Bogus Band Bios
Radiohead: Basket Cases
Tom Yorke was born a parasitic twin.
“Craniopagus parasiticus” results when one part of a set of conjoined twins fails to develop. As a result, Bryan Yorke (Thom’s brother) was born with a second head attached at the base of his skull.While Thom’s head could blink and smile, it was not capable of independent life without some severe intervention by the noted Oxford surgeon Mando Mangdhed . The weight of the appendage (Thom) would prevent Bryan from crawling or sitting upright, prompting the parents to give the green light to the surgeon to remove it when he was ten-months-old.
In order to remove the head (Thom), which shared a blood vessel with Bryan’s brain, the surgeons cut off the blood supply to Thom’s head. Fortunately, the risky procedure did not cause a fatal surge of blood to Bryan’s heart. The prognosis was good following surgery and Bryan showed no signs of paralysis and could move all of his limbs. Thom’s head, meanwhile, was discarded in a basket for future disposal.
While awaiting cremation in the basement of the hospital’s crematorium, Thom began to stir. The caretaker of the crematorium was a man by the name of Chuck Mangione, who was enjoying a vegemite sandwich when he heard a rustling in the newly delivered medical waste basket. He glanced over and saw a twisted mess of flesh attempting to crawl it’s way out of the basket (see photo).
Chuck gingerly and cautiously made his way over to Thom and looked into the creatures eyes. There seemed to be a glimmer of sadness in it’s right eye and Chuck, being a melancholy and maternal sort of person, started to think. He’d always wanted a child, but growing up a eunuch in his native Lagush made that thought but a distant and impossible dream.
But this! This was his opportunity. Obviously the callous parents of this parasitic twin had thought this thing in the basket a monstrosity and an abomination and wanted it disposed of. He could raise the head as he would a child, nurture it and perhaps save enough money with his flugelhorn gigs for some plastic surgery for the lad.
He gently pushed the head back in the wicker basket and walked out of the crematorium, smiling and whistling a jaunty little tune as he went…
To be continued…
BLUE COLLAR MEN
The REALLY Unauthorized Biography Of STYX
The name, STYX, derived from a river from Greek mythology that cuts through the very bowels of the underworld, set the stage. One syllable, 4 letters, and it contains an “X”. It would look marvelous on those concert tee-shirts with the black torso and the white sleeves, and it was just mysterious and evil sounding enough to piss off your parents, which earned the band extra bonus points with the kids.
Then there was the band itself. Chuck and John Panozzo, brothers who played the bass and drums respectively, were a powerhouse of a rhythm section, their pounding beats able to wake mighty Zeus himself, especially live.
And James “JY” Young (“JY”, short for “Just Yodeling”, a childhood nickname due to his Swedish ancestry), who became the trickster of the group in the mold of LOKI, the mischievous and off times evil sibling to Helbindi and Byleist, who eventually befriended the Norse God Odin, becoming his blood brother before he murdered Baldr.
But I digress.
Then there is Dennis De Young, no relation to “JY”. The son of famous French Canadian Vaudeville act members Siebel and Francesco De Young, who were integral in making Veronique’s Montreal Minstrel Show a household name during the late 1930’s and 1940’s, little Denier De Young (as he was known in those days) showed an early interest in performing.
Dennis’ first solo minstrel shows involved a unique structure and stock characters, with three distinct parts. The “first part”, as it was known (you could buy cylinder recordings of ‘an original minstrel first part, if you were so inclined) began with an instrumental processional. The entire company marched in, took their places onstage in a semicircle facing the audience, always playing with broad gestures and choreographed flourishes. “The Interlocutor” (the master of ceremonies, dressed as a dandy) would bark, “Gentlemen, be seated” and the company would play an overture with even broader gestures. Then the Interlocutor, (played wonderfully by Denier) backed up by the ‘end men’ or ‘corner men’ (sitting on the two ends of the semicircle), “Mister Tambo” (playing tambourine) and “Mister Bones” (playing the bones–a VERY young John Panozzo) would engage in question-and-answer jokes (“Mister Bones, why did Farmer Jones build his pigpen under the kitchen window?” – “I don’t know, why DID he build his pigpen under the kitchen window?” – “To keep his pigs in!”) and a few comic and sentimental songs, all brought to a rousing finish with a “cakewalk” or “walk-around”. This was followed by a musical promenade by the company, led by Denier of course, with each member stepping forward in turn to do a brief specialty bit, ostensibly trying to outdo each other.
But it was Denier who really shone during these engagements, his friend and fellow thespian John, although wonderful on the bones, was relegated to the background.
They were revered throughout the Quebec countryside and adored by the critics, especially Jacques Verdouche, who said in one review, “Denier De Young, although only four years old, is a wonder to behold. His proficiency at leading his merry pranksters in their quest to enlighten and entertain (and yes, sometimes educate!), is a real treat! Young Denier De Young is one to watch.”
Jacques quickly befriended Denier and the two formed a partnership of sorts. Denier was able, after much debate, to convince Jacques to let John Panozzo and his technical prowess on the bones, tag along.
In 1965, after much critical and commercial success on the traveling minstrel circuit, the two boys won a long playing record at a carnival game at the Boucher County Fair. It was a record by Robert Goulet entitled, ’On Broadway’, and it would change their direction, and yes their lives, forever.
In particular, the song ‘If I Ruled The World’, had a dramatic effect on Denier. Robert Goulet, being a fellow Canadian (Alberta), penned the immortal lines, “If I ruled the world, I would get meself a girl, traipse around in furls, and let all the damsels be free of their babes”. This particular lyric would have a monstrous effect on the success of STYX in the future, and would ultimately lead to their undoing and eventual downfall.
