Monday, March 29, 2010


"Let's start with a song you guys know," I said, "Light My Fire." It was early afternoon, the boys all had slept here overnight and we were all wearing the same clothes as we had on the night before. The pounding in our heads, or at least mine, had been reduced to a dull thud.
"Easy enough." Johnny said, they looked at each other and went into an album perfect rendition of the song. No mistakes except what was on the album, a clean, antiseptic feel to it, technically perfect, but there was no soul to it, nothing of themselves in it.
"No, no, no," I said, "you guys are making it sound too much like the album. We have to make it sound spontaneous."
"Man, I thought that's what you said people wanted to hear, the songs?"
"Yeah, but Brian was right, we can’t give them what they can hear on the radio, but if we give them a show that was like a Doors show they'll feel that integrity. They may not know it with their heads, but they'll 'know' it with their souls. Here, listen to this." I grabbed a bootleg from the bookcase and put it on the stereo, from the speakers came the notes that open the song.
"See, it should sound like we're inventing it right at the moment."
"We?" Brian asked, "how do we do that?"
"I don't know, you're the musicians." They looked at each other, and for a split second I really thought they were going to put down their instruments and walk out. It was like one of those scenes in a movie where everyone has a gun drawn on everyone else and it's either everyone gets blown away, or someone uncocks his gun and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
"What do you mean, you don't know?" Johnny asked.
"I don't know," I said, "you guys are the musicians, you take care of all the audial details." They all looked at each other, again.
"Audial? What's that?" Johnny asked, and the rest suppressed a smile while I looked puzzled, "man, there's no such word as audial."
"I don't know, man, just don't make the tuning perfect or something, and I'll sing a little off key."
"We won't have any problems there." Ian joked.
"What about your part?" Johnny asked, "what's this 'performance' you're going to do?"
"Start Light My Fire again, and I'll show you." As the band played I sang the first verse, "you know that it would be untrue, you know that I would be a liar." I delivered the lines in the deliberate almost languid delivery that Morrison had used finally screaming the last line into the instrumental, "try to set the night on fire!" Then I stood hanging on the microphone with my eyes closed, feeling the music, like Morrison did. As they went into the instrumental I twisted away from the microphone doing a few of Morrison's patented staccato Indian hops.
"Hold it, hold it," I heard Johnny saying as the music stopped. "That, uh, seems a little flat, doesn't it?"
"That's what Morrison did for this song," I said, "he usually left the stage as an excuse to have a beer while the band played the solo's. Don't worry it'll work itself out. Here, I'll show you." I went to the dining room and rolled out the videotape player and TV.
"Cool, visual aids." One of them said sarcastically.
"What's that?" Johnny asked.
"It just came out, The Doors Live at the Hollywood Bowl." I held up the cover of the tape I had watched the night before after everyone else was asleep. We watched it from beginning to end. When it was over, there was a second of silence of the boys looking at each other.
"That's it! That's going to be our show!" Brian said incredulously. He picked up the videotape cover and read off the back 'the greatest agent provocateur of Rock ‘n’ Roll', the guy just stood there for most of the time, he barely moved!"
"Look, things he did are documented in the book. It's not really what something is, but what people expect that something to be, if we give them what they expect, they'll be happy."
"I've been looking through this." Mitchell said, holding up a copy of The Compleat Lyrics of The Doors, "I just don't see it either. I thought there was supposed to be so many levels to The Doors' songs, they all seem pretty simple."
"A lot of that was insinuated by Morrison and the music added the mysterious feel to it." They looked skeptical, "look, most lyrics are pretty simple. And Morrison liked it that people were reading all these deeper meanings into his lyrics. He thought art was a two way street and the audience brought something to the experience too."
"You know what the songs mean?" Brian asked.
"I like to think so." I said.
"Why was he so hung up on serial killers?"
"That's an easy one. It's your own death, that's the killer on the road that we're all going to pick up one day on the trip of life, death."
Mitchell, who was still leafing through the lyrics book said, "some of the lyrics, you know, it sounds like he was just using things he saw around him."
"Yeah, I'm sure he used things he saw in everyday life in his lyrics, but Morrison read a lot, especially Mythology. He understood the symbolism behind the things he used, you have to give the artist credit for transforming life into art. You can't dismiss it because you know he was at Robby's house and saw his cats and then wrote about lions or panthers."
"What about Five to One?" Five to One has been the subject of speculation since the instant Morrison put together the combination of the ratio's 5 to1, and 1 in 5 into the song. “I read that the numbers meant the number of baby boomers to those over thirty.”
“I heard it was the ratio of pot smokers to non pot smokers.” I smiled, knowing Morrison must have gotten a good laugh as people all around him volunteered explanations of what the five to one ratio meant, and every one of Morrison's associates has a different version of what they say Morrison confided to them the numbers represented.
"Maybe, five to one means us as a band." Mitchell said, "the five of us against the world."
“No, it’s nothing that simple, you’ve got to remember Morrison was a genius, it’s nothing as mundane as statistics.”
“Then what is it smart ass?”
“OK, I’ll tell you, Morrison liked the poems of William Blake, right?” They nodded agreement, “well, in the Songs of Experience or Songs of Innocence, I don’t know which one I get them confused but it talks about the five senses each person has, five senses to one person, five to one.”
“Then what’s the 1 in 5?”
“The reverse, one person has five senses.” They all looked at me and as the thought exploded in their minds they all got excited.
“That makes sense!”
“You’re a genius, how’d you think of that?”
“It’s not my idea, but I think it’s the right one, but don’t tell anyone it would ruin the mystery, now can we get back to work?”

Over the next few weeks, as we moved on to other songs we hit a snag I hadn't anticipated. It was easy to find the guitar tabs and arrangements for the hit songs, Light My Fire; Touch Me; Hello, I Love You; Love Her Madly, but for the lesser known songs the guitar tabs and arrangements for those songs simply didn't exist. There wasn't the information available as there is today, it was like being out in the wilderness. So Johnny and the band had to work out the songs one by one. We’d listen to the live album and my bootlegs starting and stopping them over and over again until they got the sound right, sometimes it went note by note, even the video helped in that we could see exactly how they were playing, where their fingers were on the guitar, or where their hands were over the keyboards or drums. It was a time consuming and tedious process, but it had the unintended side effect of teaching them how to build a song from the inside out.

It also taught me a few things about music. For instance, they gave me what I thought was some bullshit musical theory that they tried to make sound mysterious, but what it boiled down to was you weren't supposed to change tempo in the middle of a song, which The Doors did. I also learned John Densmore should have had a better rapport with Morrison, the drummer is an uncontrolled element in a band because it's almost impossible to tell a drummer how to play something, there’s no way to notate or have sheet music for the drums, the drummer is the one chaotic element of a band. As the weeks went by I found solace in the music, to float along in the notes, lost on a river, to give yourself to the music, the moment, to really let go, to feel free and scream! It was only a few weeks before that I was making fun of the band for ‘feeling’ the music as they played, but I learned to love the members of the band and their talent, how Brian cradled the guitar, and during L.A.Woman did a slide that gave me hard-on, how Mitchell mashed the keys of the organ to create the discordant Doors sound, or Ian the Indian staccato of the drums. I don’t know if we became friends but we did learn to respect what the others brought to the band.

