Sam, listen to me, just hear me out, okay? I'm not calling for myself, or Andrew or Tommy; I'm calling for The Burnouts. Our band, right? We made some great music together, and have had some good times along the way. You can't deny that. So please, for the sake of the band: come back and we can forget the past. We've created something great here, and we shouldn't let it go to waste.
Doc's monologue of a voicemail might have made me cry if it wasn't for that I'm far to stressed out. God, what happened to that joint?
Not ten minutes ago, Sam informed me via a phone call that he's out of the band before hanging up on me. Since then Doc, Tommy and I have made a unanimous decision that Doc should try to contact Sam, since he's closest to Sam of the three of us.
We spend a minute twidling our thumbs in awkward silence before Sam calls Doc back. After a brief and quiet conversation, Doc looks at us with a face expressing something between relief and frustration.
He's coming over, Doc states, put he's still rather pissed. He said the only reason he's doing this is because some of the songs are written by him, and he wants to protect his assets.
I grimace. That doesn't sound good.
Let's just get him here and record this thing before we start speculating, Tommy councils.
We step inside the studio, explaining that our guitarist is running a little late, but that we're ready to roll. We get settled in the studio, checking out equipment, etc. Doc pieces together his drum kit and starts putting down some beats to guide us. Funny, I was sort of looking for some other kind of guidance.
Half an hour later Sam steps into the studio with a guitar on his back and a blank look on his face. I don't know what to say or do, so I just give a nod. He nods back to me and Tommy. Sam peeks through the glass at Doc behind the drum kit. Doc sees him, finishes the beat and comes in.
Hey Sam, he says. Even Doc sounds nervous.
Hi. Sam looks at us with cold eyes. Look, don't bother talking to me, let's just get this done.
And so we do: hour after hour. Recording base tracks, individuals, editing, discussing did I say discussing? I suppose we do talk. Although we have nearly everything planned, we still get to points where we have to make choices and changes. During these conversations I try to be friendly but not desperate. Mark Renton's words spring to mind: It's a tightrope, Spud; a f--kin' tightrope. Maybe I should get a heroin addiction. That would certainly settle things.
Over the course of the two days the atmosphere loosens up, but only slightly. Sam is civil and co-operative, but not much more. Every time I try to direct the conversation toward something social or the future of the band, he just responds coldly:
We'll talk about it later.
It seems to be an unworkable situation, and only time will tell. The recording itself goes well: we all play as we're supposed to and surprisingly; Sam excels. Every riff is in time, every solo is nailed, it all clicks. All this from an ex-coke addict. I perform my part, laying down layer after layer of bass licks, lines, and so on. Doc hammers in each beat with ease, and Tommy never hits a false note. It all goes better I could ever possibly expect it to, yet the feeling isn't right. The atmosphere is cold and insecure, unstable and uncomfortable. I guess it's only me, the average listener won't detect the bitter atmosphere of the studio where the music is recorded.
A couple days after the recording, we meet up at Doc's place for a strategy meeting. We now have three hundred copies of our demo, songs uploaded on a snazzy Myspace page. But what about Sam. What about the band? What about f--k-all?
I knock on the door, and shortly Doc opens up.
Hi, he says mutely, letting me in.
Hey, I respond, how is everyone?
I guess that's what we're going to figure out now.
I smile. Touch.
I follow Doc into the living-room, where Tommy and Sam are sitting on the sofa, talking about some movie. The conversation goes something like this:
They can't possibly do the book justice, literature at that level can not be reproduced for the screen without loosing quality!
Why not? The point isn't to reproduce the novel, but to adapt it to the screen: you can't judge it by how accurate it is to the book, you can't judge films and literature by the same criteria.
That may be true, but when a book has a very specific atmosphere that is crucial to the entire piece of literature, and that atmosphere isn't reproduced accurately, you can't use interpretation as an excuse, it just doesn't go down right!
Bla, bla, bla. They see me, shut up and give me a nod. I nod back and sit down. There's an awkward silence before Doc offers me a beer. I decline, and decide to cut to the chase:
Ok, let's ignore the foreplay here, I look Sam straight in the eye: Sam, are you with us?
He sits back slowly and lets out a long sigh. Alright, f--k it. I'm in. Just promise me that you won't ever pull that kind of shit again.
