Occasionally, when I'm traveling around the globe someone will ask me the very general, "What's the craziest thing that's ever happened to you?" A question that's inevitably met with a prolonged sigh and a "Where do I begin?" response that generally yields nothing in the way of quotability. It is the interest of these moments to which I've collected these memories in writing. These are part of a large scale, ongoing project that I will probably never finish. But I'm going to keep trying... I've learned a lot on the road, here's a little bit for ya!
Remember That One Time...? A life lived and lessons learned by Eddie Spaghetti...
(Some names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent)
This happened in the late ‘80s in Tucson, AZ.
We were savages. I mean total savages. The band, having recently solidified the line-up, rented a three bedroom adobe shack right across the street from Catalina High School. After drawing straws to see who got the good bedroom with the only air conditioning unit in it (winner: Dan Colton), I was left with the task of transforming the storage room in the back of the house into a fourth bedroom. (We needed four bedrooms, even though there was five of us in the band at the time—me on bass, Dan and Brock on guitar, Stan on drums, and our lead singer at the time was the mostly amazing Eric Spartan. Stan and Eric got the other legit bedrooms and Brock wasn't planning on living there—he had a good living situation already). There were some benefits to turning this storage space into a bedroom, the main one being that it had its own entrance from the outside. It was in the back of the house where we used to park our cars and it had a door to the outside there. So as far as being private goes, it was about as close to privacy as any of us got back then. Not that we needed a lot of private moments, we were all a fairly social bunch, but hey, I gotta count my blessings, right?
"I kind of became known as 'The Duke Of Disco' and I would hook up a turntable to our PA system and we would get our dance on"
So anyway, back to the savagery. We set up our gear right in the living room of this one floor palace and we would practice there all night long, pretty much every night. The sound in that house was amazing. Must've been the adobe or something, but man, when we would play in that room it would sound so good, we just didn't want to stop. The refrigerator was crammed full of cans of Falstaff Light, the official beer of the Black Supersuckers, due to its inexpensiveness more than its taste. It was something like $2.99 for a twelve pack, so it was right in our budget and, seeing as how it's hotter than a witch's titty in August most of the year there, the more like water something tasted, the better. Those empty cans wound up being part of the architecture after awhile as our housekeeping skills left much to be desired. Luckily (or perhaps unluckily) for us there was a chain link fence running along the border of the front yard and that managed to keep our trash from spreading out all over the neighborhood, but it didn't do very much for the appearance of our little dump.
One time, after wisely setting some fireworks off inside the house, we were sitting on our hand-me-down couch when Eric noticed a smell. Something was burning and we couldn't figure out what it was. Then someone lifted a couch cushion and it was discovered that the couch was definitely on fire. We quickly lifted it out into the front yard and sprayed it down with the hose and that's how we wound up with a couch in the front yard for the remainder of our time there. It was actually kind of nice because with all the band gear in the living room there wasn't a whole lot of room for the couch anyway and it was kind of fun to come home from work, crack open a cold can of Falstaff Light, grab a guitar and go kick it out on the couch. It was here that the most troubling night of our time at this house began.
I was working at a camper shell place. It was actually a pretty decent job that paid fairly well and involved a kind of skill, so I mostly enjoyed it. Other than coming home covered in fiberglass shavings in the middle of the summer, I couldn't complain too much. Well, somehow I came home with a giant "Grand Opening" banner that we quickly put up on the front of the house. It was beyond gaudy. It had those bright, neon orange letters that you could probably see from space and it was huge. It covered the whole front of the house. No reason for it to be there. It just was.
One Saturday afternoon there were a couple of us sitting out on the couch, enjoying listening to Dan Colton.
"What's Dan doing in there?"
"He's tuning his guitar up so he can learn that song on 45."
Dan had discovered that some songs sounded a lot better on 45 rpm than the designated 33? and had proceeded to learn some of them that way. It was fun to hear him do this. I remember there was one song by a band called Circus of Power, "Motor," and it really did sound a lot better on 45. That and a lot of The Cult's heavy metal record sounded much improved that way to us at the time. Anyway, that's basically what we were doing that afternoon when this car pulls up with some sketchy looking dudes in it and one of them yells out the window at us.
"What's the grand opening for?"
We were like, "Huh? What grand opening?" Totally forgetting about the sign.
