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TRUE FACTS ABOUT JOE NORMAL #10

TRUE FACTS ABOUT JOE NORMAL:

 

True Fact #10

What I Was Willing To Do To Make It…

 

 

I believe in divine intervention. When it comes to rock n roll miracles, I have all the solid evidence I need to remain a believer for the rest of my life from the countless opportunities, happenstances, and openings of the portals I have seen and lived through which have curiously appeared and materialized from the great beyond… from the mystical sources known and unknown.

 

One such impartment was a ragged old paperback biography that mysteriously manifested onto a coffee table in the middle of a sweaty, cramped one room bachelor apartment on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, California at the beginning of summer 1986. As I recall, that summer was excessively hot, even for the roaches that co-habited that fine luxury shitbox.

 

It could’ve been any other book about any other person in any other part of the world. But the fates would see that this one landed in the laps of four starving musicians who recently transplanted themselves into this roach-trap shack from a place 2000 miles away, on a quest to attain stardom the only way they could think of… by selling everything they owned and impulsively moving from their hopeless hometown to L.A. where there was a solid music scene happening.  (This was not the first time they had followed this brilliant guaranteed-in-writing make-it-rich formula for success. They’d implemented this do-or-die plan exactly one year prior with somewhat positive results when they packed up and headed for London, England for a six month rise to the brink of success! But that is a story for another time.)

 

Every band from the beginning of time has had its influences. Those notable artists that initially inspire musicians to pick up an instrument or microphone and pursue those golden dreams of stardom to the gates of insanity, to the top of the musical world, to the vomit-filled gutters of excess, or shamefully to a defeated fat, balding, beer belly existence behind a desk, the wheel of a truck, or jackhammer.

 

But the stories of our heroes’ struggles to attain success always seemed so far removed from the realities and places we’d existed in.

 

The Beatles’ Liverpool was conveniently in a foreign country.  Buddy Holly’s Lubbock, Texas was, well, in TEXAS.  The Ramones’ New York City was only 17 miles from Elizabeth, New Jersey, but for all the hip shit that comes out of New York City, it was not ready for four skinny, big-haired, big-nosed, peroxide-blonde boys who wore more make-up than the New York Dolls and Boy George put together, who sported over-the-top stage outfits that looked like colorful, prickly French-Ticklers, (dubbed by the British fans, “nodules” and officially known by us as “ouch-proof clothes”), not to mention the fact that the singer rode around the stage on a Big Wheel tricycle and frolicked in a playpen with Charlie McCarthy as the band blasted away at the sacred Mr. Rogers Theme Song in a rendition that would make the Sex Pistols jealous.

 

So as we sat uncomfortably in our apartment contemplating the future of our band with all these influences and circumstances culminating under the California sunshine that bleak 100 degree afternoon, our drummer, (known as Mr. Insane, who also happened to be my brother Jimmy), reaches for the inexplicable biography sandwiched between cigarette butts and empty beer bottles with its well-creased cover boasting a photo of a long, black scraggly haired Rock Star, with dramatic dripping stage make-up and a snake menacingly coiled around his shoulders,  and begins reading.

 

“Hey, did you know that the original Alice Cooper Band came out to L.A. from their hometown to make it, too?”

 

(That was all the encouragement WE needed to hear.)

 

Minutes later…

 

“It says in here that he was selling Christmas trees out of a trailer the day before “I’m Eighteen” became a hit song for the band!”

 

(Several years of craftily avoiding getting real jobs in the name of rock n roll had just been validated.)

 

A cigarette or two later…

 

“Did you know that his Manager, Shep Gordon has an office right down the street from here!?”

 

Like a passage of epiphany was just read from the Holy Scriptures in a sermon of salvation, the four of us looked up slack-jawed at each other simultaneously as if the benevolent Lords of Rock had just heeded our manager-less prayers.  Our thinking was that if Shep Gordon saw in Alice Cooper what we saw in him, then Shep will certainly understand where we are coming from and will want to manage our band and make us the next big thing!

 

“We gotta put on our stage clothes RIGHT NOW and go down there to give him our record!”

 

“But how are we gonna be sure it gets into his hands and he hears it personally?”

 

“How are we going to get past the secretary?”

 

“He’s got to see what we look like! He’s going to love our band!”

 

 

The true genius of an artist desperate to overcome adversity in the name of progress reveals itself often in an instant such as this, in which an idea, usually the first blurted aloud in a spontaneous moment of charge is heralded undoubtedly as a divine solution…

 

“Let’s go give him as a singing telegram!”

 

 

Now, an experienced artist knows there’s no chance of second guessing a great idea if you act on it immediately. And being that we were determined to make it big as fast and wildly as possible, we were All-for One and One-for-All when it came to taking risks on behalf of the band, our music, and (gulp) our integrity.

 

We suited up in our “Ouch-Proofs”, slapped on the make-up and poofed out our hair, (this was the 80’s you know),  grabbed the ghetto-blaster with our demo and jumped into the band car to grab some balloons and streamers at the locals Aahhs store on the way up Melrose Avenue.

