Sunday, December 22, 2013

I Love Distortion (a rock & roll novel in twelve chapters) - December



(I Love Distortion (a rock & roll novel in 12 chapters) appears monthly in
Growing Old With Rock & Roll; January to December, 2013
This concludes our presentation.  Thank you for reading.)


I Love Distortion - chapter twelve

"That girl, she seemed a little sheltered
Right until it really, really mattered"
 from "That Girl's A Daydream"
- Sean Richter, 1978

  
It all ended with a letter propped against me & Jeffrey Jay’s apartment door, Friday, December 22nd, 1978.

We had played the gig the night before as a three-piece.  We’d had three rehearsals to break in a new drummer that December: Nicole skipped the first two and didn’t sing at the third, owing to a bad cold. Most crucially, she didn’t show up for the gig itself.

When I left Drake Union, walking through the cold night to find a payphone to inquire whether Nicole was okay and what exactly her problem was in blowing out a gig, her voice when she answered and said she was sorry sounded so small and hurt that I couldn't get anywhere near as angry as I so desperately wanted to.  “Nicole, come on,” I whispered, “Niki, just tell me. Just finish me.”  I could hear tears start as she hung up the phone.

I stood there on that riverbank, staring at the icy Scioto River running under the bridge where we'd kissed for the first time (see I Love Distortion - April) and my heart, brain & soul were darker than that black water.

I sat in the Twilight Kids van and wrote Nicole a letter.  I told her I knew it over, told her she didn't have to see me to tell me in person; told her I knew she couldn't bear to break my heart face to face and that I understood that; told her she could write it all down in a letter to say goodbye and that would be the end, but that I couldn't go through Christmas like this, that she had to write the letter, I needed to see the words, because words were all we had left, words were all we had lived on since we began.

After we had dropped everybody else off that night, Greg the roadie swung by Nicole's parents' house and I put the letter on her windshield.  I looked up at her window.  The lights were off.  Everything was dark.

I always find myself wishing that I would know the last time I do things is going to be the last time I do them: that the last time I would speak to my dad before he died was going to be the last time; that the last time I would walk Linda Finneran home from high school, right before I broke her heart, was going to be the last time; that the last time I would hear Nicole sing, back at that Southern Theater show, was going to be the last time.

I wish I would have known that the last time I would ever see Nicole was when we kissed goodbye in her car outside a Taco Bell on West Broad Street when she dropped me back at work after a lunch date the Monday before that gig.  I would have made that kiss count a little bit more, if I had known it was our goodbye kiss.  I would have let her lovely grin pump a little more blood through my heart if I had known I’d never see that grin again.

Earlier that month, the first week in December, Nicole was sitting on the couch at the apartment strumming my Stratocaster and asking me about some chord progression.  I plonked down next to her and started fingering the chords while she strummed.  I got caught up in the whole process of turning it into a stage routine we could use, the two of us simultaneously playing one guitar.  I was bouncing around the living room, figuring out which song we could use it during, working out the logistics of it and Nicole looked at me, shook her head and said wistfully, "Sometimes you're such a little boy, Sean, like a kid with a new toy."  I ignored and/or deflected that perceived slight, said, "That's a cool rhyme, write that down for a new tune." and concentrated on the new bit.  To me it was perfect, it was a natural, until I said, "We could use this at the gig on the 21st; it'll be great."  When I looked to Nicole for a reply, she didn’t say a word, and wouldn’t meet my eyes.  And that was when she stopped showing up for rehearsals.
   
Nicole already knew – as I certainly didn’t – that there weren't going to be any more gigs.

The letter said that she was going back to Tommy, the boy who had verbally & physically abused Nicole almost from the very inception of their relationship.  They were getting re-engaged on Christmas Day. He had bought her a new ring, the wedding was in May, and this time she was going through with it.