But I digress again.
Jacques, a kind of French Canadian Tom Parker, was also taken by the Goulet LP. It had a more modern sound, probably influenced by the rock and roll bands that were so popular around that time. The concept of rock and roll mixed together with Broadway tunes intrigued Jacques and he immediately called an emergency meeting with Denier and Chuck. They decided to take Robert Goulet’s concept a step further; they would form a Rock and Roll band, and create a heavier Broadway-progressive sound, or BROAD-PROG, as it would come to be known. But they needed a guitarist, and a bassist. John’s brother, Chuck, had played bass guitar in a number of folk bands, most notably the band Snorry Mouth, which was loosely translated for English consumption from Nez Bouche, so he was a natural. But they needed a guitarist, preferably two, for that showy, big sound Denier was looking for.
Enter one James Young and one Tommy Shaw. Lovers since college (they both attended the famous Abraham Lincoln Music Conservatory College for Young Boys in Boston, Massachusetts), and they both played the electric guitar. James Young (heretofore known as “JY”) was more of a journeyman of a guitar player, lacking technical prowess but making up for that with a pure, almost naïve ham handed style of guitar playing. If JY’s style was primitive, then Tommy’s was simply futuristic. Always fascinated by science fiction novels, especially those involving alien abductions and, in particular those involving probing, his style echoed the ‘out there’ sounds of the Mellotron and would fit perfectly with the bands vision. The two young men were immediatly brought on board.
It was Jacques who suggested that Denier change his name to appeal to a much broader fan base, and thus DENNIS De Young was born!
The name STYX was suggested by Chuck Panozzo, who was an ardent fan of Satan and his ilk, and who was currently reading The Divine Comedy by Dante. Dennis, always the sensitive one, was horrified by the name. He was quoted as saying that it was “a dark, demonic name” and he suggested the name Up With People”, or F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (acronym for Furry Repast In Enoch’s Nature Debutante Surprise).
He was, of course, outvoted 4-1, and the name STYX survived.
The band, bristling with ideas, literally pranced into the studio and quickly recorded STYX and the cleverly titled STYX II. Both were marvelously creative but were panned by the critics. It wasn’t until a forward thinking Boston DJ by the name of Jaunty Joe played the track Lady from STYX II 179 times in a row on his “Tides Of The Moon” radio program that things clicked for the band. Requests poured in for the ballad, and the boys were soon opening for such monster acts as Trooper, Focus and Prism.
The next four years saw the band at their most prolific, recording two albums in 1974 alone (The Serpent Is Rising– JY and Tommy’s concept album–and Man Of Miracles (Dennis’ ode to himself).
In 1977, they recorded a record that would yield 2 massive FM hits based on the teachings of Dottie Humboldt, the spiritual and tribal leader of the Unarian Society, who believe in past lives and that our solar system was once inhabited by ancient interplanetary civilizations.
The Grand Illusion, based loosely on a shelved play Dennis had written was a masterpiece, but it was Come Sail Away that shot the band into the stratosphere. The immortal lines to this landmark song, appear below:
“A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope, and this is what they said
They said come sail away, come sail away Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail awayCome sail away with me
I thought that they were angels, but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me”
Due to the success of The Grand Illusion, STYX began to headline shows. But as is often the case success comes with a price. Dennis formed an addiction to Juicy Fruit gum and developed an aversion to sunlight and Chuck Panozzo grew an afro, decisions that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
But I digress, yet again.
After touring they once again leapt into the studio and started recording. These sessions, which would come to be known as the ROO SESSIONS, would bring STYX their greatest success in the song Babe.
A lovely ballad in the tradition of Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey, it reached the top of the charts and was played at every high school dance at least once in the night (sometimes 7, 8 times!) during the year 1979.
The next album, Pieces Of Eight, was a misstep to say the least. Jy’s sole contribution, “Queen Of Spades” received particular criticism from both fans and critics for it’s blatant racist overtones. Said JY during this time in Rolling Stone magazine,
“I was going through a weird phase. Tommy and I were fighting and I started dating this young African-American man named Sidney Washington. He was a wonderful gymnast and an even better friend, and I wanted to tell the world about him.”
Sidney Washington tragically broke his neck and died whilst attempting the “Flying Rings” at San Francisco’s 3rd annual Gay Pride Parade.
The band regrouped in the studio for what would come to be known as their Magnum Opus.
Paradise Theatre, a concept album about the roaring 20’s and the eventual decline of an imaginary theatre (a metaphor for the American experience, in general), was a massive critical and commercial success, yielding the band four massive hits with the driving and sentimental Rockin’ The Paradise, the magnificently
dance-rock oriented Too Much Time On My Hands, the maudlin but oh-so-touching The Best Of Times and the JY penned ode to cocaine Snowblind.
For Styx, its success would spell both their temporary saving grace and ultimate doom, as the creative forces which had already been tearing at the band’s core finally reached unbearable levels three years later.
Being replaced by robots was always a fear of Dennis De Young’s, and at the request of his therapist he began writing a concept album, loosely based around his nightmares. He decided to set the story in Japan and called the main character Mr. Roboto. A synthesizer driven affair, JY and Tommy were relegated to the background, while John was replaced with a ZOOM SB246 STREET BOXX drum machine and Chuck was forced (at gunpoint, some eye-witnesses say) to play a LINUX SONIC VISUALIZER V 1.0 synthesized bass.
