Joey leaves, returning with two pitchers of beer to warm the bands up. There’s no problem getting to use their amps. I tell David that we were going on as the Neighborhoods. He is stoked. We hook up the MOOG, with Jace using it as a drum machine. Minehan remains off-stage while we set up. I start the intro to ‘Suffragette City” and David comes prancing on stage, pacing back and forth until it’s time for him to sing. I channel Mick Ronson. David starts out without his guitar, just singing.
‘(Hey man) I gotta straighten my face
This mellow thighed chick just put my spine out of place
(Hey man) my schooldays insane
(Hey man) my works down the drain
(Hey man) she’s a total blam-blam
She said she had to squeeze it but she… and then she..
Hey, man….. Wham bam thank you man
Suffragette City ,Suffragette City.. Suffragette.’
Songwriters: DAVID BOWIE
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, TINTORETTO MUSIC
I back him up on the ‘hey, mans.’
We do another Ziggy song, and then David sneaks in the new ‘Roxanne’ song. Girls come running up to join the glitter group. Now we have fifteen fans. I look up into the balcony. No Trudie and Joan.
David goes back to being Ziggy for two more covers. Then he introduces us as The Neighborhoods from Boston, no mention of Harvard.
“On guitar and vocals, Weird, and on the MOOG rhythm machine, Gilly. We’re the Spiders from Mars.”
Everyone is in on the joke and laughs.
‘Went to the Rat
Stuck at the door
There I sat
Lonely and bored.
Out came two fags
Kissing and such
I just had to rag
They didn’t care much
They bought me a beer
Five beauties appear
Made me their pet
I’ll get some yet.’
I’m glad the girls haven’t arrived yet, although I worry they may not make it at all.
After tepid applause for his Rat song, David flops on the floor and sings ‘Rock n Roll Suicide.’
“Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette
The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, still you forget
Ohh how how how, you’re a rock ‘n’ roll suicide…
oh oh oh, you’re a rock and roll suicide.”
Songwriters: DAVID BOWIE
© BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC, TINTORETTO MUSIC
I look up at the balcony. We’re not alone. The girls have arrived in time for our last song.
Our twenty fans clap and try to generate enough energy for an encore. Most of the crowd is just getting settled, talking and ignoring our teenage cover band. Knowing we did nt earned an encore, we just stay on stage and play ‘Ziggy Played Guitar.”
“Thanks Rahar’s and thanks Northampton. We enjoyed playing for you,” David tells the crowd. “Wait around for the next bands. You’ll like ‘em. And for the late night crowd, stick around. We may have a surprise for ya.”
We run off stage, cradling our instruments. Jack is possessive of his Moog. David is pleased with his Bowie impersonation. We’re less happy, wishing we are beyond the cover band stage. He agrees to watch the guitars and Moog in the band room, greeting the next band with his impressions of how the crowd loved him. We tell him we are going up in the balcony with Trudie, Joan and the parents.
I stop to talk with Joey by the bar.
“Pretty good, bro,” he tries to praise us. “That kid really looks like Bowie.”
“Don’t worry. Our next set will be all originals.”
“The Moody Rudes? Sounds like another tribute band.”
“We do all originals. We really know how to make the MOOG set a mood.”
“Okay, but don’t expect to be treated like rock stars. The crowd needs to be challenged to actually get excited.”
“Good advice.” All I want is his acknowledgment that we were getting a second show. We run upstairs to be with the girls. They jump up from their seats and hug us. The parents look at each other.
“You guys were great.”
“That was David’s show. His band is called the Neighborhoods. Wait until we go on again. We’ll do our songs.”
“Well, we knew it was for you kids. Why was that boy lying on the floor? And why was he smoking?” Mr. Field, Trudie’s dad, demands.
“It seems overblown. It’s just dance music.”
“My, I hope you girls don’t feel you’re suffering. We have sacrificed a lot to send you here.” Mrs. Field exclaims.
“That’s why we love to come to Smith. We feel so safe away from the City,” Jack tries to assure the parents.
“Don’t your parents worry about you?” Mrs. Field asks.
“My parents fully support our band. We played at St Patrick’s Cathedral at Easter. We sang ‘Amazing Grace’ there, as well as at Abyssinian Baptist in Harlem.”
That is a new shocker. Jack is trying too hard for approval. The families do not appear to be Catholic.
The girls look like they want to hide under the table.
“Can we get you refreshers on your drinks,” I drag Jack away, to stop him from digging our graves any deeper.
“Jesus, Jack. Can’t you stop putting your foot in your mouth? Maybe the parents don’t want their daughters going to Catholic mass.”
“If it’s their church, but not someone else’s, especially someone who’s singing about suicide.”
He looks chagrined but his eyes show he feels betrayed. I adopt Trudie’s talk therapy method.
“What can we do that will make them more comfortable with us?” I ask.
