All that remained of the band’s all-night security detail was Jim Callaghan, who was shifting nervously from foot to foot in front of me. He was wearing one shoe. I ignored him. Keith Moon was stretched out in black nylons and a blue silk kimono behind a tea service set for him on a small Victorian table. His hotel suite window showed whichever lake was next to Chicago. It was early morning, sometime in the late seventies. He was wearing Callaghan’s other shoe. At mid-tour, he was worn and beginning to look like an unshaven Judy Garland during her last difficult years, but I kept this to myself. “Spot of tea, Regis?” he offered, not caring there was not a second cup. “Did you take in some theater before you rushed here to help me?” he jabbed. “I wanted to pick up more cash,” I offered, working to deflect him. The band still made me nervous in my first years.” I learned early that rock stars had no concrete understanding of cash, they liked it, but it stalled and confused them. This drummer viewed me as a magically tall money fountain and understood vaguely that I needed a refill on occasion. It was our primary working link. “We have disturbing confidences to consider you and me,” he began slowly, almost like an accusation. “I have met the wrong woman.” He paused here, investigating our faces for sympathy. None came. But we didn’t laugh either. Days seemed to pass as I was blank for any response. Callaghan cracked first,” He’s got the clap.” “Quiet!” Moonie shot at him in a shrill hiss, “this is a grave intrigue; no one can ever know.” ” I’ll find you a doctor,” I swiftly convinced him, and then after brief but genuinely stupid pleasantries, I headed off to solve the problem.
I could make anyone do anything for Who tickets and cash. An Indian doctor arrived at his suite in under an hour to take a culture. Soon after, Keith understood he had an especially hateful strain of Vietnamese gonorrhea. That afternoon I headed back up to his room with the doctor and his bag in tow. We found him with his intimate friend Dougal hunched over the suite’s dining table with pens and paper resembling Hitler and Goebbels plotting a North African tank campaign during WW11. I made my first mistake while the doctor got ready. I asked: “Should we let the girl know?” “Girl?” he sniffed as though I had demanded the definition of a two hundred letter word. They both snickered at me; he said, “Reg, there are constellations of girls, and we are connecting those dots as you can see on our chart, pointing to the table. With that, he turned back to his diagrams with Dougal, who was now so stimulated about the probable sexual connections he was practically drooling. They were tracing who they had slept with and who else had been there. The enrollment grew and grew like a virus. No one, at least in the imaginations of these two, could be innocent. ( Except me, of course, because I would be paying the doctor.) There is nowhere on earth like a rock tour when it comes to women. And yes, occasionally, the odd girl might have a condition of one kind or another. It did happen. But groupies get a bad whack in music mythology. Commonly they had far higher IQs than the road crews, the traveling staff, and the band members they coveted. Most of the famous ones are ambitious, conniving, and breathtakingly forward advancing. Sometimes it is sad, but only rarely. I understood that innocents were fingered, caught up as they were in Moon’s fabulously infectious net. Many were wrongly doomed that afternoon. Dougal and I called nearly everyone on tour that day, and the glum suspects marched in to get their shots. Even some of our lawyers succumbed to the flimsiest of evidence. Still, the English are reliably the last to guess at a lie. They will nearly always misjudge what to do in favor of caution. It was just good unclean fun, after all. With sick looks on their faces, they dropped their pants. This doctor was now working for me full time. He made a small fortune and walked away with enough tickets to start another Ticketron in Chicago. Everyone hung around all day and into the night—a major party. A photograph exists of everyone standing or kneeling together in that suite at night’s end. It resembled a U.S. baseball team card. The Indian doctor was sitting in the center, holding a lap-full of Who tickets and syringes. I don’t know who has that photo today. I would pay for it.