After a day of practicing I would lay awake on my bed into the night, the room darkened, the light from the TV flickering like lightning at twenty-four frames per second. I watched the tapes of Morrison over and over again memorizing his every move, and intonation, and likely as not, falling asleep and dreaming of when it would be my turn. As they mastered each song, I worked out the theatre, sometimes I instinctively knew when to fall, or dance, I could see Morrison in my mind's eye doing it. The key was spontaneity and feeling it, and then acting it out that would recreate Morrison's mind-set.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapt 14: The Practice Gig

Monday, March 22, 2010

The House

We stood on the lawn in front of the house I had rented. It was white and hadn't been lived in for some time, the paint was chipped and peeling in places, smudged and dirty in others, but the important thing was, it was far from any neighbors.
"It doesn't look like much." Johnny said.
"It's not supposed to, it’s a rehearsal space.” I said. "Come on, let me show you the inside." I led them up the stairs and into the house. "How do you like it?" My voice echoed in the empty rooms, "see, we can set up the equipment and practice down here in the living room, the kitchen's right over there." I said pointing, "and the dining room is adjacent to both." They wandered around the room in ever expanding circles, looking at everything and taking possession of it with their eyes, getting the feel of it with their bodies as they moved from room to room, "upstairs are some bedrooms. I'll be living up there, but we can throw some mattresses in the other rooms in case someone needs to crash here," I said.
"Where'd you get the money for this?" Johnny asked.
"I sold my trailer." I said, "to show you how serious I am, and to show you how much I believe in this." Everyone was quiet at this realization, it grew awkward, so I hastily started talking again, "and I've put all my bootlegs and books over here. I spent the morning setting up my stereo, and TV and VCR," I said going over to a bookcase built into the wall, "so we can have an instant reference library. Feel free to look through these at your convenience they might give you some insight into the whole thing we're trying to do. Oh, yeah, there's a basement if we want to have a party or something and come over here, look at this." I said, rushing over to the kitchen just off the living room and opened the refrigerator, "have a beer," I'd filled it with beer.
"Pretty cool." They said.
"Looks like a good place to bring pussy!" Ian's voice echoed down from one of the upstairs rooms. We laughed.
"That's real classy." Johnny said.
"It's always the drummer." Brian said, nodding his head. We spent the rest of the afternoon moving in their equipment and drinking beer. We had our first party in honor of the house. We'd start to work out the music and our hangovers with a real practice the next day.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter 13: Metamorphosis

Monday, March 15, 2010

RS Article

Former Cover Band Has Break Through Album

Ghost Dance's self-titled debut album is a curious mix of influences that strangely enough work. With songs like 'Testament' and 'Last Stage' to their hit 'Girl Wild' which is currently racing up the charts, Ghost Dance demonstrates a hard rock base with punk influences. Leanings, that give them a different and wildly original sound from their contemporaries. While they're young and new to being recording artists they're old hands at touring, having paid their dues, crossing the country playing small clubs and bars.
"Ghost Dance very clearly has its origins in classic rock."
"Yeah, we all grew up listening to the radio when rock from the seventies was played a lot, Springsteen, Aerosmith, The Stones, but we also have a punk element that we're trying to expand on all the time."
"Where did you guys get the name Ghost Dance?"
"We grew up in the Madison, Wisconsin area," lead singer Johnny Rydel answered. "There are still some tribal remnants up there. I visited a reservation quite a few times with my parents when I was a kid and I always thought these trips were the greatest things in the world. Once I kind of had a mystical experience on the reservation, so I became interested in Indian things. And I thought the name was different and cool sounding."
"A mystical experience?"
"Let's just say I thought I had discovered a new science." He said chuckling.
“Kind of like Jim Morrison.”
“Kind of.” He smiled, wanly, “but Jim Morrison doesn’t have a monopoly on mystical experiences.”
“The reason I mention this…”
"The time we toured as a classic rock band." Lead guitarist Brian Leto cuts in.
"I read somewhere you guys got started playing in a tribute band."
"Not exactly, we were already a band, we just couldn't get a gig, and one day we met up with this guy. We grew up in Madison and he went to school there or something. We'd seen him around town when we were growing up. We considered him something of a weirdo, a dude who wanted to be young so he hung around the college years after he graduated. He had this idea for a cover band. We couldn't get a gig, so we did it to keep the band together and be able to practice without having to work some lame day jobs.”
“Of course we admired The Doors and their accomplishments, we just didn’t want to be forever tied to them.”
“Forever a tribute band.”
“We knew we always had something to say and we wanted that voice.”
“Well, he did manage to unite us as a band."
"Yeah, he gave us a common enemy."

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter XII: The House

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Deal

I hadn't heard from Johnny and the band for a month or so, but I knew sooner or later that I would. They had fairly reeked of desperation that night in my trailer, and I knew sooner or later that some vicissitude of life would send them my way.

While I hadn't known any of them before I met them, at heart Madison was a small town, so I knew some of their stories, gleaned from the information that floats around any small town. They were small town boys trying to escape the inertia of the college town they grew up in with the velocity of Rock 'n' Roll, but they had neither the inclination nor the desire to use the college they had so readily available. After I got to know them I found they were well versed in the history and lore of Rock 'n' Roll, they talked endlessly about it when they were moving their equipment, and in the car on the ride over to my trailer. They knew what their instruments could do and what sounds they could get out of them, but about the rest of the world, general knowledge was lacking.

Johnny's family was fairly well off. Even though he wore ripped jeans, they were fashionably faded and ripped jeans. His father was a vice president of some corporation, and active in the community. By Johnny's comments and demeanor I assumed his musical aspirations clashed with his family's wishes. He could play guitar, but he looked a little grungy and had little or no charisma. Brian was the good looking one and probably got most of the girls. Mitchell was the punk rocker dressed in the most outrageous combinations of clothes. In such a small town, it was outrageous and probably meant to offend the prevailing standards. It's somewhat of a myth that college towns are liberal bastions. A facile observation of parents as they visit the campus, they see the experimental idealism of the students, and the insulated radicalism of the professors. But the real town, the town where people have lived for generations without a thought of leaving, the town which the college itself grew around, the town where once their children reach eighteen, they buy a trailer, get married, and live quite different lives and values than the artificial society of the college. I met plenty of them in the barrooms. And Ian, well, Ian was the drummer. Most people don't give drummers enough credit. They have to carry the tempo of the band and most of the time they get written off. Read any rock biography, drummers are the quirky ones, or an after thought.

Then one afternoon my phone rang.
"Hi, it's Johnny, um.. can I talk to you?" His voice quavered and sounded hesitant, and I knew I had a band.
"What can I do for you?" I asked.
"Well, it's like this...uh, are you still interested in doing The Doors cover band thing?"
"It's like this, uh, ...we lost our rehearsal space and we don't have any money for a new one and umm... well, we'll do your Doors thing if you can provide money for a rehearsal space. The band will still be ours, but we'll do the Doors thing. We'll be able to play a couple of our original songs every gig, right?"

