I received a
call from Wayne with more news on the group. Apparently,
the agent he had been talking to about a possible European
tour had called him back with a series of engagements in
Britain and Spain lined up for us. Wayne had been calling
me with weekly reports on the negotiations since our ten-year
old CD had been reissued, but I had not given it much thought
until now, thinking it would come to nothing, as usual.
But it was for real this time, he said. Better start
dusting up your equipment, my man. We got places to go and
music to play.
fax you the contracts and see for yourself, he answered.
Weve never been offered this kind of money before.
isnt what it was back in the eighties either.
At first, I had
felt a little skeptical about going back on the road with
the band. It all changed after my wife and I heard the digital
remix of the original record. Even the songs I had hated
before now made me proud of having written them. And what
was best, my wife, my toughest critic, agreed.
you be proud to play those songs again? she said as
we lay on our couch listening to the CD. Those songs
are your children, your creation.
the lumpy feeling in my throat upon hearing her say it like
that. I had to hug her and kiss her. I had never missed
so much not having a child of our own before, hers and mine,
a real child with whom we could share moments like these.
It would be a kicker to have a little one to play
these songs to, thats for sure.
would be very nice, she said, cuddling tighter. Maybe
we should adopt.
be the same, I said. She knew how I felt about it.
Oh, I think
you could be just as proud of an adopted child as you are
of your songs.
Im an old-fashioned boy. I like to earn it.
We fell asleep
in each others arms after another attempt at earning
The series of
dates--for it would have been too pompous to call it a tour--were
scheduled to begin in England and conclude with a concert
in Madrid, Spain, where, for reasons unknown to the label,
the groups CD had sold an incredible ten thousand
copies in two months--without counting bootlegs, calculated
at another three thousand copies.
in October and so did the arguments. The first crisis was
a serious one. The problem was Waynes chops, or the
absence of them. He had quit playing drums years ago and
it showed from the start. Sammys case was the complete
opposite, to him the bass was his life. He had never stopped
playing and that too showed the moment he plugged his Fender
Precision bass in his vintage Ampeg amplifier. We said nothing
at the time, only winced at each other whenever Waynes
dulled timing got in the way. Yet, we could tell it would
eventually become a problem, maybe a big problem.
As for me, I
still remembered my parts pretty good. I had made them up
and had played them in every state of consciousness and
far too many times not to be able to fake them when my mind
went blank. Still, it took several finger blisters and much
pain on my shoulder (anyone who has ever played a Les Paul
Custom for ten hours a day knows the pain I mean) and many
broken .009 strings, before my fingers loosened enough for
me to feel in full control.
By the end of
our third full-band rehearsal, everything started to smooth
out except for Waynes timing problem. More and more
I found myself worrying over every drum fill he tried; they
always pushed us out of meter. I noticed the frustration
building up on the rest of the band. I knew our pampering
silence would not last long. Even our hired keyboard player
had started to feel free to make faces.
To avoid repeating
past mistakes, I decided to bring it up before it got out
of hand. So, after that nights rehearsal, I proposed
the three of us should discuss it and find a solution we
could all live with--hopefully, without too much pain.
Leaning on Sammys
car outside Roxys rehearsal studios, I said to Wayne:
Listen man, this is a serious problem we got here.
Is it that
bad? he asked, switching from Sammys face to
mine. Why didnt you say something before?
bad, man, Sammy said, grimacing as if it hurt him
to admit it. But your playing is killing us. You rush
the tempo, make it drag after your fills...
at me. Hes right, I said. I mean,
dont you see it? Dont you hear it?
Sammy added. You know I love you and all that, but
sorry man, it just cant go on this way.
I nodded my head
in solemn accord. We cant go out and play like
up at the night, drew a long, sad breath, but did not fight
it as we had expected him to do. To Sammys and my
surprise, and expense, he had already thought of a solution
that we agreed with in the interest of fairness: a second
A couple days
later, Wayne introduced us to the new member of the band,
a young drummer from Jersey, a weightlifter-type with a
great smile and furious chops, who had already learned our
material from a cassette Wayne had given him. That night
we drove out to Sage Diner on Queens Boulevard to celebrate
and get to know the kid a little better.
