Happy New Year to One and All
Melody and I had an old fashioned New Year at home. We partied like it was 1929. As we stirred our pot of gruel simmering over an open fire in our den, I reminded her that we didn't have a fireplace. So after we stomped out the ashes, so as not to cause smoke damage to our High Definition television that I purchased right before the prices dropped like the Dow on a day when Bush holds a press conference, we settled in to watch how Dick Clark's attendants were going to dress him this year and wait for my balls to drop. But only Ryan Seacrest and Fergie showed up. I guess old Dick finally took the hint that the public doesn't want the New Year counted down by the Cryptkeeper. I still recall the New Year's in Times Square when the pickpockets were so aggressive, they tore the entire back pocket out of my friend Larry's pants. When they say that you must spend at least one New Year's Eve in your life in Times Square, they lie.
We were invited out by friends, and I appreciate them thinking of us, but like my Daddy used to say, "The only thing worse than staying home on New Year's Eve is going out on New Year's Eve." Add that to the fact that in my years as a working musician, every single New Year's was an adventure waiting to happen. Some were terrific, like playing the Hard Rock in New York with Isaac Tigrett acting as host. And some were nightmarish, like the private corporate party we played thrown by a CEO big shot who got shitfaced and insisted on singing "Summertime" with the band. The poor slob got up to "and the cotton..." and he could go no further. He just stood there slumped and numb, mumbling "and the cotton...," over and over. Finally, when a couple of his employees were helping him off the stage, I said into the microphone, "Hey, don't quit your day job," at which point he broke loose from his handlers like James Brown and charged the stage, jacking up Bob Simon by the shirt collar screaming, "What did you say, you sonofabitch?" Bob was beet red before the enraged and drunken man who was going to pay us could be torn away from his throat, proving that even in the most miserable of circumstances, there can still be amusing incidents.
I've seen the combination of an anxiety-producing overemphasis on having a good time, mixed with a "drink quick and suffer later" philosophy, end badly and early for a whole lot of people. Musicians refer to New Year's Eve as "Amateur Night." One thing I'm assured of by staying home is that I won't be killed on the road. I have no objection to anyone drinking, but I don't drink because it has an unpleasant effect on me. I wish I could achieve a little pleasure in drink, but I only get ill. I go directly from being straight to being sick, with no euphoria in between. That's why it's particularly difficult for me to be around drunk people on this night. It's like back in the 70s, when you walked into a party and everyone was high on Quaaludes but you. Unless you're part of the orgy, it's a gruesome sight. Melody and I even forgot to open the champagne at midnight sent to us by Father Farken, but that only means Mimosas tomorrow, headache or no.
Among the best New Year's parties we ever played, was for the congregation of St. Louis Catholic Church on White Station Rd. No one was drinking except for what they were sneaking under the table because they were in the Parrish Hall and the retiring Monsignor Clunan was in attendance. I got to sing "Danny Boy" for him. It turned out that several people I knew from high school were there and they were so happy the band turned out to be us, that they turned it into a 60s style sock hop. I've never seen sober people with so much abandon. They even did the "Love Train" all around the room. Of course, I've been on the other side of the coin until I realized that alcohol wasn't my friend, and have been carried from a few places, or woken up with my head bobbing from the back seat of a strange car in an unknown location among people speaking in a foreign tongue, but why dwell on that? The sick part was never worth the momentary fun part for me. I envy sociable drinkers. It's that glassy stare that gets to me.
My most memorable New Year's gig involved our late drummer, Mike Gardner. An agent had booked us at the Officer's Club in Millington, on the naval base- always a fun bunch. We needed passes to be admitted and when it took too long, the ever impatient Mr. Gardner got into an argument with a guard after calling him an "Anchor Clanker." Things got no better from there. The Naval officers and their wives had to have had the tightest collective sphincters of any group we ever faced. They refused to have fun. They hated everything we played. Our calls for them to hit the dance floor were met with icy stares. We played "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight and the place was empty by 12:05. We were unloading equipment through the front door and down a long sidewalk covered with an awning and into our vehicles when it began to rain. Mike got in his black pick-up truck and backed it into one of the rod-iron, decorative pillars that held up the entryway, bending it in half and collapsing the entire awning. We looked around, but the area was deserted, so we piled in our cars, booked for Memphis, and cashed the check. One of the few times I've enjoyed being with someone who had too much to drink on New Year's Eve was that night when Mike Gardner literally brought down the house.
I wish a very good new year to everybody, may the hangover be brief, and may the pain be made durable by the promise. If you wish to leave 2008 with a little hope, look at the face of this child gazing at our new president. May we all be so inspired in 2009. Randy