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter XI: RS Interview

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Trailer

My trailer was outside of town on a small piece of land I rented from a farmer. The trailer had been used for hunting, but the farmer needed some extra money so I bought it. Since the farmer had run a phone line and electric out to the trailer, I left it where it was and rented the land. We walked along the path through the weeds to the trailer. I really hadn't been planning on bringing anyone over, between Deidre leaving, and running around looking at bands, the trailer, which had already been cramped with books, records and tapes, had a layer of empty beer cans and days old pizza leftovers covering and overlapping each other from every flat surface available. I quickly tossed some things off the couch, pushed others to the side, and there was enough room for everyone to sit down. The next step was to feel these guys out, and see if they were interested in my cover band idea.
"You guys want a beer?" I asked, taking five out of the refrigerator and putting them on a table. As they settled in, each nervously surveying the surroundings, I sat down, and pulled a joint out of the chaos of the table, lit it, sucking on it hard, before blowing out the smoke and handing it to Johnny. I sat back letting the smoke emanate through my body. I didn't say anything until they each took a hit off the joint. "I noticed when Reggie asked you guys to play a cover tune, you played Light My Fire. Do you guys like The Doors?"
"Sure." They all nodded, "we use it at practice to warm up."
"Here, listen to this." I said, jumping out of my chair. I pulled a record off a shelf and put it on the turntable. "I collect Doors bootlegs. You know, concerts people taped, soundboard recordings." I dropped the needle on the record. There was a pop and a hiss, and the sounds of long ago concert goers flitted around the room. Then the dark, pulsing beat of Ray Manzarek's organ came on, the first tentative twangings of Robby Krieger's guitar, the boom-ka-boom-boom of John Densmore's punctuating drums, and finally the scream of Jim Morrison filled the trailer. I looked at their uncomprehending eyes, I hoped the music would provide the soundtrack to sway them. I tried to sense their mood, but couldn't. I was nervous and tried to hide it by acting cool, but it only added to my nervousness. I was all nerves and energy, I couldn't stop, I plowed into the proposal I had gone over and given time after time in my head. "I have a proposition for you guys." I said, my voice wavering and cracking from the strain.
"I knew it! We're so out of here." Brian said.
"No, no!" I said, settling them back into their seats, "it's an idea I have about a band."
"It better be man."
“What kind of an idea?” Johnny asked.
"It is, listen. A while ago I saw a show called Beatlemania, and I thought somebody should do that for The Doors."
"That was a play, right? With guys pretending to be The Beatles, and doing the songs?"
"Yeah, it was, but my idea is simpler, just a band playing the songs and a guy 'being' Morrison, doing his antics." They didn't seem to be following me so I launched into my sales pitch, "Morrison was completely spontaneous, he acted out the songs, he recited poems, he fell, he dived off the stage into the audience."
"You mean like an Elvis impersonator?"
"Man, that's a bad example, those guys are a joke."
"What's the show gonna' be? A casket on-stage, you open it and out falls a skeleton dressed in leather pants?" Mitchell said, laughing.
"But it doesn't have to be, we do it in clubs, the same environment The Doors preferred. We play it straight, no camp, no winking, and no making it seem like a joke."
"And who would the guy 'being' Morrison be?" Johnny asked.
"And who would the band be?"
"You guys." They looked at each other with varying degrees of shock, skepticism, or amusement. The pot must have been kicking in because the moment seemed to freeze momentarily in a tableau reminiscent of The Last Supper.
"Excuse me,” Ian said, “but Johnny is the lead singer of this band." they all nodded in agreement.
"Sure, sure," I said, "you guys have your band, but we can do this until your band is getting gigs, making a demo, gets a contract, whatever you want. This way you're performing in front of an audience, getting paid, and you can do a couple of your songs each set."
"What do you get out of it?"
"The reason Morrison said he started writing songs was because he said he 'was taking notes at a concert in his head.' Well, I'm hearing a Doors concert in my head, with me singing. I want to know what it feels like to be up on stage, I want to know what it would be like to be Morrison."
"You should see a doctor about that."
"So, why would people pay to hear a band play a bunch of old songs they can buy on an album?"
"Or hear on the radio."
"Aren't you listening? Listen to the bootleg I have on. We can give people something they can't buy, that they can't get anywhere else."
"Which is?"
“Something real. The hair bands are all hype, drinking tea out of Jack Daniels bottles, the rock stars themselves were getting old. Mick Jagger looks like a freeze-dried version of his younger self, Dylan, a jowly legend.” I stopped, a little exasperated. "People want something real again. I was born at the tail end of the baby boom. By the time I got old enough, it was like I could hear the sound of receding thunder. And I was asking 'what was that?' While everybody else was saying wasn't that cool."
"I remember hearing their songs when I was a kid, but I was too young to do anything about it."
"What're you talking about?"
"The sixties, there are a lot of people out there just like me who were too young to be part of the sixties. The younger brothers and sisters who raided their older siblings record albums, and could only listen to their stories. Or those more your age who weren't there at all and want to experience some part of the whole thing. It's like our mythic age of heros and gods."
"What thing?"
"The experience of seeing a Doors concert live. They never played a song the same way twice, they did medleys, solos, and long jams. They were like The Dead only Morrison was wilder. I'm just saying I know more about The Doors than just about anyone else, I've read everything about them, I have all the bootlegs," I said, I hung my head in exasperation, I didn’t know how many more ways I could explain it, "I've thought about this for a long time. I've thought it all the way through, the band will be called The Unknown Soldiers, after one of their songs, right," I looked nervously between them trying to gauge how it was going, all their faces registered skepticism, but I couldn't stop, I was too far in, "and people have been telling me all my life I look like Morrison." I saw smiles of an in joke cross their lips again. So, I decided to throw in a little flattery "I know you guys are going to be successful, you know how I know that?"
They all looked at each other, "no, how?"
"Because of that right there, that silent almost psychic communication you guys seem to have with one another. It's the same camaraderie The Doors had."
"You think so?" Johnny asked with as much false modesty as he could muster. I could tell he was proud of the band.
"Oh, yeah." That got them to relax, and they at least seemed to be considering the proposition.
"Can you sing?" Johnny asked.
"Why is that the first question everyone asks?" I said, "no."
"Awww, man...."
"But neither could Morrison at first. Here, look at this." I grabbed my well read, dogged eared copy of No One Here Gets Out Alive from somewhere out of the rubble of the table, it was like a bible well thumbed through and highlighted. I tossed it to Johnny. "Read it. Morrison couldn't sing either." Johnny held it up looking at it before handing it to one of the other guys.
"I've read it," he said. "So, the idea is we play the songs and you sing and act like Morrison, right?"
"Yeah, and dress like him. I'll wear a pair of leather pants, and grow my hair out."
"How old are you?" Johnny asked.
"That's four years older than Morrison was when he died." Johnny said, "and Morrison was ten years younger when they started The Doors.”
"It's not that much that anyone will notice, a little make-up and stage lighting, and no one will even notice."
“Dude, it’s getting to be a forced perspective." Ian said.
Everyone was quiet. “And you have me.” I added.
“What does that give us?” Brian asked.
“I have what Morrison had, a philosophy.”
“It makes me dangerous.” I watched the silent deliberations and decided to add a closing argument, "c'mon, Reggie was right, people want to hear something familiar, it’s comforting, it’s something they can identify with, then when you have them, you can spring the originals on them and they’re more receptive to them. “What‘d ya say?" They all looked at each other registering their votes with their different reactions, then deferring to Johnny.
"Nah, man," Johnny said, "we're a band, we got our own songs we wanna do."
"I've had this idea a long time, and looked at a lot of bands. You're the first band I've asked. This can work to your advantage. People will hear your band, you can play your songs, we'll tour all over the country like a real band. Think of the exposure. We can become rich, and famous, it'll be great! We'll split everything fifty-fifty like The Doors, we'll share all the expenses, we'll share any profits, and any offers we receive."
"That's cool, but fifty percent of nothing is nothing." Mitchell said, "and that's what I already earn."
"But a cover band is guaranteed. There aren't many bands out there doing this, so it's a niche waiting to be filled. Club owners will love it because they're hiring bands that play proven hits without having to pay the bands with the hits."
"Haven't you heard man, punk is the new music." Brian said.
"Morrison practically invented punk!" I said, "the leather pants, the slouch, the attitude, confronting the audience, the poses in the publicity stills, it's all Morrison!"
"You think so?" He asked thinking it over, "how do you know people want to hear a band that plays Doors' songs?"
"Because, I just do." I said, "there are books coming out. There's even talk of a movie coming out, probably with John Travolta or Tom Cruise."
"No, man," Johnny laughed, "that's way too screwy, we gotta go."

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter X: The Deal

Ghost Dance

Section Two: The Band

One Saturday afternoon I was in 'The Place'. I wasn't looking for a band, I wasn't looking for a woman, I wasn't looking for trouble, I was looking to relax, I had decided to take a sabbatical from the search, and some times when you’re chasing a dream too hard, if you step back it’ll come to you.

