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Something Like Paisley

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Something Like Paisley

Let's get this out of the way right now.

Yes, I was in a band called Something Like Paisley, and, yes, I once wrote a song called "Electric Sun."

But in my defense, it was the '80s, which was a weird fucking time.  Aerobics and shoulder pads, Jesus Jones, Reganomics, fucked up shit.  There wasn't much music to work with in the '80s.  I love the Replacements.  They are an '80s band.  Heather Richotte knew about the Replacements in the '80s, 'cause she was a cool chick.  I didn't know about the Replacements until the '90s, or at best the very end of the '80s, because I wasn't so cool, not by any stretch.  The only "cool" band I liked was Springsteen, who has only gained cool cred when this latest wave of skinny-tied, emo punk outfits rumbled through.  Liking Springsteen in the '80s was tantamount to liking Rod Steward at any time, definitely not cool.

But Something Like Paisley, dorky name and all, was the best band I ever played in. SLP wasn't the best band band; the musicians I play with now (in the seldom sighted Wandering Jews) are vastly superior in terms of craft and chops.  Only Noah, our guitarist, was any good, and as good as he was, he wasn't Joe Dean.  We were good because we were young and didn't know any better.  Just five guys in a little farm town, heavily influenced by end-of-the-decade/early '90's college radio, who played a string of semi-successful shows around Hartford over the summer of 1990, until the frontman, who was also the lead singer and bassist, split town with a red-haired girl to forge a rock 'n' roll name for himself in the big city.

The result of that is my drug memoir, Junkie Love.

Something like Paisley was a five piece.  I played bass and sang.  (It was in the time of funk, and, yes, I did attempt a slap bass line or two.  I am not proud of this.  And I've paid the price of this behavior by carrying the shame of my sin with me every day since.)  Chris Judd played guitar and sang.  Chris was a dead wringer for Mark Knoffler, voice and all.  Actually, he sounded like Knoffler but looked like that douche from Coldplay.  Then there was Noah Watters (how cool a name is that?) on lead.  An art student at the same college I attended, Noah went bald when he was like 17.  Rob Pandolfo was the drummer, but he was later replaced by the stronger Jim Nichols, and Greg LaPlante played alto saxophone.  I know.  Alto sax.  You hear "'80s" and "sax" and you think "ska," which is the rock 'n' roll equivalent of wearing your hair in a ponytail and asking the crowd if everyone is "ready to get funktastic."  But, for whatever reason, the sax worked well.  In fact, it gave us our sound.

You never know starting off what makes a band a band.  Shit, I didn't know then, and I don't know now.  I've played with great musicians over the years, some Grammy-nominated songwriters, some who've shared the stage with acts like Soul Asylum and Luscious Jackson, but for whatever reason, it didn't click.  I played with my buddy, Dan, for years, and Dan was a terrific songwriter, but together, we produced mediocre music at best, and proved much better separately.  I forced together a record in the midst of my junkiedom called "Clean Living."  Parts are great, but a lot of it is shit.  It wasn't until my last record with the Wandering Jews that I finally felt like I'd recaptured some of what I had at 18.

Something Like Paisley was a band whose sum was greater than the whole of its parts (yeah, I know, that's backwards, a nod to Paul W.)  We were all 19, 20, girl crazy, and we fought like hell, but we kept shit simple, didn't try to do too much, but still rocked, with just enough dirty pop to offset the lilt of college radio (and my unbelievably high voice.  How many times did we hear after playing our record, "Who's the chick singer?").  We were all a little fucked up.  Chris was insecure pain in the ass, and Noah always wanted to replace him.   And he had a point.  Chris didn't exactly scream "winner."  In the beginning, Chris and I wrote all the songs, but then I pushed him aside, because I was the stronger personality, and that's what the stronger do; they push aside weaker, which was a shame because Chris brought something to the table.  Before he went crazy.  After I left for CA, he developed schizophrenia and gained about 400 lbs.  Seriously.  I heard stories how he took of all his clothes, waddled his fat, naked white ass onto his front lawn, and started screaming about the apocalypse until the cops took him away.  And I felt bad because I was never very nice to him.  In my defense, he was a hard guy to be nice too.  Noah was an oddball too, another rock reject with daddy issues, after Pops went out for M&Ms and never came back (An excerpt from our Trinity College Radio Interview: Me: what were the last words your dad ever said to you, Noah? Noah: Plain or peanut).  As for the drummers, Rob was a better friend, Jim the better drummer.  Greg on sax?  One of the most boring guys you'd ever meet, but that fucking boring kid could blow.  Band sound--think: Smiths mixed with 'Mats, with a touch of Springsteen and Pink Floyd.  Or as li'l Pat Foster put it: Replacement wannabes with art rock pretensions.

The really shitty part is all the great music we made together is gone.

After I got strung out--I mean, at the height of my most sleazy sniveling skeezy using--I came back east to record a record.  I culled together some musicians and we started.  Naturally it was shit and remains unfinished (I actually think about finishing it up because it is the last recording of my friend Junkie Jason, an SF guitarist who just happened to be in New Jersey at the time cleaning up, and who'd come up to CT to lay down tracks, before he shot himself in the head less than two years later).  We were recording with my old Something Like Paisley engineer and I asked for all our old music, because, in my drug addled brain, I thought between finding the money to cop, hitting needle exchanges, and shitting in an alleys, that I could remaster them and...release them?  Who the fuck knows.  But I had all SLP's masters in a box up at Hepatitis Heights one night when I nodded off and Skipper Nick's crazy Indian girlfriend, Michelle, set them on fire.  Or threw them out the window.  Or traded them for a hit.  Beats fuckall out of me what she did with them. All I know is I woke up and my box was empty, and Michele was sitting there with that lobotomized expression on her dopey face, my empty box in her lap.


About two years ago, I saw Noah Watters was on Facebook and that he listed his current city as San Francisco.  Since I had just moved back to Berkeley, we naturally touched base.  He's still bald, because hair doesn't grow back, and he was glad to see I'd come out the other side.

"It was real hard to see you like that," Noah said, talking about my addiction.

And we talked about Something Like Paisley, and about Chris, ("Dude," Noah said, "last time I saw that boy, he was fucking fat, like Brian Wilson shut-in fat"), and all the great shows, like when my drunken brother and his friend Freddie got up on stage to sing "Sweet Home Alabama," and the Cool Moose, and Scarlett O'Haras, and when Jimmy got drunk and brawled with the door man out in the street and was kicking ass until he got too winded from all his smoking, and of course the girls, like Moon Pig and Leslie, who told Chris to "come back when [he] had some self-esteem," and the UConn show and that Gina Arnold wannabe and the radio interview and Youth in Asia.  We talked about making some music together again, and we tried once or twice, but it never happened.  Noah's got his business.  And I've got my writing and family.  And Chris is a big fat man running naked somewhere in Connecticut.  What can you do?  I don't think it would make any difference.  We are not 19 in the summer of 1990.  And we won't ever be again.


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