by Larry Brody
Speaking of book deals, I’ve been thinking lately about re-using a character I created a couple of years ago for a column I began writing in a Seattle-based rock mag. The column was pseudonymous and fictionalized – a less than idealistic picture of what my life was like back in the day when I would rather have played drums than breathed.
I don’t know how long the magazine lasted. Maybe it’s still going. But I only wrote two columns because they never got around to paying me. Because they were just launching and I felt sorry for them, the fee was only lunch, but still. Anyway, here’s the character. I’m thinking of making him the protagonist in a novel set in the ’60s, in a music world I knew all too well.
What do you think?
Lo! There Shall Be a Beginning
By Drunken Monkey
First of all, let’s get something straight.
I’m not one of your Seattle dudes. Not rocking in Rain City ’cause fragile little Kurtie did it.
I’m from Tennessee and St. Louis and Port Arthur, with way too many years in the studio in L.A. And way too few years in the street in San Francisco.
I’ve played in bars in Chicago, Santa Fe, Taos. Lived in The Factory in NY. Partied in Soho and Laurel Canyon. Been wasted with everyone from Andy Warhol to Jim Morrison. Toured with Don Henley, which for me was the real Day the Music Died.
Why? Let me count the ways. No drugs. No groupies. And—I swear to God—no jamming. It was a tour of the Southeast to plug Don’s latest solo album—in other words, songs his Eagles mate, Glen Frey, hated—and we had to play exactly what was on the CD. No more. No less. No different.
Couldn’t get high. Couldn’t get laid. Couldn’t improvise.
So not worth the paycheck, man.
Is it even rock ‘n’ roll if you’ve got to wear phones and listen to the whole recording and not just a clicktrack to make sure you’re giving the oh-so-straight-and-far-from-panting public what the record company expects while you’re onstage?
Especially when you’re a drummer.
Who grew up in the school of Keith Moon, that crazy sumbitch who lived and played way before Cobain but died the same way.
(Seems to me the last thing I want for my last earthly sensation is the taste of my own vomit spewing up, but, hell, to each his own.)
So I’m not your Seattle rocker. I’m way too old and experienced in more than a Hendrix kind of way.
Which isn’t to say I don’t hear Puget Sound slapping in my ears like a stand-up bass, because I do. Everyday.
Between trucks, that is.
The trucks going by my place on Highway 19, headed up the middle finger most people call the Olympic Peninsula on their way to Port Townsend.
If you’ve gone that way you’ve seen me just as you hit Chimacum. The hairy old dude in shorts and the faded aloha shirt sitting back in the plastic lounge chair across the highway from the Chimacum feed store. That’s right, the asshole with the highball glass filled with the finest, highest proof agua something or other, beside the old Airstream trailer. Except in the winter, when I’m the asshole inside the old Airstream with body-warming Scotch.
Got an ancient Ludwig drum kit in the Airstream too. Bought it in ’57, a year that also brought me my first blowjob. From a 13 year old girl who gazed up from a junior high dance floor and found her sweet self immediately bedazzled by the kit’s black sparkle pearl.
Or maybe it was the shades that did it. Thick and black-framed and so dark I could barely see the rest of the Drunken Monkey Band, which was named for me that night because I was the one who got the gig.
It was a good night to be 15 and playing rock ‘n’ roll. Covering Elvis and Fats and—I’m sorry—Pat Boone.
But that was then, and St. Louis.
And this is now, and, as the posers say, “South Port Townsend.”
Every bit as wild as Seattle can be, even when it comes to blowjobs, and not a hipster in sight. Chimacum’s definitely the place to be. Especially if you’re into white trash.
There I was, just a few blurred-out days ago, out beside my Airstream, engaged in one of my favorite summer sports, The 3 Tequilas Taste Test, when my cell started playing Jailhouse Rock.
A quick note about this classic. Lieber and Stoller, who wrote it—and who I’m sure have first names but I’m damned if I know or care what they are—hated Elvis’s performance because…and I love this…the crazy, speeded-up son of a bitch got the words wrong!
