A hand sliced roll of rock or Taco Head

Nothing smells like a tire shop. I loved it. Always a chrome gumball machine. Newspapers, car magazines. Displays of motor oil, fascinating three dimensional cutaway presentations of tread and steel belts. All kinds of shit to look at and the coolest smell.

Kinda like the Barbershop behind Cactus Jack’s. It had it’s own vibe and there were comic books from Andy’s Smoke Shop around the corner on Main Street. A guy named Bob took care of me and the Old Man. Light blue smocks and the scent of Barbicide.

The tall jar of aquamarine disinfectant filled with combs is something that fascintes me to this day. I have an overwhelming compulsion to put red striped straws in with the combs.

Someday I’ll do that.

Dad always went first so I could get started reading a comic. I didn’t like getting my hair cut and I don’t know why. I’m not sure we’ve ever understood each other but he always understood what I needed.

The apparatus, gauges, hoses and tools at the tire shop set my imagination of fire. Pneumatic engines and hydraulic lifts leave a huge impression on a six year old. They lift the whole goddamn car! The sound and power of pneumatic wrenches. Every man’s hands were dirty but they were all friendly and smelled of hair tonic and aftershave. VO5, Tres Flores, Hi Karate, Brut, English Leather or Avon.

They all chewed gum. Some smoked cigarettes while chewing gum. They rarely removed the cigarette from their lips. They talked, smoked, chewed gum and worked on cars.

The Old Man was polite and talked to them with respect. They liked him. He liked them. They saw he was a man who made a living with his hands. Mutual all the way around. His Detroit muscle needed new rubber. Mercury Cyclone. Dirty snow steaming on the edges of the parking lot. Coffee in flimsy styrofoam.

I really like the sound of guns being cocked and loaded in the movies. Know what else? When the bartender in a movie slams the shot glass on the bar and fills it with whiskey. Great sound. There’s a reason musical instruments are made from wood.

I collect marbles. They fascinate me. I know the best glass blowers in America and I own their work. I keep them in large, shallow crystal bowls. The sound as I pick them up and put them back is sublime. I can barely stand it when somebody picks up a bowl and they roll in chaos against the side.

I have somewhere between two and three thousand comic books. I collected them from the age of eleven to sixteen or so. I read every single one. I haven’t looked at them since then. They’re in boxes in my closet.

Did you know that Ralph’s supermarket brand of SpaghettiOs is far superior to that of Franco-American? Not so sweet and much cheaper. Half the price. I bought five cans for five bucks not long ago. Off-brand Spaghettios should be a staple in any pantry. Cheap and nutritious. They’re best cold, straight out of the can. Trust me, I know. Use a soup spoon.

I’m really afraid of bees. Can’t help it. Took a barefoot walk through some clover when I was two. Don’t remember it but it’s a preternatural fear.

The last day before summer vacation in seventh grade was overcast. I don’t recall ever feeling lonelier.

I miss the eighties and the nineties. I’d go back.

I’ve done heroin. Twice. I smoked it and snorted it. I’d been around it enough, I was young. I was curious. I’d already done just about everything else.

The lead singer from a band named Dumpster indulged me. His girlfriend was a falling pornstar with the ugliest pussy I’d ever seen. She brought him his rig every night around seven. His name was Robert. She showed up with a black lacquered box that was somehow ceremonial. She was thin and white. Tall and sweet. Brunette.

One morning he was there before me, missing an eyebrow. He and told us an elaborate story about waking up and finding it intact on his pillow. Laid out perfectly, he told us with a sweep of his hand. An interesting and angry man. Compelling. He liked life.

We were happy to be there.

He told me about getting hit in the head with a full beer can from a speeding car while walking down a highway in the South. He said he thought he had it coming because he was just some punk.

His left front tooth was broken, he shaved his head and had brilliant blue eyes. He reminded me somehow of Anton LaVey. Very, very smart. Confrontational by nature, aggressive if you happened to be stupid.

He hid behind being a hick sometimes.

The drummer showed me some porn Robert’s girlfriend starred in. That’s how I know she had beef curtains like aging cold cuts.

I wondered how ugly a pussy could be and I found out.

One night she brings his rig and we’re finishing early. He’s ready to use the lounge to tie off, boil it in a spoon and slam it in his veins. He’s done his best to abstain during the daytime for the sake of performance. I respect this. He already understands I’m curious and we get along very well.

He starts by telling me he refuses to take responsibility for what will probably happen next. I tell him a big boy and not to worry. I can take care of myself and I own my actions. He prepares brown powder on aluminium foil for me. He hands me a glass tube and lights the foil from underneath with a Zippo.

I chase the dragon.

He goes to the lounge.

