DOWN UNDER THOUGHTS II

DOWN UNDER THOUGHTS II

That last evening, as I walked along the main drag, laden with take-home booty of duty-free rum and souvenirs for friends and family, a young Asian teenager approached from behind and asked, “Are you an actor?”  I’d been largely unrecognized since arriving, bearded, far from prime time markets, and told him I was…”Were you on S:AAB?”, he asked?  I nodded yes, and he became exultant. “I LOVED that show!!” I shook his hand, thanked him and walked on, pleased that SOMEONE had watched down there…and remembered the dozen or so photos of Ross I’d brought along (and had with me) for just such a contingency…and regretted I’d been less aware, knowing he’d have enjoyed a souvenir of his own…

The Voodoo Lounge featured gumbo and jumbalaya, along with live music nightly, blues, jazz, fusion on successive nights.  I discovered them that first Friday, chatted with Eva, the Swedish keyboard player, who invited me to sit in with them.  I demurred, knowing by 9:30, it was bedtime, still struggling with the time (and body) transition of 15 hours…when younger, I remember adapting more quickly, but in truth, I’ve never been so far, so quickly.  Europe and five or six hours time difference was candy, in comparison.  So I went home, to bed…. awake, of course by 2AM, ready to rock…all woke up and no place to go…so I’d wander down to the ocean, smell my jasmine blossoms in passing, and enjoy the night sky, the waves and the smell of the Pacific.  I returned on Monday, chatted more, REALLY enjoyed their playing, especially Aaron, on guitar, playing a National Steel acoustic, plugged in, for this session…He was righteous!  But the sound system sucked, I could barely hear the outrageous licks he was generating…and knew if I couldn’t hear him, they could never hear or follow me…but he loved the weight of my slide, far more appropriate than his lightweight…(“That’s not a slide..THIS is a slide !!!)

So I passed once more, but promised to return before I left…Crew and cast had heard of my visits and rumors had even been generated that I had already made an appearance..In truth, I hadn’t played in public for more than five years, my last, at the now-defunct Palamino Club in the SF Valley of LA…Won 2nd prize too, $50, bought drinks for the film wrap party which had brought me there.  I was leaving the next morning, knew I had nothing to lose, how could I NOT go play.  I always manifest my characters, whenever appropriate.  When I’d played a male stripper, I went to a real strip club and danced (made $32 that night and EARNED it.)  So here I am, playing a beach musician, but had yet to walk the walk….(I’d seen a guy, days earlier, playing on the boardwalk, he wasn’t bad, and he got NADA, poor bastard).  Since he was left-handed, I declined to ask to be allowed to ‘prime the pump’, so to speak.

So at 9, I strolled into the Voodoo, was immediately welcomed by a table of 5….”Don’t you remember me?” I was asked.  Kinda, sorta, but then realized that the relatively clean-cut, big guy was Sean, the dive-master on the day’s shoot, the bearded, tattooed madman who dove off boats WAAAAAY out deep, with nothing but wetsuit.  He’d shaven, was there with wife, Robin and friend, who I’d met earlier, and our 2nd unit camera assistant, who left to buy me a rum, straight up.  At the risk of offending, I passed on the local product, Bundaburg.  You’d think, with all their Carribean colonies, they’d have picked up some rum-making expertise, but NOOOO, their product was medicinal, at best.  My in-flight stew had graciously stuffed my bag with tiny bottles while I slept, but I found it remarkably easy to ‘just say no’ when my Myers ran out.  So while I awaited the arrival of an absurdly small and meticulously measured jigger of Bacardi, served in a rocks glass, I pondered the continuing sensation of movement.  In the shower, earlier, I’d suspected a lesser earthquake taking place…and I told them, while I wasn’t dizzy or nauseous, the room WAS continuing to move as I stood still.  They kindly reminded me I’d been on a boat all day (DUH) and it takes a while to re-adjust.  I spotted Eva, left to chat and she and Aaron immediately insisted that I play…When I mentioned the sound issues, Aaron suggested I play his Fender, HE’D play the National, and I said, with some trepidation, “Sure”.  We agreed six or seven songs into the set, they’d introduce me and we’d ‘get it on’…I left to contemplate what lay before me….exposure for the fraud I am…(I’m a solo musician, I do Verrrry specific stuff, have a questionable sense of constant time, but then, I AM always in time with myself, blah, blah, blah)  I LOVE the stuff they did, they were clearly consummate musicians, I can’t even READ music…and began to doubt I could even remember the lyrics to the songs I’d written specifically for the show I’d just shot.

