In the past some readers have asked me why I feel qualified to be a rock music critic. I’ve decided to post a story I wrote for my book “Dysfunctional Thoughts of a 21st Century Man” which should show why I’m so supremely qualified to offer my thoughts on the Rock World.
Around the turn of the century, I was in Omaha working at a comedy club, when the owner asked me if I wanted to earn some extra money opening for a band down the street. Wanting some background on what I was getting myself into, I asked the typical questions like money, how much time I would have to do, and what the place was like. The money and amount of time were fine, but when he told me it was a heavy metal rock club, I was a little bit nervous. I inquired if he knew whom the band was I would be opening for and he told me Night Ranger. At this point, I started laughing and then said of course, I would do it.
You see, Night Ranger was one of my favorite bands in High School, as growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, pre-MTV, was a tough way to stay on the cutting edge of the music scene. If you are not familiar what song Night Ranger is known for, let me just say the words “Sister Christian”. I figured that Night Ranger now would consist of just the bass player, but still use the original name. (Hey, this happens. Journey, has been touring the past few years with another lead singer than Steve Perry, but they don’t mention that when promoting upcoming shows.)
Well, I get to the club and the doorman shows me to the green room. The green room is a term for where the performers stay before show time. If you have any illusions of grandeur, in regards to what green rooms are like, let me burst your bubble. They are generally storage rooms with a couch that are not exactly fresh from Ethan Allen . I am guessing that green rooms got their name because of the slimy, moldy appearance they usually have.
Since Night Ranger was a big-time band for this club, there were some trays of foods. Chowing on some chicken, the band walked in and to my surprise, all the original members were in tow. I noticed that they were looking at me like “who is this dude eating our food.” Picking up on this, I told them that I was the comedian who would be opening the show. I made the comment that I doubted they’d had to many comics as their openers, to which they replied that they’d never had a comedian open a show for them. At this point, I should have left, but the surreal potential seemed to be growing by the minute, so I decided to let things play out.
The owner came in and told me that he wanted me to do a half an hour
and I replied to him that I was told I would only have to do 20 minutes. I
explained that 800 hundred head-bangers were not going to be to patient
listening to some comedian, no matter how funny he was. We compromised
on 25 minutes and he introduced me to two local disc jockeys that were part
of the classic rock station sponsoring the concert. These two phonies smoozed
the band, acting like they were huge fans. They did this, despite being so
young that they must have been around five years old the last time Night
Ranger had put an album out. Coming up on showtime, I gave the d.j.’s my intro and they walked out on the stage.
Disc Jockeys: “Good Evening, Omaha! We are Slappy and Shecky from the Cornhusker state’s number one morning zoo, K-Cow! Now we just have one question! Are you ready for Night Ranger? (Thunderous applause) Well, so are we, but first we have a comedian to start things off. Now let’s hear it for Scott Long.”
A smattering of applause followed, as most of the throng seemed dejected that there hope of “Rocking in America” (title of a Night Ranger tune) had been shattered by my presence. Facing this awkward situation I created a story from my past about how I had went to a Night Ranger concert when I was in high school (true). Everything after this was a lie, though, as I explained to the Omaha long-hairs that when the auditorium turned off the stage lights. I was expecting to see Night Ranger, but just like in this instance, a stand-up comic came out instead. I told the crowd that I felt let down that day and that tonight, payback was a bitch for me.
This little fable I created seemed to pacify the angry lions, as things went well for a while. I tried to be as high-energy and dirty as I could, which is the only way to survive a situation like this. I spent a good chunk of the first 15 minutes talking about music. I was reaching a comed y crescendo when I mentioned that I had as much use for Shania Twain, as the drummer of Def Leppard had with a clapper. Then I made the mistake of saying that God had purposely caused the drummer to lose his arm to keep him from beating women (he had been arrested for beating his wife in LAX airport) and to keep the band from releasing anymore of their crappy albums.
I soon realized that this was a major mistake on my part. I am not sure if there was a large congruence of wife beaters, fans of Def Leppard, or both, but I had lost all the goodwill I had built up before this. I tried to dig myself out of this hole, but I don’t know who I thought I was fa-fa-fa-foolin’, as you could hear the whir of the blenders behind the bar and not much else. Sensing my panic, one of the mullet-headed patrons yelled “let’s rock and roll. Bring on Night Ranger.” This was a popular sentiment, as many others shouted out their concurrence of this guy’s statement.
At this point, I could have been Jim Carrey and not been able to quell the angry mob. I felt like Russell Crowe beating back the lions, without the skirt, the sandals, and the Australian accent. I was at the 20-minute mark, which seemed more than enough entertainment, for what I was paid versus what I had endured. I did a dismount, which was uglier than Kerry Strug on one-leg and said good night, Omaha. Walking to the back of the bar, I ordered a couple of shots and started looking through the crowd. It was like being in a time machine set for 1983. The majority of women there were squeezed in spandex, looking like they had been waiting for this moment for over a decade. I realized then, why all the original members were back out on the road.
Soon the lights dimmed, and the smoke machines billowed out all over the stage. The band members all walked out in the dark and started playing their instruments. At this point, I should mention that at the start of my performance, I had to struggle mightily to pull up the microphone about a foot, as the band’s roadies had set it too low. Well, as the band was jamming in the dark, the lights turned on and the singer started to sing the first verse, only to realize that he was singing into the stand. Desperately trying to pull the microphone down, he was practically climbing the stand, as the rest of the band looked on. Don’t think that it is unique to have a midget lead singer, as the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and Prince are under 5-7. Well, after a minute, with the help of one of the roadies, lead singer Jack Blades finally belted out “don’t tell me you love me, I don’t want to know.”
I want to say this isn’t the only Spinal Tap-moment I have been witness to in my concert going experience. I can remember being at an Adam Ant concert, where he was attempting to rip his t-shirt, in a sexy move. The only problem with this was that he wasn’t strong enough to do it, finally giving up. I wished he would’ve summoned a roadie to help him rip his shirt completely, as that would have been even funnier than the mic stand incident. (Where was camera phones and You tube when you needed them?)
Many people are snobs, saying that if a band isn’t in its prime, it isn’t worth seeing. Well, after my night with Night Ranger, I couldn’t disagree more. The more washed-up a band, the more potential for unintentional comedy. A few summers ago I saw the band Loverboy perform at a July 4th festival. The group seemed pretty stoked about playing in front of a crowd of over 50,000 people, (it was a free show which promised fireworks afterword) so they were giving it their best. The only problem was that the lead singer, Mike Reno, didn’t appear like he spent too much time lately, “Working for the Weekend”, as he was looked like he was tipping the scales at around 270. Fortunately, Reno didn’t wear the red leather pants he wore on the cover of “Get Lucky.” If he had, I am sure the PETA people would have picketed him, as it would have taken a herd of cattle to cover Mike Reno (2000) in red leather.
So the next time you see there is a rockin’ double bill featuring REO Speedwagon and Peter Frampton, race on down to your local county fair and catch this, because there is a good chance something interesting will happen. Aging rockers are always ripe to pull a groin just singing a ballad and what is funnier than that. Though, bring your earplugs, not because it will be too loud, but because “Keep On Lovin’ You” probably will be an octave too high for REO’s senior citizen singer.