Outside of certain
details, there was little for us to know. We could see the
kid was almost a replica of our hormone-rich selves when
we started out: twenty-one and eager to start collecting
on some of those fringe benefits of life on the road he
had heard about for so long. Wayne advised him to stick
with Sammy if he wanted to know how that worked. But
stay away from us, Wayne reminded him, shaking his
thumb between us and laughing. Him and me, we got
wives back home, so dont forget it.
the kid said, bobbing his head like a boxer listening to
instructions before a fight. Ill be cool.
From then on,
every crisis was infinitely more manageable.
The songs started
to take shape. Having two drummers gave our show a thundering
drive it never had. The kids impeccable timing worked
like a click-track for Wayne to follow, a job he had no
problem doing. It built up our confidence immensely, so
that by the time we did our warm-up gigs out at a club in
Long Island, we felt confident enough to work in some theatrics
into the show. It ended up being our usual stage clowning
and typical guitar-rock choreography that Sammy liked and
that I did with him mostly to humor him. Though not too
much, either, I had to remind him. I thought a measure of
dignity behooved us at our age.
to remember were no longer a New Wave band, were
and Oldies Act now, I told him.
said Sammy. Were a cult band. Theres a
as hell arent an Oldies act, said Wayne. For
that we would have to have a top-ten song. Not just records
that bubbled under Top Forty.
right, Sammy said. Cult bands dont need
hit songs. Were goddamn rock and roll myths, ageless.
young, threw in Wayne.
I said, laughing. I think we better get some mirrors
installed in this studio. You guys have seen our hairlines?
not thirty anymore, said Sammy. Big deal.
you mean? Were not even forty anymore. I laughed
From then on
Sammy named our series of engagements The Old Farts
Tour. But I had not seen him so happy in a long, long
time, happy as we all were. And we had the right to feel
that way too, for we were now twice the band we ever were.
We knew we had
it right from the sound check at The Underground, our first
date in London. We could hear it and see it in the usually
unreceptive faces of the roadies and the jaded staff in
the club. We packed the place up on both nights and the
local rock press wrote some of nice things about the show
and us in the days that followed. A few famous rockers visited
us backstage on Saturday night, before and after the show,
which boosted our confidence even further. They made us
feel so good that we disregarded our own transatlantic pledges
and let ourselves be carried away by some of the after-hour
craziness. But we managed it well, every one of us, for
neither our age nor the times were the same anymore--now
women were fewer, drugs more dangerous, and sex could be
More dates were
added to our mini tour. We drove up to Glasgow to do a one-nighter
and another in Manchester. We never made it to Liverpool,
though--our agent could not get us the money we needed.
We came back to London and did our remaining dates. It did
not escape any of us how lucky we were to be playing those
songs thirteen years after we had recorded them. Even at
our last night in London with the club half empty--because
of a big soccer game scheduled at the same time--we played
our hearts out and the crowd sang our choruses for us. Choruses
only we had sang before in our shows and our records, but
that had continued playing somewhere often enough for these
kids to remember them and sing them back to us now, a magical
moment for anybody who has ever written a tune.
next. By then, we could do no wrong. On one of our off nights
Sammy and I did an interview at a radio station, during
which I was required to speak English through a Catalonian
interpreter because Spanish was forbidden in the station.
The city was in full swing in preparation for the 92
Summer Olympics, still months away, yet we could sense the
excitement of it as we drove along Ramblas, the heart of
After a finger
dinner of seafood in Barceloneta by the sea, our radio host
drove us to a club near Paseo de Gracia where the local
Pachyderm distributor had organized a party for the band.
Wayne and the
rest of the group were already there when Sammy and I arrived.
We went upstairs to a private area where the clubs
manager and the record people held a toast for us. At some
point while the party was going, Sammy came over to where
a local rock critic and I had been discussing the roots
of our groups music. I had downed so many Mahous and
been passed so many canutos by then that I was ready to
talk with anybody about anything.
Sammy came up
to us arm-in-arm with a familiar-looking tall blonde, but
I was in the middle of an important statement I wanted to
me Sammy, I said and then addressed myself to the
critic again: Thats not accurate. You cant
say we sound like Springsteen on Edge of the Night
anymore than you can say we sound like the Police on Elena
just because its a reggae-like tune. Thats not
inspired you on those tunes?
