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Thursday, February 2, 2012

2-02-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #31 (Rock Writer Trixie Goes a-Ligging and Gets Good Swag)

(nifty free rockin' tees: part of the swag available to us liggers)

In my last blog entry, I introduced one of my favorite anglicisms, the word “lig” -- a “lig” is an opportunity for free stuff, esp. drinks and food. So here we go about the free stuff that I lucked into back when I was a broke rock writer, student and new wave musician. I also refer to a word from Australia, “swag”: cool free stuff.

First off, I was sent all kinds of new music releases on vinyl because this was in the era of LPs and 45s (33 1/3 and 45 rpm recordings, all on glorious vinyl). I had a P.O. Box at Lenox Hill Station in ’75, ’76 and used to get all kinds of cool -- and some uncool -- stuff from RCA, CBS, Arista, Columbia, MCA, Island Records. . . and, of course, Sire Records. You haven’t lived ‘till you’ve gotten the latest Bay City Rollers record -- or the first solo David Cassidy album.

I also first heard reggae music, Toots and the Maytals, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Burning Spear. . . all by being on that rock press mailing list. I also heard some current country music I liked, viz. Billy Swan, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson & the Outlaws and, of course, Dolly Parton.

Then, there were invitations to lots of press parties & such. Once, they had a small gathering of journalists meet at a cool downtown Chinese restaurant, Oh Ho So on West Broadway, to dine with Dennis Wilson, former Beach Boy, whose solo album was being feted and, hopefully, successfully with the rock press so they’d put out the word that it was worthy and not a turkey. Honestly, I don’t remember the album but I do recall a distant, semi-drunken stuporific Dennis Wilson, handsome but not really into that whole “let’s hang with the rock crits and pretend to have fun” circuit. I felt bad for him.

A few months later, he walked into the surf and never returned. RIP Dennis, the youngest and most tragic Beach Boy. I understood why he did it, kind of.

Unhappy moments aside, because of my impoverishment and youthful innocence, I was generally thrilled to go on press junkets with other writers, whom I got to know at least on some level. Billy Altman, Wayne Robins, Bob Duncan, Bob Christgau, James Wolcott, Lester Bangs, Jaan Uhelski, Georgia Christgau, Lisa Robinson, Martha Hume (a few women in there, though maybe not enough?! Later on, I became friends with Holly George Warren, a little younger but a heck of a hardworking music writer), Paul Nelson, Dave Marsh, Dave DeMartino, Chet Flippo, Martha Hume, John Morthland, Nick Tosches, Robot A. Hull, r. Meltzer, even Cameron Crowe.

The latter “Almost Famous” guy, Cameron Crowe, lived on the west coast, granted, but somebody (can’t recall who) set us up on a get-to-know-you phonecall. I sat in my little back bedroom/office on E. 65th street, and we talked about this and that, nothing special. We were about the same age -- young prodigy music writers -- but on the phone we just didn’t click. I sure wish we could have been friends. . . I do like Crowe’s films.

Okay, as for the east coast contingent of rock writers, I did date a few, and they were very nice guys. But I was really young & still finding myself, and I liked to have a lot of independence though at times I seemed kind of clinging and dependent. . . only to turn around and rebel. I don’t think I was an ideal girlfriend, and let’s face it: writers are their own peculiar brand of crazy. I pity my husband every day that he married a writer. . . we’re always living in our heads, somewhere else. . . writing away.

Sometimes the record companies would send cool stuff out, like the Ramones “Leave Home” letter opener that looked like a stiletto (with pearl handle and sharp blade). I still use that, and my CBS records “bartender’s friend” wine bottle opener. Cool swag. Oh, and the tee shirts they used for promo -- very primo! Ah, those were the days: high record company profits and decent promotional budgets. The mind reels. . .

As for great ligs, well, how cool was it to be flown to a tour stop for the Blue Oyster Cult and write about them -- and be paid well? And being bussed to Philadelphia to cover a Bay City Rollers show with a thousand screaming teenyboppers? Good times. . .

And I got lots of free tickets to concerts, esp. when on assignment from The Village Voice. That’s how I got in to see Elton John at Madison Square Garden (I brought my sister, Carrie, along because she was a big fan of EJ and I was lukewarm on his music but dug his showmanship and the live spectacle). The encore song was “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” featuring guest superstar, John Lennon. Yup. I was there to see a Beatle live, on stage!

How about the ultimate “lig” of my life? How about going to a party for the Rolling Stones, thrown by Andy Warhol, at Studio 54 at lunchtime? Bizarre, right? It was a week before my sister’s birthday, so I brought along a BD card for her and when I passed through the autograph line for press, I asked each of the Rolling Stones to please sign my sister’s card. Of course they did! So, I gave this BD card to Carrie signed by Mick and Keith and Charlie (maybe Ron Wood, too?).

At first, she didn’t react. “But Carrie, it’s the STONES! I asked them to sign your card!!”

It finally sunk in, and she said, “Wow, thanks, Lauren.” But it probably took a few years before that one really sank in to her young (and not half-so-jaded as my) cranium.

Next blog: who knows?? Tune in for more tales out of school. . .

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