Although the track Mr. Roboto would see considerable airplay, the album Kilroy Was Here would spell the demise of the classic STYX line up. Tommy and JY broke up, Tommy joining fellow homosexual and animal rights activist Ted Nugent in his ‘Super Group’ The Damn Yankees and JY going on to sponsor Johnson and Johnson’s very popular brand of petroleum jelly, KY. The subsequent advertising campaign, with the slogan “JY’s KY”, was a flop everywhere across North America, except in Hamilton, Ontario where it became a cult success with the steel workers of Defasco and Stelco.
Dennis went on to play Pontius Pilate in a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar (and issuing an album of Broadway show tunes in 1994), and headlines Las Vegas, after dark of course, to this day at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino.
Chuck Panozzo tragically died of alcoholism in 2002, but his Legacy lives on in the form of his son, Frankie Panozzo, who is currently drumming in Walt Disney’s popular attraction about the history of American music, “America Sings”.
John Panozzo is retired from the music business and is currently a gate guard at Wounded Springs retirement community in Naples, Florida.
However, the legacy of STYX remains. Their masterpiece Paradise Theatre recently topped the “Best Albums of All Time” list, surpassing the mighty SGT Pepper by the Beatles and Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys (#2 and #3, respectively), in the influential rock music magazine PUD.
We would do well to remember this band for what they were, an influential BROAD-PROG band with a mighty front man and equally interesting side-men.
In the words of the man himself,
“Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto,
Mata ah-oo hima deDomo arigato,
Himitsu wo shiri tai”
Hocus Pocus, My GOD It’s Focus!
Flutist Thijs Van Leer, bassist Martin Dresden, and drummer Hans Cleuver met at a “fiddler’s meet” in the summer of 1968, where Van Leer’s brother, Po Tidholm-Van Leer (men in Sweden are required to keep their maiden names after marriage), was vying to retain his title of Lord Fiddler King-Man, which he had won every year since he was a young prodigy of 3. Po’s main competition, as it had been for many years, was a young man by the name of Orlendr Guofriar. Guofriar was born without the benefit of elbows which made his prowess on the fiddle even more spectacular and subsequently endeared him to the local crowd. A combination of Po’s arrogance and Guofriar’s spectacular performance that day led to the crown being passed on to a new, elbow-less champion. Po was understandably devastated, and ran away from the festival soon after the announcement, crying “VLANDERSPAST!! VANDERSPLAST MON HICKKMAAN!!”, which loosely translated means “elbow demon is lactose intolerant”.
He ran 4 miles to the Cliffs of Despair and plunged 400 feet into the icy sea below.
The Swedish Sea Rescue team tried for hours to save Po but their effort was cut short due to the drunken captain who choked on a schnitzel while trying to traverse the choppy waters.
At the funeral the following day the three boys placed their toenail clippings on the body’s eyelids while they sipped on cat’s milk which, of course, is part of Swedish burial tradition. It was at this time that the three boys became men and decided to honor Po’s memory by vowing to form a progressive rock band in his honor. Po’s lack of focus at the prior day’s competition would be the inspiration for the burgeoning band’s moniker; the Swedish translation for “Focus” is “Gilgerbloorst”, but Thijs decided to change it to the English translation in the hopes of being able to tell Po’s story to a worldwide audience.
The first two albums were cut in a flurry of creative productivity, and were a fair collection of progressive rock tunes but devoid of a clear, erm, focus, and the material is primarily dominated by Thijs Van Leer and his classical sensibilities. But at least as often, it sticks with fairly conventional period Swedish folk-rock with occasional jazzy shadings. Akkerman’s “House of the King Fiddler”, the first recorded tribute to their fallen brother Po, is the most heart wrenching and accurate Jethro Tull rip-off ever recorded.
Their second album, Moving Waves, contained the breakthrough worldwide smash “Hocus Pocus”. Built around a killer guitar riff by Jan Akkerman , this instrumental replaced Sweden‘s National Anthem as a staple of SPR (Swedish Public Radio) for three straight days. The bizarrely hilarious vocal and incendiary accordion solos by Thijs van Leer have to be heard to be believed. Compared to the groundbreaking “Hocus Pocus” the other tracks seemed comparatively constrained: the gentle “Le Clochard” features some gorgeous classical guitar over Mellotron strings, but other than that the rest just feels like directionless meandering. The album concludes with “Eruption,” which while mimicking the multi-suite nomenclature of Yes and King Crimson, is essentially a side-long jam session.
After the massive success of “Hocus Pocus” the band decided to take a 4 year sabbatical to, erm, focus on individual solo projects. Hans Cleuver lent his voice to the popular Swedish breath mint commercials for Ricola (that’s him singing “Riiiiiiicoooolllaaaaaaa”) while Thijs Van Leer was busy utilizing his considerable production talents to help mentor the up and coming Swedish disco group ABBA.
Martin Dresden, on the other hand, spent his time and royalties forming the National Unified Waffle Makers Union (NUWMU), a collective of underpaid waffle merchants based in Amsterdam. Their mandate was simple: a fair and equitable opportunity to sell their delectable fried batter treats in Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District without fear of harassment or reprisal. Martin was rumored to utilize several “unpopular and violent” tactics to achieve his goals. The hashish merchants of Amsterdam didn’t take too kindly to Dresden’s bully tactics, but were too stoned and docile to really do anything about it. Therefore, Dresden and his collective thrived on the tourists appetite for waffles and were finally accepted into the fold of the whore mongers and drug dealers of the Red Light District. As a matter of fact, Dresden was eventually honored by being elected president of the B.I.A. office (Business Improvement Area) and getting a local Rhune sculpture named in his honor.
