After being worked to death on deadlines and having these sudden musical emergencies come up, I turned off everything electrical and considered that the official start of my vacation.
I went straight to the Chelsea Hotel, where an envelope was waiting at the desk for CVS, with a key inside and a note reading, "Went to get snacks. Be back in a jiffy- Love, Wade." I figured right that snacks meant booze, so I just hung out in the lobby of the hotel, sitting next to some sort of fake prostitute chowing on Chinese food.
The stairwell leading up some ten floors is elegant, the iron railings match the Queen Anne style terraces that Wade and Linda sat with me out on. The elevator, which Wade prefers to the stairs, took us to the 8th floor when we pressed 4. Not once was Sid Vicious' name mentioned.
We went to Marion's in the Bowery for dinner, where we inadvertently each ordered red, white, and blue drinks, respectively, in preparation for Independence day. I looked up and saw Elizabeth, Dale Duncan's pal, sitting two feet from me. Everyone became quite chatty and eventually we allowed her to order dinner. We left after my hosts picked up the check.
Walking around the lower east side we came upon Pete Straus' current lady Alissa and her accompanying gaggle of chicks. Peter and her are visiting from S.F. and why I'm running into people is beyond me. We drink and dance, and while the music playing is unmemorable, they have green beers which is just fine with me.
June 26, 1998
Wade took the day off after having to haul down to Wall St. for some early morning face time at the office. We got into our beach gear and hit the heat and humidity of the street. Linda was just across the street from the Viceroy, where we had lunch, so I got to see where she works, the reason she went to NYC in the first place. Why "Mr. San Francisco" Wade left his blissful digs.Linda works for William Wegman, the pictures-of-weimaraners-doing-silly-human-things guy. As opposed to Larry Flynt, the pictures-of-humans-doing-silly-dog-things guy. Anyway, everyone there was nice and we had a good day. I met Chip. Yes, he's a weimaraner. Chippy's a good dog. I also got a T-shirt to carry around the City all day.
After watching some television in Times Square, we passed the Army recruiting stand and continued walking uptown to the park. We found a deli for beer and by the time we reached Central Park, it had started to rain. Once we found an appropriate outcropping of schist under cover, we drank what was quite possibly the best Heineken ever. Definitely the most expensive one to be sure. Wade took panoramic photos- that man loves his toys.
I left Wade and Linda at the hotel and ambled downtown, eventually looking up a narcissistic art party "curated" by David West, another friend of Salt Peter Straus. $5 to get in. Beer available for $3. Bands were meant to be playing. West was wearing a T-shirt, jogging shorts, and black cowboy boots. I was offered cocaine to buy, and I heard that San Francisco's own Eufloria Mason had popped in but ditched the scene straight away. Grand! Peter and I sat and talked for a bit, but damn if that wasn't an abysmal scene, so I split.
I went to Max Fish on Ludlow and there was Julie Deamer, by golly, another S.F. crony. She and her friends took me to Barmacy or Pharmacy Bar, whatever they call it, it's an old pharmacy and a new bar. Get it? On the way I ran into Seth from the Mockers, he's visiting from Virginia Bch. What's up with this?
Anyway, this drug store bar is doing an OK business in the East Village, I'm drinking more green beer and I look over and there's Heather from Linda's work. I was talking to Julie but some guy wanted to play smartypants-grabass so I let him do his thing. Heather's a laugh, or I'm drunk, either way, it's 3 AM and I'm having enough fun for one night so I pack it in. After all, I have to record the next day. I sneak in to the hotel room on little cat's feet and manage to not wake either of them. The constant 50dB din of the W 23 St. traffic helped drown out my motions, I'm sure.
I had arranged in advance to record some at Jolly Roger in Hoboken with Gene Holder. Months ago I thought I might recreate the same scene over again, the scenario in which Wood and Wire was recorded. Then I realized that was a crap idea, since I was already overdue for an original thought.Dennis Diken called me earlier this month, he was in town for a Smithereens gig, and before he left I'd Shanghaied him into a tracking session in S.F. Those tapes, featuring Pete Straus, Chuck Prophet, and little old me, Otis von Redding, were good enough to take to Hoboken to overdub. I figured one day of goofing around on this stuff would give me the idea whether or not I had something.
Gene got a haircut, first of all. It looks OK, much more new wave than last fall's lack of haircut, and when I met up with him at the Path train to Jersey, he was wearing his shorts. I was wearing cutoffs, but they were much shorter, and Gene asked if I'd put on some long pants.
Once we got into the studio, Gene put the tapes on the machine and checked the calibration tones from my other session. Of course he didn't want to tweak the little controls and do it right, since he's a lazy new wave dude from North Carolina. Being an uptight control freak, I sat in Gene's new chair and gave him some grief, so he knelt down by the machine made it appear that he did make the adjustments, but who really knows except Geno. Meanwhile, I noticed that on the previous session in S.F. that the engineer didn't manage to write the start times of the takes on these tapes, but did remember to write his first and last name on every track sheet.