It is bliss. I walk the halls of the studio and eat an orange. I drop the peels on the floor. Everything I see is gorgeous. Each step starts like thunder at my toes and ends as pillows in my head. I drive my piece of shit Bug home and sleep like an infant.

I get home by feel. Instinct.

The next night he chops it for me. Razor blades not hard to come by in recording studios. It’s brown, like cinnamon and sugar. I snort it and so does he. He takes me for a walk. Sunset and La Brea. He takes time to point things out, people and situations. I’m higher this time. Everything is so much bigger. Lights and sounds and smells are grandiose.

Hoy’s Wok mixed with Burger King, Wendy’s, a 50’s Diner and a Mexican joint named Acapulco. A gas station, a couple dry cleaners and an El Pollo Loco.

So content. So happy. Inspired by the largesse of a warm and swarming evening.

I would be fine walking with this volatile bastard all night.

I consider pissing myself because it sounds like a pleasant idea in my head.

I understood then. I could never, ever do it again. It is the best drug I’ve ever tried. That was fifteen years ago.

Never did it again.

Another in a long series of brilliant bands that the record company either didn’t get or didn’t have the stones to sign.

See, when you work with a band in a recording studio, you can’t help but become a member of that band to one degree or another. Almost without exception, you become an advocate of their vision. When you make an actual record, if a bond somehow doesn’t form, something is wrong. It is by no means a normal enviroment. At least twelve hours a day, sometimes twenty four. An intensely creative and challenging atmosphere. Often a pressure cooker of conflict over vision, the big picture or the very small.

I was a producer/engineer. I came to know and understand people better in weeks than people who’d known them for years. In different ways for different reasons. The archetype of the dumb musician rarely applied. As a group, they are very bright and intellectually curious. Almost always more politically aware and better informed that the average shopper.

Robert was no exception. Axl Rose was, he was a complete moron. Tina Turner was pure class, elegance and talent. Mel Torme was as cool as a man that age can be. Bono and the band turned out to be very nice people. Annie Lennox endured a ride to her hotel in my shitbox VW Bug. We talked politics while she had a spring up her ass.

Art Alexakis is very difficult to describe. He’s very bright and knows exactly what he’s doing. At the same time he’s volatile, cranky and unpredictable. We definitely had fun but he’s a handful. Excellent songwriter and brilliant lyricist. He may just be a miserable man with a big heart.

I would have been happy to beat C.C. DeVille into a coma.

Chrissie Hynde threw a sausage at my head and I made sure Tom Petersson from Cheap Trick didn’t get the shit beat out of him in a titty bar.

Kenny Aranoff used to get pissed at me for playing his kit at night but Jeff Porcaro (R.I.P.) never said a word. I played just about every kit that came through. Dean Castronova and Terry Bozzio. Jim Keltner, Steve Gadd and Stewart Copeland. Vinnie, Omar and Manu Katché.

Over the years I met, worked with and came to understand some of the most interesting people there are, famous or not. I paid my dues but understood I was lucky. Hindsight tells me just how lucky. For a few years I was A&M’s Demo King. Sometimes a different band everyday. One day it was cellos and woodwinds, the next it was banjos stand up bass and concertinas. Wind up the week with a hardcore punk band.

I want to squeeze my nose with a pair of pliers so that it bursts like a cherry tomato and the pain enters my head in the sweetest and most delicious way.

Seems like it rained more back then.

Always direct the pyroclastic flow towards the ocean.

Drinks for my friends.

7 Responses to “A hand sliced roll of rock or Taco Head”

  • David Lee 3:

    I noticed at an early age of perhaps 10 that the loneliest sound I had ever heard and possibly still to this day, is the sound of a tether ball chain (ball-less) and rattling against it’s pole on a windy day in an empty school yard.

    I dicked around with H for a while.. I smoked it on foil just as you had. Always managed to only do it on a weekend and walkaway scott free.. then came one Monday morning when I got up and decided to ‘keep the good weekend going’. A mistake that later nearly cost me my life more than once.

    When you first do ‘dope’ you find a window opens for you (as you’d described) you see things in a more expanded way,.. but not long after that it’s just about getting high,.. after that it’s just about maintaining an average state without feeling like a frog in a blender.

    Bill Kennedy and I were roomates during Rock You, and I had been clean since the start of the show, but slid back on my Birthday the following year. Bill saw me almost die from cold turkey withdrawals.
    When you are in the bathtub for the 12th time today, sitting in only boiling hot water and shivering/feeling like you are freezing, while you lose control of most of your bodily functions..all over yourself in a toxic human soup… You’re out of dry towels and each time you run back to your room to wrap yourself up in blankets you lay there and feel as if you are falling from a great height… which you are.

    Bill said something to me afterward that shook me and I don’t feel comfortable sharing it but he said something to the effect of, “I’m not sure you want to ‘live'”.