It wasn’t until their third album, the aptly titled Focus III, that the band really gained critical acceptance. Focus III kept this same sound, but approached it with a jollier, more accessible tone. As with its predecessor, Focus III featured only one tune that would have a chance of being a hit single. The semi-enjoyable rhythm of “Sylvia,” partnered with Jan Akkerman’s victorious and Thor-like guitar solo, and some of Van Leer’s finest flugelhorn work, new member Bert Ruiter’s tight basslines, and Pierre Van Der Linden’s mellow drumming, assured the track classic status. “Sylvia” found worldwide success and gained the band valuable radio and press exposure. The consistency in musical variety throughout Focus III is enough to merit any listeners’ respect. To be frank, this LP should unquestionably be ranked alongside the likes of Revolver, Dark Side of the Moon, and any others of rock’s greatest.
After a triumphant tour of Bangladesh the band got to work on the fourth Focus album entitled “…Or Lack Thereof”. It flopped, paling in the wake of the massive success of III. This sent Van Leer into a horrible tailspin of alcoholism and addiction to Belgian chocolate Easter bunnies. He checked himself into the Stockholm Hospital For The Tragically Inflicted in February of 1975 and remained in their care until the Summer of 2002. The rest of the band attempted to go on without him, releasing no less than 57 albums during that time, but without their leader and spiritual mentor to guide them the band flailed, retreating to the bars and festivals of their homeland.
It wasn’t until the reclusive Van Leer wandered into the studio while the rest of the band were recording their 61st LP (Lingonberies and Nordquist) that the original band finally reformed. Van Leer explained that during his 27 year hiatus he had musically mentored a young lad by the name of Pete Almqvist who had gone on a pilgrimage of sorts to find and convince the mercurial Van Leer to rejoin his former mates and reform Focus. Pete later formed his own band, The Hives, and changed his name to “Howlin’” Pete Almqvist, but that’s another story.
During the time that Van Leer was in the hospital, Sweden had changed dramatically. Its remote position on the map, its remarkable capacity for staying out of wars and its endless supply of timber and ore made Sweden both a rich country and an unusual one by international standards. Old musical customs and traditions were suddenly thought useless. Young people closed their ears to the stories of their rock elders and refused to look back.
The band recorded one more album, 2005’s “Socially Unacceptable“, before disbanding for good.
Van Leer checked himself back into the hospital where he regales the patients with his one-man productions of famous Swedish folk lore. Here’s an excerpt from his latest show:
“Could you pass the salt, please (Kan du skicka saltet, tack)?”
“Here you are (Varsågod).”
“Thank you (Tack)!”
Hans Cleuver is living off his royalties from the first three Focus albums and his Ricola commercials while Martin Dresden was forced into exile by the members of his waffle collective after being caught embezzling millions of Krona from the NUWMU treasury vaults.
Rick Davies was on the dole on that fateful, dreary November day back in 1969 when he happened to stumble into Roger Hodgeson at the Sociable Plover Pub and Eatery in Stalybridge, England.
He’d been drinking heavily and was in no mood for company.
But Roger was in a particularly cheeky, self destructive mood that evening and, pulling up a stool next to Rick whom he‘s never met before thrusts his hand out and brazenly introduces himself.
The two struck up a conversation and found out that they had more than just hair in common: they both loved soft rock, and, in particular, the band the Nickerbockers. A stateside band that never got their due, they will forever be remembered for their sole chart-topper, “Rational Anthem (Fable Of A Fredfish And Hope You Feel OK).” The subsequent full length LP from the afore stated band was entitled “Jazz Hands and Crazy Legs” was a cult success that strongly influenced the Velvet Undergrounds White Light White Heat, and the bands unique use of the Aeolian Wind Harp and Bubble Organ were revolutionary for their time (although by 1978 every band would own at least one or the other), and was integral in the early sounds of Supertramp, then as yet unnamed.
The two started jamming (at this time, they only had organs; Roger a Lumberhorn Deluxe and Rick, a Stoessel-laute with Theremin attachment), but the fruits of these sessions were bizarre to say the least. The two would jam for hours, often simply mimicking each other’s keyboard ’riffs’ like two hairy demented mimes.
The unholy sounds emanating from the small flat did attract the attention of a young Dutch Millionaire by the name of Stanley August Miesegaes, who happened to be passing by one day. Curious, repulsed and more than a little bit turned on, he followed his ears and knocked on their door. Introducing himself as “A Dutch Millionaire” who wanted to “finance their future“, he invited himself in. He was a sight to behold, dressed in forest green pantaloons, a red and white furled ’blouse’ of sorts and polished wooden shoes, he certainly seemed an unlikely benefactor.
After the initial aesthetic shock of Mr. Miesagaes attire, the two budding musicians agreed to let him help.
Stanley had an American Jewish friend who played the drums by the name of Bob Siebenburg, who quickly changed his name to Bob C. Benberg after hearing of Roger’s ties to the Nazi youth group Mein Fruke (Little Ladies).
After auditioning approximately 2198 potential lead guitarists they settled on a lad named Richard Palmer, who also fortuitously played the Balalaika.
Their first album, Supertramp, sold a paltry 75 copies (all purchased by immediate family members); their second, Indelibly Stamped, which featured a lovely photo of Roger’s chest on the cover didn’t fare much better (137 copies to date).
After the disappointing first two albums their benefactor abandoned them. He later changed his name to Pierre Moerlen and became a member of the freak-folk band GONG!
Broke and heartbroken, Rick, Roger and Bob abruptly and impulsively fired Richard Palmer due to his inability to grow a beard. Roger pawned some of his infamous costume jewelry collection to buy a guitar, a Schecter electric hollow-body, and finance some lessons. Once Roger felt he was good enough, the trio went back to rehearsing.