We started with an edit on "Unkind." Gene loves an opportunity to psyche me out by repeating my instructions in reverse or some other mindfuck stuff. The thing about Gene is I never know when he's serious or when he's goofing, since both are equally useful as far as the music goes. It's because he used to bake bread in Old Salem town. And also because he used to play bass, but then switched to guitar thinking it was more fun. You just never know, do ya?
OK, so I went into auto-pilot on "Unkind." Acoustic guitar. Just put it on, we'll erase it later, it'll give me a handicap. I'll think I have less space left sonically. Shakers, tambourine, then electric piano, then that horrible half broken mellotron, then B-3, then vocals. Gene records not unlike the way I do, he gets one microphone/limiter in his head, and uses it on everything. It's actually a really bad idea, like inbreeding. Every instrument gets the signature sound of the mic, whatever response deficiencies or whatever, and it gets magnified with every overdub. I didn't make a stink, because this Neumann CMV-3 was damn ugly but it did sound OK, although I'm not thoroughly convinced it sounds better than his U-47 on my voice.
"Glory Days" was next on the reel, so we continued overdubbing for two hours, but on the wrong take. Oh well, it worked out better, in fact, since "the keeper" take 2 was too fast despite the lack of mistakes. I didn't have my 12 string acoustic or a working piano, which are essential to the tune. Someone broke the piano at the studio, which is a blessing, since it was all fucked up anyway, and I don't mean just out of tune. Jolly Roger Studio has plenty of toys and instruments, and Gene, so no complaints, but they could use a new piano and a few more music stands. And a burger stand downstairs for the regular clients.
"Glory Days" needed a thick lead guitar sound, but Gene wouldn't let me use his Les Paul this time. I knew it was in the building somewhere, but he insisted it wasn't around, and assured me Roger's Guild was just as good. I had no choice but to comply, so we did that bit and Gene even played one note that I apparently wasn't understanding the true meaning of.
We paused for a dinner break. It's 95F but I'm not thinking and ordering hot soup. Before getting back to work, Gene wanted to watch a segment from the show COPS. We're both sweating for different reasons.
Last was "Get It Good," Gene's fave, maybe since it's a dumbed-down raucous screamer rock tune. This earned me the von Redding title, although I know I'm right in line behind Pete Cetera waiting for a soul handshake. At least I'm not switching to jazz or writing musicals...or unleashing 200 page books of my poems. Good God! Snatch it back, cv! Bring it home!
I overstayed my welcome until 2 AM and then forgot to bring tapes for rough mixes, so I coerced Gene into using a client's master for my roughs. I went back to Manhattan in preparation for the Syracuse trip.
Flew to Syracuse. It's Mom's birthday. (Happy birthday mom) We drive to her house in Fayetteville, nice house, but it's not the house I grew up in, right? Some other kids grew up here. When my brother recently put the new water heater in, he found a bottle of valiums hidden in the ceiling, probably snatched from the parent's stock. My stepdad used to hide bananas from us, maybe some poor dude found some of those after my parents moved.So we're hanging out, talking, and at some point Mom admits having watched the movie "Clueless" over 12 times, now owning a video copy. I'm catching up on my daytime TV, the screams of the Rosie O'Donnell show are absolutely mental and drive me so. I can hear it while I'm in the shower, or at least I think I do. Hawaii Five-O is on at midnight here, a little too early for me.
June 29, 1998
I (quickly) finished reading Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, moved on to The Godfather by Mario Puzo, interspersed with Walt Whitman poems and the occasional Scotch. I'm getting warmed up for a heavy poolside read. Stopped to try a stylish dive from the board, got some height into it, but the extra water velocity was too much for the little red shorts, and nearly lost them.
In my quest for relaxation, I wondered if I really needed any booze or music at all? I could just sit by the pool, reading my books, freeing my head of all that stuff I usually fill it with. The answer is yes, you drink the whole time, and you love music, so I listened to my rough mixes from Hoboken and drank green beer.The roughs tell me these recordings need more work, but I'm satisfied so far with two of the three songs we started. "Glory Days" could be redone better I'm sure. I've already realized after two days of recording that I could go down the path of "Wood and Wire" and do another record in a similar fashion with the same guys. Of course that's not much of a challenge to repeat and I wouldn't count on the good luck I had last time. Besides all that, I just have new ideas for the new record. I'm trying to wean myself and my fans off the cv's super sugar pop and into something...else, whatever that is. Pop is a default setting, and it's comfortable. Maybe because it fits. Anyway, I'd rather try a few more outside ideas than to get a tattoo to prove I'm unique.
