The Bobby Rock Newsletter #82 (10-29-22) - No Biz Like Showbiz
The Bobby Rock Newsletter #82 (10-29-22) - No Biz Like Showbiz
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Hey Everyone -
Welcome back and thanks so much for clicking in. Indeed, there is no biz like show biz, starting with the vast array of one-of-a-kind characters you work with over the years. If you’re lucky, many of these characters will become lifelong friends. If you’re luckier, some will become family… with a bond that never fades. Indeed, I am a lucky man. Let’s jump into it…
In This Issue
- A Picture’s Worth: Hanging with my VVI/Slaughter brothers last night for a grand ol’ time…
- Will Drum For Food: Another excerpt from my next book, this one reintroducing a character from my last… who you probably thought we wouldn’t be hearing from again!
- Newsletter Preview: a Nov/Dec homestretch peek that will include a “startling variety” of topics. I know you guys wouldn’t have it any other way!
A Picture’s Worth...
Home this weekend, so it was a rare Friday night out to scope a show. My boys in Slaughter were playing nearby in Santa Ana and, with my girl being such a huge fan of the band, and with it always being so great to see my “homeys” (Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum)—we ventured out.
The Three Musketeers Live On!
That’s Me, Mark, and Dana
Of course, you all know by now that I’m a sucker for sentiment—and hyper-sensitive to life's full-circle moments—so yesterday had a lot of both… starting with this stunning coincidence:
Last night, October 28, 2022, just happened to be the 36-year anniversary of the first live show Mark, Dana, and I ever played together. It was with the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, at the Civic Center in Lansing, MI, on the first night of the ’86/‘87 Alice Cooper tour. Wow. What are the odds that the stars would align, and we would all wind up in the same place, on the same night of such an occasion? Pretty fucking cool.
And a PS shout-out to guitarist Blando (killin’ it!), drummer Will Hunt (slayin’ it!), tour manager and long-time friend Jeff Colen, and also Chris Strain—a regular reader of this very Newsletter!—who often works with Slaughter on their west coast dates. Love you guys…)
The Return of the Infamous:
A Preview from my Upcoming Book (working title) -
Will Drum For Food:
Surviving the Nineties with Clubs, Campgrounds, Clinics, and Credit Cards
Here’s another excerpt from my follow-up to The Boy Is Gonna Rock. This memoir focuses on the Nelson heyday, on through a decade-plus of my pursuits as a drumming educator and solo artist… and the soaring highs and crushing lows of such a pursuit.
Today’s excerpt picks up from a high point: It’s 1997 and me and my modest entourage are in the middle of a Peavey-sponsored 140-city tour of North America, playing clinics and club shows. It is the culmination of a whole lot of blood-and-sweat equity that I had engaged in the seven years prior, with a number of on-the-ground clinic and club tours, some in vans, others in an RV. But now… things were poppin'. The Peavey collaboration seemed favorable for both sides, and we were out in the trenches essentially touring “year-round.” Life was sweet… but also not without its challenges, of course.
We pick up the action mid-tour…
(As usual, this is an unedited first draft, FYI.)
+ + + + + + +
One of the early hurdles we would have to navigate was the fact that we were bringing so much voltage-sucking gear into these venues that, simply put, some of the smaller mom-and-pop music stores literally did not have the available amperage to accommodate. The result? We would blow breakers regularly. This was bad. We could be midstream in our opening tune and—boom!—all the power in the store would go out. This led to a disastrous break in momentum, as crew guys and store staff would begin lassoing power cables around to various parts of the store in an attempt to distribute power to different circuits. This would fucking drive me crazy. But we would manage to survive it, then get our friends at Peavey on the phone the next day to try and find a solution…but to no real avail. Truth was, we were basically bringing a 1500-seater’s worth of sound gear into venues that were simply not designed to accommodate it. No one had an answer. And although we would take preemptive measures at each venue to strategically distribute the load, we were still having issues every few shows.
+ + + + + + +
As the tour wore on, crew guys would drop off here and there. No real surprise: this was hard work, with modest pay and little sleep. We were lucky to have any steady semblance of a crew to help. But we settled on a three-man crew, as opposed to two. Three seemed to be the bare minimum needed to really pull this off, with one of them acting as tour manager.
Still, things would slip through the cracks from time to time, and inevitably, Zaza and I conferred in the back lounge of the RV about who we might be able to bring in. Charles England, my tech from the pre-VVI days, as well as during the early VVI days, came up again.
"Well, Holmes… I do know a guy who might be able to jump in and do a few things…” I said reluctantly.
As discussed in The Boy Is Gonna Rock, Charles was a high-risk/high-reward lotto ticket of a crew guy. He always meant well, and he did have skills, but he also had a knack for inadvertently clusterfucking situations that were oftentimes irreparable. Would it be worth the risk to try him out?, I wondered.
Given the tight constraints we had to work with dollar-wise, Zaza and I figured there wouldn’t be much to lose. If things went awry, we could simply send him home. Besides, I reasoned, it had been almost a decade since we last worked together in VVI. It seemed that Charles had matured quite a bit. He was now a husband and a father, and I knew he had continued to work in a number of capacities, including more soundman/studio engineer situations. And we needed a good soundman, mainly.
