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Blackie's Place

 

FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE SUMMER OF 1999

it's a quiet afternoon for a

I am in my shop, surrounded by the smoking morning after of a hundred gigs, broken and repaired amplifiers stacked with an odd quiet politeness

the amps are the weapons...instruments of love and war, sawed off shotguns loaded with flowers, hypodermics, seduction, anger, fancies and truths

I am the blacksmith, the armorer, the soldiers trust me, I am one of them
We have lain in the same trenches and boudoirs
We have told the stories, sung to all and sundry, touched each other boldly, risked it all together

covered with cutting fluid, tattoos and tube burns, wrestling obscenely with squirming hand tools, metal plates, delicate glass bottles, lethal voltages, subtle underlying hums
I listen for inspiration, memories, the soundtrack of a life.
the highest moments can conspire, storm together, overtake me as I work, guide my hand

in this small space, alone, i have traveled
my hi-fi has been my ride, a high performance hipster hot rod kandy kolored kustom time machine

the machine idles, then roars...
Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers' "L.A.M.F"

 

FRIDAY NIGHT IN THE SUMMER OF 1977

it's been the best year for music in NYC since the fifties, every single is night another good gig

I am just 20 and going to see Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers at Max's Kansas City

downtown? excitement, a sense of uncertainty
Rock, that tired hair whore, has reinvented herself into a startling postmodern sexy innocent cynic, a punk

suddenly everyone wants to screw her again

Upstairs at Max's is a nervous black crush
Johnny is the native son, best of the Noo Yawk school, the sharpest shrapnel to careen out of the implosion of The New York Dolls

a dark curtain separates the stage from the spectators, we smoke and wait and hear...a hint of a sound

a tiny rhythmic crunch emerges from the PA system, building, building, louder, what is it?, jackboots on gravel?!, louder, now mixed with voices, anxious voices, marching, louder, sirens in the background, louder, people screaming!, LOUDER, suddenly EARSPLITTING, the crowd shifts uncomfortably, THE GIANT SPEAKERS ARE A FIERCE ARMAGEDDON OF NOISE, a sonic assault, marching troops screaming orders in German, horses panicking and trampling, wails of pain and injury, APOCALYPSE!!! and then

boom boom BA BA boom boom BA!, boom boom BA BA boom boom BA!
a drumbeat louder than cannons

the curtain flies back! the stage lights BANG on FULL BLINDING WHITE

Johnny, JOHNNY THUNDERS, front and center, lashing out the opening chords of "One Track Mind" on a fucked up yellow Les Paul with a scratched decal of a pinup girl winking off it, a buttoned up black leather trench coat shocking pink shirt skinny black tie TIGHT around his neck, a condemned man laughing at the noose, pale and sweating, a rock'n'roll Dracula dope fiend Dionysius, our own Christ crucified and contemptuous on the chromed cross of euphoric glory,
thebastardsonofchuckberry, stumbling and snarling:

"Yeah, when I was born,I had to spit out a song
to live like I wish
and i'd swim like a fish
so I made a solution, living in a delusion
I fixed up a track and I DON'T LOOK BACK

I gotta one track mind
I gotta one track mind
I gotta one track mind, over you

Well, everything's nice when you're covered in ice
but you open your eyes and it's ONE BIG LIE
I feel quite at home inna world of my own
My rulebook is thin, it says DON'T COME IN
I gotta one track mind..."

at Johnny's feet are sweet sluts begging/offering pills, thrills
behind him is Jerry Nolan, slamming that same shiny hot pink drum kit that he played with the Dolls
beside him are TWO Fender Twin Reverbs, all raw deafening power
all over him is an attitude of numbed ferocity

the entire scene would willingly die with him at that moment just to have what he has

Thunders has spoken
we have seen it felt it done it ALL and we don't care

 

SUNDAY NIGHT IN THE WINTER OF 1989

avenue A, lower east side, the Pyramid Club

I am a 4-or-5-bands-a-nite-6-nites-a-week-100-bucks-a-nite house soundman
a sucky and brutal gig, but I'm glad to have it, I need the dough
bandgonegirlfriendgoneguitarsgonegoodjobgone
it's all gone, I'm a real gone daddy, color me gone

the booker calls me with an addition to the bill
"johnny thunders is doing a late acoustic solo set"

the usual crap lineup, but something strange
halfway thru the 3rd band the empty house slowly starts to fill

one by one they appear, scruffy wraiths
drab, transparent, the spirits of a dead city,
stuck in a barren purgatory of stabilized rent and parties past

by the time Johnny appears they are shoulder to shoulder
a hungry grey air army

Johnny is in the dressing room with his girl
he: shuffling and dodging, the old speedball two step, a sheen of impacted dirt on the skinny black pants
she: soft and faded, her heavy eyeliner streaked and eyes bloodshot red
she has cried every single day of her dope-sick life

the booker forks over 200 in cash and Thunders takes out his guitar
a cheap Ovation copy, a half plastic axe with a Virgin of Guadalupe praying on it
I lead him onto the stage grab his shoulder to hold him still plug in his guitar and he begins

"So Alone"
"Eve of Destruction"
"Sad Vacation"

(every few songs he steps on his cord and unplugs his guitar
I shuttle from sound booth to stage to hold him still and plug him back in)

the dry shadows hang on his every murmur
they are silent, he sings:

"You're just a bastard kid, you got no name
'cause you're livin' with me, we're one and the same
and even though they don't show, the scars are so old
And when they go, they let you know..."

now, suddenly an unfamiliar sound
it rises up, a tentative childlike falsetto, comes from everywhere around me

"You can't put your arms around a memory
you can't put your arms around a memory
you can't put your arms around a memory
don't try...don't try."

the broken troops are singing to Johnny Thunders
an orphan's crusade sorrowing with our martyr

 

FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE SUMMER OF 1999

song fades, machine touches earth

Thunders is dead
an overdue overdose in a strange southern town
he leaves you his records

I am alive
a series of miracles leaves me thriving

 

EPILOGUE

there is a crossroads
a place beyond place
senses, hormones, thoughts, events, collide, shatter, recombine, rise, fall, are born again to die again

the music lives in this place
you can be there too

your hi-fi is your ride, your high-performance hipster hot rod kandy kolored kustom time machine
your tubes will turn music to fire and back to music again

buybuildbegborrowsteal

                                          listen...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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