As Wren, a stew, Marcus and Whip (actors in the show just shot) joined us, we commandeered and arranged a ‘Stamtisch” a massive three-tables co-joined right up front, and sat, drank, and kibitzed, as I surreptitiously scrawled lyrics on a napkin, a cheat sheet to get me thru this ‘musical bunji jump’…as the time approached, the table grew excited, and I grew both anticipatory and worried….(I don’t PLAY electric guitar, the crowd might not LIKE what I do, this could be a verrrrry embarrassing thing to do to end my wonderful trip to Australia)…..and then Eva began introducing me.  I rose and mounted the stage, as Aaron hooked up his National, I asked for a chair (I only play seated, what kind of a rocker could I EVER be?!!) ….and we began.  I opened with “Ain’t Misbehavin”, a surprise to all, never mentioned in our earlier discussion, but for whatever reasons, I thought it might segue from their earlier swing numbers to where I longed to take us…It was tentative, as I felt out the guitar (too much reverb and the voice mike had to be SWALLOWED to make an impression)..we fought our way thru it, closed reasonably together and the house was kind…I then played “Bad Loser Blues”, a song used in the show and written 17 November, 1976 (or so said the typed lyric sheet I’d found in my archives before leaving LA)…They liked it… and we rocked with 12 bar blues….The house liked it, too, and I began to feel more comfortable, had Aaron give me a more biting sound for the Fender, leaner, more specific, closer to the acoustic quality with which I’m familiar…

I began a pattern-picking piece, “Monday Mornin Blues”  a Mississippi John Hurt tune…and Aaron, after filling with tasty guitar licks, reached for his harp and we really began to boogie !!  Our Maori drummer picked up the groove, at times I even played with disciplined time!   The bassist was too tight to be missed and Eva was filling with serious organ boogie….We finished to grand applause, I thanked them and rose to leave, and Aaron asked, “What about “Sweet Home Chicago?  You sing, we’ll play”…and we did!!….I lit up a cigarette, chugged my rum, and Lord, they stepped out… Everyone had at least one solo, I added a couple of my new verses, recently written, my voice now nicely whiskied-up…and it was like old times, back in the studio, recording the album…confident with my band, confident with my voice, clear and committed to what was afoot (singin’ the blues )….and we turned the place out.  When the excitement died down (clearly, something special had happened, even for this place, even for them), I stepped down from the stage, basked in the continuing applause, accepted the congratulations and thanks from my table and moved to the bar, where the owner came up, insisted upon pictures of me with the band and rum (the good stuff, Coruba) for me…It felt good to share the music once again…..I’ve missed that.

FLIPPER said they needed songs for which they didn’t have to pay, public domain…I said, “Fine, gimme some.”    My character’s on the run from the law, clearly he wouldn’t play his own stuff, he HAS to play the music of other people…And he’s got 10 songs to play !  But they had nothing to offer…and the time approached for me to leave for Australia, and I grew more frantic…I understood the character, liked the writing, but he’s a blues LEGEND….Not someone adequate, he’s effing GREAT, I gotta OWN what I play, not fight my way thru it…Help me out here !!  I was worried, big-time ! On the plane, I pouted for at least an hour…..’Jesus, this is SO unfair, how can I look good if I don’t even know what I’m to play and sing and they want me to record as soon as I get in and they aren’t giving me anything to work with’ (whine, whine whine)…and then I began to write……………

THOUGHT: I can play progressions and licks I know… IF I can find lyrics that no one has copyrighted…(images, metaphors, double-entendres began to emerge)…and I began to feel like a cultural strip miner…I remembered the implied sexuality of the masters’ verses… I re-creating it, riffed with it… Stealing when I could, creating when I couldn’t…and it was GOOD…and then it occurred to me that this was exactly what THEY had done, taking a verse here, writing a verse there, recording it and calling it their own…It was in keeping with the finest traditions of my idols … and I began to feel much better about what lay before me.

 

 

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