The guy starts pointing at the sign and says, "THAT! What's the fucking grand opening!?"
"Oh, that! It's nothing...Just a sign we put up there."
"Hmmm...", says the guy and they slowly pull away.
I would be giving us way too much credit to say that we suspected anything of these weird dudes, it was another interaction with a curious stranger and we were getting way used to that.
No, we were busy plotting that evening's party that we were going to throw at the house. That's right, we used to have some epic parties at this house. It started as a way to get people to come and see the band, but it wound up being more about the disco we would spin after we played and they started attracting quite a crowd. I started collecting old disco 45's at some point in the mid-to-late ‘80s. Not quite enough time had passed where there was a ton of nostalgia for these records yet, so the thrift stores were literally littered with them. "Brick House," "Love Rollercoaster," "Fire," even "Born To Be Alive" were all there, just ripe for the picking and I would gladly plunk down a cool 25 cents for one of these hits. I kind of became known as 'The Duke Of Disco' and I would hook up a turntable to our PA system and we would get our dance on. It became evident fairly quickly that the disco was way more fun than seeing our band play in the living room and our parties began to become a pretty popular event with the college crowd. Now, normally, the college kids were our enemy and we were sworn to uphold our status as rank outsiders but these parties had a way of uniting everyone. They were so good spirited and just plain fun that we didn't mind the strange people showing up. In fact, we found a way to profit from it. We decided that we would get a keg and charge people a couple of bucks to get in. The house was kind of ideally set up for that with the chain link fence out front. We just put a guy at the front gate and he collected the money. Mainly we just wanted to make enough to cover the cost of the keg and rarely was there ever much more than that.
This particular night was to be a bit different. There was a band we knew from Phoenix called Sticky Thang and they were going to come down to Tucson and play a set in our living room. Then we would play a few songs and then Disco Night would ensue. We were all pretty stoked to see this band play and they were going to do it right in our living room. Could it get any better than that? Flash forward to that evening and everything was going along just swimmingly. Sticky Thang played to as full a house as we could muster and we were doing gangbusters at the gate. The whole front yard was filled with people (stepping gingerly around the trash) and the house was rockin'. Then we started playing and I don't think we got too far into the set when the whole front door came crashing down on us.
I remember Eric singing, "M!U!D! yeah, mudhead! That's m--- what the fuck!?" as the door came right down on his head. Then I heard him yell into the mic, "Gun! He's got a gun!!!" and all hell broke loose. Turns out the guys from earlier decided to pay us another, more hostile visit. When they showed up at the gate out front, our "door guy," James, said, "It's two bucks each to come in" and they took out a handgun and used the butt of it on James' face. Totally shattered his nose. Blood everywhere. They then proceeded to come up to the front door and kick it down (it was barely hanging on to begin with, so I'm sure it didn't take much effort) and wave their firearm around acting all crazy 'n' shit. It was sheer pandemonium. Everyone made a run for the back door, which of course went right through my room. It looked like a herd of buffalo went through there! Luckily these bad men didn't pursue us into the back. I'm guessing they got a whiff of the trouble they stirred up and decided that it was enough. James, our resident heroic door guy, came out back where everyone was and told us they were gone and that he was going to the hospital, which we all agreed was an excellent idea considering the amount of his blood that was on the outside of him and not on the inside where it belonged.
Of course we called the cops and when they finally showed up, we couldn't have been more disappointed that we did. They took one look at the house and offered us no sympathy whatsoever. They practically blamed us for what happened. Some bullshit about "playing with fire." Ugh. What a waste of time hiding all the pot turned out to be...
The guys in Sticky Thang were pretty shaken up by the whole scene, as were we, but after awhile I went to the turntable and put on "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees and everything seemed all right. We all survived and luckily we lived in Arizona so the front door being missing wasn't posing any kind of immediate problem, at least not weather-wise.
I don't think the house ever really recovered from this night. It took us close to a week to get the front door back in place and the whole spirit of the parties was kind of tainted. I remember the next morning we were all talking about what, if anything, Tucson held for us anymore and we couldn't come up with a whole lot. A change was needed and it was coming fast. It was then that we decided to relocate the band and try and conquer a new town. And that's exactly what we did.
Lesson learned: You can't trust the cops to help you if you're young and you've been treating your house like a garbage dump. They'll help you later in life when you've settled down a bit but, as a young savage, you're better off without the police in your life.