“I know the perfect song we can do for them,” he enthuses. “Go see what the girls are drinking?”
I look back at them. They are sipping Cokes.
“You’re kidding me?” I laugh.
“I want to teach the world in perfect harmony,” Jack mashes the lyrics together.
We rush to the bar and obtained refills for both parents and kids. We carry the four alcohol drinks and place them in front of the parents. The girls’ Cokes we hold just out of reach and begin singing.
I’d like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow-white turtle doves
I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company
It’s the real thing
What the world wants today
That’s the way it will stay
With the real thing
It’s the real thing
Won’t you hear what I say?
What the world needs today
Is the real thing
Songwriter: Ray Coniff
Everyone is laughing. It’s too corny not to be true.
“We’re the real thing, Mr. and Mrs. Field, Mr. and Mrs Cunningham (Joan’s parents). We want you to know we treasure Trudie and Joan, our first friends at Smith. We trust them so much. I call and get Trudie to give me advice on how to deal with my crazy roommate. We have so much fun. Their friend Venus introduced us and she’ll vouch that we’ve been perfect gentlemen. Trudie and Joan are so nice, we can’t stop wanting to be with them. That’s why we came tonight even though we knew they’d be with you. We just want your approval to date them.”
It is unlikely that our singing has changed their opinion of us. Maybe it will after a second drink. We excuse ourselves, so they can discuss what we are asking. The girls sit silently with beet-red faces. Trudie winks at me, as we leave them.
We roll into the band room, cocky that we rescued our first impression with the girls’ parents. Minehan and Jace are sitting at the MOOG showing off to the other bands. They’re playing a duet that appears to be a virtuoso four-handed solo by David. The other musicians are in thrall. When one of them tries it, Jace shows him what to do. Jace loves the attention. I forgot how much a 15 year-old must show off.
“How’d it go?” David asks.
“We asked them for their blessing. They’re discussing it now. We’re shoo-ins.”
“No, duffus, just their permission to take the girls out.”
“What? Is it 1950? You’re already going out with them.”
‘We just want the parents’ okay.”
The other band finds our teenage angst boring and tries the MOOG. Without Jace to lead them, it’s not successful. They believe Minehan is the genius. He claims to be a rock idol. I know we have to do ‘False Gods’ in the Moody Rudes set.
I anxiously check on the discussion going on up in the balcony. As soon as I notice the adults have finished their drinks, we reappear with fresh ones. This time we bring the girls Dr. Pepper. Naturally we sing the ‘Pepper -upper’ song.
“Be a pepper, Drink Dr, Pepper.”
The girls sit there, stunned again.
“Com’n and meet the other band. Minehan’s pretending he knows how to play Jack’s MOOG. Your folks need to talk among themselves,” as we pull them to their feet. As soon as we are out of the parents’ sight, we wheel the girls around and start furiously making out. They are putty in our hands. We’re not about to leave our hidden make out spot in the balcony. Both girls seem to melt in our arms, leaning into us as we hold them close.
Eventually, as our balls turn blue, the sounds of the second band tuning up on stage causes us to break apart. What is it with bands that tune up onstage? They think it sounds professional but is just pretentious posturing. Regardless, we all are ready for a break and run downstairs to join the slim crowd in front. I laugh seeing Minehan poised to jump on stage, guitar in hand. Jace is lurking next to him, with a big grin when he sees me staring at him. Ah, to be 15 again.
Their set is fairly generic. The band name is Water Closet, referring to 19th century bathroom plumbing. They must be college boys, or dropouts from the 60’s, considering their age. Their songs are long intros, guitar solos and really long drum solos. Minehan is bored, so he plugs in his guitar and started adding leads from behind the stage.
“I guess I better introduce our guest, David,” the singer announces after the song is done. “What band are you from?”
“The Neighborhoods,” he yells out, “from the Rat in Boston.” He isn’t shy.
“Alright. That was him adding leads on the last song, ‘My Girlfriend Left Me.’ Com’n up on stage, if you’re gonna play.”
Water Closet suddenly realizes they have let the cat out of the bag. The drummer reaches over and pulls the plug on David’s guitar.
“Well, that’s exciting,” the nonplussed singer admits. “David will be back later with his band.”
David bows and departs the stage. He made his point. The girls yell, “We love you, David,” as we whistle. I make a note not to let him upstage me in the future.
We cheer Water Closet on through their set. They seemed discouraged after David’s electric 60 seconds.
After they finish, we find Joey behind the bar.
“Ya gonna let us do our second set?” I ask.
“I guess. Yer guitarist ruined my headliner’s set. Is he gonna blow out all the amps?”
“Naw. We’s got a blues set planned. I can keep him from taking over.”
“Very funny. We play our versions of the blues. Hey, thanks for taking care of our girls’ parents.”
