The band Jackie and The Treehorns (disclaimer: I am a member) have released the first episode of their new official comic strip “The Adventures of Jackie and The Treehorns.” Each strip will be based off a song in their catalog. In the debut story the band encounters an alien while on tour. Only this time, it is the band that does the abducting. You can click on the image to view the strip in a web page, which gives you a higher resolution imagery.
Throughout my musical career (I use that term very loosely in that having a career in something usually means you actually make money doing it and, you know, do it full-time, neither of which I do) I have had many great moments, some okay moments, and plenty of that-fucking-sucked moments. If there is one thing you should expect when forming a band it’s that it is never going to be what you expect it to be.
Today, being that it’s been a while since I wrote any sort of “list” for BumsLogic, I have decided to come up with a list of 5 myths about playing in bands. These are mostly based off what people who don’t play in bands think about those of us that do. I shall pre-apologize for my cynicism. My pen name should’ve given that away before you even read this.
As I enter TrampStamp Record’s downtown New York City office building I am immediately greeted by a man named Bruno. Bruno is well dressed, in his early 30’s, slender, and fit. He’s wearing a $3000 Armani suit. Black. He is wearing Ray Ban aviators inside the building. A little wire is dangling off his ear and down the side of his neck. He leans his head to his left and speaks to his shoulder.
“Ok.” he says to his shoulder.
One awkward elevator ride later I am sitting in the waiting room of a posh multi-million office decorated with hallways of gold records, photos of famous musicians, and one fantastic gold plated door that leads to the office of the man who made all of it possible. That man is none other than the legendary Mick Longstein.
Bruno leads me in.
“How you doin?” Mr. Longstein asks.
“I’m good, how are you Mr. Longstein?”
“Please, please. Call me Mick. This ain’t no Wall Street bank aight?”
Moments later, after some small talk and the usual pleasantries I am finally able to get to the reason I am here: to interview a master of the arts.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did TrampStamp Records get its start?
Mick Longstein: When I was about 18 years old a few of my associates and myself took over a little night club in Brooklyn. Well, once we had it up and runnin’ we need somethin’ to, you know, draw the people from the neighborhood in to start spending their hard earned cash..with us. I had a cousin who started a little rock and roll/do wop outfit, The Dick Ritchie Valens Quartet, so we booked ’em to play 7 nights a week, 6 shows a night. Well, a few years later and we got all this cash flowing through the club but, you know, we ain’t gonna play Uncle Sam any of that cut. So we started a, umm, a subsidiary. Yea. That’s it. And we figured, hey, let’s expand our empire into this music business. So we started TrampStamp Records.
Let me get this straight, so TrampStamp Records was originally a front? A place to launder your cash?
ML: Hey buddy, who said anythin’ about laundering money huh? I got no fuckin’ clue what you mean by that. Next question!
Ok. Who was the first artist you signed?
ML: Let me think about that one, cause, you know, my memory ain’t too good no more. You know, it was Blue Lou Boyd & The Chesterfields.
Who had the big hit “Am I Lying?”
ML: Yea, that was a big hit for sure. We made our first million off a that one. I bought my first wife a mink coat with those proceeds.
“Two and a half years!”
I am sitting with Gringo Starr, former drummer for Jackie & The Treehorns as he sips an espresso, noshes on a fish taco, and tells me his story.
“Two and a half years I spent in that gulag. Because of him.”
The “him” Gringo is referring to is known simply as Jackie. While many have written about him, few actually know the man.
‘Shady, elusive, arrogant, slutty’ are some of the words Mr. Starr uses when describing Jackie. Then he pauses in quiet contemplation and continues.
“But he’s also a genius.”
In what he now calls his “previous life” Gringo Starr was the drummer for Jackie & The Treehorns. A world-renowned rock group with an enigmatic frontman. While on tour in Russia with the group, Starr was arrested for indecent exposure after being caught receiving oral sex in an alley from a fan. He was sentenced to three years in a Russian gulag. While reports vary and rumors have swirled around the music industry and State Department for years, Gringo claims that only he and Jackie know what actually occurred that night.
“It’s simple. He left me. I was backstage with this super hot Ukrainian chick–cause Jackie always had hot international chicks around–and we were getting down. Well, she was going down I mean. Next thing I know, I’m skinning goats for Siberian farmers in the dead cold of a Russian winter.”
The story goes that while Gringo was encouraged by Jackie to partake in his post-show activities, once in the act, Jackie instructed his tour entourage to leave the venue, essentially deserting Gringo in an unknown land which led to his eventual arrest and incarceration.
