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Life On the Road (1984)

It's heaven, really......

So! Welcome to the real world of music, Bro. Sure, it'll be an adventure, and there'll be fun times. But life on the road, especially out here in Colorado and environs, is probably the one thing that has not changed in the fifteen years since Woodstock. Especially when you are a young, unknown, and inexperienced band, the expectations tend to run towards lots of groupies, reverent crowds, large checks. It's a nice dream, and I hesitate for the five seconds commensurate with ethics and statute to level my guns at your naivete, which would be considered excessive even within the Carmelites.

Within a month your energy (and yours alone...) has provided the band with the usual warm-up gigs. Before long, you see yourself saying "Thank YOU, Barry!" from the stage lip at Folsom. That and "Thank you Colorado!! We love you!" at which point at least one reporter I know will fluff out the white paper bag.

But long before I have to worry about another bunch of lunch buckets whipping the plantlife into froth, most of you will be cured by your first road trip or 'tour' of our tangent states and our more inaccessible towns. It is generally arranged by a booking agent who will be the source of some discussion before the tour is over. I'll just touch on the high points here.....

The agent assures you the contracts have been signed, the clubs know all about you and have heard your tape. It's good money, as much as $2,300 a week with rooms. Routing is supposed to be an integral part of the plan. Looks great.

But no! It isn't. An SST is needed to make it from Ring Worm Manitoba (the agent didn't say the states couldn't be in Canada. All he said was 'western states' now, didn't he?) to Singed Butte, Oklahoma (silly of you to assume Oa. was Ottawa) overnight, the club owner in the former letting you quit on Sunday at 11:45 PM ("…and not a minute before if you want to see my Mother's personal check" which, on inspection, is drawn on the Franklin Bank's Ft. McMurphy office). After an hour's break down and load out in your stage clothes, a two hour wait for your drummer to polish and properly pack his three hundred dollar trap set, you start your short missle flight down to America's heartland.

En route, you discover that it is not a misprint on your contract, you do indeed play, strangely, Monday to Friday only. The reason, revealed upon your two hour late arrival, is that the entire in-bred town takes the weekends off for Klan Kamp survival trials. After a refreshing two minute lean against the fooseball machine that's on the stage with you ("0f course you can't put your amp on it! How will anyone play fooseball?"), you realize that what Singed Butte considers Rock and Roll is the complete Buddy Holly portfolio with an occasional ballad by Willie. They hate you, the Police, the Stray Cats, and the entire repertoire you have worked on. There is but one story on the road, and this is it. Till 1:30 AM every day.

Your motel is located near, if not on, the Historic Perpetual Coal Train Route, and while this eliminates the need for Magic fingers, it does not increase your relaxation. All the maids at the Tremblin' Track Motel are in a 9:00 AM remedial English class that requires them to make up all the rooms by 8:30. They have thus far mastered one word of' English ("MAIDDD!" screamed at 345 db outside your door) which is offered before breaking into the room. Negotiations to bring them back later go aground when Fred, your drummer, inadvertently initiates a blood feud with one of the maid's boyfriends by speaking what he thinks is amiable Spanish. This individual, out on work release despite the frenzied efforts of psychiatrists and district attorneys and his own family, has taken to spending the early morning hours sitting on the hood of your car, rattling a hatchet expressively against the grill work.

Fred is encouraged to stick to English. He sulks.

The five days pass like a large, sharp edged gall stone, and then it's off to Nebraska. (Fred: "Didn't we pass this on the way down?" Fred is a real turd.) You have two days off before starting on Monday night.

It is a 'show' room. You follow an accordian player/stripper, and each night the manager is at the back of the club with a copy of the municipal sound statures and an old Radio Shack Sound Meter that registers 180 db. when the truck drivers in the front row start breathing heavily. You end the week playing nothing but instrumentals. Fred says that actually you're a better band without vocals and starts offering to do Toad if "you want to pick things up." Fred is obviously a product of a disturbed family. You are, however, paid in cash. The next gig is in Texas.

You pass the Trembling Track late at night and laugh at another band's van parked outside. You are not laughing when you pull up to your motel for the next two weeks - something called the Rabbit's Warren where the army, or an army, has been conducting LSD experiments on unsuspecting internees. The walls are black and violet. The toilets do not work.But the club is wonderful, big and roomy and filled with beautiful women of all willing types and they all hate Fred. You end up staying with them and having Fred at the motel take messages. The band has never sounded better, the owner gives you a hundred dollar advance and carte blanche on the menu, which isn't bad. Visions of the Rainbow Music Hall. Rainbow, hell, Red Rocks!!

So, you really shouldn't be surprised when the IRS red tags the club at the end of the first week. The owner cannot offer anything except some old Balkan currency from his mother, who offers to take you all in 'till things work out. You do work out, don't you?' she coos. The women disappear. You have a week to kill in Texas before the final job in Grand Junction. Looking at the map, you notice that by connecting the cities where you have played, the unmistakable form of a pseudopod emerges. You call your agent. He gets you a one-nighter for remarkably good money at an Air Force base.

After you unload all the equipment and are into the sound check, a harried civilian rushes up and says that there is some mistake: this is a formal dance for Anna Chennault. A rock band, especially a 'new wave' band, is not appropriate and you cannot be paid because your agent said you were a country band. Brief discussion. You won't get paid, perhaps a form of fraud, General irritable type. Frenzied discussion. Better leave, son. Furthur inquiries. "BP's!"

In loading up, Sam, the bass player, finds a small dent on his bridge and demands that the band pay for a new one as well as a new pick-up because without them, there is no way he can play as loudly and tastelessly as you in particular do. After getting him calmed down, Fred discovers a crack in his high hat, but in a drug induced wave of magnanimity announces that he will pay for it. However, there is a dearth of the particular type of titanium smelter necessary for the exact type of cymbal repair that Fred envisioned. He refuses to play the high-hat until it can be fixed. This is announced in a restaurant across the street from Roger's Lawn-Mower and Drum Palace where, to nobody's surprise, there is a brand new high-hat for much less than anybody, especially Fred, thought. He'll gladly wait until he gets his fixed, but if the band insists. Fred is such a team player.

On your way back to Colorado the three traffic tickets engendered put everybody in the sparkling mood necessary for divvying up what is now laughingly called profit. This mood of good will is further encouraged by the last phone call from the agent; he cannot accept a lesser commission. "Next time, we'll work something out." Next time? Sam announces he's leaving the group when he returns to Grand Junction and the color promo photos arrive from before the trip began. The bill is for $145.00. The band breaks up. You end up playing rhythm guitar for a country singer in Central City. Fred signs with Irving Azoff and announces the release of his first solo record. It will be called TOAD and is on the Warner's label.