EXPERIENCED: Rock Music Tales of Fact and Fiction Edited by Roland Goity and John Ottey Illustrations by Kimy Martinez
EXPERIENCED is an anthology of compelling narratives giving new insight into the drama of the rock music world from every literary angle, and exploring rock’s profound effect on our culture and its divine influence over the devoted faithful. Cutting to the core truths of rock music culture, Experienced is among the first rock anthologies to explore rock music and culture from the inside-out. Featuring works by some of the premier performers, writers and chroniclers of rock music: James, Greer, Jim DeRogatis, David Menconi, Brad Kava, Fred de Vries and others. You’ll read about touring musicians and touring fans. Label signings gone awry. A late-night DJ and a serial killer. The evolution of life as a roadie. These are stories unique to each writer; yet, you’ll discover within them an experience that is universal. Some are fiction and some nonfiction, but they’re all true.
Praise for EXPERIENCED “An entertaining compendium of rock ‘n’ roll tales, EXPERIENCED hits the mark as a rites of passage primer. They’re all here, the roadies, fans, dreamers, graveyard shift DJ’s, hapless journalists, vagabond bands, lonesome guitarslingers, sell-outs and wannabes. Everyone’s chasing Highway 66 but most have lost the map.” ~ Nina Antonia, author of The New York Dolls — Too Much Too Soon and Johnny Thunders - In Cold Blood “EXPERIENCED has got all the dirty details of behind-the-curtains gossip — written with zest and love. It rocks.” ~ Stephen D. Gutierrez, author of the American Book Award winning Live from Fresno y Los “The stories in EXPERIENCED not only entertain, but offer insight into the lives of those in the music industry, from label executives to record producers to rock bands to fans at large. It’s not always a life of glamour, but no one ever said rock ‘n’ roll was pretty.” ~ Steve Beck, founder of OnlineRock.com and editor of The Noise Room “The stories and essays in EXPERIENCED are beautifully written, wise, and absurdly energetic. An amazing jam session of a book.” ~ Michael Kardos, author of One Last Good Time “The sobering economics of life on the road for a harmonica virtuoso, a journalist’s desperate pursuit of Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann, a down-and-out radio talk show host receives a live call from a recent murderess; the tangent is where the real story begins in this raucous, rawedged compilation limning the seamy underside of rock ‘n’ roll storytelling.” ~ Alina Simone, singer and author of You Must Go and Win
FOREWORD John Ottey
I remember my first rock concert. At least, my first legitimate one. There was a time previous to the first experience, when my mom drove an hour and a half to drop me and a friend off at the Pioneer Theater to see Beatlemania, but I’m not counting that. When someone asks me about my first concert — or when I meet another weathered aficionado and soldier of the road — I invariably recall the midday heat waves rising off the T-Car Speedway in Reno, Nevada, the girls in tube tops and cut-off jeans. I can see the sound guys crawling around the stage like ants at a beach picnic, rolling amps, speakers and risers. The guy at the mic spits, “Check. Two, two. Check.” It’s the loudest sound I’ve ever heard, until someone checks for a level on the snare and it’s like he’s inside my chest thumping my sternum with an aluminum baseball bat. I’m with a friend, and the pretense of cool we’d tried to maintain on the walk from the parking lot is gone. It’s his first time, too, and we’re young and probably in over our heads. We push for the front, squirming through the tangle of humanity, and take our place among the crowd. For those about to rock... Rock and roll has always been a beast alternately clawing and purring at the door for our attention. Because you bought this book, or were at least curious enough to read these words, I’m sure you’ll agree. It makes us promises, tempts us further down the road, challenges us to a new perspective. It emboldens us to take risks. When we’re successful, rock and roll is there, blaring its anthems — from “Teen Age Riot” to “Teenage Wasteland.” When we fail, it’s still there, offering more tender comfort than the best of lovers. Heartbreak? Teen angst? Dateless at the prom? Some asshole at work has it in for you? Lonely? Hot? Cold? No shoes? Rock and roll offers you blue suede ones. Rock and roll has the answers. And when you bounce back — on the way up — it’s there to celebrate with you. Maybe you dabble in rock and roll. Had a garage band in high school or make the rounds now. You’ve started to make a name for yourself. You’ve learned the snafus. Maybe that’s what you’re calling the band. You’ve been stung, infected. You know the balm, the cure for what ails you. Turn it up.
