Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Swan Song


[me, Fast Freddie Goodman, Mark Alimo, Rob Chatfield]

Eventually, all the great ones reach an age where they can’t perform to the level they once did. It happened to Willie Mays, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Bret Favre. I've decided it’s time for me to call it quits, too.

Sunday, August 27, was my last rock concert ever.

Back when my career began, in the early 70s, I showed the promise of a rising young star. My very first appearance in an arena came at the age of 14 as I sat in the second row at the old Boston Garden for a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert. Undeterred by the enormity of the situation, I shared a pipe with my friends under the watchful gaze of David Crosby’s admiring eyes. He looked down at us and took time out from his strumming to give us a big “thumbs up”. Having received such approbation from an acknowledged master, I knew I was on the right track.

Following that auspicious beginning, my career followed an upward trajectory, going higher and higher each time. Not willing to rest on my laurels, I continually added to my repertoire. I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say there wasn’t anything handed to me, in a musical setting, that I did not gladly either drink, smoke, snort or otherwise ingest.

There were hundreds of concerts. Name a big-time act and I can probably dredge up a memory (which, considering my career path, is an accomplishment in itself.) But now, at age 60, I’m taking off my uniform of black jeans, sneakers and sweatshirt for the final time. I will fight the morning after no more forever.

I can say I went out on top, though. For my final go-round, I had VIP tickets to see Deep Purple. They were headlining a bill with Alice Cooper and Edgar Winter. I had never bought a package allowing backstage access to a group, but the people with whom I was going wanted that thrill and – since they were willing to split my cost when I balked at the price – I was going, too.

I suited up for the last time and hit the road, with a mostly non-drinking friend driving. Along the way, I downed five beers, a few shots of some amazing spiced rum one of my other buddies brought along, took a couple of (now legal in Massachusetts) tokes, and otherwise geared up as I usually would. By the time we reached the venue, I was yelling “Rugga Bubba!”, which was as close as I could get to “Roger Glover”, the bass player for Deep Purple and one of my heroes.

After watching some of Edgar Winter’s set – including “Frankenstein”, a definite career highlight for someone as drunk as I was – we went to stand in a line from which we would be ushered into the Purple presence. It was near a beer stand, so I had another. There were about fifteen of us, in varying states of non-sobriety, who were brought into a backstage area and told that Deep Purple would soon join us to chat a bit and sign some autographs.

And then, there they were. I mustered up as much fluid speech as I was able. I think I did OK; at least, none of the group members felt a need to call security. I shook Rugga Bubba’s hand, told him of my own bass playing and how much of an inspiration he was to me as a musician, and did not throw up on him or otherwise embarrass my friends. As a matter of fact, Rugga was so taken by my presence that he reached into his pocket and took out one of his personalized guitar picks and handed it to me. All kidding aside, a very nice fellow.

The other members of the group were similarly pleasant. As part of the package, we were given a photo op. We three who had bought the package together also had our photo taken together, wedged in-between four members of the group. Here is the proof…

[L - R: Ian Paice (drums), me, Fast Freddie Goodman, Steve Morse (guitar),
 Mark Alimo, Rugga Bubba (bass), Don Airey (keyboards)]

After that, we caught some of Alice Cooper’s fine set, then it was time for the last concert experience of my career. Our seats were second row, unobstructed to the stage, and Rugga Bubba played about seven or eight feet from us for the entirety of the show. I would say this equaled Ted Williams’s final at-bat, wherein he hit a home run, insofar as musical finales are concerned. I truly thank my buddies, Fast Freddy and Mark, for talking me into buying the package, as well as picking up some of the cost, and I owe you guys more than just money. I would also like to thank my other buddy, Rob Chatfield, who accompanied us and provided the excellent rum.

Of course, I eventually sobered up the next day and realized that, at age 60, my body just cannot stand the rigors of the arena rock experience any longer. As I leave the game, I have nothing to be ashamed of – although I probably would if I could remember more of it - and I would like to assure the proper authorities that I will not be coaching anyone in following my staggering footsteps.

Thank you and good night! Suldog has left the building.

Soon - but not at a concert - with more better stuff.