Days later, the Englander was out in the trenches with us, now sporting a shorter, spikey bleach blond doo, blending in and handling soundman duties. Of course, he was having to get used to the Peavey system we were dragging around, and this was a bit of a mixed bag. Some nights, everyone seemed happy with his mix. Other nights, it might be painfully loud, or there would be some other issues. I figured it was all about the learning curve. But what wasn’t part of the learning curve was this power outage thing, which popped up within England’s first three or four shows. Boom! The store went black during our opening number. Everyone scrambled and things carried on. But afterward, as we were rolling down the highway to the next stop in the RV, England casually offered a solution.
“We need a distro box, Rockster. There’s no way around it,” he said.
“Say what?” I asked.
I had heard of them but wasn’t especially familiar with how they might work in our modest context. England explained that by hooking up a distro to a venue’s circuit box, we would be bypassing their limited power access and essentially tapping directly into unlimited “city power.”
“No more blow-outs. Promise,” he assured.
“But where do we get a distro box?” I asked.
"Take me to a Home Depot tomorrow. I can build one for around $150."
"Ok. But how do we hook it up? Don’t we need an electrician for something like this?”
“Fuck no,” the Englander scoffed. “I can hook it up, no problemo!”
This was precisely the kind of Charles England shit that concerned me. On the one hand, we could have a permanent solution to a real issue that had been plaguing the tour. On the other hand, we could have a fucking electrocution, or even a building catching on fire. These were the polarities you navigated with the Englander on board.
On the road with The Englander
Pic by Jeff "The Kid" Hilderbrand
But we were desperate. So, sure enough, the Englander was good for his word. $138.56 and a couple hours in a parking lot behind a music store later, the mad scientist had built his distro box, and was ready to “hook that shit up” at the gig that night. This, I’ll never forget.
Charles and I found a store employee to take us to the circuit box, which was predictably in the darkened recesses of a storage area in the back of the store. The Englander dragged his distro box and a broom back there with us. I wasn’t sure what the broom was for… perhaps to sweep the floor clean where the distro would sit? As the three of us approached the box, Englander went to work, best as I can recall, attaching wires to a pole of some sort behind the circuit breakers. And then, just prior to activating the distro, he handed the broom to the employee and said, matter-of-factly, “Say bro, if you see that I’m getting electrocuted, knock me away from the distro with this.” The kid was stunned.
“And don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Just make sure you tag me with the straw end of the broom,” Charles reassured.
The kid stood there at the ready, gripping that broom like a rifle, eyes wide with knuckles white against the wooden handle. I said nothing. I didn’t know what to say at this point. But hey, if this meant uninterrupted shows moving forward, so be it!
The Englander reached beyond the circuit board, manipulated some wiring for about ten seconds, then stepped back and said, “And just like that, we should now have more power than we will ever know what to do with."
The kid exhaled, looking a little freaked, then handed the broom back to Charles, who plugged a power cord into his creation, then beelined back out to the performance room to test power. I followed.
Indeed, the Englander flicked a switch, then three mammoth racks of outboard gear and power amps lit up like Christmas morning. He smiled proudly. And from that day forward, there would be no more blow-outs…although plenty of theatrics for unsuspecting employees, as Charles connected the box to every venue’s power.
If only this was the tour's last bit of Charles England dramatics…
Newsletter Preview: Nov/Dec Homestretch
We have lots of cool stuff already planned for our upcoming issues of the BR Newsletter, as 2022 winds down. Here are just a few of the features in the queue:
My 1989 instructional video, Metalmorphosis, featured a demonstration of an elaborate 4-way independence pattern I created called “The Monster.” Many have considered this one of the most difficult-to-play drum grooves ever. (I’ve only seen a handful of drummers pull it off, although I’m sure there are many more who have.) Here we cover a bit of backstory about how that groove came to be—in a Berklee College of Music practice room in 1982—as we celebrate the 40-year anniversary of its conception.
Man in the Arena
How a powerful Teddy Roosevelt speech excerpt might be more relative today than it was over 100 years ago when he first delivered it… and how we can all benefit from its inherent message.
Virtuosity In Action!
What does the mighty Van Halen debut have in common with a 70s hit from a lesser-known “yacht rock” band called Starbuck? A performance-of-a-lifetime solo, played by a live human, and captured in a single take in the studio! (A rare thing these days, I know…)
A Personal Announcement
I have no graphic for this one, but this is pretty big news, at least for me. Likely coming at you in a week or two...
Wisdom from the book,
One Percent Better
You don’t think you have the ability to do something? Change your strategy and watch what happens…
More on superior Nutrition, Training, and Meditation, a few Lita Ford road reports, and…. oh yeah, since it’s "tis the season time”… Making Sense of Hallmark Christmas Movies (my annual obsession)
All of this and more! Stay tuned, kids...
Thanks again, everybody. Connect next week!
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