Bobs--Dylan on one and Marley on the other. The same people
who inspired Springsteen and the Police.
I understand what you mean, the critic said. But
you must agree that all forms of art are rooted in tradition.
Oh, I agree
with that OK. I think its inevitable.
critic then turned to Sammy, who was waiting to get my attention.
And you, he asked with a scholastic air. What
is your philosophy of music?
Sammy, a whole
head taller than all of us, squinted his eyes and rubbed
his chin as if looking for inspiration.
he answered. There are only two kinds of musicians
in the world: those who understand Louie Louie
and those that dont.
I nodded in profound
agreement and so did the critic.
so true, I said and looked at the blond Sammy had
you remember me? she said.
his rascally smile at me.
my name? she said.
you cant hold me to that. I cant even remember
my name. But I do remember you.
I hugged and
kissed both her cheeks and as I did, I made a face to Sammy
and he came to the rescue.
he remembers you, Julia, he said. Hes
never stopped talking about you.
such liars, she said with an even more familiar laugh.
I gave her a
quick up and down and she came back to me. She was long-legged
Julia from Amsterdam, the Dutch beauty who had traveled
with me during part of our tour of Europe in 82.
you havent changed at all. Im so glad to see
you ... how long has it been?
like an eternity. Doesnt it?
said Sammy. Ill leave you two to your reminiscing.
I got to go back.
I said. Me and Julia got plenty to talk about.
It all came back
to me, particularly the Nordic goddess image of her dancing
nude to some Reggae music in that hotel over the canals,
which stayed with me for so long afterward. I remembered
how ambitious she was then, too, and how she tried for days
to talk me into making her my business manager. She seemed
less ambitious now, though, but only a little less. She
was still interested in the business end of the music, except
from a more distant, academic angle. But she seemed truly
glad to see me again. We ended up downstairs in the disco
area dancing and working up a sweat until we sneaked out
and took a taxi to my hotel.
When we arrived
at the hotel, we went into the lounge bar for a drink. There,
I took a deep breath and informed Julia of my current status
and lunged into a pathetic little speech on how much I loved
my wife and how much I needed her to be supportive and not
challenge my will power, until she cut me off.
so silly, she said with a mirthless laugh. You
dont have to worry. I did not come here for that.
Your marriage is safe with me.
With that understanding
we headed up to my room to smoke some of the Moroccan stuff
she said I just had to try. While I searched the content
of the mini-bar, Julia took off her MC jacket and went to
work. First, she pulled two cigarettes out of her pack and
broke them open on the table, took her lighter out and heated
up a chocolate kiss-size piece of hash into a gooey paste
and mixed it in with the mound of tobacco shreds on the
table. Next, she brought out a sheet of rolling paper as
big as a napkin and rolled everything together into a gigantic
trumpet-shaped joint that would have been the envy of any
Rastafarian, and lit it up.
a daughter now, she said from behind a blue cloud
of smoke. Shell be eight next month.
wonderful, Julia. Whats her name?
she is beautiful, soft and brown like her daddy. Shes
at my mothers house, back home.
know where he is. He lives in Amsterdam. He owns a coffee
shop--well, he has two partners.
He comes to visit Sara sometimes.
to tell you something, she said as she stood up to
make herself another Cuba Libre, her smooth white back to
me. I had to undergo an abortion after I left you
Come on, youre joking.
three months after we met. I had to do it. I had no other
choice ... and no, it could not have been anyone elses.
I only tell you this because I think you deserve to know.
It would not have been honest of me if I kept it to myself.
I stammered. Why didnt you write me or get in
touch with me. Didnt you have my address?
I had your
telephone number in New York, but I couldnt do it.
I couldnt have the child and... what good would it
one, you couldve told me, I said. What
good is there in telling me now?
around to face me. What would you have done had you
known I was pregnant with your child?
know. But had you had the child I would have tried to be
as good a father as I could be.
doubt that is how you feel now. Except, I dont think
you would have been a good father, or I a good mother then.
I did it
not because I wanted to, but because I had to, and I still
think it was the best thing to do. Have you any children?
have been born.
angry at me now for what happened so long ago?