Through the bleary haze of the T-Car Speedway, the guy at the mic warns you’d better be ready for the Red Rocker. Then Sammy Hagar takes the stage, screaming about his bad-ass motor-scooter, how much coke he’s done, and the fact he just can’t possibly drive fifty-five. It’s stupid stuff, really, but the Michelobs you had in the parking lot go to work. Sammy’s a rebel, and for the next forty-five minutes, so are you. Fifty-five? Forget it. For now, you’re along for the ride. Somebody died, grew up, or went crazy. I’ll never know the cause. But one day, upwards of 150 albums — precious LPs — showed up in a dumpster near our home. I dove in. Everything Hendrix ever put on vinyl was in there. So were the Stones, the Doors, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan. The Fugs, the Turtles, and Byrds began carving out the soundtrack of my youth. There were to be bad haircuts and no cuts at all. Paratrooper pants, bowling shoes, and silk shirts with Nehru collars. I’ve suffered for rock and roll. Back at the T-Car, Blue Oyster Cult is headlining. They’ll play years later on a Monday night in a former Bank of America building in Isla Vista, California. College kids will gobble cheeseburgers chased down with pitchers of Milwaukee’s Best, stopping only to raise a fist when the first strains of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” titter out through an azure haze. It’s inglorious, but it is, after all, only rock and roll. And I like it. In Santa Barbara, we started a band. We were the Electric Hippo Poundcake. We met once and jammed, as deftly as driving a rail spike up one’s nose. Someone circulated a mixtape which we were all to learn. It had ten songs: Satisfaction, I Can’t Explain, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, some Steve Miller — the usual fare for that time. Some rich kid had hired Fishbone to play for his twenty-first birthday party. He took out ads in the university newspaper promising twenty-one kegs. He wanted us to open. And we did. We played our ten songs to hundreds of inebriated brethren. The houseguy had only tapped the first three kegs. Fishbone was just ending a gig in LA and would be late. The crowd was friendly at first, but now leaning toward rebellion. We went straight to the top of the set, played our ten songs again — in the same order — and were, for that night, heroes of rock and roll.
Rock and roll is a crucible. Perhaps no other art form can do more to so indelibly make a mark on our souls. I invite you to continue on a literary journey through the stories of sixteen accomplished authors — novelists, music critics, and industry insiders. You’ll read about touring musicians and touring fans. Label signings gone awry. A late-night DJ whose ratings skyrocket thanks to a particular caller with a penchant for murder. The evolution of life as a roadie. These are stories unique to each writer; yet, you’ll discover within them an experience that is universal. Some are fiction and some non-fiction, but they’re all true. Turn the page and you’ll discover you’re not alone.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Foreword John Ottey Hunting Accidents James Greer Little Leftovers Fred DeVries Steal Your Face Timothy Weed Road Life Wearies Harmonica Virtuoso Brad Kava Madonna Harold Jaffe Dead Air Scott Nicholson The Growth & Death of Buddy Gardner Corey Mesler Heavy Lifting Days Brian Goetz David Bowie against the Enemy Adam Moorad Tour Diary (Excerpts) Sean Ennis Bodies on the Moon Jim DeRogatis Déjà Vu (All Over Again) J.T. Townley A Little Worse than Moonbeam Laurel Gilbert Dee Dee’s Challenge Ed Hamilton Songs in the Key of E David Menconi If a Tree Falls Carl Peel Contributors’ Notes Acknowledgements
Hunting Accidents: Being the Further Adventures of Guided By Voices James Greer
Yes, Hunting Accidents. The secret title of my Guided By Voices book (Grove Atlantic/Black Cat, 2005), from which I excised every trace of myself (and of ex-bass player Tim Tobias, but that was by Executive Order), believing that personal anecdotes would be out of place in what turned out, anyway, to be a fairly personal, subjective, idiosyncratic biography of all things Robert Pollard (up until 2004, anyway, which was when he broke up the band). In retrospect, I was wrong. I think if Iâ€™d told all the stories, or even some of the stories, readers might have gotten a better sense of what it was like to actually be in the band and, consequently, a better sense of what the band was and who Robert Pollard was. So I've begun to rectify that mistake, one personal anecdote at the time. This particular story is about the time Warner Bros. flew some of the band, myself included, to Los Angeles for the purpose of convincing us to sign with them. The trip was not a success for anyone, with the exception of Lucifer. Let me explain.