The bar was dark, cool and empty. It was early in the afternoon a couple of weeks before the fall semester was scheduled to start. After the school year started, the college crowd that frequented here was mostly a weekend crowd that came to get drunk and laid, and inadvertently see whatever band was playing. In the next room, I could hear Reggie, the owner of 'The Place' auditioning a band to play for that crowd. As one of the better customers I knew Reggie and talked to him when he sometimes sat in the bar having a beer. Reggie struck me as being a hustler, always on the make, there was something sweaty about him, he fancied himself a high powered rock promoter, his clothing was hip, but always about five years behind any trend.
"This one's an original composition of ours, one, one two three..." I heard coming through an amplifier from the other room. The band went into their song and by sheer force of habit I listened to their playing. I found myself nodding my head in time to the music.
"They're not to bad." I said to the bartender, who just shrugged his shoulders, probably having heard countless auditions, myriad bands, and endless original songs countenanced by their creators to be the next number one hit record. He retreated to the opposite end of the bar to read a newspaper. All of a sudden, I couldn't believe, it miracle of miracles, a keyboard came in. I went over to the doorway to watch the audition. The lone light in the room was from the single spotlight on the band on stage. The lead singer stood stridently in front of the microphone, yelling the lyrics just under the sound of the music. He was dressed in ripped, patched jeans and T-shirt, guitar slung low. The keyboard player was off to stage left, the lead guitar player to his right, and of course behind them on a riser, the drummer. The lead guitar player wandered the stage, eyes closed, 'feeling' the music like any good guitar player was supposed to. The drummer was hidden behind his drums, and they were good! Their playing was above average, their music hit some interesting ideas, but they didn't explore the note or concept when they were already off to the next thing musically, trying to fit in as many interesting things as they could before the end of the song. A quantity over quality approach to music, but their really big drawback was they were totally uninteresting to watch. They could have been any one of a number of garage bands around, but they were good enough for a cover band.
"OK!" Reggie yelled to the band and they stopped playing, "do you guys know any cover tunes?" The lead singer stood at the microphone, one hand shielding his eyes straining to see and hear out into the darkness. He looked at the other band members. They exchanged looks amongst themselves. "You know, like The Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin." Reggie said impatiently. The lead singer turned towards the other members of his group then shrugged his shoulders they looked like they had been playing together long enough to read the other's mind. They started to play Light My Fire, and a shot went through me! I struggled to contain my excitement, just as I had given up hope, destiny dropped them right in my lap, it's like the forces of nature conspire to bring everything you need to you, there are certain times in life when you're in tune with the universe, when no matter what turn you take, no matter what wrong turn you think you made, turns out to be right, it was almost enough to make you believe in a higher purpose or predestination. As the band got to the instrumental, Reggie once again yelled.
"OK! Thank you!"
Returning to my stool at the bar, I settled into another beer to calm myself. As the band sullenly packed their equipment I watched them struggling with it as they lugged it out. When they were taking out the last of it, I was still riding the wave of excitement of discovering them, and was just drunk enough to talk to them.
"You guys are pretty good." I said to the lead singer as he came by.
"He didn't think so." He said, motioning with his head back towards Reggie still in the other room.
"Ahh, don't worry about him, he's always trying to find an angle. Some day when you guys hit it big he'll see the error of his ways, and probably claim he discovered you. Can I buy you guys a beer?" The band members looked at one another, another silent conversation taking place.
"Sure." They sat at the bar, in what seemed to me in the pecking order of the band. The lead singer closest to me, the lead guitar player, keyboardist, and finally, farthest down from me the drummer. He was wearing what seemed to be the Rock 'n' Roll uniform of the day, ripped jeans and T-shirt but with the addition of blue hair.
"I'm Johnny Rydel," the lead singer said, introducing himself, "this is Brian, Mitchell, and Ian. Who're you?" He asked.
"Oh, sorry, Michael Desmond." I said extending my hand. "So, how long have you guys been playing together?"
"Well, Mike, it's"
"My name is Michael, not Mike."
"Sorry, is that some religious thing or something?" Johnny asked, they all shared a chuckle between themselves.
"No." I said, "so, what's your band's name?"
"Ghost Dance."
"That's cool, I like it. Where do you guys know each other from?"
"Brian, Mitchell and me have been playing together since high school."
"What about you Ian?" I asked.
"I was a music major at the school, these guys were playing some house party that I had crashed. During a break I was goofing around thumping on the drums, they were a little out of tune so I adjusted them."
"His tuning was better than our drummers drumming, so we brought him on."
"Let me tell you," I said, "I think you guys are pretty good. A couple of rough edges, but you'll work them out."
"Yeah, that's what we're trying to do, we want to get out in front of an audience and get some experience and some exposure for our songs. Maybe make a couple of bucks. Here," he said, reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out a tape and handed it to me, "it's a tape we made of our songs. Listen when you have a chance."
"Thanks." I said. I looked at the tape he handed me. Small bands like to identify with the bands they idolize so when they make a tape they usually title it something that's a play off of a title of their favorite band. This one was titled 'Pieces of Fate', I smiled as I put it in my pocket, no matter how good they were, they weren‘t going to make it any time soon, they wore their influences on their sleeves. I leaned conspiratorially over to them, "you guys want to go to my place and get high?" They looked amongst themselves, hesitation and distrust in their eyes "no, no, no, I'm not some kind of weirdo, we'll just smoke a joint."

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter IX: The Trailer

The Master Plan

I woke up the next morning, excited. The cover band idea still seemed like a good one. The test of any barroom idea is, if it's still a good idea in the light of morning, in the light of your hangover, it's a good idea. I'd had the idea for a couple of years but didn't know how to go about it, or as Morrison said, "I could never allow myself to rationally fantasize about doing it myself. I guess all the time I was accumulating inclination."

To put my plan into action, the first thing I had to do was find a band. That seemed simple enough, and there were plenty of bands that played the bars in any college town and Madison was no exception, but which one? The next problem seemed a little harder, I didn't know anything about music. For instance, how would I know if a particular band could play the music? Or if they could play it, did they play it well enough? It bummed me out for a few hours. I couldn't see any way around it, short of taking music classes to get that expertise. That would take at least a semester in even a survey course. I didn't have that time, I needed this as soon as possible! Then it hit me, I didn't need to! Morrison was a film student at UCLA, living on the beach and he didn't know anything about music beyond a few childhood piano lessons. I didn't even have those! On that scale I could be a bigger success than Morrison! I would solve the problem the same way Morrison had, he found Ray Manzarek and I'd find that person for me. I'd seen a lot of bands live and figured I was a pretty good judge of music. All I had to do was find a band that played well, knew what they were doing and they would work out the music problems. All I had to worry about was what Morrison worried about, the lyrics and the performance. I already had the blueprint for that. So, all I really needed to do was find the right band.

I spent the next few days working out the criteria. The highest priority I would have to find a band with a keyboard player, nothing else could recreate the distinctive sound of The Doors. I would need musicians who didn't have any long term goals towards a career of their own. Either a band that knows they're not good enough to make it, or they're on the opposite end of the spectrum, a band that had already given up its ambitions, one that had tried, didn't make it and has come to terms with that, but are willing to do anything to keep their hand in the game, and stave off having to get straight jobs for another year or two. And finally, they had to be somewhat local, so that we could have rehearsals with a minimum of logistical problems, like lugging their equipment across state, or me driving hours on end for a rehearsal.

I started by reading the classifieds in the Milwaukee area entertainment magazines listing bands and the venues they were playing. The first problem I ran into was most of the bands that advertised seemed to take themselves too seriously, listing requirements such as must have stage presence and own equipment, or no drinkers or drugs, what was the point of being in a band then? None of the bands mentioned having a keyboard player. Plenty mentioned having a lead guitar and bass player but were looking for a hard rock drummer. It also occurred to me that I needed a band that was indebted to me, or at least they thought they were indebted to me, so they couldn't get rid of me when I'd outlived whatever usefulness I had to them.

