Bobby thinks I’m jealous of him. I am, I guess. Not as much as he thinks, though. He probably thinks that deep down, I hate him or something, and I don’t. Really I don’t. I love him like a brother. We go too far back, all the way back to the beginning, even before we were musicians, back when we were both just getting interested in music, when we were still kids, and we were rushing out to buy Iron Maiden and David Bowie records.
Yeah, he made it to the big time, and I didn’t. Yeah, he made it there with a band that I helped form, and they made it there partly on the strength of songs that I co-wrote. Yeah, he crossed Canada a dozen times, toured all through the States, hit Europe a few times, and even made it to Australia to promote an album, and I didn’t. Am I jealous? Yeah, sure I’m jealous. Do I hate the guy? No. I’m proud of him and I love him.
Having said that, he can be a tremendous pain in the ass.
Bobby Metronome is a fantastic drummer. He wasn’t always. He was awful for a long time; that’s why we nick-named him Metronome. We kept telling him that we were going to get rid of him and replace him with the metronome on my mom’s piano. At least it could keep time. Yes, he is a fantastic drummer, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of my league. I can play. I’m a great guitarist, and a really good bass player. I usually play bass though, because it’s always easier to find a guitarist than a bass player. Did you ever hear the old joke? Where do you find a guitar player when you need one? Just walk through the forest. After all, guitar players grow on trees.
Yeah, he’s good, but that doesn’t mean that he’s the only good drummer there is. But he acts like I couldn’t be doing this without him, like I couldn’t possibly get a gig without the great Bobby Metronome in my band, like I couldn’t possibly play a show without him behind me. What a crock of shit. Sometimes I just want to whack him over the head with one of his toms.
When he gets pissed off, or things don’t go his way, Bobby hints that pretty soon he’s going to pack it in and head home, because after all of his years on the road with the great and mighty Tremors Of Intent, he doesn’t need to be dragging his ass around the countryside playing crappy pubs and hotels, trying to get enough money to pay for beer, gas and lunch the next day. After all, he’s got a couple hundred grand in the bank, and he could easily sit at home and write his science fiction books.
And it’s true. He doesn’t need this shit. But what he doesn’t realize is that I didn’t bring him with me on the road so that I could use his name to get gigs. I didn’t bring him with me so that I could leech off the fame of Tremors. If anything, I would rather get away from that name. The reason I brought him with me, damn near begging him to come, was because I wanted to hit the road with my old friend. That’s it. I wanted to play rock and roll with my old friend, have some laughs on the road. Yeah, I need to do this, because I need the money, and I need to get my ass in gear, get some sort of career as a performer again. And after the emotional teeth-kicking of getting divorced, I also needed to prove to myself that I’m still worth something. But if you’re going to go through all that shit, why the hell wouldn’t you want your good friend with you?
But it’s not all so rosy. After getting solidly pissed and getting up on stage, Bobby, Jason and I proceeded to humiliate ourselves in front of the two or three hundred people in the Sarnia hotel bar. We couldn’t keep time, we missed changes, we did false starts to songs, we forgot lyrics, made asinine comments to the crowd, and generally did a bad job. The really bad part of it was that we had a genuinely good time on stage while it was happening. We were looking at each other and giggling, making funny faces at our own mistakes.
The crowd didn’t boo, but they did jeer. They could see we were drunk. After the show I went to the bar manager to get our cut, and he gave me a lot of shit, but did pay us. How could he not? The bar was full, and he made his money. But he made it pretty clear that we would not be asked back. So be it.
We were all too drunk to drive, so we just loaded our gear into the van and went back inside the bar for a few more drinks. The issue of accommodation for the night was pretty much skipped over. Somehow, it didn’t seem to matter.
We got a round of beers from the bar. Jason was still a funny color from throwing up earlier, but drinking lots of water and playing the show had straightened him out a bit. Bobby raised his bottle to toast us. “Well boys,” he said. “Here’s to the bad end of a bad tour.”
“Cheers,” said Jason.
“The tour’s not over yet, Bobby,” I said. “We’ve still got shows in Hamilton and Burlington.”
“Terry,” he said, looking at me like a parent talking to a child. “It’s over. We’re fucked, man. This is all bullshit. We haven’t played a half-decent show yet. We’re not making any money, which was supposed to be the point of the whole thing. We’re wasting our time and we’re embarrassing ourselves.”