“No big deal. Did ya make the big impression?”
“Big, yeah. Good, maybe not.”
“Hey, it’s rock n roll.” As he punches me on the arm.
“Stop leering,” he orders the bartender. “We’re kissin’ cousins.”
Jack pulls me away, always on alert around my past lovers. The girls decide it is time to get back to the parents.
“Make sure you come down for our set,” I tell them. They just nod.
Joey pours us cups of beer. Minehan instantly appears.
“Whatcha think? I was electric.”
“You got shut down for up-staging their band.”
“Music’s a cutthroat business.”
“You’re 17, David. Try to act more innocent.”
“You’re only 17?” Joey pulls away the beer cup I just put in front of David.
“Yeah, goin’ on 30,” as he grabs my beer and downs it. He staggers away. Joey pours me another.
“If the cops come, you guys are out the back door.”
We know the drill.
Jack and I bring up another round of drinks for the parents and Pepsi (not Coke) for the girls, singing the Pepsi Generation jingle to remind them we are the new generation.
Even the parents laugh. I cannot say I moon-walked, but I would have, had it been 1983.
“Y’all’s welcome to come down for our second set,” I ask the whole table. “It’s the blues I promised. We have a special song that we wrote for the girls last weekend. It’s called ‘Sunday Afternoon.’”
“You’re not going to play that ear-splitting electric guitar again, are you?” Mr. Field failed to appreciate Jimi Hendrix.
“No way. This is mood music. We hope you’ll like it.”
The girls jump up and leave the parents speechless. Escape from the family zone.
We go back to the band room and corner Minehan.
“You’ve been the Neighborhoods all night. Now it’s our set. Just follow Jack’s MOOG. This is the blues, not punk rock.”
“What’s punk rock?” he asks.
“You’re punk rock. Just play rhythm guitar. We don’t have a drummer, so don’t be speeding up. The MOOG can’t change tempo like a drummer can.”
He thinks about it. “Okay. I can be a geezer, too, just like you.”
A rhyme in time is true.
“Howdy,” I grab the mic as we set up. “In case you’ve been paying attention, we’re two different bands that have come from Boston to entertain our sweethearts, Trudie and Joan,” as I point to them standing at the side of the stage by themselves.
“We first did The Neighborhoods’ set, which is David’s band from The Rat in Kenmore Square. It’s the place to be in Boston. David can’t help himself from being on stage. It was his Hendrix Experience you heard with Water Closet. Our band, ‘Moody Rudes,’ is from Harvard. A great institution that is trying to tame David into becoming a responsible student, even though he’s just 17. We’re betting that he tames Harvard. We all live in a co-ed dorm and this is the music we play in the boiler room. Those 19th Century brick walls echo with the wails. The ivy is dying on the vine.”
I turn around and tell Jack and David, “False Gods.’ Instead of thundering the intro, Jack plays it at a slow, quiet tempo, with David and me coming in as Jack increases the MOOG’s volume. I step up with David to the mic. Apparently he has learned the lyrics. We sing the shortened version as a duet letting the MOOG echo through the club at the end of each line:
“Where others feared to tread,
they gave us up for dead,
memories linger eternally,
as Lucifer’s proud plea,
a world of our own,
on high a black throne,
sing to make them see,
happy for eternity
…we are False Gods, we are False Gods…
a world so meek and blind,
we laugh at all of mankind,
we’re Satan’s band,
a world of endless flaws,
facades and miracles applause,
eulogized but despised,
shed your false disguise,
fall to your knees,
utter useless pleas,
…we are False Gods, we are False Gods…
pray in foreign tongues,
shoot your useless guns,
sacrifice hallowed sheep,
shun cold, dark streets,
you’re just nasty fleas,
Set your minds at ease
…False Gods, False Gods…
we live eternally,
we hear your painful screams,
Just wait 20 years or so
know just what we mean
….We are False Gods, False Gods..
… False Gods”
“There is no denying that Jimi Hendrix was a guitar god,” I motion to David, who rips into his ‘Experience’ intro. I see the parents instantly cover their ears up in the balcony. I make a cutting motion and David shuts it down.
“But Hendrix is dead. He is a False God,” I assert. “We can bring his sound back but that doesn’t make us gods. ‘we laugh at all of mankind.’”
“We grew up in troubled times. These are our lives: ‘Life’s Lies’
‘This is our life,
our pride alive
Its our times
Lost our minds
Stupid rules rule
Demand we act
Just like fools
To be like you.
Look at me, you havta scream.
You think we all be freakin’
You gotta be fast to not be seen.
No wonder we’re always sneakin’
“No one knew what we did, where we were, or if they cared. We were always ‘Sneakin’”
Never been caught
All over town
Better than not.
Thrill’s in the chase
No time to waste
Folks on my case
All is in haste.
Waiting’s the worst
You were my first
I need you now
We’re on the prowl.