These sessions would yield some of Supertramps best known ‘oeuvre’; songs such as Crime Of The Century, Dreamer, Asylum and, of course, the unreleased “Titan’s Curse” and “Percy Jackson And The Olympians”, which would later become fan favorites and concert staples. But there was something missing, their sound needed…something… but none knew what it was.
1973, FALL: ENTER ONE JOHN HELLIWELL AND ONE DOUGIE THOMPSON
Friends since they were six, John and Dougie (pronounced DOO-GIE) were currently gigging at an Acid-Jazz club called Urban Nerd in their band Bhangra Swings when Rick was fortuitously in attendance. He was so taken by Dougie’s bass “explorations” and John’s “wanderings” on the saxophone that he invited them over for a listen of the Crime Of The Century demos at his flat. The rest of the band were there and after introductions Dougie plugged in, John pursed his lips and Rick rolled the tape. IMMEDIATELY before the beginning of the track School, John improvised a sinister sounding sax lick which made everyone’s massive hair stand on end. And when Dougie’s bass slithered it’s way about 1:20 into the track they all knew this was to be their final line-up. At the conclusion of the audition, Bob C. Benberg remembers Roger exclaiming, “Man, John, you really BLOW!!”
The album Crime of The Century was a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Fans loved the heady mix of piano driven prog (or PEE-PROG, as it has come to be known) and abstract yet somehow totally accessible fantasy based lyrics. The album sold over 1,000,000 copies and is considered by many fans to be their masterpiece. They toured for an exhausting 6 weeks before getting back in the studio to record the follow-up to the Billboard chart behemoth that was Crime Of The Century.
Crisis? What Crisis? was largely panned by the critical elite but adored by the fans, and it begat a bewitching single for the masses in the form of Lady. On the surface, it’s lyrics seemed pretty straightforward, but the band knew better. Roger and Rick had begun fighting over control of the group, and in particular the musical direction. A sample from the song:
“Mister, you better get a move on/ You better get a fix on/ Mmm-you better walk straight.
I said Lady, oh take me if you want me/ oh, take me as you find me/ Oh, I’m needing your love so bad”
Some saw this as a plea from Roger to Rick to ‘work it out’, Rick being the “lady”, in this instance. Others saw it as a blunt ultimatum to Rick, as evidenced by the line “Mmm-you better walk straight.”
The growing discord in the group is well documented within the grooves of their next album, Even In The Quietest Moments. The song, Fools Overture, has been described by it’s scribe thusly: “The lyrics for (Fools) are a metaphor for the growing chaos we were experiencing at the time. Most of our fans have taken them literally as the fall of Atlantis and the inhabitants eventual morphing back into their alien forms (their true self), escaping earth and fleeing back to their home planet of Overture…but it’s really about Rick and Dougie becoming more and more tyrannical during that phase in the bands history.”
History recalls how great the fall can be/ While everybody’s sleeping, the boats put out to sea/ Borne on the wings of time/
It seemed the answers were so easy to find/ “Too late,” the prophets cry/ The island’s sinking, let’s take to the sky
Even though the band was in a terrible state of mind, they once more put their differences aside and recorded yet another album. Featuring Rick’s younger brother on the cover , Breakfast In America would be the bands biggest success, selling over 15,000,000 copies worldwide, with over 14,000,000 being sold in France alone! But success affects people in different ways, and not always in a positive way. Roger, always the frugal one, put his royalties in Guinness stock while Rick pissed his away on male enhancement medications and elephant steroids, ending up alone in a hotel near a Taco Bell on the Hollywood strip, as evidenced by the lyrics to his masterful song Just Another Nervous Wreck:
“I’m feeling so alone now/ They cut the telephone uh huh/ Yeah my life is just a mess…I threw it all away now/ I could have made a fortune/ I lost the craving for success”. and, “Don’t, give a damn, Fight, while you can, Kill, shoot ‘em up, They’ll run amuck, Shout, Judas, Loud, they’ll hear us, Soldier, sailor, New York Tailor, They’ll run for cover when they discover, I’m a freakin’ nervous wreck now!!”
In the summer of 1980, Rick tried to rob a travel agency on Wilshire Blvd in LA, not aware until it was too late that the business didn’t conduct many cash transactions. He was arrested at the scene and released on $30,000 bail the following evening.
After Rick’s trial and eventual release from prison (he received only 6 months due to a ‘stupidity’ clause his lawyer leveraged), the band, exhausted and bitter, plodded back into the studio to make yet another album. Famous Last Words was to be their epitaph, at least for the classic line-up. Yielding the uplifting “It’s Raining Again” as it’s only hit, the band soon went its different ways.
Roger became a successful solo artist in his own right and joined Ringo Star’s All Star Band for a stint in the late 1990’s and is still performing to this day. He was also asked to mentor Canadian Idol’s Top 7 contestants, alongside Dennis De Young, a founding member of the group STYX, which he promptly declined.
Rick carried on along with the rest of the original lineup for two more albums, Free As A Bird (a NOT so obscure dig at Roger), and Brother Where You Bound?, Rolling Stone giving them ½ star apiece.
The famed critic David Fricke wrote a simple, five word review for Brother Where You Bound?, that said:
“The bargain bin, that‘s where.”
Dougie left the band soon after and eventually won an Oscar for his portrayal of Augustine Bastard in the critically acclaimed BBC production of “Carry On: Other Analogous Documents Preserved in the Public Record Office” and eventually married Jane Seymour, of which they have 7 children.
Bob C Benberg went on to become a public servant in his home town of Weakerthin, Alabama (pop. 234), becoming Mayor for 4 years before being forced out and sent to the Formosa Nervous Hospital where he remains to this day.