That’s right. I got it straight from Lieber—or Stoller, whoever. E was supposed to sing, “The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang, the whole rhythm section was the purple gang,” but Lieber or whoever swore that the first time they heard the track Momma Presley’s favorite emotional incest victim was singing, “The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bam,” and the Colonel was complaining, “How could you thimbleriggers write a song that doesn’t rhyme?”
So my cell interrupts me between the Sauza Gold and the Marquis de Valencia, and it turns out it’s one of this very magazine’s Fine Editors.
“Hey, D.M. What ya doin’?” Mr. Fine Editor, who’s so damn young he was probably born during that last, stultifying Don Henley tour, asks.
“Seeing if anything in the world can get me ripped better than Oro de Oaxaca Silver Mezcal, man. What about you?”
“I’m helping start a new rock magazine,” Mr. FE said.
“Rock? What’s rock these days? April Lavigne? Girl couldn’t rock if you tied her lips to a hi-hat and her pussy to a wah-wah pedal.”
“What’s a wah-wah pedal?”
“Goddammit, kid, get off my phone!” I tried to shitcan the call, but my thumb wouldn’t move. Which gave FE the chance he needed.
“We want you to write for us, Monkey Man,” he said. “Everybody knows it ain’t rock ‘n’ roll without the Drunk Monkey.”
“What do you want me to write?” I said. “If I’ve got to listen to crap like Firewater or Death Lizard or whatever the fuck—“
“No, no! We want you to write about the music you love. The music you played. The musicians you played with.”
“You want me to be your nostalgia monkey? No way, dude—“
“Wait! We want you to write about what it was like to make the music back in the day. About the good times. The good guys. And the bad ones too.”
“Can I write about blowjobs? They were part of the music, man. Till Henley banned ’em.”
The kid editor gasped. “Don Henley banned blowjobs?”
“Absolutely. The asshole.”
“Then yeah, yeah, you can write about it. Every month. You in?”
“I’m in,” I said.
And that brings me to this very moment of Now and Seattle. The moment when I welcome this wonderful magazine, which I’m sure has a name but if I can’t remember Lieber’s and Stoller’s names why in the memory of sweet, dead Blind Lemon Jefferson (yes, the last thing he tasted was also his own vomit because such is the rocker’s life and if bluesmen aren’t rockers, then the Space Needle Restaurant isn’t way overpriced), should I remember that of this budding literary baby?
The moment when I relate a short but meaningful story about beginnings and greatness.
It was the very early ’60s, and I was a senior in high school. My Ludwig sparkling pearl kit and I were in a band that had not one but two nationwide Top 40 hits. We were on top of the world.
But no one. Absolutely no one in school gave a damn.
No one even mentioned it. Not the popular kids. Not the creeps. Not the gang types we then called “greasers.”
No one acknowledged hearing either song on the radio, or seeing us on American Bandstand.
Our band didn’t exist. We didn’t exist—except as our crazyass, goofball selves. Four guys who’d been kicked out of the school marching band for bursting into Only the Lonely on the football field during practice. (The cheerleaders dug it though. Blowjob Number—well, by then I’d already lost count.)
At last, one day around graduation time, some student government type asswad sidled over to me in the cafeteria. With him were a couple of equally asswad buddies. “Hey, I saw the Beach Boys the other night. Was that you playing the drums with the band that opened for ’em?”
I was wearing my shades—I always wore my shades—but I took them off to look Asswad in the eye as I smiled. “Sure was,” I said.
“You dumb shit,” said Asswad. “You were holding your sticks wrong.”
Laughing, he and his assistant asswads walked away.
There’s a lesson in this, and here it is: Nobody wants to acknowledge other people’s success. Nobody wishes you well. You guys here at whatever this magazine is called have a chance to kick butt, and I think you’re all clever enough to do that and make it big.
Just remember, you’ve got the printing press. Never, never, never be afraid to use it to get in the last word. When you’re big and still getting crap, stand even bigger and say what I didn’t back then. Say it loud and say it proud:
May you create a future where you too get to lounge around in an old Airstream trailer. May the blowjob gods smile upon you.