“Well, that liquor in the nighttime leaves strange memories”
“Take Your Whiskey Home” Van Halen
When we used to go out to the club, one night my cousin said, “You know what I like about you?”, “What?”, “When we get here and Dan takes a walk around the floor and comes back, I ask him what’s going on and he always says, ‘Nothing much.’ When you walk around and come back, I ask and you always have 3 or 4 interesting or exciting stories and it’s only been 20 minutes.”
When I started this blog a couple years ago I thought what if I run out of things to write about. I have virtual sticky notes on my desktop and I wrote keywords or phrases to remind me of people, places and things I would like to write about. I expanded the note to the full height of my screen and still came up with enough ideas they don’t fit and I have to scroll down to read all of them. It’s been over 2 years and I think I have pulled 4 items from the list. The list isn’t boring. I still read through it and think, Yeah, that’s a good one… But before I write it something else pops into my head and I have to write about it. I know a lot of stuff is just shit posting journal rants but a lot of times there are good stories in there that are fun to write. Here is one is one I haven’t thought about in so long it feels like it happened to someone else.
When I was a kid I played in a band. We played all cover songs which back then meant classic rock standards because we lived in hicksville and that’s what people wanted to hear. We grew up with it so we liked a lot of the songs but the four of us were an eclectic bunch and threw in some oddball songs of our own. One of my favorites was “War Pigs” because there were no bar bands playing that but it was the only Black Sabbath song they let me add to the list. I’m trying hard to remember. I was never a big fan of the Rolling Stones but I loved playing “Sympathy for the Devil”. I liked the groove and I could really match the tone of the guitar solo. It’s unique. I know it’s cheesy but “Stuck in the Middle With You”, I only knew it from the Reservoir Dogs movie and the lyrics meant something completely different for me. We would pick songs from bands that were popular but not play their hit song if we thought they had better songs. Shit like that.
We were all good musicians, no phenoms except the bass player, he was a savant. I would hate it. I would spend a week learning a song he had never even heard before, he would press play and 30 seconds later it’s like he’s been playing the song his whole life. He learned the whole Primus album note for note the day it came out. It was strange, three of us tried to start a band before but nothing happened. I disappeared for a while and the drummer, who was my friend since high school, tracked me down and told me the bass player was back from Oregon and they met a guy who sings and plays guitar. He has a bunch of paying gigs lined up but has no band. Okay, I’m in.
I showed up and it was pretty funny. We didn’t know what to play so I said, I just learned the whole “Best of ZZtop” album while I was fucking around at home. (The early one, before they revamped for the 80’s) The bass player was like, no way! I love that. It was totally unexpected because he had much different taste in music than the rest of us. We kicked through that and it worked and the guy who had the 411 had a list of songs. I knew most of them and went home and learned the rest and we were off and running.
We weren’t famous. We played local bars for free beer and $200 to split 4 ways. I wasn’t in it for the money. The bar owners kept having us back because when we were there the place stayed full until last call. I have a few good stories out of that but this is my favorite and I’ve been waiting all day to write it.
I don’t know who knew who, what or where but we ended up playing in the American Legion Post about a hundred yards from the apartment my Joie and I lived in small town middle of nowhere. You had to be a member to go inside or you had to be with a member as a guest. None of us knew any members. Even though we were getting paid to play there we had to wait outside for 4 members to come out and bring us in and sign our names to the list. I still have no idea how this event happened. Just another day in my life.
The place was huge and it was packed though. They didn’t give us free drinks but they might as well have because they were 80 cent beers with a 20 cent tip. Another part of the story I still can’t figure out was how or why I had a pint of Seagram’s 7 stashed in the back my amplifier. I had never done it before or since. There were no liquor stores around, we didn’t keep any booze in the house. I didn’t walk around with a bottle in my back pocket. It wasn’t my favorite drink. Nobody gifted it to me. Where did it come from?
I was pretty fucking discreet about it too. Standing on a three foot high stage sipping from the bottle and chasing it with flat beer from a dirty glass. I’m still not sure if anyone noticed because I think everyone there was pretty fucking shitfaced. People drank at every bar we played and liked us but these people really liked us. I mean, really, really liked us.
We had a long list of songs to play so we never ran out but it started getting pretty late and everyone in the place was yelling for “Sweet Home Alabama!”. We were giving each other sideways glances, shrugging our shoulders, we never played that song before. They kept yelling for it. We took a break or something and of course our singer knew how to play it. I said, I can probably play that song, I’ve heard it a million times, show me the riff.
We debuted “Sweet Home Alabama” I guess. They were fucking screaming! I was laughing my ass off. It was fun though. We did a bang up job. It was pretty easy, the same thing repeating except for the chorus and fake my way through a Southern Rock solo. I enjoyed it. I still remember how to play it.
You think that’s the end of the story? It is, kind of. They kept yelling “Sweet Home Alabama!” That’s all they wanted to hear. I think we played the extended version of that song at least 20 times that night. I was dying, it was so funny.
They wouldn’t let us leave. I don’t think they had a last call. I think last call was when the bartender passed out. Good thing we were walking home because we woke up and the apartment floor was littered with bodies.
They never invited us back.