I smile. Deal.
Then we all agree that what we really need is a good jam session, so we head down to the basement and hit it. It feels really good to play together, just for the kick of it without any pressure, but my mind wanders to Amy. I left her this morning with a kiss and an uncertain look. I should tell her what's going on. I should tell her that the best f--king rock band in the world is still up and running, and her loser boyfriend is in it. After half a dozen songs, I tell the gang that I need to get back home. They look rather disappointed, but no one complains. Except Tommy.
Dammit, Andrew, he gripes, we haven't had a good jam session for ages, and now your calling it quits after half an hour?
Sorry buddy, I grin, I have a hot date waiting.
He smashes the microphone to the ground in a fury. And that's more important than your band? Your best friends?
I stare at him in shock. Tommy, relax; everything's going fine. Hell, we're going to be great. Just right now isn't the perfect time for a jam.
I put on my jacket and say goodbye. Doc and Sam seem perfectly alright, and I suspect their just as shocked by Tommy's behaviour as I am. I close Doc's front door behind me, only to hear it open again. I spin around: there's Tommy, and he throws me a left hook from hell. I stumble backwards, before punching him back, more out of instinct than anything. He lunges at me, throwing us both to the ground. We tussle for a few seconds, swinging sloppy punches making our noses bleed.
Through the grunts I manage to get out a single sentence: Tommy what the HELL IS GOING ON?!
He falls back. And I see tears in his eyes: GOD DAMMIT ANDREW, I F--KING MISS YOU!
You've been my best friend for years, you're in the band, we've jerked off to pornos together, we've smoked weed for the first time together, we got drunk the first time together, we used to laugh together
I spit blood from my mouth bitterly, and realize tears are streaming from my eyes as well. You're point?
We were together! I'm never with you anymore! He's sobbing now. I love you man, and I miss you! All you do now is run to your f--king girlfriend.
We look at each other through tear-filled eyes for a moment before, embracing each other. Call me gay if you like, but it's a sad and beautiful moment.
I'm sorry, Tommy, I really am, I whisper.
Just then I hear a car door slam. Looking to the road, I see two police men coming towards us.
What's going on here? One of them asks. What's with the fight?
Um, personal, Tommy mutters.
Yeah, sure, the other officer smirks. Who owns this house?
Ouch. Good f--king question, and as the before mentioned question is presented, I realize that we are f--ked.
I depart from Amy's apartment complex with my bass in one hand and a duffel bag in the other. Doc has the motor running, so I throw my stuff in the back of the van before getting in the passenger seat. Sam and Tommy are sitting in the back, cramped between an amplifier. A Led Zeppelin CD is playing through the speakers.
Ok, I say quietly, let's hit it.
Doc hits the gas and Tommy asks me: what did she say?
I keep silent for a moment before answering. She's not going to wait for me.
Tough luck buddy, Sam says in a compassionate voice.
Yeah, well, probably, for the better. I say, ending the topic with that.
I think about Amy, I left her a minute ago, telling her that I was leaving, hitting the road with my band. She had tears in her eyes when I closed the door behind me. I feel sorry for her, but I did what I had to do. I think about the house we abandoned an hour ago, throwing all our gear into the van and hitting the road before the cops could put two and two together. Now we're on tour, with nothing but our gear, a few demos and our wits. I look out the window, watching the streets fly by as we leave town. I smile as I suddenly realize that I'm at peace.
We are The Burnouts, and we're ready to face whatever comes next.
This was the final chapter of Bar Slam Jam, a simple story of rock and roll that I hope you all have enjoyed. When I first started I had no idea where it was going, and quite frankly, I never have since. Not the best way to write a novel, having no idea what's coming next, and this has led to chapters not coming out on a very regular basis, something has frustrated me as much as any reader, I guarantee you, and I apologize. Therefore I won't be starting any new series here on Ultimate-Guitar.com, at least not any time soon, although I might release a few short stories here and there, but nothing in a chain because, as anyone who has been reading this story can tell, I am terrible at keeping deadlines.
So there you have it; I hope you have enjoyed my amateur scribblings, and you might hear from me in the future, but until then: Cheers.
Robert Ippolito, January 2010