The following shall no doubt qualify, like most of the content found on this blog, to be very unusual. You may choose to believe the following, or not. But, don’t click off this page yet, because you’re certain to find the details intriguing, if not entertaining. When I was younger, and much more foolish, I endeavored to start a career in the music industry. Just as an aside, in keeping with my inherent rebellious nature, before endeavoring to begin my unusual foray, I matriculated at four colleges in the Northeast of America, some of them even prestigious-and proceeded to soon drop out of all of them! While most were still treading across college campuses, spending countless hours in lecture halls listening to tenured professors tediously hold forth, I was spending a lot of time indulging quixotic notions. This was the mid-eighties, MTV was at it’s very summit in terms of popularity. One could almost feel magic swirling in the air.
One spent the glittering decade basking in the eternal power, beauty, and glory of sparkling youth. For, I felt, seizing this golden moment in time, shall be the closest any mortal being comes, to grasping the essence of immortality.
At first, being twenty-two and greener than fresh cut grass, I had no idea how to start a band, or even, for that matter, how to find fellow musicians sharing my intense desire for the rock and roll spotlight. As luck would have it, I soon met Adam through a mutual friend. At twenty-three, Adam was one of the most highly skilled drummers in the New England area. Not only did this guy look like a rock star, but, he happened to be an already accomplished professional musician. Adam worked as a session player at Brunswick studios in Revere. Needless to say, things soon fast developed. Though Brunswick recording studio appeared humble judging from the plain facade, the volume and scale of sessions booked were grand. Mostly, these were radio jingles, music beds, and vocal overdubs used in television commercials. Witnessing the recording process for the first time, proved endlessly fascinating. The head engineer, an older gentlemen named Roger, who seemed to be a permanent fixture, told me something about popular music I shall never forget. Roger told me the most important part of a piece of broadcast music is the first SIX to NINE seconds-THE HOOK!
“If you can’t grab them right away,” I distinctly recall hearing the wise old recording engineer kindly advise, “you’ll risk losing the audience forever!”
That sage piece of advice turned out to be monumental. Soon enough, I became a permanent fixture around the studio, learning every facet of the ‘jingle’ writing business. Learning at the feet of this brilliant old sound engineer, I was soon taking my turn at the sound board as well, helping to mix and master the jingles before they became what are called ‘media buys’. Having studied piano as a child, along with music theory in high school, I soon became involved with arranging the jingles themselves. When it was learned I could more than competently carry a tune, and sing harmonies, Adam and I became the house musicians, hired to perform on the majority of projects booked into the studio. Ironically enough, I was soon making more money than most of the kids who’d remained in college. Many of whom, despite sporting an undergraduate degree, struggled to find jobs in their chosen fields. In fact, most had to scrape together their living waiting tables in the local restaurants! While all this was exciting, an even more thrilling experience lie in wait. Adam, was becoming tired of the jingle business, and like me, harbored a hunger for bigger and better things- like MTV rock stardom! Quickly recruiting a guitarist and bass player, and after just one month of solid rehearsal, we put together a tight set of rock cover classics, along with a few catchy originals. We booked every club in and around Boston, and after one solid year of gigs, gained an appreciative, loyal, and even rabid following. All this, while Adam and I were still being called to sit in on sessions at Brunswick.
One night, finishing work on yet another long and grueling session, we discovered out stomachs rumbling in terminal hunger. Jeff, our guitar player, graduate of a very prestigious music college in Boston, and a well-sought after music teacher, suggested we adjourn to a very popular Chinese eatery. Not only were Jeff’s musical skills stellar, but the story he had to impart was even more so, perhaps even shocking.
“So,” he inquired, voice hampered with inexplicable dread. “You guys want to be rock stars, huh?”
Adam and I merely stared back, uncertain of where Jeff was going with this. The indelible tale he went on to regale, will stick with me as long as I live. But, it didn’t turn out to be easy for Jeff. For it seemed, he was quite reluctant at first, to divulge anything, in any great detail.
Now, recalling the story told to me that evening, I don’t wonder why.
After ordering, and the meals and drinks were delivered, a slew of strong cocktails seemed to loosen up Jeff’s tongue. Apparently, before joining our group, Jeff had come very close to grabbing the brass ring of rock stardom out in LA, closer than one could have ever imagined!
“Believe me,” he remarked, steam from the plate of fresh food circling around his aquiline nose. “You guys should be careful what you wish for. I’ve been out to the music capital of the world, and seen its dark side. And, believe me, when I say, it’s so dark, night vision goggles wouldn’t help you see the light!”