Steal Your Face Tim Weed
My brother Josh rolls into town on his way to a Dead show in Portland, Maine. He’s three years older than me, a modern gypsy with a tie-dyed scarf wrapped around his skull and a gold hoop earring that glints red in the light of a highway sunset or a concert stage. He’s been following the Dead for the better part of two years from his moveable home, a sky blue Volkswagen camper-bus with a Steal Your Face painted on the front panel, the VW symbol replacing the lightning bolt in the skull’s oversized forehead. He’s packing a sheet of cartoon acid and offers to take me along for the ride. Before I know it, I’m tripping my brains out in the middle of a huge dancing crowd, the bass line shaking the floor and Jerry Garcia’s carnivalmessiah voice filling the air of the Portland Coliseum. Josh has melted into the crowd, but it doesn’t matter because we’re all one here, everybody moving to the music in perfect synchrony like a school of tie-dyed fish. "Terrapin Station" into "Franklin’s Tower" into "Big Railroad Blues." This is my third Dead show, my second time on acid. Now I’m channeling some kind of historic trip, a vein of nostalgic imagery from a lost America. "Wharf Rat" into "Cumberland Blues," "Sugaree" into "Brown-Eyed Women." I see broken-down gold mills, bootleg whiskey stills, hoboes sitting around a fire in a rusting boxcar. The images are clear, but fleeting, except for one that keeps cycling back: a riverbank at the edge of a pine forest that rises up in a series of steep ridges to a range of snow-covered mountains. At the edge of the forest, a clothesline is hung with some colorful fabric that snaps in the wind. I can smell pinewood burning in a campfire; I can hear female laughter in the distance. The scene shimmers around the edges of my consciousness, bittersweet, luminous, maddeningly hard to pin down. Everything about it seems so familiar — so charged with emotion — that I think I must be remembering a place, a real place I might have visited as a child. But I’ve never been out of New England, and there are no mountains or forests like this around here. Is it just the memory of a dream?
Dead Air Scott Nicholson
I leaned back in my swivel chair, my headphones vice-gripping my neck. The VU meters were pinned in the red, and Aerosmith had the monitor speakers throbbing. I turned down the studio sound level and pressed the phone to my ear, not believing what I'd heard. "I've just killed a man," she repeated, her voice harsh and breathless. "Come again, sister?" I said, pulling my feet off the console. My brain was a little slow in catching on. I was two hours into the graveyard shift, and the before-work beers were crashing into my third cup of cold coffee like Amtrak trains. "I've just killed a man," she said for a third time. She was a little calmer now. "I just wanted to share that with you. Because I've always felt like I could trust you. You have an honest voice." I potted up the telephone interface and broadcast her live to my loyal listeners. All three of them, I chuckled to myself. In five years at WKIK, The Kick, I'd come to accept my humble place in the universe. The only people tuned in at this hour were hepped-up truckers and vampire wannabes, the unwashed who shied from the light of day. I'd long ago decided that I might as well keep myself amused. And now I had a nutter on the line. I flipped my mic key and the red "ON AIR" sign blinked over the door. "Yo, this is Mickey Nixon with ya in the wee hours," I said, in the slightlyfalse bass I'd cultivated over the course of my career. "I've got a talker on the line; she's here to share. Go on, honey." "I just want everybody to know that I killed someone. This man I've been dating got a little bit too aggressive, so I blew his damned brains out. And it felt good," she said, her words pouring out over the monitors through the warm Kansas air. My finger was poised over the mute button in case I needed to censor her. By station rules, I was supposed to send all live call-ins through the loop delay. But since I got so few callers, I usually took my chances. Plus I liked the razor edge of spontaneity. "I want to tell you that the steam off his blood is still rising. He's lying here on his apartment floor with his pants around his knees and his brains soaking
