From the rock & roll diary
"I have always been a tad suspicious of Patrick Buchanan. He seems to have a faint odor wafting off himself; that “God died and left me in charge” scent. Maybe it’s my Libertarian bent, or just the personality disorder of not caring too much about humanity, but I don’t care much what people do, and I am not going to put a move on the moral high ground by telling them how to live. Telling someone to do (a) when they are hellbent on doing (b) is not productive. As long as folks aren’t practicing some form of murderous cannibalism, I figure whatever they do is their own business, as long as we’re talking consenting adults here.
However, I have to admit that Mr. Buchanan may be on to something with his latest book, State of Emergency. Already denounced as a xenophobe and a racist, Buchanan appears to be touching a nerve, i.e. the illegal immigration issue."
Then I lost interest, and got diverted into an e-mail about the old rock & roll days. Since the Iranians are going to start blowing stuff up at any given time, reminiscences of Ye Olde Days are a lot more satisfying than addressing the latest mad ravings of Howard Dean, or the politics of reconquista. Hence, we get this page from an old spiral notebook:
The Nobz started as a garage band in 1977. Tim, one of our two composers/guitar players, had lost a leg to an auto accident years earlier. We had an encyclopedia of about 60 original songs, including gems like "Cocaine and Roses" and "Lawnmowers in Love". Bear in mind that I had a day job, and children to raise.
Wendy O. Williams (a former porn starlet) and The Plasmatics stole the chainsaw shtick for their NY act, but they had to be satisfied with chopping up a guitar onstage. Only Tim Troutman could whack into his missing leg. It out-punked the punks, and we had better musical chops, as well. Johnny Rotten never had a chance.
Later, a one-trick wonder called "Jackal" also stole the chainsaw idea. The rumor is that they got crazed with a producer one day, did the redneck "Watch this!" stunt, and had to return to their day jobs.
We played the Great Southeastern Music Hall a week after Rotten and The Pistols brought their act to America, at the same venue. It was the first time we ever did "Disco Chainsaw" publicly, and it brought the house down. I have the 30-year old tape. Max, the other guitarist, dressed in a grey pinstripe 3-piece suit. Tim wore his white doctor's jacket. Dave, our bass player, was an EMT, and wore his uniform, as he'd come directly from work. I wore black pantyhose and hot pants, and though I'm straight as the mail, our singer Chastain almost died laughing when I pointed and said "Oh, I've got a run."
We opened acts for luminaries like the B-52s and The Ramones. When we played The Agora Ballroom ahead of The Ramones, Tim exercised his sense of humor. He had a day job at the J.D. Hanger Company, which manufactures prosthetics. Having access to the injection-molder, he would blow-dry legs without the steel strut they use for support. This made them very accessible to chainsaws.
The night in question, Tim did a "special" without telling anyone else in the band. A communications major in college, he knew how to make stage blood, which is essentially food coloring and corn syrup. He made a "squib" and packed it into the special, hollow leg he'd built that day.
"Disco Chainsaw" was easy to play, for a drummer. Your basic hi-hat, snare, bass disco riff, it afforded me a lot of opportunity to gauge the audience from the riser. We did a change-up into something dark and heavy at the end, when Tim dropped the Gibson Flying Vee and grabbed the chainsaw, but the disco stuff was a riff I could phone in.
So, we do the change-up, Tim grabs the saw, and starts working. I'm immediately alarmed; "Damn, he's working high on that leg tonight!" (He has a stump below the knee.)
The band plays on, and Tim hit the "blood bag". The spray pattern was like 30 feet. The foot fell off. I looked into the mob at the front of the stage, and saw a hard-core punk rocker faint dead away. I saw another hurling chunks. Yeah, I admit it, it scared the hell out of me, too.
So, we go downstairs to the dressing room. Tim's changing his leg for something more stable, and the rest of us are fishing beer out of the trashcan and trying to calm down. The Ramones' manager charges in, screaming "We can't follow that!"
Opening acts do not traditionally get encores. The Ramones' manager literally screamed us back onstage. The Agora was going nuts, and even tough-ass New York punkers were seriously put off by a chainsaw and a bag 'o blood. They thought we were genuinely insane.
For all of our 60 good songs, we'd already been through the best of the repertoire that night. We 'fessed up to not having a single good follow-up, since we didn't expect an encore. Fortunately, I'd stuffed the foam-rubber sandwich into my drum case as an afterthought. This was a gaint white-bread costume for Chas, our singer. It had red and green stuff hanging out. Think of those giant dancing cigarette packs of the 1950s, and you know what this piece of work looked like. Chas didn't sing when she wore it, she just danced like a pack of Pall Malls.
What we finished with was an instrumental titled "Negroes Ate My Sandwich." It was all we had left. In the tradition of The Allman Brothers, it starts country and finishes with a swingin' rock boogie. A giant dancing sandwich, while we did the Flinstones' Dino "BLLeahhh" on the breaks, made the rest of the song.
Some time later, the manager for The Tubes called Tim from San Francisco. He checked in the next day uncertain if he'd actually had the telephone conference at 0300. It was real, and we opened the Fox Theater in Atlanta for them. I have never played in front of 2000 people in my life since then, and I certainly never will again, but it was a wonderful taste of life on the high side.
I'm just dribbling from the left side of my brain. Is that a good rock 'n roll tale? Believe it or not, I kept a diary in those days.
So, where were you hiding when all this was going on?
Asked if there's anything I haven't done, I have to say "Yes, I failed at two marriages." In previous comments, I referred to movies and rock & roll as "drinking deeply from the cup of life". It was all fun, but these days just having someone around to hold my hand would be nice.
Who would've thunk I'd get old? I always took the Bob Dylan song "Forever Young" as gospel.
I don't play the drums, or raise horses, any longer. One of these days, I may take a hoss out for one last jump, like Scarlett O'Hara's daddy.
It was fun while it lasted, though.