Friday, April 22, 2005

The Cars 'Heartbeat City'

Just got back from the Motley Crue show here at the coliseum. To be quite honest, it was quite awesome.

Memories came flooding back with every passing moment up to show time.

Tracy Thornton (www.ttpan.com) gave me a call around 5 pm. He was on his way back from Nashville after some recording sessions. He was asking whether or not the show was sold out.

To be quite honest, I didn’t bother checking out if it was sold out or not. I was just happy to be in the building.

I’ve seen Motley Crue five times. I just figured that out tonight. I thought that it was only four times. That’s okay; it keeps the drunken kind of debauchery legend going for those late blooming Motley Crue fans.

Tracy and I were in our first high school band together. He loved Motley Crue and I just kind of tolerated them with a half-assed appreciation. I didn’t want to commit. To be honest, there weren’t that good. I saw them as a second rate KISS.

We were playing the GYC Carnival at the old Carolina Circle Mall as contenders in the battle of the bands.

Lets backtrack a little…

Tracy Thornton, Jonathan Everett, and myself were the nucleus of the band Krakkin’. Tracy was and still is an awesome drummer. Jonathan was and still is an awesome guitarist. Jonny boy is the only person that I’ve heard of with a Kahler tremolo on a Gibson Les Paul guitar. He wanted it even though everyone else said that he was crazy for ruining such a fine guitar. Now, those same folks are asking “how much?”

I was the bass player. Yeah, that’s about as glamorous as it gets with me.

Tracy had it in his craw that we could put a band together and win the GYC Battle Of The Bands for that year. I can’t remember the year. I will blame it brain cells long ago lost.

The three of us practiced all the time. Tracy was our voice and determination for the whole endeavor.

We went to a dance at the Greensboro Day School to see this cover band. Tracy was tracking down a lead singer and we went to kind of audition this cat.

We paid our two bucks, walked in and found a seat. Jonathan and I were immediately bored with the cover band. We didn’t realize that this was the guy that we were there to see. Jonathan’s mind was somewhere else and I was checking out every female in the place that would be willing to be seen with me.

No luck.

During one song, I think it was a Quiet Riot song; Tracy leaned over and asked me if I thought this guy was good.

I’m sure I was looking at some girl’s ass or something and I simply said “No”.

That wasn’t good enough for Tracy.

The next day this singer was at Jonathan’s for an “audition”.

To be quite honest, I didn’t care. I just wanted to play some rock n’ roll. We tried him out and he was “okay”.

It was six days and counting until the GYC Battle of the Bands. We needed a lead guitarist.

I suggested my cousin, Dan Lively for the job. www.danlively.com

There were no deaf ears in the place. Everyone was cool with Dan.

We put the band together in less than a week. We practiced every day above the garage at Jonathan’s house. A practice session would last around eight hours or more. We were young, but we were serious. And, it was a good excuse for some underage drinking on the sly.

Krakkin’ hit the first stage on a Thursday night. Eddie Meeks and his crew constructed an ego ramp for us. It was made out of particleboard and two by fours. It was heavy to move around, but we didn’t care.

We played against two other bands that night. Our families were there. Our friends were there. We felt as if nothing or no one could touch us. We were ten feet tall that night and everything fell into place.

Hell, even the singer that I didn’t approve us was sounding really good to me. I remember hitting a bottom E note and looking into the eyes of Jeff Baker. His eyes reassured me that everything was just as I had imagined. We were ON!

We were pulling people off the Avalanche ride to come and check us out. We smoked the other two bands that were playing that night. One of the bands was much tighter than we had been. We knew it. They knew it. But, you couldn’t argue with the crowd that was in control. We ended the show with the singer crashing through the ego ramp with both feet.

The audience thought that it was all part of the show and they ate it up. Applause was wild as Joe stood knee deep in the stage. It was crazy.

We were pumped! We picked up some Hardee’s food on Cone Boulevard with my Dad driving. It was funny, we were all sweaty and the Hardee’s people were moving in slow motion. We were all still dressed in our stage attire and my Father said, “These boys are hungry. Can we get some service here?”

I wasn’t embarrassed, it was one of those moments where I knew my Father was actually proud of me.

Back then, I was determined to get something going with music. I took up guitar on my own. I learned as much as I could without any formal instruction. Everything that I learned was from a KISS or Cheap Trick record.

I would constantly walk around the house with a guitar or my bass guitar strapped to me. Practicing with any song that came to mind or on MTV. It didn’t matter. The guitar was another part of me. I thought that my Father was just annoyed.

I sucked as a musician, but I sucked with gusto.

The following Saturday night, we played in the finals. Believe it or not, we won! We were the GYC Carnival Battle of the Bands winner for that particular year.

We were shocked as the judge from KISS – FM handed us our free Domino’s Pizza vouchers. We won???

So, we dropped by Domino’s Pizza and picked up our pies. We dropped by a convenience store for Dan to purchase all of us underage jokers (except Jonathan) some beer.

