It’s called West Village. It’s owned by some guys named Stanley and Frank who specialize in playing garage rock disco on
everything from really nice chairs to greasy, super-cheesy tablecloths. This is one (fringe) club that’s for serious rockers who want to feel like they love the show, even at the expense of their wallet.
This evening, Martin Belam is coming along, and a few heads turn. I should remember to thank him by name sometime soon, the way that I do with many of the other fabulous, hard-working, and generally awesome folks that I meet in show business: by saying that I did a show with him in New Orleans two summers ago. I needed a table, so I called up Stanley (doing top-notch work as usual) and I asked him if he would be interested in my using this room to rehearse a newer recording for a band called Daughters. A week later, we were live on stage, working out and goofing off. I thought we did a good job, and that Martin convincingly convinced us that he was exactly who we were thinking he was. Stanley won’t tell me where he had the dinner with Heinzlet, but I’m sure it was a Qdoba because anytime I go there, I get an extra “Play salad with me tomorrow.” He’s probably saved it for his anniversary, too.
I’m about to think of some words of encouragement for Martin to give me because I’m about to tell him which Crenshaw “B” might be missing from his wardrobe. But first, let’s talk about the show.
Martin and I had worked together before, including the occasional gig in New Orleans, right around the time that it all went tits-up. But it was back in 1983 at the Palace Theater in the Morgan Theater, using the Crenshaw “B” on a stage built for the song. It was one of my most memorable shows to date.
I have to admit that I got nervous about the way I played the song, but it turned out well. You basically can or can’t play a Cretin on this song, and it’s the same with this song. It forms a really fun new type of blues-rock riff that’s just across the spectrum. And unlike most lyrics in which there’s only one right answer, this one just turns into a question:
Stranger things have happened
But certainly not as strange as you
Lest you forget the rest
It was the kind of show that you can only experience in a real-life setting. You can’t rehearse it in a mailing socket. It’s a live communication between the artist and the audience that’s as strong as any live performance of any other kind.
After that show, I said something like that to no one. It became obvious that any words of encouragement I could write could be construed as “playing the B-string.” As Martin told me the other day (we were wandering around the AmericanaramA’s studios in a gloomy mood on the
weird hour of Tuesday morning, when I was supposed to be calling in sick because I was in a terrible, awful mood), he says, “Man I remembered that show. If I go back and see it again, I shouldn’t sing the whole thing again.” (Though he knows that it’s inferior to any live concert he’s ever seen. “I didn’t like it,” he told me. “This stuff came out of a box, just not right.”)
But one of the things that didn’t come out of a box was the way I felt about my new music. It was an affirmation that all of my revolutionary ambitions for what could and should be happening in rock music had been achieved. Yeah, it was in a group called the Miracles, but it wasn’t just that. Far from it in fact. My co-writers, Alan Candelario and Bob Mehrwagner were what I’d been looking for. These guys were like angels.
They brought in new ideas. They broke new ground. Before they left, as the door to the Columbia Foundation Studio closed behind them, I had this moment of realization that I could have been doing this for years and years if I hadn’t temporarily lost my nerve when I first started the Miracles.
What happened here was, partially, a “para-selection,” where I selected one record or one song, or one group every time I did one movie, whether it was My Left Foot (1992), Darko (1996), or Menace II Society (2000). I played most of these on TV a lot and even the bad ones.