I admitted. Im angry at myself.
be, she said, lying down next to me on the bed. You
must believe it was for the best.
you and for me.
not sure if it was for the best. It certainly wasnt
for the fetus.
say that, please. It sounds awful. What would you have done
if I had had the child?
father, I told you.
think you would have been a real father back then. The distance
between Amsterdam and New York was not the only problem.
have been a father to my child, believe me. Problems or
no problems. You dont know me that well.
know you, period. That was also why I had to do it. And
I am not going to let you make me feel badly now, after
the hell I went through in those days. You dont know
dont blame you for anything. You did what you had
to do. But I didnt. You didnt give me a chance.
You should have told me.
have been nothing you could do.
How old would
the kid be? I thought. Almost ten years old. My god. I could
have been a daddy for that long.
We said nothing
else afterward and I fell asleep, thinking about it. When
I woke up it was dark and Julia was not in the room. I looked
around, hoping she might have left me a note, since I had
no idea of where to get in touch with her. But she left
none. I went back to bed and thought about the kid I never
The next two
days stormed by like in a dream. My most vivid memory of
our Madrid concert at the cavernous Sports Palace came on
our second encore. All of us were standing on the side of
the stage, listening to the rumble and clapping of the audience
outside as we dried ourselves up with towels and drank from
plastic water bottles. We could not decide which song to
play now. We had done every song in our catalogue and we
were in trouble.
do Edge of the Night again, said Wayne,
out of breath and smiling. They love that one.
said Sammy barely perspiring. We cant repeat
them, Sammy said, pointing at the roaring crowd. You
said it in New York. They want rock and roll, so lets
give it to them.
are we going to do? The rest of us wanted to know.
at me, a sly smile on one side of his mouth.
I said. You want to do our old rock and roll medley?
said Wayne. Well sound like a bar band.
Then to me: What do you think?
we just go out and ask the crowd?
That was exactly
what we did, and for the next forty minutes it became a
request-and-play thing between the audience and us. We almost
ended up having to do the show all over again for them.
By the time we
were back in our hotel, I was feeling everyone one of my
forty-three years. I begged to be excused on all the after-concert
merrymaking the promoters had planned for the band and,
to Sammys amazement, I also passed on the two gorgeous
Madrilians he had rounded up for us. We understood then
that a long-standing tradition had come to an end.
I went straight
to my room and collapsed on my bed. I could not recall that
typical end-of-the-tour blues hitting me this hard before
and this soon. I could not stop thinking of Julia and what
it might have been: a boy or a girl? I felt awful, unable
get it out of my mind. I called my wife in New York. It
was nine p.m. there. She had that sweet raspy, sleepy voice
of hers when she answered.
you sleeping already? I asked her.
No, I just
fell out watching TV.
course. Is anything wrong? she wondered.
asked me that? Everythings fine. The gig went like
a dream. The crowd went nuts. They made us play just about
every song twice. Would you believe it? Now everyone is
downstairs celebrating, but Im very tired. So I came
up to my room.
wonderful. Im so glad you called. But hey, if the
concert went as well as you said, maybe you should make
an effort and join them. Its your last night and you
know how touchy Wayne can get.
fine. Its OK. Its just...
the matter, sweetie?
I said. Im OK, really. Babe ... Do you blame
me cause we cant have any children?
you all right?
all right. I just wish we could have a kid.
You know that.
know. I wasnt always this way. You know that dont
you picked a hell of moment to bring that up.
I just wish I had known you ten years ago.
I guess Im just coming down from everything. Ill
see you tomorrow. Youll be at the airport?
is coming in at six oclock, right?
at six. Love you babe.
love, she said. Why dont you go down with
the others and get drunk? Youll have a six-hour flight
to sleep it off later.
telling me to get drunk? Thats a new one.
just sorry youre feeling bad and I dont know
what else to tell you.
worry. Im just exhausted. I think all I have to do
now is put my head on the pillow and Ill go out like
musician, and writer Nick
Padron lives in Madrid
and Miami. To date, he has published over one hundred musical
compositions, including a rock opera based on Carols Castaneda's
Don Juan series. His writings include comedy
sketches for television, interviews, and music reviews.
his short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Full
Circle, So Be Review, Prose-ax, and The Barcelona Review.
He has completed a novel, Sembrar, and a novella 'It Tolls
for Thee,' ( a sequel to Hemingway's work) rated number
one at Zoetrope All-Story. He is currently at work on his