My highschool bud Ted Boone offered me a car to drive around while I'm here. So Tuesday I went to pick it up. Ted is down on the river, in the midst of the sticks, just down from where I lived as a kid. He listens to heavy metal and has a band not unlike L.A. Guns, according to Ted. I'm invited to 'jam' with them, at the pig roast July 4. Hopefully we'll get to play together before I go.
Ted's band needs a singer. They've been talking to a guy named Hollywood, who apparently can sing just like the dude from Poison. In fact, Hollywood went into a recording studio to track note-for-note cover versions of Poison songs to prove it. So Tuesday night we went to talk to him at a bar where he does sound, his girlfriend was there too. She's 18 and completely into Hollywood, the guy.
I'm listening while these guys are hashing it out in the keg room at the Wolf Inn. Ted's explaining to us that he wants to go Big Time, with guitar shaped swimming pools at million dollar houses. That's cool, whatever, I think to myself, and Hollywood wants to know if they've got the set list together.
"You guys have all those songs you gave me learned?"
"Yeah...you know," Ted says, trailing off.
"I mean, like down? Like Down down?" Hollywood asks.
"Yeah, we got 'em down, we got it together, we need a front man so's in order to really learn the songs"
Hollywood tells us that in his last band, he didn't even go to rehearsal until the band had it together, down to the last note, like a record. I asked him why his last band broke up but he didn't answer me. I was the California guy with the girl's sweater, I'm sure. Mostly I kept quiet, though.
We drove to Hollywood's house in the city of Syracuse where he broke the ice with us by rolling off a few racial slurs in reference to his neighbors. He put on his Poison covers tape, and showed us his live sound system. A dog came down to greet us, and Hollywood gave him quite a kick. We looked at Hollywood, the dog looked at him, Hollywood kicked again, and the dog ran upstairs. Nice guy. We left. We dropped off a very stoned drummer, and while we were heading back, Ted got pulled over. We're driving a car he picked up at an auction earlier that day. No taillights, no plates, drunk driver, weird dude from California with eyes closed, hoping for the best. He lets us go.
July 1, 1998
The next day I found a fishing pole in Ted's front yard. It's just down from the river from where I'd fished hundreds of time, so I gave it a try. Ten huge carp were flopping and feeding right near me, but no takers on my bait. I don't think I ever caught one damn fish the whole time I lived down there, and today is no exception. I did notice how clear the river was. Apparently some zebra mussels were inadvertently brought on a ship's hull into Oneida Lake, and since then they have come up the river. They clarify the old muddy river so much it's like the Great Lakes.It's weird to see the house you grew up in and think that it's not home anymore. I'll get over it.
Ted takes me on a mad errand run. He shows me the trailer park he's just bought in Palermo, NY. Then we stop at a junkyard in Brewerton to track down a transmission for a Jeep. The owner is shooting the breeze behind the counter with his help, and another guy. We're there a few minutes before anyone acknowledges us, and the place is pretty small. I sit out of the way down the counter as Ted goes looking for his parts in the lot. Meanwhile a few more guys come in. One's wearing an oxygen tank, another has a lost look. I look over, and for at least fifteen seconds straight, these four men are just staring at each other, without a sound. Just then I'm thinking, great, I've been left here to spend the day with these guys. Ted comes in and the good news is I don't have to carry a greasy transmission - they don't have one. We leave with a cold six-pack to find Eric Mattice, who lives in Central Square. I haven't seen him since his last breakdown, so it was pretty shocking. I guess he's OK other than the fact that he cut his bicycle apart with a hacksaw, spent his last $20 on a model train car which he painted "Jesus" on he side, and has a painting of an "imaginary wife, someday" on his bedroom wall.
While yesterday was a model weather day for any outdoor holiday, this Independence Day is a washout! The Flashcubes are scheduled to play at the NYS Fairgrounds. They're good, they're Power Pop from the late 70s, it would be a treat to see them. I should really go. They're probably playing right now, as I listen to the rain fall a little harder. I can't bear to stand in the freaking rain for any band, not even the Trend, or the Dead Ducks. Tonight will be a party, all those expectations built up have to go somewhere- to a bar. Expect a fight or two.I've figured out now that the car Ted gave me has no 3rd gear and now reverse has given up. The speedometer's out, but you know if you go over 65mph because then the front end shakes too much. Another auction find. I guess it's better to not be able to get into reverse than to be stuck with only reverse gear. The stereo works great, and it has a moon roof, for throwing bad cassette tapes away. There's a VCR in the back seat, for some reason, bummer it's not hooked up. The car's a 1989 Audi and beat to hell. I'm grateful for my own wheels, I must say. Runs better than my motorcycle!