“Yeah, but even so, we’ve got gigs booked. If we back out with only a few days notice we’re going to look like assholes.”
“We look like assholes anyway.” He took a long drink of his beer. “I’ve had enough of this shit, Terry. Seriously. There is nothing worth while about what we’re doing. We’re making idiots of ourselves, and we’re having a miserable time. Shit, half the time we’re sleeping in the goddamn van. I don’t need this shit, man. Not at my age. I’ve been through all this shit before, and I don’t need to be doing this nickel and dime crap. I’ve had enough. Tomorrow we’ll head home.”
“You fucking dick!” I yelled in his face. “You agreed to do this. Ten lousy fucking shows. That’s it. And you can even see it through. You fucking spoiled bitch! You fucking quitter.”
“You begged me!” he screams. “You fucking begged me to come here with you! I don’t need this shit and I didn’t want it! Fuck you, Terry! Fuck you!” Bobby turns and walks off into the crowd.
I take a sip of beer and look at Jason. He’s standing there, wide-eyed, with the scared, half-guilty look of a child who saw his parents fighting. I turn and walk away from him. I don’t want to deal with Jason now.
I push my way up to the bar. Everyone around me is half my age. They all know who I am, and the young boys and girls smile at me, but they step back when I get too close. They’re not interested in brushing up against a piss-drunk old man covered in sweat after playing a lousy rock show. I get up to the bar and one of the staff, a busty young blonde, asks me what I want.
“Three shots of Crown Royal,” I say. She pours, I pay, and I drink.
Ontario bylaws stipulate that you can’t smoke inside of bars and restaurants, so I drunkenly start to lurch towards the front door, still carrying my bottle of beer. The whiskey hits me like a heavyweight’s uppercut, putting me way over the line. I bump into people as I walk, and I hear snide comments about the drunken singer. “Fuck you,” I slur at some young jock that makes a remark I don’t even understand.
“Yeah, you’re a real rock star,” he says in response.
Jason catches up to me by the door. “Dude, what’s going on? Are we going back to Toronto, or are we going to Hamilton?”
“How the fuck should I know?” I say. “Go ask Bobby. He seems to be calling the shots now.” I get to the door and the bouncer grabs me before I can go through.
“You can’t take the bottle out,” he says.
I shrug and drink the contents before staggering out into the street. Jason leaves his beer on a table and follows me out. “Terry man,” he says. “What’s going on? Is Bobby serious? Is he quitting?”
“Maybe,” I say, getting out my cigarettes. “Maybe not. I don’t know. He’s pulled this routine before. He’s not going anywhere for now. His drums are in the van and I’ve got the keys. He’s not going to leave without them, and if he does, I’m going to throw his kit in the lake.” I light up. “Bitch,” I say. “Drummer bitch.”
“Can I um, have a cigarette?” Jason asks.
“You don’t smoke.”
“I just want to have one.”
“You shouldn’t start.”
“I’m not going to start.”
“Nobody thinks they’re going to start,” I say, passing him a cigarette and the lighter.
He lights up. “So why did you start?” he asks, blowing out smoke.
“Bad kids told me it was cool.”
The front door opens and Bobby comes out. I can here ABBA playing inside. “These asshole kids don’t deserve us,” he says. “Disco. I don’t believe it. Don’t you ask venues if they play disco? Don’t book us at venues that play disco, man.”
“Not your problem anymore, is it?” I ask, goading him.
“I guess not,” he says. We both stand there, looking at each other. Jason looks back and forth between us.
“Well?” I say.
“So are we finished, or are we going to play the two gigs that we committed to?”
“Give me a cigarette.” I give him one, feeling like a dispenser. Don’t these guys know how much smokes cost?
“I’ll do the last two shows,” he says, “and that’s it. And only if we cut this shit out. I’ve never played drunk before, I’m not going to start now. We play straight, and we don’t fuck around. That means you too,” he says, pointing at Jason. “No more bullshit.” He points back at me. “These two shows and that’s it.”
I nod, exhausted of the conflict. “Okay. That’s all I ask.” I leave them to discuss our sleeping arrangements for the night, stumbling to the alley to be sick.
2006 © Nolan Whyte