I have to admit the first time I heard ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone’ I wasn’t impressed, main key because I was a snob who felt only the British groups made real music. The Monkees music was dismissed because they didn’t even play the instruments on their lps & some doubted if they even did their own singing. They were a live action version of the cartoon Archies – in fact both groups shared the same musicians & songwriters. The TV show was madcap fun & more anarchic than, say, Bewitched.
Over a couple mp3 cds I have The Monkees 1st; More of The Monkees; Headquarters; Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones; The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees; Head, 33.3 Revolutions Per Monkee; Instant Replay; Changes. Over time they wrote & played on more of their songs, toured, worked with Frank Zappa but never lost the taint of being a package product. Finally they became a nostalgia circuit feature.
Today I love those early lps, full of solid innocent songs that are well-crafted & beautifully produced. I know enough of their history to know the actors were musicians but like many musicians they were boxed in by commercial needs of the industry. The songs would be just as solid by any band. The construction of boy/girl bands is an industry manufacturing process that continues today. Listening to them I hear a sexual innocence in the lyrics & performances. I knew girls who loved the guys in the band & who drummed of kissing & hugging them. I doubt if they dreamed of gang bangs in motel rooms.
Rounding out the cds are Tommy James & The Shondells: Cellophane Symphony; Anthology – some of this is prime radio psychedelics. The unneeded version of Crimson & Clover is wild. Symphony is worth seeking out if you don’t have. Three Dog Night: Harmony – more prime radio music that is well-crafted & my favourite of theirs. Finally Paul Revere and The Raiders: 63-67: The Essential Ride – more golden oldie hits that bring back memories of high-school sock-hops. It was perfect doing homework music.
This story goes back to mid 80’s.
A leather number from behind Dan said. “Gimme a Blue, Carl. Looks like a slow night.”
Carl had already gabbed a Blue before the guy had asked for it. “It’s early, Mike.”
“We met before?” Mike asked.
Before Carl could answer there was a ruckus in the front bar. He couldn’t see around his cooler to find out what it was, until a very drunk man fell into the middle of the dance floor.
“You bunch of fuckers. You bunch of dumb fuck fuckers.” The man was weeping. “None of you gives a shit about anyone but yourselves.”
Carl recognized the man as Jim, the doorman who had been let go just before he started. Something to do with missing money.
Jim got up unsteadily, pulled his jacket off & started swinging it around over his head. “He’s dead & all you ass holy queens want to do is drink & fuck. You don’t care. You don’t even care about yourselves.”
The he that was dead was Wilson, the man whose bar station Carl now had. Let Will wet your willy was the sign that used to be where Carl’s Cooler was now. Jim was in front of Carl, glaring at the new sign.
“God, I loved that man.” He was on his knees crying into his hands.
Those men who weren’t stunned, looked away embarrassed by this unexpected display of reality.
“Interesting floor show.” Carl heard someone snicker as he passed.
“It wasn’t his heart, you fuck heads!” Jim shouted at no one in particular. “This bar killed him. He died right here. You cunts don’t even have the decency to respect his memory.”
“What did you expect us to do?” Jack asked, firmly pulling Jim to his feet. “Have his cooler sign bronzed? We sent flowers. We closed the day of his funeral. We …”
Jim shoved him away. “Big fucking deal. Flowers. We all owe that man something. All of us. You throw away his sign & people’ll forget him. You can’t forget him, ever. Please don’t forget him.” He grabbed Jack & shook him. “He was a good guy. Not like these other assholes. He cared about people.”
“I know. We all know.” Jack sighed.
Carl shook his head knowing Jack was bullshitting Jim. When he was hired Jack had told him he was glad to be rid of Will. Will was too fond of organizing bar nights for the local AIDS group, fundraisers, that seemed to attract an uptight bunch, who rarely spent enough to cover the cost of lights for the night. To Jack, Will was a community pain in the ass.
“You don’t give a shit & you all don’t give a flying fuck. You bunch of simpering self-centred cunts. Especially you Jack …”
“Calm down Jim. We’re even …” Jack paused to think “ … setting up a fund in Will’s name for the AIDS hospice. Yeah, that’s it. All the boys are going to chip in one night a week’s tips, too, to keep it growing. Right Carl?”
He turned to Carl for help in getting things back to normal.
“Oh, yeah. Sure.”
“How come no one knows about it? I don’t see nothin’ anywhere.”
“We haven’t had time to get signs. Carl, you were going to look after that, weren’t you?”
Not wanting to get drawn deeper into Jack’s deceit, Carl answered, “They’ll be up before the night is over, Boss.”
“Jeez,” Jim became sheepish, almost apologetic. “Sorry.”
“Come on,” Jack guided him firmly to the front bar. “Have a drink on the house & I’ll get you a cab home.”
Carl put up a Back in 5 sign & went to the supply room. It took him almost twice that long to find pieces of cardboard, finally torn from a beer case, to make a couple of signs that said:
Will’s Hospice Fund
Once there was a Will
Now there is a way
He taped it to a water carafe & propped the carafe at the end of his counter. He hadn’t known Will at all, but could sense how much he regulars missed him. Will had worked there since Matthew’s first opened nine years ago. Some still half-expected him to to be there when they came to the cooler.
The crowd quickly got over Jim’s reality reminder & business picked up sharply. Carl like it best when there wasn’t much time to think. Just bend, grab, open, make change, thanks, next, repeat, jokes, thanks. It gave him no time for anything except what had to be done. No time to dwell on the past, future or Jack. Just smile, say thanks, & drop his tips into Will’s can. He briefly thought about Dan & wondered if he wanted to be bothered with this whole meeting someone routine.
“Miss a turn on the Yellow Brick Road?” a young guy is a black t-shirt asked.
“That’s right. Now don’t get this on your red shoes, Frank.” He passed the guy a beer.
“How did you know my name? Better yet how did you know what I wanted?”
Carl tapped the side of his nose & winked.
“Well, smell her. A real witch. ” Frank smiled to his companion. “No wonder there’s weird vibes back here.” He went on. “Is it colder back here or is it just me?”
Now that it had been mentioned, Carl realized that he had been feeling chilled, but moving in & out of the cooler made it hard for him to judge how warm the space was.
Don’t miss the thrilling finale next week 🙂