The more I looked through the listings I found they wouldn't be of much help. None of the ads listed The Doors as an influence. There were mentions of just about every band that had ever existed from Zeppelin, AC/DC, Metallica, Michael Bolton to contemporary bands like Ratt, but no Doors. Which, strangely enough, encouraged me. I knew that there was a cult following of The Doors out there. Even though The Doors had had mainstream success they were unique in the rock world in that their sound was so distinctive that no one ever tried to duplicate it. In When The Music's Over, the psychedelic roar of Robby Krieger's guitar is so original as to be trademark. Heavy metal bands used Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin as a starting point, but The Doors were a world unto themselves. Up until The Doors rock songs were about your girlfriend, your car, and surfing. After The Doors, girls were still in the songs, but it was about sex, and cars weren’t for picking up your girlfriend and cruising around, cars were vehicles to something else, somewhere darker, and suddenly rock was free to delve into subjects that up until that time had been confined to the realm of literature, death and existence.

Since the ads weren't going to be of any help, I turned to the listings of what bands were playing where. I would have to go to the gigs themselves, and scout the bands. I started by going to the local clubs to see bands, but none met the criteria I had established. Either, they weren't good enough period, they were obviously ambitious, selling their own tapes and t-shirts trying to get a following and major label attention, or they didn't have a keyboard player, you wouldn’t think finding a band with a keyboard player was all that hard, until you actually go out looking for one.

I gradually increased my search pattern until I found myself going to clubs as far as Milwaukee. There were some commonalities of all the bands I saw and talked to. One being that all the singers said they were sick and I should come to their next show and it would be better, the other was, I missed all their big shows. The second problem I ran into I hadn't anticipated, although I probably should have, was that I took to the nightlife like a fish to water. I'd always liked the excitement, the energy of the clubs, the allure of meeting women. Adventures every night provided a new opportunity. The net effect was I ended up drunk, a long way from home, and no band. I started questioning my motivations. Was I looking for a band, or a reason to go out drinking? I had decided to take a week or two off from the search to recuperate physically and psychically. I was burned out from the amount of energy I was dedicating to the search.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter VIII: Ghost Dance

Meeting Ray

Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek were one of the best teams in Rock 'n' Roll history, but nobody seems to have given much credit to Morrison/Manzarek and they never achieved the legendary status of Lennon/McCartney or Jagger/Richards, but maybe it was because the credits on the records read The Doors instead of Manzarek/Morrison. Ray was the linear mathematically precise keyboard player from Chicago who loved the blues. He met Jim Morrison at UCLA when both were there in the film school; the rational and irrational working together. Soon after, Ray met John Densmore and Robby Krieger at a meditation center, and The Doors were born. Morrison lived on the edge and pushed the others to those extremes. He was the artistic center of the band, the spark, the indefinable something that led The Doors beyond their boundaries of the rational into the irrational fires of creativity, a landscape never before seen; their new world, a sensuous wild west. Robby, who wrote most of the 'hit' songs followed Morrison's lead, adapting Morrison's imagery and themes. While all three were talented musicians, after Morrison died they never again hit the creative or popular high Morrison had driven them to.

Ray was playing with Michael McClure at Lounge Ax on the North side of Chicago. The trendy Clark Street area where the St. Valentine's Day Massacre had happened, but now was just old buildings filled with Starbucks, bookstores, and upscale theme restaurants "owned" by sports legends. The club had always enjoyed a cult status, even to a suburban boy like me, as one of Chicago's premiere clubs to see bands. So, when we got there it was disappointing. The reality clashed with my idea of what it was going to be like after years of hearing how cool it was. We walked right past it at first, we stood on the sidewalk looking for the address. When we turned back the way we had come, three girls came out of a blackened storefront. They were dressed in spandex and lace tops. I yelled to them “Hey! Is this Lounge Ax?” They looked back and sized us up before answering.
“Yeah,” she said. I looked over the facade, there was nothing announcing its presence, no sign that said Lounge Ax, no fancy logo, or neon sign just the blackened out front window. I guess you were just supposed to "know" this was it.
“Is it open yet?”
“Yeah, go on in.”

Inside, Jim and I stopped to pay the ten dollar cover charge. As we ventured deeper into the narrow space the rest of my romantic illusions were thoroughly dashed. The nightclub was wedged into the storefront. The bar ran almost the length of the club, at the back was a riser for the 'stage' that rose maybe eighteen inches above the floor. The space between the bar and the stage was four feet of linoleum for a dance floor, and opposite of that, of all things, were wooden bleacher seats, four or five seats high. It looked like there were five or six of the stage risers stacked on top of each other and bolted together. In the middle of the linoleum floor was a music stand and a keyboard, surely Ray's. The keyboard was being given a respectful space by the growing crowd in the shrinking room. The crowd seemed an even mix of women and men, but every third guy had on leather pants and a white shirt, concho belt optional for individuality, waiting to be discovered by Ray. We got a couple of beers and chatted away time until the show started.

Without announcement Ray and Michael McClure came out from behind a black curtain. Michael McClure, the beat poet, was friends with seminal beat writer Jack Kerouac who was an early influence on the young Jim Morrison. Later, after The Doors and Morrison's fame, McClure met Morrison, and they became friends. On this night McClure was dressed all in black with a Dr. Whoish multi-colored scarf . While he was arranging his manuscripts on the music stand, Ray adjusted himself behind the keyboard. He turned the power knob on and waited for McClure. Ray's graying hair was in a short spiked crew cut, he was dressed in latter day Carnaby Street fashion. Ray looked to McClure who nodded and Ray started to play. The crowd pressed in, a solid mass from stage to door, the waitresses pushed their way through the crowd. I lost track of Jim, but could feel his presence close by.

Ray played the accompaniment to McClure's words. Filling in the holes where words ended. Ray added his own statements, describing the indescribable. And McClure's words complimented the music, filling in the holes of Ray's music, giving form to the formless, interweaving to create aural textures. I closed my eyes bopping my head, grooving to the whole thing and let the eurythmia carry me away. McClure's words invoked Morrison, Ray played the ribbon of notes that make up the iconic opening of Light My Fire, “do-do-do-dew-do,” the crowd pressed forward as one, I opened my eyes, and for a moment I saw colors! The music had taken me on a trip! They had stripped away the boundaries of ordinary perception. For a moment I had stepped through the doors!

Ray looked up from his keyboards, "any questions?" He asked the audience. While McClure leafed through the pages on the music stand
"What was Jim like?" Someone yelled from the back.
"I could tell you what he was like, man," Ray said, in his gravely voice, "but what you really want to hear is, he was a cool guy, and fun to hang out with. He was, but he also could be a jackass, but that was only when he was drunk."
"Is Jim dead?" Another disembodied voice asked.
"Now, that wouldn't be much fun, would it," there was a kindly, but condescending tone in his voice like a somewhat stern schoolmaster in his twentieth year of explaining an overly simple problem to students, "if I told you Jim was alive, and living at 1349 California Avenue?" It couldn't be as simple as going to that address to find Jim Morrison alive and well. But what if it was reverse psychology? I let myself be intoxicated by the thought for a moment. What if Ray were telling the truth? What if it could be so simple as to find Jim Morrison alive, as to just knock on the door at that address! What would I find? A middle-aged Jim with a white beard and a world weary smile relieved it was all over? Or a cantankerous Morrison, pissed off at being discovered? Either way, I would be the greatest hero of the Doors world! Maybe of the Rock 'n' Roll world! Maybe of the world! But my imagination reined in from its fantasy, I knew Ray had been born and grew up in Chicago, I figured that address was probably his families old house or his Grandparent’s house or something much more prosaic like that.
"Seriously," Ray said, "Jim was a great guy but he denied himself his birthright, to see the future. So take his example and lead as an extraordinary a life as you can, push beyond your boundaries, see as much of the future as you can, and report back." During all this McClure had been standing at the music stand listening to Ray, without a signal Ray went into their next piece.

