Saturday, February 18, 2012

2-19-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #47 (“Labelled With Love”)

(photo of me circa '81 by SF photog R. . . please help get this guy's name, it's a great shot!)

Real Squeeze fans know about original bassist Harry Kakoulli breaking his leg. So when Glenn called me a few weeks after I broke mine, inviting me to hang with them at their gig in NY at the Palladium, opening for Elvis Costello and the Attractions, I winced and lamented into the phone:

“Oh, Glenn, I did a Harry Kakoulli!”

“Ohhhh. . . sorry!”

“But hey, I can get around OK. I have crutches and there are lots of cabs, you know?” A feisty gal such as I won’t be held back by a silly thing like a 20-pound full leg cast -- right? So, I got all gussied up, hopped down the five flights of stairs one step at a time, and arrived at the Palladium on 14th street, bedecked in my New Wave best, plus. My boyfriend had all but deserted me, and I was a free gal out on the town -- which suited me fine, as I am madly independent of action and thought.

I went backstage before the show, and was cleared to sit in the wings during both the Squeeze and Costello sets. Sweet! Even if my broken leg was throbbing, I was feeling no pain and very happy to be there, hearing my favorite songs one after the other. Then again, I probably wanted to dance my lil’ ol’ ass off. . . and I doubt I tried it, considering the full leg cast & crutches.

Backstage, Elvis C. was in a great mood, and when I asked him to sign my cast, he gladly did so -- as did the rest of his band and the guys in Squeeze. Of course, would YOU save such a gross thing as a big, dirty old plaster leg cast from 1981? I did, for years -- then one day, I probably came across it and saw the terrible shape it was in and tossed it. Oh well.

I also saw Bebe Buell backstage -- she was madly in love with Elvis Costello, and quite the beauty. I always thought “Girls Talk” was about her. . . anyway, I’d seen her at the Peppermint Lounge, also, maybe it was the year previous? She was chasing after one of the guys from Echo & the Bunnymen. The layout of “the Pep” was a large circle, and I was sitting on a barstool in the bar area. Bebe and the lad must have come through three or four times. It was like a Sylvester and Tweety Bird cartoon. . .

Liz Derringer hung out with Bebe sometimes. . . anyway, the funny things you remember, the visuals! I tend to recall comical scenes -- and maybe a few tragic ones, too.

Anyway, having a broken leg didn’t much slow me down. . . because I played gigs with that leg cast (then they re-set the bones with a half cast), and went out on the town. I got great at hopping up the stairs, pulling myself up with one arm, crutches under the other armpit.

One day, I went up to the hotel where Squeeze was staying to hang out. They had a large suite, and in the middle of this afternoon, quite the party was going on. At a table in the room, Nick Lowe sat with Carlene Carter, his then-wife (or fiancé?). They were both charismatic, warm, sweet, very attractive people. Nick was drinking heavily, and probably she had a few, as well.

At this time on the music scene, the drug of choice was cocaine. For some, they chose heroin, or speedballed both. As a rule, I knew few junkies but a lot of people I knew snorted enough coke to make them foolish, stupid, and rather broke. Coke’s an expensive habit that makes you feel great at first, then you come down, need more, feel great, drink copiously, smoke like a fiend, need more coke, babble like a mad fool with nobody listening, then your teeth start to grind and chatter, then you need more coke, more vodka, more cigarettes. . . then you’re up all night and a total wreck long after daylight. You need a valium or two to get to sleep, and after all that drinking, do you really want to be taking a valium??

‘Twas a vicious cycle at best. Several friends of mine, gifted musicians, were in the grip of that cokefiend weirdness. Eventually they stopped, but the wreckage that behavior left behind was never pretty, and certainly sad.

Because Glenn got preoccupied with band business and a certain Rockette named Sunny, John Bentley, the great Squeeze bassplayer, and I started to hang out. We developed quite the rapport. . . he became a good friend, indeed.

I told the guys in Squeeze that I dreamed of moving to Blighty -- as that’s all I thought about, laying around my little NY apartment, thinking about the great new songs I was writing. I wanted to try to move to England and go solo -- and Glenn and Chris thought that would be cool.

Lo(we) and behold, in a few months, that dream would unfold -- thanks in part to Freddy Laker and his cheap transatlantic flights. . . .

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