Are the Lyres getting too old?
I do realize that we are all getting older. (DUH, Rick. Pretty hard to ignore!)
A little grayer, perhaps a little thinner up top, and maybe a bit thicker in the middle. Am I getting too old to play this young brash music they call Rock?
I have been asking myself this question more and more these days. When I was younger I would show up hours before the actual set time just to hang out. Maybe even do a sound check. I would stay long after the set was over and drink as much beer as possible until they closed the bar. Then I would load up my stuff into the band vehicle. Whichever band member was the least incapacitated would drive the band vehicle to the rehearsal space. We would unload our stuff and hang out until we ran out of beer. Most bartenders would gladly give up a six-pack "for the road". Then we'd smoke a couple of bones and go get some food. It was like a celebration, a party.
Things couldn't be more different nowadays. That's not to say that they are any better or worse. Just different.
We haven't had a band vehicle since 1996. We all just show up at the gig in our own cars, usually minutes before set time. After the set I just wanna go home to bed, ya know, to sleep. This is the way it's been going. Complacency is a dangerous drug. A drug that nearly took over my life. Music (specifically Rock music) has always been a major part of my life. A part of my identity if you will. This insidious drug had lulled me into thinking that there had to be some kind of "retirement" involved.
The other night I was IM-ing my good friend Mike Quirk. We were just chatting back and forth and I had mentioned that the Lyres had a gig in Rotterdam, Holland this summer. I was surprised and horrified as I watched my fingers type out the words "This might be my last gig". As I clicked on "send" I immediately came to the realization that I couldn't possibly live up to that statement, a world class epiphany fortified when my sweetheart Mary Jo and I packed up the Buick and headed out to The Knitting Factory in New York City. The Lyres would open up for none other than Sky Saxon. A man many years my senior and apparently still rocking!
7/27/2005 5:15 pm
Interstate 95 Stamford, Ct., clear sky, 25 degrees
The sun is directly in front of us and low on the horizon. "This is whatcha call a solar slowdown" I commented. Traffic came to a halt, then slowly started to crawl. "This is a Sunday night. Why is there so much traffic? I whined. "These guys have rush our every day , honey" Mary Jo sweetly retorted. And so it was all the way into Manhattan.
6:30 pm NYC
7:00 pm Leonard St. between Broadway and Sixth
L to R: John Smallface, Dan McCormack,
Marie and Paul Murphy and Bill Pietch
7:30 pm at the bar
Jo, myself, Danny and Janice were having a drink in the bar when I spotted our friend (and perennial New Yorker) Bill Pietch through the dirty window. I tapped on the window. Bill crushed out his cigarette on the sidewalk and came into the bar. I explained the situation with Paul Murphy and after a few minutes Bill spoke. "I should go help him out". Thirty minutes later Paul, his wife Marie and his Gretch drums were all safe at the club.
8:pm still at the bar, sound check time for the Seeds
Sky Saxon breezed in sans entourage. He was dressed in shiny black vinyl pants and matching pointy boots. The black and white tiger skin Fedora actually looked good on him. A hippy shirt, purple scarf and gray suit jacket completed the 'look'. His tortoise shell Wayfarers remained on all night. I was surprised at how approachable and friendly he was (kinda like my grandfather) easy going and talkative in an intelligent sort of way. He signed autographs on the way to the stage where his young band members were tuning up. The sound check was great. I didn't know the song but it had that cool organ driven sound.
"Pushin' Too Hard" was the very first song I learned in my very first band. Seeing this guy brought me back to Mike Hanson's basement on Rumford Ave. in Waltham, MA. In the sixties Waltham was a big soul music town and all of my friend's bands played it. I love the old soul music; however the Seeds (and many others) played the kind of garage rock that us white boys could actually duplicate fairly well. Mostly because we lacked the ability (and talent) to vocalize and gyrate with the power and passion that the old soul masters did so well.
