Been a long time since I Rock and Rolled…


Posted on August 12th, by James McAllen in Uncategorized. 4 comments

On Saturday night, I headed up to New Rochelle with the muse in tow. New Rochelle is a place. It’s not in Brooklyn. I dont like leaving Brooklyn too much. It fucks with my chi. Or my Zen, I’m not sure which.

I was off to see the debut performance of  Chronicles, a Rush tribute band. Growing up, I loved Rush, and hated tribute bands. I thought they were a rip-off of the artist. When I was about 16, I snuck into L’amour with fake ID to see The Crystal Ship, a Doors tribute band. In between sets, I waited by the dressing room area and when the dude playing Jim came out, I shook his hand and leaned into him.

Morrison fuckin hates you.’ I whispered to him. He looked at me funny and then kept walking to the stage. I was piss drunk. Funny thing is, I still think I was right.

My reason for travelling to another part of the world was the fact that my good friend Matt was playing keyboards in this particular ensamble. Matt’s been my friend since we were about 9. We were in 5th grade together. Once upon a time, we were supposed to be rock stars together. Bryan Adams wrote a song about teenage bands. Stupid friggin song.

It’s no secret that I think that I’m a real smart fucker. I think that I’m the smartest person in every room I walk into. Matt on the other hand is brilliant. We used to break his balls cause he wanted to do stupid things like, go to school and do homework and get good grades. What an idiot.

He graduated high school in three years and took his senior year off to hang out. What a moron, I just took off my entire high school career. I went to the GED prom, which consisted of a bunch of HS dropouts sitting in a hallway on a freezing night drinking wine and singing Lynyrd Skynrd songs.

Matt went on to get a PHD.  I’m lucky I can even spell PHD.

I went to this particular show simply to support my friend. I’ve been doing that lately. We’ll discuss that later.

Despite my disdain for lame cover bands, I went to New Rochelle. I never liked cover bands. Especially tribute bands. I never understood why anyone would want to be in a tribute band. I would rather stand on a subway platform and read bad poetry. But therein lies the difference. I’m not a musician. Despite my internal yearnings to be one, I simply am not a musician. Musicians are meant to play music. Doesn’t matter what kind. Just play. Even the Beatles were a cover band once upon a time.

I, on the other hand, am the barker at the carnival. The ringleader at the circus. The clown who grabs your attention while they are wheeling in the lion cages.

Hurry, Hurry Hurry, step right up and see the show.

Once upon a time, I sat in Matt’s living room convinced that I could hit all the notes that Steven Tyler could hit. Our first rehearsal was an attempt to cover Same ol Song and Dance. I was so far out of key, I needed a map to get back. I could see the cringe in his face. His poor mother ran screaming from the house. I wanted to strangle myself with the mic cord. But the boy was patient with me, and eventually I managed to find a bunch of songs that I could make sound passable. We played a half-a-dozen high school gigs and one night, at a Xavarian H.S battle of the bands, we closed with LA Woman.

I fucking killed it. We didn’t win, but I didn’t care. I was a god.

We played a few more gigs, then went our separate ways. Somebody got married, somebody quit. I forget. I went on to do some amazing things with Steve Mac and friends; Matt went wherever he went. On Saturday, our roads converged.

Playing live is tough. The first time is real tough. Kinda like the other first time. You fumble, you stumble, you say the wrong thing… and you sweat a lot. Chronicles started off slowly. They were raw. They had a chick singer. She was a little flat in the first few tunes, but then they played Anthem, and she killed it.  A few songs later, they played Bastille Day and she killed that too. Matt sang lead on Subdivisons. I wanted him to sing Closer to the Heart as well, but he said he can’t hit the notes anymore. Didn’t matter. He was great. I enjoyed myself. Not so much over the music, but at simply watching the joy on my friends face as he performed music in front of 50 or so bar patrons. I was so jealous.

Psychologists say that public speaking is man’s 2nd biggest fear, right after death. I never had that one. I love being the center of attention. Give me a stage and I’m at home. There are two times when I’m totally comfortable; when I’m alone, and when I’m naked in front of a room full of strangers.  I don’t mean, sans clothing.

I was born to sing on a stage… if it weren’t for… ya know…   the lack of a great singing voice…. Other than that… I’m awesome.

There is also the dichotomy of being me. I love being the singer, but hate talking about it. I was in a band for two years before anyone in my family knew about it.

And it wasn’t cause I told them.

In fact, all these years later, I’m still the same way. I’ve let the last three women I’ve dated read whatever I was writing at the time. Not one of them has heard a second of the tapes. And trust me, I have all the tapes.

Once I got sober and got the opportunity to speak in front of an audience, the yearning was quenched a little bit. The rush is almost the same. There is a 30 second window before you walk up to the microphone. It’s a drug. It’s the same as the 30 seconds before the lights go up in a play or at a concert. It’s the same as the 30 seconds when you walk her to her door, knowing that her father is waiting on the other side.

Once I got the opportunity to speak at a group anniversary. It was an amazing night. Must have been 150 people there. 149 of them came up and told me how great I was.

1 woman came up and said she didn’t appreciate what I said….

Guess which one I listened to…

After that, I went out there with the intention of inciting animosity. Now, half of the people come up and say, I love how you spoke from the heart.… the other half say, I really didn’t like what you said about

Guess which ones I listen to… right, the two people in the back that didn’t pay attention at all…

After working weekends the past three years, I’ve been off for the past five weeks. I’ve been going out a lot. I went to see my friend Robbie and his band Ragtag. I went to see Steve Mac and his band The Cool Table. On Saturday, I went to see Matt. I think I’m going to see my boy Charlie this week. I like supporting my friends, but that ain’t why Im going.

I’ve got the itch. I’m jealous. I’m needy.

The book signing was great, amazing. An awesome night.

I almost wish I never did it. All it did was stir the juices. Like a junkie going for a lil taste.

I called my boy Jocko on Saturday night before I left the house. I told him how I was feeling. I told him what I was thinking. He said, great, what are you thinking about doing?

Covers

I dont know what was worse, the 10 seconds of silence, or the stuttering when he repeated the word “covers.”

He didn’t try and talk me off the ledge, but he did try and distract me by telling me how good the book is…

I know for a fact that he’s never read a word of it…

I got off the phone and went to the show and rode home in silence as I fantasized about what I was thinking about doing…. I even started to mentally write this column.

In the morning, when the sun was up, I came to my senses. I even dismissed the idea of writing about it. What kind of fool thinks he can go out on a stage at 47 and not get tomatoes thrown at him.

Then the sun went down.  The night does strange things to people like me. It gives them hope. It stirs their dreams. It gives them confidence. I started writing this blog at 5am. The sun is almost up. I’m almost finished. I wonder what the next night will bring.

It’s been a long time, been a long time…





4 thoughts on “Been a long time since I Rock and Rolled…

  1. I think if you want to go on stage at 47, go for it, what is the worst that can happen? You could always sing an audience participation song, like in the movie Beautiful Girls when Timothy Hutton sings Sweet Caroline?

  2. so glad to see u say “friggin”…not “fricking”…
    a friend from Iowa says they say “fricking” there…I told him this is New Friggin York…
    seriously…good writing is yours…

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