John Helliwell is currently the stand-in for Clarence Clemens of E Street Band fame and is waiting for his next “Big Break”.
The Sad And Terrible Story Of Jeff Lyne And The Electric Light Orchestra
“Veeble festeraahht bloot. Wamp blatt borfft, bizzt Chakunkding: CRUGAZUNCH! Faroolana Frugga dugga dugga Gashklitz jugarumm.
Baraam spa da blunkum, kitoon splukaw gazoont blam blam. Paff toong et shnorkle zzzzt snorreh–snorry–sssor–eh, ssoorry, sorry.
Ok, I apologize, I did not have my translator on, please forgive me. If you are receiving this transmission your beloved earth is now 67% uninhabitable and I am currently en route back to my home planet of Beetlegeuse.
You know me as Jeff Lynne, lead singer and prime architect of the wildly successful orchestral rock and pop band ELO, or Electric Light Orchestra. But my true identity has been hidden from you earthlings for over 50 years. My real name is inconsequential and unpronounceable, but loosely translated to your primitive earth-language it means, ‘Fuzzy Explorer’.
In your earth year of 1946 a team of Russian government scientists sent a ‘satellite’ (dubbed ‘Leonid) into space, a few years before Sputnik started the space race to the moon with the United States. You’ll please forgive me, but I find this funny every time I speak of it. *snort snort*
The REAL story is that the Russian government sent Leonid into deep space, forty thousand light years PAST the moon, where it landed fortuitously on my home planet of Beetlegeuse. One other fact that needs to be addressed is that the satellite was manned. Yes, this so called Leonid pod contained 4 Russian explorers. Their names were Boris, Olga, Vladimir and Jakkoff. As they landed, the occupants of Leonid huddled before the massive Astro-View-Screen and watched, fascinated, as the camera panned the horizon of my home. Beetlegeuse remains a lush and abundant landscape, but not by your standards. Our landscape is aural, not visual. Beetleguesians are blind, you see. We have two sets of “ears” to compensate; two on the sides of our brain shell (similar to earthlings) and two where your visual globes are located. The two located in front are used to navigate our surroundings, using sound waves as a guide.
We are not unlike you humans in our physical form, however. As a matter of fact, other than the two sets of ears we are extremely similar.
Anyway, back to the astronauts. I observed from a distance as a shapeless mass of dough like protoplasm we call “dglefrtsqq” approached the explorers, devouring everything in it’s path. After years of co-existence with these creatures we have learned that the only way we can repel them is to emit a high pitched squeal of sorts, a sound only our vocal cords can create. These creatures move very fast, and thusly the Russians did not have a chance and were devoured within a matter of seconds.
Our elders, who were observing this scene as it was occurring from their underground lairs, called me and one other to them. This “other” was named Vootle Dst, but you may know him by his earth name of Phil Spector.
The elders debated for hours, finally deciding that it would be a wonderful opportunity for us to observe a pre-historic alien world and perhaps learn a thing or two about ourselves, and decided to send myself and Phil to earth using the Russian space pod so as to avoid arousing suspicion.
We landed in the summer of 1947 in the area known as 51, in the Nevada desert, where we were picked up by the American government who had a military base nearby.
They took us deep into the base, down an elevator underneath Hanger 18 (see above) where we finally arrived at a door labeled “Interrogation Room 187”. Knowing what was coming Phil, who was always a violent sort, pulled out his weapon and killed all seven of the soldiers. We quickly donned our invisibility cloaks, made our way back to the surface and escaped. I thought it would be a good idea for us to separate at this point, and so we did; Phil deciding to stay in America and me going to the United Kingdom to complete our observation terms of duty.
Our superior aural abilities made it a natural for us to enter earth society through the burgeoning rock music scene. Phil had more initial success than I with his “Wall Of Sound” production techniques, but his tendency towards violence would eventually prove to be his downfall. But that is another story.
I met a man named Bev Bevan in 1965 and we formed the rock band The Move, which found moderate success with the British people. Musically speaking it was a very primitive style of music by my own design, as to not arouse suspicion. If I was to utilize my futuristic and alien sounds capes in a public forum I might have been exposed! My hubris would soon get the better of me though, as I saw musicians with far inferior talents getting the recognition and accolades I so richly deserved.
I succumbed to my ego in the fall of 1970. I informed Bev of my intent to create a much more sophisticated brand of Rock and Roll utilizing elements of classical music. Although Bev was a little reticent, he agreed to step back and let me ’orchestrate’*snort snort* our future. I christened our new band E.L.O., or the Electric Light Orchestra.
10538 Overture (side note: 10538 is the calendar year Phil and I left Beetleguise) was a rousing success. ELO performed at the 1972 Reading Festival and ‘stole the show’ thanks to the innovation of the Barcus Berry pickups now sported by our bands string playing trio, allowing them to dance on stage with their instruments not unlike the bards of King Arthur‘s day.
Our second album, ELO II, was another success with the single Roll Over Beethoven as it’s centerpiece. It’s success led to me hiring a 30 piece orchestra I dubbed the
Neo-Pagens. The success was massive, but I craved more. I was succumbing to the human emotion greed, and I liked it!
From our album Face The Music, the instrumental “Fire On High” with its mix of strings elegantly played by the Neo-Pagens and blazing acoustic guitars, saw heavy exposure as background music on CBS Sports Spectacular montages in The United States, though most viewers had no idea of our song’s origins, the fact that the song features a deliberate backward message, where a mysterious deep voice reverses to ‘The music is reversible, but time is not, turn back! Turn back! Turn back!’ — ostensibly our sardonic response at answering the hysteria following completely unfounded allegations of satanic messages which were leveled against our song “Eldorado” by the fundamentalist Christian collective called The Lucians Of Samosata.