We sat and plotted our next show, the finals. We thought that we could win the whole thing. There was a band called Wheels that were going to be tough. We didn’t care. We still had it in our minds that we could win the whole thing.

The following night, we played without missing a lick. The singer that I didn’t really think was all that good was “on”. The rest of us were unstoppable.

Wheels played and we even loaned them our PA system. The drummer was having some problems with his bass drum moving forward every time that he kicked it with the foot pedal. Tracy was constantly there to lend a helping hand. Hell, we all were. We knew that they were better than us so, why try to sabotage them? We were all happy for the free pizza the night before.

Imagine our surprise when it was announced that we had won the Battle of the Bands.

The buzz kill didn’t settle in until around 3 am when we had unloaded everything and realized that we had two hours to fill as the contest winners.

We played a party for Bestway employees at one of the manager’s house in the afternoon before the big winner’s show. We tried out some songs there and we decided that it would be a good idea NOT to play them later that night.

The singer was developing some problems with his voice. He wasn’t exactly a singer. He was more of a screamer. He was coughing up some strange things between songs and there was blood involved.

Turned out later that he had a throat infection and the worst thing that he could’ve done was try to sing. If you hear the tapes of that show, you will hear exactly what I mean.

We went on and the crowd ate it up.

The one song that reminded me of this whole thing is a Motley Crue song. Tracy was very much into the ‘Theatre Of Pain’ album. To the rest of us, they were pretty much over. ‘Shout At The Devil’ was the “sellout” album to us. But, being a drummer, Tracy was still into the Crue. He wanted to play piano just because of that song.

Tracy loved the song. I hated it. Everyone else in the band didn’t really have an opinion about the song, which meant that I was out voted. So we covered it.

Tracy was right. The audience ate it up. It was probably the song that pushed us over the top with the audience.

As the rest of the audience relived their past with Motley Crue tonight, Tracy and I were smiling at each other with our own memories.

Now, he probably hates the song as much as I do.

5 comments:

  1. For lack of a piano, I thought we performed it well.

    And what did we finally end up with as the grand prize? Five hours recording time at a now bankrupt recording studio...

    Man...it's amazing how I've forgotten certain things...

    Oh...the guitar isn't for sale, but I will listen to any offers anyone cares to make. Everything has a price. :D

    Should we make a reappearance as a VH1 Bands Reunited special, LOL?

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  2. I just realized it... I should really proof read these things, huh?

    I mentioned TWO finals. Now that my mind is clear of alcohol (I had a few beers at the Motley Crue show), We played only two shows. The first night was on Thursday and the finals were Saturday. Sunday, we played the big winner's show.

    Sorry if there was any confusion. But, instead of editing it to fix it, I'll let it stand. What the hell?

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  3. Moonbeam6:55 PM

    Music is soooo great when you are young. It is great when you are older but it doesn't mean quite as much as when you are young.

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  4. I don't know about that, Moonbeam. You may not dig the music as much as you once did, but the memories are just as pleasant. The music was just a soundtrack.

    Think about the 'Terminator' film. The electronic music on there sucks by today's standards, we just didn't know any better back then. It doesn't make the film worse.

    Did I have a point?

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  5. Eugene, let's get KRAKKIN... ( I want a button if there are any left)

    You can't kill rock and roll, it's here to stay... Man, it seems like just yesterday that we won that thing... I just wish that someone had videotaped it... that would be cool to watch... "it's his medication"... (what the heck was I thrashing about for, like a salmon who somehow did not get the chance to spawn?)

    To elaborate on the ramp episode... (But, you couldn’t argue with the crowd that was in control. We ended the show with the singer crashing through the ego ramp with both feet) It was right out of a 'Spinal Tap' script... Jonathan & I slid down to center front stage each on our opposite knee, in perfect symmetry; each guitarist a cosmic reflection of the other, whilst the lead singer quickly climbed aboard our skinny thighs for his projection into the stratosphere (per our collective plan), as we all held out the endless final "A" chord of "Rock 'N' Roll All Nite"; fanning it like a fire that was igniting our family jewels that simply must be extinguished immediately... the obvious exact moment came to finally end the song, as we all knew, by some uncanny sixth sense that musicians have when they jam together for hours and hours on end... the singer then launched himself skyward from his perch upon our legs and, per the master plan, when his feet hit the stage, we would end the final song with a victorious death blow to the "A" chord, which had been hanging in the oh-so-humid North Carolina air like the prevalent aroma of a barbecue pit, which we did, and upon doing so, we saw in amazement our spandex-clad comrade disappear from the sight of all, as he crashed through the chip-board ramp like an olympic swimmer penetrating the water while executing a masterful high-dive.

    And then it was like immediately the resurrection of the Christ as he rose again from the dark jagged hole (for a split second I personally wondered if he was indeed dead) in the now pitiful ego-ramp that our shop-class A student friends, who were now cheering quite insanely, had caringly constructed for us; their own rock and roll heroes, who had honored their hard work by sacrificing it appropiately at the altar of ROCK, and winning the victor's spoils in the process.

    I personally think that the 'ramp episode' was THE deciding factor in our victory that fateful year.

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