Back of an alley
Sprawled in the dirt
No time to dally
Who will cum first.
shaka shaka love?
‘shaka shaka love shaka shaka
Shaka shaka love shaka shaka.”
Minehan jumps off the low stage with his guitar and repeats the chorus, ‘shaka shaka’ directly at the girls. A number of other girls rush forward and surround him. He’s wailing on guitar. I go to his amp and turn it down slightly, while pushing up the MOOG amp. Jack responds by slowing the rhythm. Minehan doesn’t have the power and volume to match him. He breaks away and comes back on stage.
“I never feel this way.
Just happy full of play.
I wake up every day,
You’re by my side,
You reach and touch,
I say goodbye.
There is no future,
But we have now.
“We’re perfect for each other,
I never think of another.”
Can’t be love, but who can say
I know you’re here to stay?”
There’s no future,
But we have now.
‘We can’t live by ourselves.
We need people that we love
We hate those who hate themselves
We know what they’re made of.
Love, love, love
I need your love
I need your love
I need your love
I need you”
I repeat the chorus, jumping in front of Trudie and Joan, going down on my knees while I sing to them. They are totally embarrassed, knowing their parents are watching from the balcony.
I get back on stage.
“This is the song we wrote for you, Trudie and Joan, after you left last weekend, ‘Sunday Afternoon.’ Our apologies to the Moody Blues.”
I’m just beginning to see
I don’t know what to say
What’s it matter to me
Chasing the girls away
They never call to me
The end is drawing me near
I don’t know why
Those other voices I hear
I must be high
No one sees the reflections of my mind
It’s just the kind of day to get left behind
So gently swaying in this fairyland of love
If you’ll just come with me you’ll see the beauty of
We repeat the verse, echoing the ‘Sunday Afternoon’ chorus over and over. The girls panic, running back up to the balcony, terrified of what their parents will say. All the other girls press forward, as I watch our girlfriends disappear. Jack ends the song on the MOOG, joining David and me at the mic.
“Come back. Come back. We need you,” we all sing. They run away even faster. Romance hurts.
We walk off stage, but get a thunderous response. I guess real emotions count with the fans. I knew we would do an encore. It has to be ’Barefoot Boy.’ David is a perfect Robby substitute but I need to show the act to him. It is my turn to be flying around the club.
“Just follow me on this song. When I get to the chorus, I’m going to jump around the club. You havta keep playing the chorus. You can do it next time. I’m just showing you what to do.”
He looks quizzically at me. He knows I have upstaged him and needs somehow to get payback. Maybe this show-stopper is ready to be up-dated.
We run back on stage to increased applause. Even the barflies in the back are paying attention.
“I hope you liked the Moody Rudes. Since we’re out of songs, we’ll finish with our audience participation song. It’s called ‘Barefoot Boy.’ We played it at frats in Miami and got chased up a tree.
Makes a stand
To take his joy
Going hand to hand
Flying out free
Branch to branch
Through the trees
Free to be
A monkey like me
Ha ha ha
He he he
Haw haw haw
Chee chee chee’
At the end of the chorus, I nod to Minehan, who goes back and repeats it.
I’m off through the crowd, swinging up onto the walls, back down on the top of the bar, purposely kicking over the barflies’ drinks, up into the rafters and swinging onto the balcony. I stop in front of the parents’ table, singing without a mic and doing the monkeyshines. They are speechless. The girls are further mortified. Jack has left the MOOG and joins me, as David continues the chorus, singing and playing to keep us going. It lasts several minutes, until Jack and I return to the stage. By this time the other girls are all doing the monkeyshines and their boyfriends are doing some version of the Wahtusi. We bring the song to a crashing end. Instead of applause we receive a shower of beer cups, drenching us. It feels oddly familiar.
“Thank you, Northampton. Now you know what we think of you.” We bow and run off with our instruments. Water Closet runs out to rescue their amps which are sputtering from the drenching. Solid state still resists. They glare at us, more out of jealousy than anger.
“I ain’t seen a better show since the New York Dolls at CBGB’s. And they have better songs.”
“But we’re not old junkies.”
“Not yet,” he warns. “Oh, here’s your bar-take. Where’d ya learn to get the audience to throw their drinks at ya. We had a spike in bar activity during and after your set. I calculated that the after-set take was due to youse.”
He hands me $500, pretty good, since we were not even booked. But we did play two shows and Minehan was onstage during Water Closet. He is stunned when I hand him $200. Only $2800 left to pay off his tuition. Joey leads us back to the kitchen where we devour several burgers with fries. Rock n roll runs on grease. And beer.
I wonder if our relationship with the girls is irrevocably damaged. More crisis control will be needed. We have to play the anti-parent card. I wonder if Joan is ready to be a rock n roll rebel. I know Trudie is up for it.