“I mean, if he wanted me out of the band, he could’ve gone about it another way. That was kinda harsh, no? I hadn’t even finished yet!” says Gringo while inhaling a filterless Camel cigarette.
He continues, “Remember that scene in Almost Famous where the tour bus leaves the rest stop and Jason Lee’s character chases it screaming, ‘oh, it’s okay, it’s easy to leave me. I’m only the lead singer!!!”, well, that is what I felt like. Then I realized, shit, I’m only the drummer!”
“The Russian incident…it was tragic.” says Heshel Treehorn, Jackie’s long time manager.
“But it paved the way for Jackie’s amazing concept album The Russian Incident. It’s a story of one man’s struggles to cope with being a stranger in a strange land. But it’s kind of like Gringo’s sperm that night: it never got released.”
Jackie himself has refused to comment on the incident leaving his fans and the media with only speculation about what really happened that night.
“I’ve called, emailed, faxed, tweeted, and facebook-friended the U.S. State Department about this and they won’t return my calls.” says über Jackie fan Clarice of the band Clarice & The Lotion Baskets.
“I even put in a formal freedom of information request, but they keep telling me they have no ‘Jackie’ in their records. How is that even possible? Who doesn’t know Jackie?”
Gringo and Clarice will soon get a chance to tell their sides of the story in the upcoming Worthy Bros. documentary The Jackie Movie, which is scheduled for a Fall 2013 release.
“I am looking forward to exposing Jackie to the world for whom he really is.” says Gringo.
An interesting choice of words considering his history.
It certainly wasn’t my first old-guy moment. It probably won’t be the worst one I’ll ever have; in fact, it wasn’t so much an old-guy moment as it was a case of pop-culture shock.
On my way home from work on a recent Friday, I stopped into a nearby location of the regional pizza franchise PizzaBoli’s to pick up a couple pies I’d phoned in. The young girl at the counter, dead-eyed and slightly confused, says, “What does your shirt mean? I don’t get it.”
“What’s that mean? I don’t get it.”
“It’s the band, THE WHO.”
And she’s saying “Oh I never heard of them” while I was already babbling on about how “it’s kinda hard to see the lettering… or… were you confused by the arrow as if it was supposed to be pointing up at me like Who is this guy?” Like I was trying to let her off the hook for not noticing what it said or something and then I realized that she really had never heard of The Who and probably thought I had on some random shirt of my friend’s band or some other “Never Hearduvums” and so I just had to ask….
“Wait, you’ve never heard of The Who?”
I figured, okay she’s pretty young and so I turned to her PizzaBoli’s Teammate, I wish I’d gotten his name, he was a mousey lookin’ fella, very short reddish hair with a tightly trimmed matching mustache, let’s call him Chet. He certainly wasn’t as old me, but at first glance he had to be at least 30ish, but even if he was only 25 I figured it would balance out the possibly 16-year-old cashier. So I asked him…
“You’ve heard of the The Who, right?” Now I’m kinda point-framing the iconic logo as I leaned over the counter so he could see it. “The classic rock band? The Who?” I asked, certain that he was about to give me the “Oh yea, The Who. What about ’em?”
But he just shook his head sheepishly. “No, sorry…”
“You’ve never heard of THE WHO?”
“I’m really not much of a music guy.”
After a dumbfounded pause, I somehow managed to keep my composure. “Okay, fair enough… uh, you’ve heard of The Beatles, right?”
“Of course, The Who aren’t quite The Beatles, but I just thought you’d…”
…and I just trailed off. I knew I couldn’t go all DFENS on ’em like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, though a part of my brain wanted to. And I’m not even that much of a Who fan!
It’s not like I was wearing my Replacements shirt; The Who aren’t exactly something obscure, I mean I got the shirt at fucking Target! And it’s also a pretty iconic logo. I wasn’t asking them to sing or name songs. I could understand the young girl, but the other dude… They did play the Super Bowl a few years ago, they show up at every 121212 Sandy Relief 911 Concert for NY type event, awards shows, wherever they can get out there and have Roger Daltrey show us his Ken-doll plastic, oddly buff orange chest while Pete Townshend does 20,000 windmill moves to the point of self-parody…. Like ’em or not, and I realize they aren’t quite as well-known as the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin, but….. WHO THE FUCK HAS NEVER HEARD OF THE WHO?
Meanwhile, The Who aren’t even from my generation, pardon the pun. I was born in 1970, after the Beatles broke up, and month before Jimi Hendrix died (yet somehow I’ve heard of them). Told ya this wasn’t really an old-guy incident. Seriously, this isn’t about me being too old. You can stay on my lawn. If I was 70 and some kids never heard of Frank Sinatra, I would just assume they’re too young… but this felt different. It was just odd… it was actually quite shocking on some level.