From a letter: written by Jackie Curbishley, (Bill’s wife) about me and Pete Townshend. “You’re right. He was easy to love, but so difficult to trust. I never quite knew whether he was about to spit at me or kiss me. He was totally in awe of you and so jealous of you that he could hardly articulate when you were around. I have vivid recollections of the night you poured the whole jug of orange juice over his head. I’m pretty certain that nothing like that had ever happened to him before. I had to admire the way he recovered – getting his stash out of his top pocket and with those big hands spread out in front of him saying “Look what you’ve done!” as he held out the dripping little package. It was in Salt Lake City. Remember that? Jackie
I saw this picture of Bill Graham posted by Lisa Seckler- Rhode this morning, and it grabbed a memory from that section of my mind that is usually only aroused by drugs. We were doing a deal with him for The Who to play San Francisco sometime in the 1970s. He was bawling that we were cheating him. Predictably his negotiating tactics relied chiefly on shouting or screaming. When doing deals with him in the old day’s, Bill Curbishley, the Who’s manager, would be on his suite’s phone, and I would be in the bathroom on an extension. In Graham’s case, and there are pictures, we put the phone on a coffee table between us and still hear him screeching. He stubbornly believed he was singled out for disadvantageous treatment by God himself every minute of his day. He was a formidable adversary. Few promoters dared to stand up to certain bands — the Who had become too big to lose. That said, when I started with Genesis, he did me endless favors, which he did not have to do. The other variable was that the band (The Who) loved him, so we never really tried to fuck him. No doubt, he did them favors too, early on. We had settled on the particulars for one show, maybe the Cow palace in San Francisco. After the contracts were issued, Graham returned his signed copy. His shows represented at least 100,000 tickets per performance ( most likely far more, I can’t recall), to be sold at an agreed ticket price. Graham would get his percentage cut from that. He raised the face ticket price ( which he printed) one dollar, hoping to keep the money without telling us. When confronted, he responded, “but you were stealing from me” — We didn’t let him keep the money but with our admiration.
“Can I have a word?” Townshend says by hotel phone around midday.
Like some rare birds, Pete was rarely sighted before late afternoon. It was not an inherently settling experience to talk to him one on one before then. In fact, it was fair cause for dread. He made me uneasy and I him at first. It took years to work that out.
A couple of us were having fun working out a logo/poster for the upcoming Canadian leg of a Who tour when his call came.
Canada is big and mostly settled by moose. So far we had a drawing of a frog with a big piece of Canadian bacon in its mouth hopping from city to city outlining where they would play. He was dressed in a Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform. He appeared to be chasing a beaver. The bacon was my touch because I grew up eating it.
But that phone call had dampened me, so I headed down to his room.
He did not look well. He had his tea.
”Did you give me money last night?” he said without really looking up. I got the feeling that if I lied to him he would be pleased. ” Yes”, I said.
“How much?” He actually gutturally groaned when I told him.
“Fuck,” was all he said
“Who was here?” I asked.
It doesn’t matter I didn’t know them. I must have passed out.” He was hard to read as he answered.
“Want me to put Jim on it,” I said.
“No, it’s gone, thanks.”
And I left.
Much of my career, such that it was, depended upon the reasoning that rock bands needed their money defended. It would be hard to argue that I was not good at it.
I watched ticket prices grow over the years. I can remember shouting arguments over raising The Who’s ticket price from sixteen to seventeen dollars, one dollar.
Thinking back on it now, we taxed the kids based on how much they loved art. And it was art.
There was also some formula involved that was always hard to describe. The pain of the price diminished as the size of the venue increased. It was almost as though the fans did not mind getting fucked as long as tons of others did too.
When The Who reached the point when they could play as many stadiums in each city as they wanted, the morality of ticket pricing utterly vanished and was replaced seamlessly with making certain that we did not cheat whole cities out of an opportunity to see them play.
Through it all, I remained loyal to their money.
It is time for another Israel in the Middle East only much bigger. Perhaps in Mexico as well. Life in these two geographic regions has been a miserable proposition for a long time. The West did not cause it. The Kings, Mullahs, and oil-rich chieftains kept their people in poverty and allowed them only God as comfort for hundreds of years. In Mexico, the poor were supported only by our tourism, our insatiable need for drugs and the Catholic Church.
Bringing these people here is moronically ill-advised.
We should use our weapons and military to carve out new Edens for the suffering instead of destroying everything to catch a few.
