I don’t know how many hours all these very creative types—some musicians, a writer, a couple artists, maybe some others—had settled in around a beat up table in an assortment of abandoned chairs at the very bottom of the Cafe NELA patio. Either gravity or our careers had left us there because you couldn’t get any lower than that table. We sat there drinking and smoking and laughing way too loud, the jokes were terrible and the insults mean and the stories were always old and sometimes true. Far nicer people than us gave us a wide circle, like plump eating fish warily eyeing a circle of sharks. Sometimes one would foolishly come too close and be devoured, chomp, in a swirl of cackles and humiliation. It was all rather merciless and totally enjoyable and we sat there for hours laughing and basking in our asshole exceptionalism. We knew we were it. We knew it did not get any lower than us. More dumb jokes, each more offensive than the last. Some bass players have no pride at all. Eventually three grown men were doing Jackie Mason impressions at the same time, though not quite in harmony. I’d never heard three bad Jackie Mason impressions at the same time. Probably never will again. Pipes went round. Holy vodka in a water bottle, Batman. Even friends were abandoning us by now. The Jackie Mason was getting weird, the sculptress was getting dangerously out there. We were starting to peak on our own delicious high. This is what I’m gonna miss, my painter buddy said, this. You can see music anywhere, he said, but this…. He gestured it in water colors, I saw it in words. This, he said, this is the life.
Listening to Steaming Coils lost masterpiece Breaded–the record, I don’t think it ever came out on CD–and digging Brad Laner’s drums. Way loose, loopy, groovy, just the right pops and splashes, splattery press rolls and punchy bass drum kicked loud under crashing cymbals. It’s all so gloriously unmechanical and organic, and the only other drummer that comes to mind is Jim Capaldi. I have a memory, maybe even true, of telling Brad Laner the Jim Capaldi thing and him saying he was a fan too. Grok. Not many were in those Bonham days. Everyone wanted heavy back then. Not me. I liked loose. That memory would have been at Be Bop records, I think, maybe even at the Breaded release gig. There were few venues then and we’d drive out to the depths of the Valley to stand in the back of a record store and listen to the sounds of the eighties underground. Afterward we’d repair to the biker bar next door and watch hulking Hells Angels play pool as their women tried to start fights. Then we’d hang out on Sherman Way like juvenile delinquents getting stoned with our fellow denizens for the long drive back to Hollywood. Memories. But back to now and I’m listening to the opening cut again. “Carne del Sol” it’s called and I want to know what it says the singers sing. Play it backwards, play it backwards, snare splat, cymbal splash and fade.
Nice long weekend it was. On Friday we went out to the Café 322 in Sierra Madre for a pizza and there was a not very good screaming soul singer (with three back up singers in matching outfits) and a bar band trio…it was an all oldies revue, date night for the parents and divorcees who were getting drunk. The table of couples next to us, oh man. The women got drunk and soon all of them were talking about 80’s porn. The guys were driving apparently so were fairly sober and the women regretted things in the morning, I’m sure. As the night wore on the place got more and more crowded and the female percentage was probably 60% at least. Someone requested “I Will Survive” and the floor was flooded with bad dancers and it was surreal…I’ve lived in Silverlake so long I’d forgotten that it hadn’t always been a gay anthem. I was expecting they’d segue into “It’s Raining Men” but no. Anyway, we left long before the evening ended. I didn’t get outta work that night till 7 and we didn’t get down to the 322 before 9 so this is what happens when you go out for late dinner on a Friday night. Actually all the people were having one helluva good time, it was funny seeing the 322 turned into a bit of a meat market. They used to book jazz on Fridays but the bills gotta be paid somehow. Great pizza, too.
Last nite we got invited to some Brazilian party at a hip club in Santa Monica. Some kind of press event. We got there late but they’d pushed back the start time so the bouncer made us wait back outside on the sidewalk. OK. Later the publicist throwing the party told us and some others out on the sidewalk to come on in. Within minutes the bouncer saw us and we were outside again. So we hung around on the sidewalk again. About 15 minutes later the booker was back at the door and said you still out here? and ushered us in again. The bouncer kicked us out again. Enough. We split. Later that night got a bitchy note from the publicist’s assistant about not showing up.
The place never did made it into Brick’s Picks again. They asked, but somehow they always wound up outside on the sidewalk..
We used to hang out in a Hells Angels bar, the Canby Sweet. Van Nuys chapter. This was back in the 80’s, there was a record store around the corner that would book all kinds of cool shows. We’d smoke pot in someone’s van parked out front, coughing and giggling, but if ya wanted a beer you had to go into the Angels hang around the corner. We always wanted a beer. The dudes were mellow, huge and almost laid back. The women were insane, tight jeans, tighter tees and violent tempers. Hot, scary hot.
I really liked the place. We never got in anybody’s way, and they tolerated us just fine. Only time it ever got a little tense was when the women were tweeking. At the pool table they’d wave the cues around wildly, and they’d slam their empties on the bar and demand another. They always got served immediately. It was never fast enough for them. They’d grab the fresh beer off the bar and chug a lug, yell something at somebody, and stride across the room, their asses like sculpted marble.