into the shag carpet. If any of you guys out there think date rape is a laughing matter, I'm sharing this little story so you'll think twice." I gulped. This was really wacky stuff. I couldn't have written it in a million years. I'd paid friends before to call with outrageous stories, but they always sounded a little too rehearsed. Now here was some dynamite, and it was exploding at no charge. "Wait a minute, woman," I said, playing the straight man. "You mean to tell us you're standing over a warm body right now with a phone in your hand, confessing murder?" "It's not murder; it's self-defense. I may be a woman, but I've got my rights. Nobody touches me unless I let them. Besides, I've done this before; I've just never felt like talking about it until now." "So maybe it's what you would call a 'justifiable' homicide. Have you called the police?" I was starting to get a little nervous now. If this girl was acting, she was too good to be stuck in a Midwestern cow town like Topeka. She was starting to sound too weird, even for me. Her voice was as sharp and cold as an icicle, but with a touch of sexiness all the same. "That's why I called you, Mickey. I've listened to your show for a long time, and I just knew you'd understand. You think the boys in blue would believe me?" I was almost flattered, but a reality check rose like stomach acid. Sure, years ago I was a morning star in Los Angeles drive-time, but a little FCC controversy knocked me down faster than a Mike Tyson punch. I'd bounced around a few AM stations and tried my hand at ad sales, but now I was just riding the board until the years of chemical abuse caught up with me. "Honey, I'm here for you," I said, getting back in the game. "We love you here at the Kick, and Mickey Nixon is not one to judge other people. Live and let live, I always say...to coin a phrase." Now I could see a row of green lights blinking on the telephone board. Four callers were waiting to be punched in. I'd never had more than two, and that was when Lefty from Promotions had fingered me a couple of White Zombie tickets to give away. This girl, whoever she was, had the audience stirring. "Mickey, men have always disappointed me. They talk sweet and walk straight until they get what they want. Then they treat you like a rag doll or
worse. Well, I'm fed up. Now, I'm the one on the prowl for easy meat. Just ask Chuck here..." There were a couple of seconds of dead air. "Oh, sorry. Chucky can't come to the phone right now. He's got other things on his mind, and they're called my feet. Well, Mickey. I've got to go. It's been real, and I'll be in touch." I could hear sirens in the background just before she hung up. "If you're still out there, remember that you can talk to me. I'll never do you wrong," I broadcast to the sleepy world. I punched up caller number two, trying to keep some momentum. "Hey, Mickey, that tart's gone out of her mind. Did you pay a friend of yours to call in or something?" a drunken voice slurred. "Yeah, just like I did with you, upchuck breath." I cut him off and punched up the next caller. "I just killed a beer myself, and I want you to know your show rocks, man." It sounded like a college student who had seen Wayne's World too many times. But I wasn't choosy, and I doubted I'd be lucky enough to get anyone as interesting as my death-dealing diva as an on-air guest. What was I expecting, Howard Stern or the ghost of Orson Welles? "That chick was really wild, man," the caller continued, adding a couple of "uhs" into the mix. This show was billed as the "Talk-n-Toonage Marathon," but the talk never seemed to keep rolling. "Thanks for the input, 'dude.' Gotta go." I sighed, stabbed the button on the cart machine, and AC/DC started ringing "Hell's Bells."
About The Editors
ROLAND GOITY, co-editor, edits fiction for the online art & literary journal, LITnIMAGE. His own stories appear widely online and in print. His first experience with rock music came courtesy of K-tel Records.
JOHN OTTEY, co-editor, lives in Idaho, where he teaches in the English Department at Boise State University. He has served as editor on several publications. His short stories have appeared in Harvard Review, Bat City Review, Redivider, New Plains Review, juked, Scrivener Creative Review, The Puritan, Foliate Oak, LITnIMAGE, and elsewhere. About The Illustrator
KIMY MARTINEZ, illustrator, is art editor and interviewer for the online art & literary journal, LITnIMAGE. Her work has been shown nationally and awarded in jury shows. Kimy grew up in the 80's when video killed the radio star; she enjoys creating music videos.