Perhaps this is what God would do if he really cared.
How can a photograph be copyrighted when it’s confined to the public domain by definition? A song comes out of nothing. A painting is as much the hand on the brush as it is anything inherent. Movies manipulate atmospheres and the medium simultaneously. A camera’s image becomes art only when interpreted in the aftermath. Could it be that photographers are more critics than artists? Could it be that there are no artists at all, only reviewers?
I don’t get too tossed about this political correctness phenomenon. After all, when I was around twenty, I said “Groovy” and will still say “hey man” as a greeting, particularly to black people.
My father yelled at me when I was twelve when he overheard me on the phone with an adult speaking disrespectfully. He demanded that I say “Yes Sir or No Sir,” always. I still do this to this day, and I am older than everybody.meir
These rules can be learned.
I stumble clumsily over the speech regulations of today as though they are nuclear intrusions on my civil liberties. Hands always get a little burnt when passing torches. I know I am wrong, but I am stubborn so they can all go fuck themselves.
I have a theory about why these kids see slights that would have seemed not so grievous to my generation. Our millennials are the consummation of three generations of more and more targeted and cautious advertising. When the world does not behave the way it does in commercials, they are fearful and wary. They are suspicious of any gathering that does not accomplish fair representations of races, sexual identities or female /male neutrality. Words are paramount because they are accustomed to dialogue that has been worked and reworked by copywriters and advertising executives not to offend. One poorly placed word can result in the destruction of a Five-hour Energy drink or an Apple iPad. The stakes are huge.
I have two kids in this new generational cluster. I think they are better than me at that age. They, of course, roll their eyes when I behave deliberately in ways that will embarrass them. They forgive me for that, I know. They don’t know yet they will do exactly the same to their children. Nor should they.
When the Poet of Avon, Mr. William Shakespeare, this very morning, stumbled into brevity, he recognized that all other English playwrights, if indeed this is not already a sterile reservoir, will soon be marinating in morbid dread. As change is the arrow that wounds all except the archer, the notion of debuting himself this day as the writer of fewest words flung him into unkind merriment.
“Let the world find its verbosity elsewhere than from me,” he says to himself, in his new and truncated style. His work will now and forever be a port-wine reduction sauce of succinctness. “Genius is the tabernacle of the boiled down,” he gloats, ” I will leave the breadth of things to the amateurs.
“Verily,” he decides, a tad too loudly, for his mother now overhears, “I will no longer desire a theater, for after all is said, of what point is an audience?’ They are simply witnesses; bystanders distinguished only by their asses finding a seat.
No, henceforth, they will hunt for my posts on trees buildings and bushes.
Hearing this vow from her roost just outside his doors, his mother, the severely talkative Mary Arden Shakespeare dismays. Mary, a woman who could trace her long-windedness as linearly as an erection, back to the paramount exercise of pointless human wordiness, The Doomsday Book, feels her lifetime toil of maneuvering her son, about to splash into a puddle of abbreviated verbal sulkiness.
She slumps; legs splayed into a bunched nest of skirts, muttering miserably to herself, (wholly in Old English, to her credit), “I will not allow him an eternity of pithiness of verse.”
But Bill speeds by her, determined to conclude his life’s drudgery of taxing inventiveness before she can interfere.
“Romeo and Juliet,” was already redrafting itself in his mind as a love story that lasts only as long as the flavor in a piece sassafras chewing gum.
“Met Romeo today, parents way unimpressed, hook up, have a scheme, R. fucks everything up, big mess, the end.”
Shakespeare races to the Stratford’s Speaker’s corner to announce the new course of England’s scholarly conversation.
“Forever on,” Bill bellows to a gathering crowd of the muddy and toothless, “ My tragedies and comedies will come to you as “Twats.”
Be it known, that if it must be said, I will say it from inside the penitentiary of twenty-eight letterings or less. I will nail my twats to this tree as I fashion them; I will stamp each with a dollop of gruel for authenticity. Henceforth to be understood as my “gruel tag.”
My histories, poems, and essays will remain on my Facebook page.” Thank you.