I love The Who. I’ve often considered writing something about them, and it sucks that it had to happen like this. Even though I was always much more partial to John Bonham and Mitch Mitchell, drummer Keith Moon was an absolute monster. I actually think Tommy and Quadrophenia are a bit bloated and could be intimidating for most listeners. Go crank up Who’s Next and picture feeling that kind of rock’n’roll power putting that record on for the first time way back in 1971. Those intros to “Baba O’Reilly” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” musta blown people’s minds back then!
Anyway, I wish I’d stayed to check if they’d heard of Hendrix, the Stones, Zeppelin and a couple of others. Maybe next time, because I do like PizzaBoli’s, who I’ve now mentioned by name three times in hopes of getting free pizza when this article goes viral.
So I walk out with my pizzas, and echoing through the shopping center is the familiar sound of the Rolling Stones (in the case, the song “Shattered,”) blasting from a speaker outside the Radio Shack. Yes, the Radio Shack. With Mick Jagger imploring me to look at him, he’s in tatters, I’m not even sure what planet I’m on. The economy’s been in the toilet for like 6 years and somehow Radio Shack is still in business selling little fuses and plugs and batteries and bullshit that nobody needs and I just met two people who never heard of The Who.
Being a contributor to a blog that has a primary focus on music, it can be intimidating for me to step into the arena to discuss music from a non-musician’s standpoint. Any notion I had of being a musician was completely disabused in grade school after my third grade teacher took away my triangle and told me that perhaps my talents would be better suited for handing out the programs to the school pageant rather than performing in it. Looking back it was probably for the best. I have the neither the skills nor patience (read rhythm) to play a musical instrument so why try to force the matter from such a young age. It didn’t matter if I couldn’t strum to a time measure because I could sure as shit distribute leaflets littered with the names of other kids that could keep a beat.
Over the years I was able to reconcile with the truth and face the fact that I will never be a musician. To be perfectly honest, I am 100% OK with that. You see, to me music is very much like magic and I loves me some magic. Now I am not referring to made up magic like dragons and ferries and shit like that but magic that one might catch at a show at a casino on the strip in Vegas. Show me a card trick and I will probably be stupefied by your skills of slight-of-hand. The only problem I have with magic tricks is that I want to know how they are done so I will take to the youtubes and watch people perform a trick over and over again until I think I grasp the basics of how the tricks was executed. This repeated viewing comes with an expense as once I understand the trick I become less fascinated in the trick and to a greater extent all illusions as a whole. If I were to study magic I truly believe that I would lose most of my interest because as it stands my fascination stems from not knowing.
The example of magic is one of the primary reasons I love music. I have sat in numerous conversations with musicians as they discussed things like ‘bridges’ and ‘breakdowns’ and all I can do is nod my head and wonder ‘what the fu…’ To me, not knowing how a piece of music is created is the same as fucking card trick. I feel like if I know how it’s done it will lose its luster. What I am saying, sometimes not knowing is awesome. Do I really want to know how Beck comes up with his compositions? How Radiohead decides on the arrangements of their synth sounds? What was Hendrix thinking when he would sneak in extra notes in a solo? Do I want to know the answers to these questions? Hell yes and at the same time, never in a million years. In a way magic and music are the same things to me, both are mystifying and extremely fascinating.
However, on that note…
Continue reading →
A few months ago Bums Logic’s own Todd Levinson Frank converted ownership of a wide collection of albums from various recording artists to me. My first confession: despite the fact that TLF had passed the music onto me months ago, it was only recently that I loaded the music on my iPod. While most people are quick to add new music to their libraries, for some reason it took me a few months to get around to it. On a side note, this is something that TLF knows about me all too well, as he once suggested a list of people to follow on twitter that I still have yet to ‘follow’ but I digress.
The list of artists in the collection that Todd provided is rather expansive and that stands as one of the reasons that I delayed the full addition to my music library. My point: if I were to add all of them at once, it is unlikely that any of the artists would be given the undivided attention that they deserve. Bands pour so much time and effort into their recordings and giving their work only a simple cursory listen is nearly equal to a slap in the face. Think about it. Suppose you spent time on a project of any particular discipline wouldn’t you be a bit put off if everyone simply provided it a perfunctory amount of their attention? I know I would.
I can imagine that many of you are thinking, ‘Wow, that is some confession. I hope you feel better after alleviating such a huge burden.’ Well as I stated earlier, that was my first confession. You see there is more.