Out Of The Blue, an “in-joke” of a title to be sure, was to be my Magnum Opus. It contained many of my now classic compositions such as Turn To Stone, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Mr. Blue Sky, among many others. It was at this point in our story that I reconnected with my fellow Beetlegeusian Phil Spector, who had developed a benign version of his laser weapon as a visual aid for the shows. I was cocky in my belief that I was now fully accepted as a human born of your earth, and I started using iconography from my native world as a backdrop for my shows, album artwork and various paraphernalia.
But, alas, all good things must come to an end.
In 1980 I was asked to write the soundtrack to a film entitled Xanadu, which stared the Australian songbird Olivia Newton John. Even though it performed well, yielding hit singles in the title track and Magic, it would eventually put in effect a series of events that would eventually lead to the partial destruction of earth as I alluded to earlier in my story.
The premise of the story, which deals with the rise and fall of Kublai Khan’s Mongol empire, incensed the Muslim faithful and they decided to retaliate. After over two decades of planning, they attacked the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001 as well as the Pentagon. The newly elected President Of The United States decided that this would be a good excuse to start a “war for oil” in the guise of a “war on terrorism”, and he subsequently launched a strike on the east that would last over four decades, leading to the financial and moral bankruptcy of the USA.
In early March of 2041, Bill Gates (who had recently purchased Pakistan) launched an all out nuclear assault on North America. Canada, whose “loonie” had risen to almost 400% over the US dollar by that time and who had a formidable arsenal
(home base: Newfoundland) as well, launched their own strike. But someone miscalculated and sent the rockets straight up in the air, sending them hurtling down and annihilating their own country. I decided that my time on earth was at an end, so I busted Phil out of jail and we headed for Stonehenge, where we hid our spacecraft in the guise of one of the Trilithons.
So, as I leave this place in our spacecraft and I glance through the viewer at the smoldering globe that was once earth I cannot help feeling a little responsible, and if I had eyes I would sob at the sight. The lessons I learned will help my planet in ways I can not as of yet calculate.
So, if you are hearing this transmission and are one of the few left alive, do not think poorly of me. Let my musical legacy be my epitaph.
As Steve Perry stumbled out of the Tijuana brothel, a small boy wearing a “San Diego Padres” baseball cap approached him and tugged on his pant leg.
Drunk, ashamed and very tired, Steve stuffed his hand into his pocket and eventually handed a crumpled dollar bill to the boy.
“Gracias, Signor!” shouted the boy, and skittered off into the shadows. Steve popped a Chickelet out of the pack and into his mouth and attempted to make his way back across the border. At the entrance to the border tunnel he suddenly felt light headed, and more than a little sick to his stomach.
‘How did I let this happen?’, he mused.
Thinking it would help his nausea he awkwardly dug for his flask of tequila, eventually finding it in his left hip pocket. He unscrews the cap, throws it into the street, takes a large swig and swallows hard.
“Shit,” he says. “Where am I? And where the Hell’s my band?”
The last thing Steve remembered before he passed out was the sound of breaking glass and the smell of urine.
When Steve Perry awoke in the middle of Avenida Revolucion Blvd face down in a puddle of…well, he wasn’t really sure what the puddle contained, nor did he really want to know. What he DID know, however, was that he didn’t want to end up in “La Ocho”, (Tijuana’s infamous jail) where Sammy Hagar was recently booked and subsequently violated by two guards named Omar Ramirez and Pancho Salazar (Sammy fingered them in court but they were freed due to an ‘Hermanos de la Frontera’ clause their lawyers leveraged.)
The sound of sirens and the thought of ending up bull legged and incontinent like poor Sammy Hagar was enough to motivate Steve and he quickly got to his feet and started moving, North to the border.
Much to his chagrin he crossed without any interference or trouble from the San Diego Border guards.
“Back in America.” he thought. “Thank GOD.”
Remembering that his so-called friend and Journey lead axe-man Neil Schon lived in Chula Vista, he thought that the first thing he should do (after he ate first, of course) is to hail a cab and go pay Neil a little…visit.
It was becoming clearer, now. Neil was the one who suggested the road trip, just the two of them, to Tijuana. Neil was the one buying the drinks. NEIL was the one who shoved him through the door of the brothel and left him there, saying he would be back in ‘a little while’!
And, now that he thought about it, that Mexican whore looked awful familiar…
Steve stared out the cab’s window at the clear San Diego night and smiled; it wouldn’t be long now. That son of a bitch Schon was going to pay…dearly. And it wouldn’t be quick, either.
He cracked his knuckles in quick succession, starting with the thumb on his right hand.
Steve Perry, former lead singer of rock band Journey, closed his eyes and imagined what he was going to do with his ‘friend’ Neil Schon when he arrived at his apartment. He wouldn’t kill him, no. Too easy. Make him suffer,
Exactly how and with what ‘instruments’ would he carry out his plan had yet to be determined.
Violent, absurd scenarios were being played out in his mind when the cabbie started to drift over towards the soft shoulder of Highway 805 North. The sound of gravel spitting from the tires and crashing into the wheel well was enough to startle the cabbie awake and he jerked the wheel left, hard.
That single act of overcompensation by the driver was enough to send the Lincoln Towne Car straight into the concrete median. The airbags deployed with a ‘whoosh’, probably saving the cabbies life. Steve Perry, sitting in the back, wasn’t so lucky; his head was slammed forward into the drivers seat head rest and his nose, that famous bird-like nose, shattered.