“What happened next,” I asked, coaxing, hazel eyes sparkling with intrigue.
“If you repeat this,” he went on to reply, seemingly now willing to proceed. ‘I’ll deny all of it, every word!”
Both Adam and I halted our twirling forks filled with steaming Chinese noddles, trading curious and furtive glances.
“Yeah, sure Jeff,” Adam agreed, pushing back a tangle of tousled long red hair behind his pale ear. “I promise not to breathe a word!”
Noticing his cocktail glass was empty, Jeff quickly summoned the waiter for a refill. Gulping the drink like a man who had just found the only oasis while stranded for days in the Sahara, he plunged ahead, sparing us no details. And what chilling details they turned out to be!
“A few years ago, before I joined up with you guys, I got a call from an A and R (artist and repertoire) guy from Columbia on behalf of one of their subsidiaries, Jet records, to audition for Ozzy Osborne. With an American tour already booked to promote his third solo record, Ozzy’s management was caught out in a desperate situation!”
Adam and I gazed incredulously for a moment, not sure of how to initially respond. However, judging from Jeff’s rather sincere expression, we simultaneously nodded in astounded affirmation.
“Of course,” he went on to add, “I didn’t find that out until later!”
Waving frantically at the waiter, Jeff hurriedly ordered another drink. Cocktail promptly delivered, he went on in the starkest and most frank of terms- ‘telling it the way it was’, as Walter Cronkite, the old newscaster, used to say.
“This was right after the death of Randy Roads,” Jeff said. “Soon after I got the call, I flew out to LAX, and was met there by some label people. They looked pretty excited to see me,” he went on. “So, being naturally excited, the whole thing seemed like a foregone conclusion. That is, until later on!”
The entire time Jeff regaled us with his tale, we continued to tear through our noodles, wondering where this story would go next. Needless to say, the path of the story soon transitioned into surreal territory.
“I was taken all the way to Bel-Air. The house looked like something out of Citizen Kane,” Jeff described with requisite awe. “I was told it belonged to the president of Jet records who was also Sharon Osborne’s father, Ozzy’s label, a subsidiary of Columbia.”
Idly, I picked at some sauteed shrimp with my fork, taking it all in, Jeff’s voice growing increasingly sinister.
“It was overwhelming at first,” he said, ice tinkling against the glass in foreboding shimmers. “Everybody pumping my hand, as if I’d already won the gig. At any rate, they had this rig already set up. My gear had been sent ahead, and they had it all set up in this spacious foyer, filled with vases of orchids!”
Jeff proceeded to tell us some guys with long hair came straggling in the room and mixed in with the representatives from the label, just as he picked up his guitar, magic fingers at once a blur over the frets, quicksilver notes flying at light speed out of the Marshall amplifier.
“So I’m wailing out some killer riffs,” Jeff now excitedly related, placing the half-drained cocktail back down on the table. “And out of the corner of my eye, I notice this old man-looked like some kind of warlock from a horror movie- peeking out from behind these giant vases filled with orchids, like he was studying me, or something!”
The dining room clamor seemed to suddenly ebb into a soft hush.
“They all just stood there, watching me, and I swore I could see their mouth’s dropping open. I went into some classical stuff, ‘Flight of the bumblebee’, even some Segovia and Django Reinhardt, just to complete the impression I was no joke!”
“Sounds like your audition was a resounding success,” Adam commented.
“So who was the weird guy behind the flowers,” I wondered, still shoveling heaps of noodles into my hungry mouth.
“Well,” Jeff said, draining the cocktail. “Like I said, I didn’t find out until after, after they took me upstairs to what they called the ‘temple room’.”
Again, Adam and I exchanged incredulous glances, wondering just where the talented guitar player was going with his tale.
“They were all standing around, just watching me shred, when finally I hit a big power chord. Let me tell you, the Marshall stack I was hooked into made the walls shake. The fancy paintings shook, and almost fell off. Everyone took a couple steps away when the feedback bled out! Then, the label guy puts his arm around me, tells me there are ‘important people’ waiting to see me upstairs.”
An invisible cloud of apprehension seemed to circle our table. It was getting late, and some of the guests were grabbing their coats and shuffling towards the lobby. The lights in the far corners of the dining room were just now beginning to dim. Sinister shadows began to creep along the outlines of the dining room’s red colored carpet. Music wafting from the overhead speakers began to ebb in soft whispers.