When it was over Ray said, "I'll only sign albums or things like that, no bar napkins." A collective groan went throughout the crowd, "really, what's that anyway?" He asked facetiously, "a napkin?" He and McClure were immediately surrounded by their admirers, the crowd around Ray was a little larger. As the admirers dwindled, a line formed. I stood at the end of the line and watched as Ray signed albums and chatted with girls. I stood there like an acolyte awaiting consecration, ‘but of what?’ I asked myself. While standing in line, I don't know how many times I heard people ask 'what was he like?' or some variation of that question. I wondered how many times Ray had heard that question in the almost twenty years since Morrison's death, and how many times would he hear it in the next twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years. Finally it was my turn.
"I don't have anything." I stammered out.
"Well, good luck," he said, smiling down on me as he stood up and went backstage.

Jim and I sat at the bar having another beer, waiting for I don't know what. Hoping to glimpse, one more time, the life I wanted. The styled hair, the fashionably elegant clothing, enough money in my pocket to buy whatever I desired, people hanging on my every word and rushing towards me. Or hoping Ray would see something in me, or that he'd even leave by the front door. I was beginning to feel like a stalker. I was tired of being a spectator I wanted to be on that stage. I wanted to be the one people were screaming for, trying to be with. I saw a long white limo pull up. From the back, Ray and Michael McClure came walking towards the door.
"Mr. Manzarek," I blurted out, just before they were safely out the door, and then I didn't know what to say. I knew I had only milliseconds to formulate, and say something to him, so I said the first thing that came into my head, "I'm going to start a cover band. Maybe you can come see us and give us a recommendation?"
"Sorry man, but I've been down that road. If that's your path, it's success or failure is your own challenge." And they left. I felt even more foolish than before, like a tourist caught on the wrong side of the velvet rope.

A couple of minutes later Jim and I were walking back to the car. It was about midnight, the night was cool and crisp, the sky dark blue, the streetlight halos like a starry, starry night, our breaths frosted puffs in the November air.
"Let's do it!" I exclaimed.
"Do what?" Jim asked.
"Let's go to that address Ray mentioned. 1349 California Avenue and see if Jim is there."
"You're crazy, it's not close."
"Closer than Madison." I said.
"So, we're going to knock on these people's door in the middle of the night and ask if Jim Morrison is there?"
"Sure, why not? We'd be the greatest heros of Rock 'n' Roll!"
"Or just two drunk guys arrested for bothering people in the middle of the night instead of going home." My enthusiasm deflated, I knew I wouldn't knock on that door by myself. I'd never know what was on the other side of that door. You either are something or not, I was neither. What did I have in life? My trailer? My Collections? Maybe Deidre was right, and I didn’t even have her any more. Where was that new world? I trudged on to the car. Then, I had the one moment of pure genius in my life, maybe there was another way to find Jim Morrison. It ceased to be a dream and became something more tangible, it turned to power as it manifested in my mind and I saw how I could do it! I'd been flirting with it for months and even said it to Ray. It was like I had been wandering in a wilderness and the path was now before me, the dream was over, I had woken up!
"I'm going to do it!" I exclaimed, jumping around, flapping my arms. Maybe it was from my new found sense of purpose, the excitement of meeting Ray, maybe it was the cold, or maybe because I was just a little drunk.
"Do what?" Jim asked.
"The cover band, The Doors cover band idea I told you about!"
"You were drunk." He said, as we walked down the street.
"Yeah, and I am now. The more I think about it, the more I see it can work. I can't get it out of my head."
"Well, can you sing?" He asked.
"Are you in a band?"
"Do you know anyone in a band?"
"No! Jesus, don't be so hung up on the details. If you let the little things like that stand in your way, you're never going to get anywhere. I'll start this band, then maybe Ray will come and see us! And maybe even endorse us!" Then I had a vision, "or even think I'm good enough to perform as Jim, and we'll get together with Robby and John. I can tour with The Doors!"
"You're crazy."

It was a long drive back to Madison. As we sped deeper into the night, I tried to sleep, but couldn't. I rolled around fitfully in the seat, no matter which way I turned I couldn't get comfortable. I couldn't wait to get back to Madison to put my plan into effect. I knew I was running out of time to do something in life, but did I really have the balls to open that door?

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter VII: The Master Plan

The Place

'The Place' was one of those local, cleverly named college town bars that don't have much to look at inside. It survived by reputation, generation to generation, brother to brother, senior to freshman, and in the off college season relied on atmosphere and local characters for survival. It was your old fashioned type of establishment with a mahogany bar, a few booths and tables, and a mirror behind the bar to make the room seem larger. There was an adjoining room with a stage for local and touring bands to play. When it wasn't in use, the room was dark and closed off, the darkness spilling over into the bar. One afternoon I was sitting in the bar, I was still getting over Deidre, because doors don't close as easily as we’d like, and chapters of our lives don't end as neatly as chapters in a book. I don't remember if I was in a good mood, bad mood, I was just trying to feel something. There were only a couple other people in there, I was playing Doors song after Doors song on the jukebox. There was a guy sitting two stools down from me, he looked to be in his late thirties or early forties. The music made the place seem hopping, we were bopping around on our stools, hands and fingers tapping out the time to the music. We were both singing along. Although we were both digging the music, we hadn't said anything to each other, but if you hang out in bars long enough you’ll drink enough to talk to everybody.
“You know,” I said, to the room “I probably know the songs better than Morrison, I’ve been singing them longer.”
"You like The Doors?"
"Yeah, Morrison was great," I said. He nodded his head agreeing with my ridiculously simple assessment. "You know," I said, "I should start a band that covers Doors songs, and everybody would think they're originals, especially some of the more obscure ones. I mean I saw Blood, Sweat, and Tears a few weeks ago at Summerfest, and David Clayton-Thomas was the only original guy from the band. The band he had didn't look at all interested in the music, except to pickup a paycheck. I know some other bands from the sixties are touring again, but with Morrison dead we'll never see The Doors."
"I saw them live a couple of times back in the sixties." He said.
"Really!" I asked excitedly, "what was it like?"
"You saw Morrison up there on stage, and he was just singing those songs," He said, holding up his cigarette, punctuating each statement by stabbing it in the air. "But somehow you knew just by looking at him he was singing about existence. You know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I think so," I said, thinking about it for a minute, "most people don't even seem to remember them much anymore."
"It's the kinda feeling I wish I could get into my writing." He said.
"You're a writer?" I made a mental note, you never knew what form your big break would take.
"Yeah. Just a little local journalism, nothing to write home about, as it were." He said, then he looked at me "You really like The Doors?”
“Yeah! I think I can link The Doors to any modern band.”
“I bet you could!” He said, “Ray Manzarek is playing down in Chicago tomorrow night, wanna go with me?"
"Really?" I asked. "Cool, yeah, I'll go!"
"I'll meet you here tomorrow about three, all right?" He asked.
"All right! I'll be here at three!"
"Well, I gotta be going, nice talking to you." He said as he got up.
"Hey," I said, "what's your name?"
"Jim," He replied. "Weird huh?"
"Yeah, I guess." I said, puzzled why he thought it was weird.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal (, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter VI: Meeting Ray

