Friday, 7 September 2012
SUNBLUSH AT THE ROXY
When I think of LA I have an image in my mind of concrete. Single story flat-roofed prefabs mingle with a sprinkling of high-rise glitzy hotels. The cars are big and vulgar and the people in them are not the walking kind. In the sky is a giant fireball, an organic hide and heal illuminating the set much like theatre lights transform a dirty stage.
I now know there are other, nicer parts of LA to enjoy, but here on Sunset, (it’s 1986, I’m 22) I begin to form my first opinions of this alien space. It’s my first time here and my North Yorkshire roots I’ve left behind feel precious, humble even and I know instantly that I would never want to live in LA. We are staying at the ‘Hyatt on Sunset’, dubbed the ‘riot house’ as it’s often frequented by the good, bad and the ugly of Rock n Roll and also, of course, was featured in the classic ‘Rockumentary, if you will’, ‘Spinal Tap’. If you stay here, check out the roof-top pool! I’m in a band, by the way. We are successful in Europe but less so in the States and tonight we play the Roxy. It’s on Sunset. Everything seems to be ‘on Sunset’. As the arduousness of a long American tour kicks in, gigs seem to merge together, details and memories fade, anecdotes become folk law. This gig however, will always stick in my mind. The Roxy is a smallish dirty little theatre, damp and absorbent, it has over the years soaked up all the juices of Rock n Roll. Neil Young was the first to perform here back in 1973, it’s previous incarnation being that of a strip club. I wonder what kind of punter will turn up to see our so-called ‘blue-eyed soul’?
Fast-forward 26 years. I am in B n Q eyeing up a plastic and aluminium greenhouse that looks a bargain at £199. (All real men know they should have their tomatoes in by May) I really wanted a wooden one, maybe made of cedar. It would silver in the sun and blend well with my garden pod/studio I have just had built. This extravagance has however cleaned me out so I leave with the plastic one. (I think I mentioned earlier where I was from) A friend arrives to help assemble and as it’s pouring with rain and there are no less than 500 nuts and bolts to deal with we have the bright idea of using my living room to complete the task. I muse that when we finish we will majestically open the French windows, carry out and unveil this plastic and aluminium beauty.
Six hours later (no exaggeration) with me, and said friend sweating profusely, the greenhouse is fully assembled. And then it dawns on us. It won’t go through the French windows. Too tall by just one inch we are forced to de-assemble the said piece of crap and finish the job outside in the pouring rain.
How can my life have changed so much? How did it come to this? You see, these days, I’m a songwriter. No longer a band member, no longer a musician. I have joined another fraternity entirely and it’s a room I feel much less comfortable in. Before, I created when I felt creative. Now I drag myself to a garden pod every weekday to turn on a computer and try to write a hit song. ‘What shall it be today sir’ ‘why a smash hit me thinks’ I know very well that this is not how great music comes about but never the less I struggle on and force myself to go through the motions.
Back at the Roxy and half way through the gig our lead singer turns to me and says
“I recognise that nose”
“what nose?” I reply
“behind the pillar at the back, look at that nose”
It was true that behind a pillar there was a man hiding himself, but still revealing a distinctive nose, that seemed strangely familiar. Who could this be that had us all talking about his nose whilst playing through our well honed set? It turned out to be Jack Nicholson who had heard our record and thought he’d like to see us live at the Roxy. For good measure he’d brought along Harry Dean Stanton and Deborah Winger. After the show we are ushered upstairs to Jack’s private bar. It’s tiny, just us and them and a blonde bar maid. Nervously, we try to feel at home. Some of the band stand with Jack, transfixed by his story telling. For some reason I find myself sitting between Harry and Deborah up at the bar. Paris Texas is one of my favourite films not least because of Nastassja Kinski’s performance, but I resist telling him. We talk about life on the road instead. Also, during our performance, and with no affiliation to Jack and friends, standing at the very front of the crowd, was the porn star and ‘tour de force’ tour bus video favourite, Amber Lyn. Wiki tells me she is exactly my age. I wonder if she got her tomatoes in, in time?