“So, this guy with a British accent, with his arm around me, turned out to be the president of Jet records. Let me tell you,” Jeff said as the hustling waiter delivered yet another cocktail. “This guy was sort of a creep, I could tell he was real shady, despite the fact he was wearing a custom black pinstriped suit. So, he takes me up these long winding stairs. But, as I’m going up,” Jeff detailed, removing the miniature pink umbrella from the fresh cocktail. “I happened to turn around, and there’s the creepy old guy who was peeking from behind the row of orchids, now standing at the foot of the long stairs-like something out of Gone with the Wind. The guy had mascara caked around his eyes. He looked like some kind of sad clown, almost!”
Needless, to say, our attentions by now were riveted-wondering, what could possibly happen next?
“We are very exited to have you aboard,” the sinister manager said. “But, in order to solidify your contractual arrangement, and become the sort of star I’m sure you’ve dreamed of,” he adamantly added. “You must join our coven, the O.T.O.!”
“It was then,” Jeff said, hint of terror rimming the eyes. “I stopped cold at the top of the long winding stairs, and looking back down, I knew if I took another step towards the black door at the end of this long hall, there was no turning back. I also noticed, the strange old guy had mysteriously disappeared.”
“What was in this…temple room?” I innocently inquired.
Jeff gazed at us both, hungrily gulping the cocktail, ice cubes banging against the tumbler glass, as if signalling doom.
“Don’t worry lad,” the sinister manager said, dark eyes boring right through the soul. “You will soon be part of something larger than yourself. The spirits shall be summoned in order that they might do your bidding. But, you must accept the spirits into your heart, and receive their love!”
We watched as Jeff slammed his eyes shut, profuse sweat beading his dark brows. Tilting back his head, he drenched his throat with the remainder of the drink, ice cubes tumbling down his esophagus.
“So, I’m standing before the door,” Jeff said, seemingly startled as if reliving the experience all over again. “And the damned thing opens all on it’s own. Weird thing is though, the space of the room seemed limitless, like I had just walked into another dimension.”
Adam and I stared, transfixed, and I felt the fork slipping from my fingers, clanking on the plate as it fell.
“Looking behind me, I noticed the manager was suddenly gone. The room went completely dark. All of a sudden, there were these pillars of fire, changing into five robed men. They just stood there. And then I heard this voice, like a low growl, broadcast from the depths of hell:
“Don’t be afraid, for we are your guardian angels.”
Jeff picked up a napkin and swept it across his sweat slicked forehead.
“Suddenly, these men moved closer, and closer…” Jeff related, leaning over the table. “I looked at them, but I couldn’t see their faces. They were obscured with these large white hoods. And then, I saw their hands…looked all scaly with long sharp nails…when they removed their hoods…those eyes…oh shit!”
Jeff’s expression grew frantic, and he snapped his fingers at the waiter to bring him another drink.
“Hey man, you don’t have to…” I tried to feebly intervene.
“No man,” Jeff replied, remaining adamant. “Those eyes were like spears of fire, like they were staring right through me…and they were coming closer, and closer…until…I started to run towards the door…but, I couldn’t shake them. No matter how fast I moved, they were right behind me!”
Jeff hoisted yet another cocktail, lips sloppily slurping.
“Sir,” the waiter suggested, standing table side. “I hope you aren’t driving, maybe you’ve had enough?”
“No, no,” Jeff insisted, taking another healthy gulp. “I’ll be okay!”
“Were you able to get out of there, or what,” Adam wondered, as the concerned waiter departed to the kitchen.
We both glanced at one another, held in utter suspense.
“Yeah, how did you escape?” I wondered too.
“I reached out for the door, but because it was so dark, I just kind of flailed around for a while. Until, finally, bright lights flashed on, and there it was. Only, when it swung open, the clownish looking man was standing there, like waiting! So, there I am, standing eye to eye with this weird looking clown faced old man. And, suddenly, I realized who he was.”
“I’m sorry mate,” Ozzy said. “But I can’t have you in the band, if you’re not ready to join our bloody coven!”
“I just brushed past the guy, down the long hall, back down the winding stairs and out of the house…I haven’t been back to LA since, and I never want to return.”
Adam and I sat mute, astonished.
“So,” Jeff exclaimed. “Both of you still want to be rock stars?”
Stay tuned for How Crown Temple Rules America part II, coming soon!
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