arbitrary chord,” he says.
The kids all look at each other and I wait to roll my eyes in comradery if only one of them would just look at me.
“Next. Rain Song.”
“A” everyone agrees.
“Yeah, that’s right. It’s an A. Teddie, you nail the vocals – Jeremy, Phil, CJ – you rock on that.”
“21st Century Schizoid Man.”
“Oh, A plus,” Julie says. Sure, her boyfriend plays bass on that.
“You’re right. CJ and Matt rock out on that song.”
“Okay, okay, what else. Can You Hear Me Knocking. I say it’s a B. The guitars need more…something. Guys, do me a favor. Get the CD and listen to it wearing headphones. Get crazy with the rhythm. Cameron, you need to be a little more animated like Ron Wood.”
I stifle a laugh. Animated and Ron Wood used together in the same sentence for some reason cracks me up. And then again, there’s that rumor about him having horrible body odor.
“Next. What is Never Should Be...do Ramble On instead,”
No one disagrees because the same kids play in both.
“LA Woman. Dom, you are Jim Morrison. But people, please...carve out a solo for Grace. Right now it’s a B and it’s usually good but it could be an A. Jam, keep the solo going, and do another jam at the end. Dave – do something other than 4/4 drumbeats. C’mon. You’re an All Star, act like one, otherwise I’m giving the song to Slick or Brandon. And Brandon,” he says to the only black kid on tour. “War Pigs is just B plus – Haffie, that’s your fault and Brandon, you’re behind in the beat and I can't hear the high hat. Remember, once again, good is better than right. Brandon you are the vet here. You have to lead that song!”
Brandon nods. Normally, he’s immune from this stuff. He’s older that the other kids – almost twenty – but he’s Paul’s right hand man, a good natured kid who at least on the surface lets stuff roll off him.
“Now. Four Horsemen. It has to be perfect...there’s no other reason for doing that song other than ‘Look how good we do it’ and let me tell you now, if I’ve just told you your song is good and then you fuck up and don't give it your all and it gets bad again, you're never gonna hear the end of it. I'm gonna haunt you fuckers. Cameron, you had a breakthrough in that song the other night - it's your song, dude, and if you can't hear others you are too loud and you have to turn down your amp. You need other people to quiet down during your solos. You know why it is I always hear solos by the same people? It's because of their attack. Attack!”
The kids are getting restless. They realize Paul is on one of his manic roles and this could go on for hours. They’re hungry and they’re tired but once again, I have to pretend I’m invisible, even though it’s like one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. That’s my kids sitting there suffering.