The View From The Audience

While Deidre and I were waiting for the truth to reveal itself, we still had Rock 'n' Roll in common, we went to Milwaukee's Summerfest. We walked around the grounds, arm in arm, to all the different pavilions. First checking out all the typical carnival rides, roller coaster, merry-go-round. We visited the little bijouteries selling silver rings and gold crosses. We wandered in and out of the maze of booths of various craftsmen selling their homemade leather goods, caricaturists, artists, all the way down to women selling macramé plant holders. Then came the food pavilion where you could get the all American favorite pizza, fresh hot pretzels, shish-ka-bobs, corn on a stick, and Baklava. After eating we decided it was time for a beer, so we walked over to the Oktoberfest tent. We sat down at a picnic table in the pavilion to drink our beer.
"We still have a while before any of the musical acts start." I said.
"Do you want to go on some of the carnival rides?" She asked enthusiastically.
"No!" I said facetiously, looking as shocked as I could, "did you ever see those guys that put them together and run them? I'm surprised there isn't a tragedy every year, trust decreases as the number of tattoos increases." She giggled.
"Let's go over to the Marcus Amphitheater and see what time the different concerts start." She said looking at a brochure she taken out of her purse, which always made me flinch as I had an abhorrence of brochures and itineraries, a leftover from rigidly scheduled family road trips as a kid. "By the way it looks on the map, it's right around the corner from here."
"Let's have another beer, then go over." I said.

The Marcus Amphitheater rose out of the concrete like a shrine, the Taj Mahal amid the temporary or semi-permanent buildings of the rest of the fairgrounds. It was closed, a swinging gate chained and locked impeded our path to venture any further. There was a placard in front of the building listing all the shows, including the free ones. Huey Lewis and The News was the headlining act. It was thirty-five dollars a ticket to see them.
"I thought all the shows were free."
"Do you want to see them?" Deidre asked.
"The question is do you want to pay to see them?"
"Let's see Blood, Sweat, and Tears featuring David Clayton-Thomas." I said, reading the placard. There seemed to be three levels of show business visible, the headlining act playing the amphitheater, the 60's nostalgia acts were playing on the concourse, and a couple of stages were set up out in 'the meadow' playing unknown up-and-coming bands.

Bands from the 60’s had been touring the nostalgia circuit for a couple of years usually only with a key player or two from the original band. The names of the bands of my youth, Uriah Heap, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Bread, were all ancient history to me, relics of my past. I can't even tell you what most of them sounded like now or the titles of their songs, but to Deidre they were a rich living history. The world she grew up in was a response to the 60's, so seeing these groups was like a chance to see John Kennedy alive, or at least a Civil War reenactment.

As we walked up the concourse the stages were nothing more than a trailers backed up onto the concourse, parked sideways, and the sides opened and propped up to make 'the stage'. A little green fence kept the spectators separate from the band. Everyone pushed to the front to see the band, and get off the concourse. If you weren't paying attention as you walked down the concourse you could find yourself part of an audience and not even realize it. We found the pavilion where Blood, Sweat, and Tears were playing, the band was already on stage, waiting, talking among themselves, their guitars hanging at their waists. They all seemed to be nineteen or twenty, they were lean, dressed in dark pants, wide belts, dangling earrings, headbands and pouffy hair. They would've looked more comfortable in bands like Duran Duran, or Flock of Seagulls than Blood, Sweat & Tears. There was a surge of excitement as David Clayton-Thomas walked onto the stage. People pressed in from behind to get closer. He was dressed in a white shirt and Khaki's, the tight fitting clothes and flowered patterns of youth gone. A thrill ran through me as the band started the first song. I found myself part of the faceless crowd, yelling to distinguish myself from them, as they were trying to distinguish themselves from me. I listened to the band. They were sloppy, missing cues, not bothering to play the songs faithfully. Even though I was never a Blood, Sweat, and Tears fan, it bothered me that the band didn't know the songs well enough to play them well, or didn't care how well they played. Didn’t they know they had a job a lot of people would kill for, they had the spotlight and adulation, but they didn’t have to sacrifice for it, it wasn’t theirs, it was a job, and they might as well have been washing dishes or slinging hamburgers, they were refugees from their dreams of fame and fortune, hired guitars too young to remember when the band who's name they were playing behind was alive and vibrant, and had meaning.
“I can do better than that.” I yelled to Deidre.
"It should be me up there."
"Men always want to see themselves as the hero of the story."
"What?" I asked.
"I read somewhere that people have the propensity to see the human face in random things, men want to see themselves as the hero." I had to admit that was the most insightful thing she had ever said.
"I still say I can do that better myself."
"Then why don't you?"
"Do what?"
"Ever since I've been with you, you've said you can do this or that better, or that someday you're going to be great. Why don't you do something?"
"I am." I said.
"What is that?" She asked, her voice suddenly changed, she was angry, she let go of my hand, "do you want me to tell you the truth?" This wasn't the first time we'd been through this, but it was the last.
"No, I don't want to know the truth, the only truth is what I create."
"Well, what is that?" She snapped, and went back to listening to the band.
"Never mind." I said.
"See, you won't even tell me what plans you have. You vaguely mention how someday you'll be famous, but not how. You're not in school, you don't do anything that I can see. It's like that Steely Dan song," and she quoted the lyrics, “you've been telling me you're a genius, since you were seventeen, in all the time I've known you, I still don't know what you mean.” All you do is sit around getting stoned, and listen to The Doors." She stood there looking at me.
“I’m searching for something new, some new world of thought and feeling.”
“What the hell does that mean?” She asked.
“I don’t know, but when I find it I’ll know.”
"You know, we could do anything together, if you'd just trust in me enough to let me in on what you want to do. You never know, I might surprise you, and might want to come along for the ride."
"I don't know, all I have is this vague feeling that something great is inside me. I don't know how, what, or why. I just feel it, but I can't ask you or anyone else to wait for anything that ambiguous. I want to be interviewed, I want leather pants, I want groupies, I want to scream, I want to dance."
She put her arms around my neck, looked into my eyes, I could feel her breasts sliding across my chest, "you're my rock star."
"Knock it off." I said, pushing her away.
“Why can’t you just be?” She asked me, “why isn’t any experience enough for you? How come I’m not enough for you?” I knew the answer she wanted to hear, the answer I probably should have given her, the answer she probably deserved. But I didn’t know what to say. "Fine.” She said coldly, “if that's what you want, do it, you deserve it. Do it with some little girl who doesn't care enough about you to tell you the truth, go to L.A. and find the happy ending." People had started to notice our argument, a small circle had formed around us, little did I know how soon it would be when again I’d be at the center of a circle with spectators all around. It was a small conception. The next day she moved out of my trailer, only coming back later that week to pick up her things. A couple of months later I heard she had moved in with some guy and they lived happily ever after, I guess.
A door closed on that part of my life.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter V: The Place

Post Graduate Work

I lived simply to keep my freedom intact. I bought a trailer outside of town picking up jobs as I needed them, janitor, convenience store clerk, telemarketer, gas station attendant, everything except Indian Chief. I only took the jobs to finance the buying of bootlegs and books. I wanted but didn’t want the things that my contemporaries sought out, a kick ass stereo, a hot car, a big house, those things that salved their conscious of abandoning their dreams. I wanted more. If a job started to last too long, or started making too many demands on me, I quit. I wanted to be free.

I found the buying of bootleg concerts provided the same thrill as scoring dope. You had to know someone, who knew someone who was "dealing". Connections were loose, people tenuous. On the way to a "score" I'd look over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't being followed, and that no one suspected what I was up to, which may have lead people to suspect I was up to something much more illegal. And you had to be wary of new people. Were they trying to rip you off? Were they trying to sell you a commonplace concert that everyone has and they just added on some songs from another concert or cut a tape short? Were they "narcs" from the RIAA's police, or cool like you, just trying to score some stuff? And once you got your "stuff'' you ran off to the secrecy of your own pad to ingest the substance. In this case, listening to your contraband concert. A totally furtive lifestyle.