 

Before I continue with my story, I want to take a moment to point out that Security back in the 80’s was DEFINITELY not what it is today. It was hardly even an issue; a deterrent. You could literally run past the receptionist in a prestigious New York City Media Office Tower to throw your demo tape into the arms of Howard Stern while he was live-on-air to give him the new theme song your band just wrote for him, in hopes that he would play it on his show and give your band a huge break, (which is exactly what we did while he was a notorious drive time Radio Personality at WNBC Radio in 1984, and to our credit, he played his new theme song and credited our band EVERY DAY as he opened his show for the next however-many years! But again, another story, another time.)

 

I’d love to go off on a tangent talking about the Security issue of today by saying that, whether you agree with me or not, we now live in a militarized police force surveillance society in which civil liberties have been compromised and confiscated by a government that is corporatized and controlled not by the people or for the people, but by and for the banks and corporations that we all serve as debt and consumer slaves.

 

Security is now an Industry. The things you could get away with and not get caught for in the heady days I speak of are irrevocably lost forever. Surveillance cameras and official-looking-dudes-with-badges-and-guns are now everywhere and in places you never saw them before… in music venues and concert halls, sporting events, grocery stores, train stations, airports, and god-knows-where-else.  But I’m not going to talk about it because it will blow the momentum of my story and I don’t want to distract my readers with all this mullarchy and hoo-ha. It’s just a figment of my imagination and it will all go away if I ignore it.

 

Back to my story…

 

So we arrived in front of the management office's building, probably parked on a red curb being as we were just making a delivery, and rang the buzzer downstairs…

 

Us:  “Zero-gram… We have a Zero-gram for Shep Gordon!”

 

Them:  “Wha? Who is this?

 

Us:  “Zero-gram… We have a Zero-gram for Shep Gordon!   It’s a singing telegram, lady!”

 

Silence………………….

 

 

More silence………..

 

 

Then……..

 

BUUUUZZZZZZZZZ!

 

There is probably still a dent in the walkway outside that door where my stomach dropped.  And like every other god-shot moment of my life, the familiar adrenaline surged into my chest, hands and throat as my smile spread widely and nervously across my face.

 

Legs weightless, my feet stepped numbly through the foyer with my cohorts beside me, inching toward the frightened looking secretary where one of us spoke first… With every utterance, the remaining group members chimed in to testify with a “Yeah!” or loud laughter, nervous with the anticipation that we came this far and the reality that our scheme was working, yet not knowing  how much further were we going to get with this ridiculous shenanigan!

 

Nevertheless, it was too late to turn back… we were in it for the long-haul.

 

Like the consummate professionals we were, on the way over we rehearsed in the car what we would say to Shep if we got to meet him. Likewise, we reviewed what we would do next if we got rejected by the reception Nazi.

 

With all this colorful confusion and chaos escalating in the lobby adorned with gold records and music memorabilia, I cannot recall if we somehow charmed the devoted gatekeeper into letting us through to seal our fate with Mr. Gordon, or if we belligerently barged past her, taking control of our own destiny, disallowing anyone to get in the way of our connecting with our future manager.

 

Stomping through the hallway with balloons in hand toward the door of our prized champ, conservative heads peered out of offices and from behind cubicles with a snigger. Tight-skirted female staffers flirtingly smiled and giggled at the site of this lipsticked rockin’ crew of derelicts.

 

A small crowd of onlookers began to follow us and gather curiously.

 

Then, as we shook the hand of the man of the hour and handed him our recordings, we busted into the song we rehearsed in the car on the way over, which we sang to the tune of “We Love You, Conrad” from the hit Ann Margaret musical, “Bye Bye Birdie.” (Look it up…)

 

 

“We love you Shep,

Oh yes we do…

 

We want you to manage us,

and we’ll be true…

 

And if you don’t, 

FUCK YOU!

 

Oh Shep,  We Love Yooooouuuu!”

 

 

 

 

Fast forward.

 

(sigh)

 

I suppose we should have checked the date that that Alice Cooper book was published.

 

Perhaps if the internet existed in those days we could have researched online about Shep Gordon to see if he was actively managing artists in the music business anymore, let alone to see what his submission guidelines were.

 

It never occurred to us that there was a “traditional route” or a thing called “business etiquette” to acquiring management, legal representation, or a recording contract within our chosen industry.

 

There were simply no handbooks on how to become a rock star. I found that out in the eighth grade when my class was given the assignment to visit the library to research information to use to write a book report on what we wanted to be when we graduated, outlining what steps it takes to get there. That was the first sign that fulfilling my dream was not going to be as easy as everybody else's.

 

From the git-go, our band’s assumption was that there was a Brian Epstein out there waiting to discover us, and we could cut that waiting time immeasurably by pulling a daring stunt, taking a risk and standing out unlike all the chicken-shit phony rock posers that cluttered the narrow highway to the top of the pops that we were trying to push past on our way up to.

 

Luckily, our buddy Shep was touched by our display of admiration and wholeheartedly thanked us for the moving tribute. Although a partnership would never materialize between us, I still recall the urgency I felt as that band pushed hard to make a break for ourselves, to overcome our dire circumstance and taste a life that was unimaginable to a kid growing up in a working class port city in Anytown, USA.

 

That determination and spirit still echoes in me when I hear the powerful words of the Coop’s “I’m Eighteen” and he sings the lines that resonate so of desperation:

 

“Eighteen, I gotta get away…

I gotta get outta this place,

I’ll go runnin’ in outer space, oh yeah.”

 

 

  

L-R: Mr. Insane, Sammy Serious, Mace The Space Case, Joe Normal

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