So this Wednesday, I’m going to see my old bandmate, Dan Sartain, at the Black Cat in Warshington, D.C. I even bought a ticket thru the compooper roughly a month ago. Hey, I’m married with kids. There’s none of this, ‘Hey, I’m gonna scoot for a few hours — see ya later!” shit. I made the plan to see Dan, found out I still had obligations — my son is getting his tonsils removed that day. I only found out a week ago that Dan was going to be in Baltimore this very night, but I’d already made my plans. It was even at a venue with a mildly tolerable parking situation, and that I didn’t completely hate: The Golden West. I’d played there a few years ago, when a rockabilly superfan put on a show there and graciously included me; Baltimore being Baltimore, the place was full of poor-ass dickheads. Both kinds. Poor-ass art student dickheads (who won’t buy anything, or contribute to the tip jar, as that’s how my particular pay package worked that night), and your local Hampden poor-ass dickheads, who can’t spare $5 for cover and beer. Couldn’t tell whether or not ‘the boss’ around that place liked me or my music or not; I couldn’t exactly identify her. Oddly enough, although the Golden West ‘boss’ doesn’t talk to me, or even seem to like me, she seems aware that I am or used to be ‘somebody,’ as I’ve never been asked to pay a cover on the rare occasion that I deign to leave the house and go there, of all places.
The Golden Boy and his tonsil situation explained why Th’ Wife wasn’t interested in coming; on the one hand, I’d like to share the music I love and the people I’ve met over the years with her, but on the other, I’ve had my fill of ‘old buddies’ look right through me over the years. I’m just sensitive enough about that sort of thing to ask of the world, ‘Not in front of my wife, please.’
So, I could have gone to the Golden West, and seen my old collaborator,* or just put together a video featuring the Action Figure Theater showcasing what I always considered Dan’s finest moment from when I knew him: ‘One Is A Crowd.’
It was shortly after I’d met him and made the clumsy offer to work with him that I’d got a phone call from him late one night; he played it to me over the phone. The lyrics were super-sad but inscrutable stuff about loneliness and lying female-type people. Which was fine with me; my wife at the time had taken up with some junkie from the outskirts of the Baltimore music world and I was generally bluer than a bathroom wall. The music came from a couple of Ennio Morricone title tracks, and I couldn’t have been happier about that. The title track to ‘For a Few Dollars More’ is what thrilled me about music, why I took it up in late high school.**
‘One Is A Crowd’ was great fun to play; it had a massive weight to it. Dan and I were brought by a third party to crash a house party in the small liberal arts school town of Montevallo, where we managed to snag a drummer. Once we had a drummer, that was it; Dan pestered him to smack his drums with maracas for ‘One Is A Crowd.’ We even played it as an instrumental to open our shows, and Dan would brandish an orange plastic cowboy pistol with electronic shooting and ricochet sound fx. It was the most fun I ever had in a band just playing the music.
Back in early ’05, I put together a disc of all the songs that used to be part of my solo act. No one who booked anything had wanted shit to do with me since late ’03; I think I thought I was going to use the disc as a calling card or some misguided shit like that. I made the first disc live in our hall bath, with my big blue guitar played thru one of those tiny Danelectro 9volt amps turned up just loud enough to give Big Blue some sustain.
Over the winter, I managed to ‘inherit’ my grandmother’s Hammond organ. Now don’t get excited, it’s not like the thing that opens up ‘Crossfire’ or something; it’s the 70s version of a Casio keyboard crossed with furniture. Still, I’d figured I could eventually put some of my old stuff from ’05 thru Garage Band, and overdub some live organ on to it; this silly idea lasted until I saw how many new keyboard sounds were part of the current Garage Band package. I’d given Garage Band a shot in ’04; as a matter of fact, the version of the Dan Sartain song ‘Mexican Girl’ was done thru Garage Band, recording a $20 child’s keyboard set on ‘saxamaphone.’ I loved the synth clavier; that became my new bass; and when I found the laser sound effect, well, that just took me back to Barnstormer’s in Montevallo, AL, watching Dan blast that orange six-shooter into a microphone.
“Why always with the action figures?” you must be asking. Well, I’ll tell you: it’s because of this video from 1983.
(there are some aggravating ads at the beginning of this.)
It’s late. I’m tired. I’ll see you Wednesday in D.C.
*As if. It’s taken me years to realize how I was riding Dan’s coattails, hitching a ride on his imagination. Whatta talent.
**I’ll occasionally read blogs, like, say, ‘Armagideon Time,’ which is written by a guy roughly my age, and he’ll comment on a lot of the things of the time which he was into, stuff that came from that world and that time, and wish I’d been that engaged by the music world around me. As it was, I had a tape I’d made off the TV of ‘For A Few Dollars More,’ as well as some of the rarer James Bond soundtracks and sound cues, and that was it until I got into Stevie Ray Vaughan, who promptly died. I didn’t get into anybody ‘current’ for another three years, when I found ‘The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds Of The Reverend Horton Heat.’