Danny and Janice had decided to cough up the almost three hundred bucks to get a fancy-schmancy hotel room just around the corner. We headed off to check the place out and watch some of the Oscars. It was a really cool hotel room (it even had a TV in the bathroom so you could watch Chris Rock while you drained a vein) but it was sooooo expensive. We were only going to make a hundred and some-odd bucks each for tonight. Jo and I opted for a 65 dollar room at the Red Roof Inn in Milford CT. , about an hour away.
9:30 pm back at the club
I was foraging for beer in the dressing room and found a small refrigerator full of them. "I like this place" I said to Jeff as I attempted to twist off the cap. " Try the cap lifter" he said in his pseudo Dutch accent. "Wow! Real beer and everything!" I exclaimed. Before I knew it, it was time to play. I had completely missed the first band.
10:00 pm time to play
I manhandled my amp into it's customary position directly below Paul's crash ride cymbal and in front of his high hat set up. In Fender amps, the power tubes are installed upside down in the chassis. Sometimes they fall out so I always check them before I fire it up. Sure enough one had dislodged itself and the plastic center keyway had broken off. The tube was still good but I had no way of correctly orienting it in its socket. "Oh well, I guess I'll just run her on 5 tubes" I muttered to myself. I hooked up my tuner and was not the least bit surprised to find my Epiphone was still perfectly in tune even though I haven't so much as looked at the thing for months. The strings are so old that they know how to tune themselves!
Jeff arranged the monitors in a semi-circle around his organ. "C'mon make 'em squeal" he shouted into the microphone as he pointed to the soundman in the balcony. He announced to the audience that for forty bucks he would put on his pink wig. There were no takers so he cracked back and fourth with a few guys out there as he adjusted the boom stand. He really is at ease up here. He walked back toward the drum riser for a mini huddle. We all leaned our heads in, anxious to hear what song he wanted to start with. "O.K. Don't Give It Up Now. Ready? 1-2-3-4". Somehow between the counts 3 and 4 he whirled around, traveled the six feet from the drum riser and caught the C chord on his Vox right on time. The guy is really a master at this stuff. The club accoustics were really good and the sound guy was right on.
I just thought it sounded so nice. People were moving and having a good time so consequently we all were having a good time.Jeff kept the energy level and tempo up by periodically turning around and shouting "C'mon. PICK IT UP" while giving us that upward hand motion. It really does make you dig in just a little harder.
The shots of Cuervo Gold that had been flying around Danny's hotel room were kicking in nicely now. We were having a good set and Sky Saxon was watching and digging it! This is exactly why there can be no rock retirement in my near future.
11:10 or so
We Lyres were smiling as we hauled our stuff offstage. I wish every set could feel as good as this one but I know that won't happen. We just gotta keep practicing and therefore minimize the possibility of a bad set. After two years, we are actually practicing again. Just like a real band.
Sky Saxon and the Seeds sounded great but I'm not going to kid ya. No way did it compare to the pulsing old school, weed easy, flower generation sound that Sky and his cohorts Daryl Hooper, Jan Savage and Rick Andridge so masterfully achieved when they were cutting vinyl for Crescendo records. In all fairness, I never expected this band of youngsters to achieve that sound; and so I was not disappointed. I expected to see the legendary Sky Saxon. A man still in possession of his soul, and again I was not disappointed.
Are the Lyres too old? Oh yeah, perhaps
for a hit record or to make a big splash in music biz. It is undeniably a young
man's game. All we can ask for is a few tasty gigs and the pleasure of playing
our classic obscurities. A guy's gotta do something besides work. It's still
a kick and the people are really nice.
At this point in my life, living here on Keyes Beach with the unspoiled Nantucket Sound in my backyard and a warm loving woman to hang with, YES, I could be happy without it. But for now playing this rock music still pleases me.
Mary Jo said something to me the other day that sums it up nicely. "The Lord gave these things to you Rick. Don't ask why. Just be happy". RC