In a college town there's a new influx of excitement and adventure every fall, in the form of a new class, especially the girls. My brother and sister always teased me, asking if my girlfriends were at least eighteen, it was just that as I got older, my girlfriends didn't. Most of the girls thought I was a local and didn't fit their definition of success. They were unimpressed with my dreams, and they would soon be off to trendy careers and successful husbands anyway. They were interested in one thing, and it wasn't the one thing I was interested in. The girls I did interest ran from the neo-hippie chicks who loved to wear tie-dye and have sex, which they considered a form of rebellion, but as their graduation loomed and their rebellion came to an end, so did our relationships. Then there were the girls I always seemed to fall for, the girls with purple hair and problems. They were the wildest. But I was saving myself, not from sex, they were the type of girls that you could take to the bars and concerts, but I was looking for someone more in line with my ambitions. I started to see the passage of classes as the passing of seasons, one piling upon the other. First there were a few, then a handful, then more and more, until I became worried the passage of seasons was becoming too many.

I had just broken up with my last girlfriend, Deidre. We'd had an on again, off again relationship for about a year. Whenever we had a fight, or she was acting like she wanted something more from the relationship, I sent her home. She wasn't beautiful, but she wasn’t ugly either, and there was something latently sexual about her. She was twenty-one to my thirty, and I liked her because she wore low cut blouses, short skirts. I guess I wasn’t very good on waiting for all the rewards later, there were other benefits to be had, namely blow jobs, I knew the luxuries would come later. The ironic thing was she turned out to be a local, and not from the college. She was a Rock 'n' Roll chick through and through. She had a collection of black concert T-shirts from the 70's, which in some kind of relativistic universe should have made them antiques. The glass of her vanity mirror was almost obliterated by the ticket stubs of every concert she'd ever been to. She was not quite a groupie, and something more than a fan. It was like she lacked the imagination or perhaps the ambition to be a groupie, I knew almost from the start it wasn't going to work out. I met her at a party. I didn’t notice her until she came up to me.
“You look like Jim Morrison!” She shouted above the music. I was already drunk and being complemented by a pretty girl added to my euphoria. We started talking, she agreed with everything I said.
“I want to move to Los Angeles.”
“Me too!” She enthused.
“What you going to do there?” She asked.
“I don’t know, see what comes up.”
“Me too!” I couldn’t believe how much we had in common, she was infectious and I was enthralled. She was also lying about everything, but I didn’t notice until later when we had nothing in common. She was a neo-hippie chick who had never met a hippie, or a counter-cultural thought, break the skin and she was like the surrounding town, conservative. I knew from almost the beginning that it wouldn’t work out but she came along at a time in my life when I was feeling particularly vulnerable, and didn't want to be alone, I should have known better, but I consoled myself with a steady supply of sex until she discovered the truth. There are times of our lives when the answers to our problems seems to be to bury our flesh in that of others. And what happens when you make compromises? You end up compromising yourself.

As time went by I felt trapped with her at the trailer, like any good college town Madison has its own strip of bars. So, to avoid the realization of the inevitable, I'd taken to spending afternoons in the various bars, alongside the locals avoiding wives, girlfriends, and responsibilities. Whenever the phone rang someone invariably yelled across the room to the bartender,
"Hey, Sue, if it's my wife I'm not here." I was avoiding going back to my trailer, dreading one of those crushing relationship ambushes when the other person is there at an unexpected time, and you know you're in for one of those heavy talks about the relationship that you usually experience right before you break up. The death of our relationship was my ambition, and hers was to be married. It was beginning to look like any other relationship, I was beginning to look like any other resident. I was looking for a new world of thought and feeling.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter IV: The View From The Audience

Rock 'n' Roll Dreams

To understand me you have to understand my story. I had an idyllic childhood of backyard adventures and playground heroisms. I grew up in the 60's watching the trembling lift-offs and cool blue splashdowns of the Astronauts, first in Mercury, Gemini, and finally Apollo. I remember the front porch conversation of the neighbors after Bobby Kennedy was killed, peace signs, baby sitters that were hippies, beads, and bellbottoms. I remember the excitement of the times without being a part of it. When I was a boy I wanted to be an astronaut so my mother enrolled me in all these classes at the planetarium but all the mathematics were a drag when all I really wanted to do was look at the stars. My father was military even after he wasn't. When I was a kid we had lived in a typical white picket fenced in house, several of them. Eventually settling in a suburb of Chicago, so I could identify with Morrison. His father too was military and the family had been Navy nomads moving around the country at every change of assignment. Like the young Jim Morrison, I retreated into books, one subject leading to the next. Curiosity was my only guide it was formless, without direction.

In high school I got a taste of the Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle I was a roadie for a band, although it was more a ruse to get into parties. Through a friend of a friend I met the band at a party and they asked if I could help bring their equipment in, I said “sure!” and being the resourceful guy I am, and wanting to keep my party schedule full I asked where the next party was they were playing at. I showed up at the party and brought in the equipment, and that lead to a summer’s worth of parties, but I never took out any equipment when the party was over, I was either too busy making out with a girl or throwing up, nothing was ever said about it.

The summer between high school and college I followed the band around because of Cassie Leighton, the beautiful apple cheeked ministers daughter who was ‘in love with the snake’ who wasn’t me, it was the leather jacketed new lead singer of the band. That summer the band played sweltering outside gigs, the phosphorus flash of smudge-pots as he struggled to read lyrics off a notebook he had stashed on-stage.

After high school I went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It was one of the more liberal of the liberal arts schools. The town had a counterculture post hippie feel to it. In college I started hearing songs I remembered from my childhood. I asked around and discovered the songs I liked were The Doors. I read everything I could find out about The Doors. I became enamoured of Morrison. I saw my reflection in him, a disaffected youth who had some problems with his parents, who didn't want the world imposing its rules on him. I discovered the legendary Rock 'n' Roll stories I'd heard as a kid were Jim Morrison stories, like a band was getting on a plane and a groupie tried to board the plane and someone asked her what she did and she answered "ornament", or a rock star in a restaurant orders one of everything on the menu just "to see what everything tasted like." I started reading all the same books Morrison had, Nietzsche, Blake, Kerouac, Huxley, Ginsburg, seeing a path in the wilderness I was in. It became my real education. I dressed in black jeans, and reenacted everything I'd read about, I did balancing acts, took stage dives, I hung off balconies, and drank to excess trying to find the palace of wisdom. I became a minor hero, someone to invite to your party to make it interesting, then an object of ridicule.

After graduation, I wanted to do post graduate work, but my parents pulled the plug on the money. They refused to pay for any more schooling insisting my choice be practical, get a job with the education I had, and to pay for any further schooling that way. I liked the lifestyle in Madison so much I didn't leave. I guess I subconsciously chose nothing, but got experienced in everything. The atmosphere was stimulating, nonjudgmental, and there was an acceptance of a range of thought leaning towards the experimental. It was around this time I met Colt and his wife Jessie, I used to hang out at their second floor apartment smoking hash. They were newlyweds, their furniture was all new looking, like it had all been bought from the pickings of wedding envelopes. Colt was a good looking guy with long blond hair, always wore a buckskin jacket and behind one of the couches in the living room stood his guitar case, he looked like a cross between Custer and Eric Clapton. Jessie was a pretty blond who always wore white billowy blouses that were popular in the 70’s. And when she looked at Colt her eyes gleamed with admiration, she had obviously hitched her star to Colt’s, she unflaggingly believed he was the next Eric Clapton. They were contemporaries, the first married couple I knew working towards their Rock 'n' Roll dreams, but I didn’t know how to get there, yet.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter III: Post-Graduate Work