I had made up a lot of scenarios in those cold, dark December days since the twin-guitar impasse, when it was becoming painfully obvious we were sliding off the rails.  None of those scenarios included Tommy.  None of them involved Nicole exchanging an exploding universe of falling stars, poetry and rock & roll for the broken existence of a housewife wondering when & where the next punch would land.  None of them involved trading a lifetime of roses for an unrelenting future of rusted barbed wire.

That December 21st show – with a brand new under-rehearsed drummer and with me singing lead on every song, including the ones to which I had never really memorized the lyrics because Nicole sang them – went about as badly as you might expect.  It was the second December in a row I wound up fronting a band after losing a lead singer.  I vowed at that moment it would be the last.

We had one gig left that needed to be honored; a New Year’s Eve bash at some rich kid’s sprawling suburban home.  In the nine days after Nicole’s letter – partially inspired by a poster declaring the December 21st show “A Pre-Christmas Celebration of Romantic Noise” – I plundered my own “That Girl’s A Daydream” and Nicole’s “Lonely Lonely Rock & Roll” to construct this tune:


Romantic Noise 

I’ve got this poster
Over my amplifier
From when we were rampage boys
It says Romantic Noise

This apartment is cold like our last kiss was
I’m single now, not married like I was
When we were all your toys
And you claimed you loved Romantic Noise

Touch flame to cigarette like I used to touch you to me
Touch flame to cigarette like I used to touch you to me

You always said you felt like such an alien child
Your insides were churning but your outside was so mild
(I could touch that / I could feel that / Or don’t you remember?)

Touch flame to cigarette like I used to touch you to me
Touch flame to cigarette like I used to touch you to me

That girl, she moved just like a daydream
Her style, Sunday ballerina sheen

That girl, she knew her history
She explained those Elliott Murphy songs to me

That girl, she seemed a little sheltered
Right until it really, really mattered

I’ve got this poster
Over my amplifier
From when we were rampage boys
It says Romantic Noise

Touch flame to cigarette like I used to touch you to me
Touch flame to cigarette like I used to touch you to me

You always said there were no better fires than the lights in my eyes
And I bought that, along with all the other lies, like……

I got you
I got your soul
Lonely lonely rock & roll

Who is your God?
Who owns your soul?
Who gets all your love at night
When I’m alone?

I got you
I got your soul
Lonely lonely rock & roll

We were a movie
We were a slow dance
We were hopeless children
Lost in a lunar trance

I got you
I got your soul
Lonely lonely rock & roll

You kissed like a virgin
But you fucked like a whore
Sometimes I wonder
What all that was for

I got you
I got your soul
Lonely lonely rock & roll

You were lyrics
You were song
You were fluid
Moving through me so strong

I got you
I got your soul
Lonely lonely rock & roll

Roads we would’ve traveled
Bells that would’ve rung
Songs I would have written
Songs you would have sung

I got you
I got your soul
Lonely lonely rock & roll

Realize I find a place in you
I’m fine and full of grace for you
I shine my secret face for you
All this for you……

- Sean Richter & Nicole Page, 1978


We played it next-to-closing.  On that one tune we finally attained a Who-like grandeur I had long ached to conjure.  Just in time to break up.  At the close of set-ender “I Love Distortion” I smashed my Stratocaster to kindling on my Fender Twin Reverb, wrecking both of them, walked out into the cold opening hours of 1979 and quit the music business forever.

Six weeks later I bought a black acoustic guitar, taught myself to sing lead with some old Mott The Hoople records, and became a solo act.

I live in Ohio.

I play the guitar.

Not because I want to, because I have to.  I have to.  And I still love distortion.



© 2013 Ricki C.



(I've always kinda heard this song playing over the closing credits
of the movie version of I Love Distortion.  Let it play while you're reading.) 



inspirational verse; "And once in a moment, it all comes to you /
As soon as you get it, you want something new." - Ric Ocasek, 1979


By the way, knowing what I know now, would I take back one minute of 1978?
No, of course not. 



 

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