“At…least it’s…insured…” mumbled Steve as he drifted off into unconsciousness.
A blinding light and the sound of low, indistinct utterances, the ‘clinking’ of bottles and an unplugged electric guitar being strummed.
In his blindness he fumbled for his nose, found it, and starting squeezing.
It wasn’t broken!
As his eyes started adjusting to the light, Steve thought he saw…nah, it couldn’t be. He closed his eyes, rubbed them, and looked straight into an hallucination from the past…
The sight that greeted Steve Perry wasn’t real. How could it be?
The studio where they had recorded the trio of albums which would come to be known as Journey’s ‘Cocoon’ Trilogy was exactly as he had remembered it. Corkboard walls, duct tape everywhere and the bands spiritual mentor, Andy Kim, hanging in an elaborate gold frame on the wall next to drummer Aynsley Dunbar.
Neil Schon, who was mauled and subsequently disfigured by a wolverine in 1993, looked great. Vaurnet sunglasses resting on the bridge of his nose, red headband wrapped around that magnificent afro, skin tight leather pants, green “Beatle” boots and his trademarked, heavily zippered pink leather jacket.
“What’s the matter, Steve?” asked Neil. “You ready to soft rock, or what?”
“Give me a minute…”, whispered a totally bewildered Steve. He wondered if he were dead. This was, for certain, the studio that yielded the sessions that would produce their most famous of albums, ESCAPE, which included the hit singles Don’t Stop Believin‘, Who’s Cryin’ Now? and Open Arms. So it could be Heaven, although Steve doubted that God would permit Neil’s head band there. God would probably also make Neil take the zucchini out of his trousers before being granted entrance to the pearly gates, but who knows?
He decided it was best to just play along, for a while, until he could figure out just what the Hell was going on.
“Yeah,” he said, and grabbed the microphone. “I’m ready to soft rock.”
‘Why are you drinking?’ demanded the little prince.
‘So that I may forget,’ replied the tippler.
‘Forget what?’ inquired the little prince, who was already sorry for him.
‘Forget that I am ashamed,’ the tippler confessed, hanging his head.
‘Ashamed of what?’ insisted the little prince, who wanted to help.
‘Ashamed of drinking!’ the tippler brought his speech to an end, and shut himself up in an impregnable silence.
And the little prince went away puzzled.
‘The grown-ups are certainly very, very odd,’ he said to himself.’*
*Excerpt from ‘The Little Prince’
“I’m hallucinating,” Steve thought to himself as keyboardist Gregg Rolie started to bang out the opening riff to ‘Don’t Stop Believin’. His eyes turned to the red light bulb above the door to the studio. ‘This has already happened. THIS HAS ALREADY FREAKIN’ HAPPENED!!” Steve yelled, out loud this time, and violently threw his mike stand through the framed photo of Andy Kim, destroying it instantly.
“Hey, WHOA,” yelled Schon. “A little respect for the mighty Kim, bro! My mother painted that!”
Steve started hyperventilating, and soon fell to his knees.
He had every intention of playing along with this ‘dream’, he really did. But this was just too surreal to keep up the facade. He could smell the putrid sweat emanating from Schon’s ratty headband (or was it the leather trousers?) for God’s sake. And how often does one
Neil Schon once again broke the silence. “This better not be the Peyote, Steve. You signed a waiver!”
Steve remembered that back in the late 70’s, friend and confidante Gary Glitter gave him some Peyote at one of his famous swinging ‘fish bowl’ parties. Steve had heard of Peyote, but just that it was a plant, with an effect not unlike pot. He didn’t realize until it was too late that the main psychotropic ingredient in Peyote is Mescaline, which can be highly addictive. Steve ended up hooked for over 12 months before the band decided to have an intervention. The thought of being forced out of Journey was just too painful, so he agreed to 2 months of rehab and to sign a ‘Band Document’ (a letter of intent, really), which was the ‘waiver’ Neil was referring to.
His head started swimming again, but this time he couldn’t breathe. There was something blocking his throat. He tried to cough but all that came out was an ever expanding river of white foam.
“Get an ambulance,” cried Neil.
Then Steve, once again, blacked out.
What Steve couldn’t have known is that the boys were sending him to Lakeview Nervous Hospital, an infamous lunatic asylum run by, reputedly, the Devil himself…
The needle containing the salivation inhibitor methohexital plunged deep into Steve Perry’s right thigh, followed by the muscle relaxant suxamethonium.
The nurse, dressed in a blue and green smock casually placed the electrodes on both sides of his head and smiled, slyly. She glanced to her right and nodded. Steve followed her gaze to an unkempt grey haired man wearing a pair of very thick glasses, the right lens cracked down the center, and felt a bead of sweat drip from the tip of his nose. The man positioned himself to Steve’s right and forced a rubber “plug” of sorts into his mouth, holding it in place by securing a leather strap around the back of his head. Once finished he swiftly moves out of Steve’s field of vision.
The former front man for the soft rock band Journey started to feel a little drowsy but was keenly aware of the sound of a switch being thrown and the eerie hum of electricity.
The electrodes deliver a massive electrical stimulus which immediately forces Steve’s body into uncontrollable seizure-induced convulsions. His muscles tighten and the metal gurney shakes along in unison with it’s occupant.
After what seems like an eternity (even though it’s only been six seconds) the droning of the ECT machine stops.
“Again.” says the man with the cracked lens. “1400 milliamps.”
“…no…” whispers Steve.
The nurse gives a concerned look, knowing full well that the maximum dose of milliamps allowed by law in the state of California is 800.
But she complies anyway, the man pulls the switch again and Steve, for the fourth time in as many days, loses consciousness…