    I enjoy proving Bill wrong, he’s a sharp fucker.. (he probably thought I was the last guitarist that would win Brian May & Roger Taylors approval)…. I did get clean after that, It’s been 3 and 3/4 years now and I hope that when I believe that I DO really enjoy living and ‘want’ to live that I’m not just “fakin’ it to make it” for myself. I want to prove Bill wrong again. And I think he’d like that also.

    Moral is,.. it’s dumb shit playing around with one of the devils favorites– don’t ever front kids.

    A&M was an amazing experience. I didn’t play any drum kits, but right when I quit– I was damn happy to touch Ringo’s black swirl Slingerland kit in Studio A.
    I was happy to have Brian Wilson shake my hand at the end of that session I helped Sharma with and to have him tell me, “You’ve been fantastic and I give you all my power”.. I think I almost had a heart attack.

    MAN– Studio A, just the live room by itself, used to have a healing effect on me. I would go in on mornings when I was hungover and just lay on the floor before I had to start schlepping fruit baskets.. the room soothed me. This was before I saw vintage pictures of Jimmy Page playing his guitar in that same room for “What Is And What Should Never Be.” My head just knew the sound of that room from some of my favorite records.

    Ah fruit baskets– my favorite Perry Farrell story involves said fruit baskets,.. and lots of grapes. Perry loved our grapes.

    great post dude,..thanks for letting me vent.
    Any Sierra Nevada Pale Ale back there?

  • Rain:

    O.K., I turn white rose clouds into Lluvia. I could feel bad vibes from Axl, its usually in a mans hair. Chrissie Hynde has a voice to die for. Why’d she aim a sausage at ya? When some c.d. were stolen out of my Volvo, I replaced all of the Pretenders ones immediately. I still buy C.D.’s, I’d like that industry to live on, as well as the banking institutions. Shit we’re in a depression thats, scarry, I need to study surviving the crash, I don’t want to go back down, cause I love living in the clouds! I’m feeling you got another novel for us, hurry up, time is a wasting. Hey, you X photographer is preggers, and her fake FBI friend has posted a comment that may help you get over your need to excessively hydrate. I don’t know nothing about drugs…, never held my intrest.

  • The sound of rocks is very comforting to me. Bricks moving against one another. Chalk on a sidewalk. The Blues Brothers climbing from underneath a pile of rubble.

    Also, when I open the windows of my house. Everything is mostly tidy. The sun reflects a bit off of the hardwood floors. The breeze comes in and cross ventilates the rooms with fresh nature. It sounds beautiful.

    In hindsight, I guess it was pretty downright reckless and irresponsible of me to think that heroin addiction was admirable. I had the same foresight, too. I secretly wanted to have the stigma attached to me…the image of the troubled artist unable to escape the grasp of his very escape. I marveled at the mysterious romance of characters like Johnny Thunders, Syd Barrett, Kieth. It wasn’t until much later that it was discovered I had a much more veiled intricacy, of which you and I have discussed.

    I tried heroin a long time ago.
    I was on tour and heading from San Fransisco to LA. We’d scored some in the Mission District and decided to wait until after the show down south.
    It was a rough tour on my body. I’d just completed a U.S. trip with one band, and with a couple hours rest to go home to Florida (only to re-pack clothes), I’d flown to Boston to meet up with another for a 2 month tour of the States and Canada. This particular band was well known for its excessive drug use. I knew what I was getting into. We did everything. I learned to quickly identify pills by name or image, so as to efficiently take them from fans’ medicine cabinets when they were gracious enough to have us over. What an asshole. I’m ashamed of that part.
    So, it was with much excitement that we got to Los Angeles and finished the show that night.
    My best friend in the city of angels, the person who took me under his wing when I first moved there, had just recently joined the ranks of the town’s namesakes…via hanging. I would normally have been in company with him after an LA show. But, there we were, in a grimy little room, where I would learn how to smoke heroin by watching the pros.
    Thankfully, it did nothing for me that I can remember…perhaps because I was already experiencing a combination of other effects. I felt really guilty for some reason. I had dipped to that level of creature…but I hadn’t felt the magic. I wasn’t sure which was worse.

    I had to call the only other person in the city whom I trusted, respected, and felt brotherly attached to.

    I never tried heroin again. Never gave it another chance to be something wonderful. Never will.

    Do you remember our conversation?

  • admin:

    I remeber it, but not really any specifics, just a feeling of love for you. I like those sounds too. I love that you get it. I’m so proud to call you my friend.

  • admin:

    I really didn’t know this about you. Thanks for sharing and thank the powers that be you survived. I’ve often wondered if Bill wanted to live.

  • David Lee 3:

    Thanks a lot Mike, you still rock just as potently but with different tools now.

    The best days are ahead yet bud!

  • admin:

    The honor is mine. Thank you.

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