April 1981 – Aboard a Northwest Airlines Flight from LA to Tokyo
As the flames danced off Danny’s head all the way up to the overhead bins, it dawned on me, “subtle as a leg iron” – one of the nicer ways my new boss Rod Stewart liked to describe my comportment in those days – that I wasn’t in a Sacramento Top 40 club band anymore.
In record time the boys in Rod’s band had already exhausted the flight’s supply of sake and were in the midst of annihilating the remaining stash of booze as we would. Rod had sacked his band in England and in the three weeks prior had put together a new band in Los Angeles. Hence, yours truly, bassist Jay Davis and guitarist Danny Johnson were the new American recruits fondly referred to as “Septics” – as in Septic Tank Yank – by our new British friends or “tea bag fags” as they came to be affectionately known to us as our love and respect for each other blossomed. Oh yes, love, love, love…. As in they loved to fuck with us.
Rod – of course – was the ringleader of most of the “stick” as they called it, which roughly translates into making your life a living hell for days on end just to see how long it takes for you to break. But Pete Buckland, tour manager-Grupen-Fuhrer of the Sex Police and the roadies were the real evil geniuses. Basher, Boiler…oh how I do miss the lads. Pirates!!!!! Bloody fucking, Pirates!!!
Poor Danny, our man of the hour – or in the cross hairs, if you will – and never a stranger to a full can of Aqua Net, had made a few decisions I’m sure he came to regret. One was the pumping of an extra can of the aforementioned hairspray onto his lovely rock ‘n roll mane that day. The other was taking the seat in front of keyboardist Kevin Savigar. Now in Kevin’s defense, I don’t really believe he was trying to turn him into the human torch, as it seemed he only waved the lighter near Danny’s head – but who knew? The concussion was staggering…
As the flames raged, we all selflessly emptied our drinks on his head and proceeded to beat the shit out of him with whatever we could get our hands on to save his life. He lived… something else he later probably regretted. They tortured him for five weeks through out Japan, Hong Kong and Bangkok. He left the group not long after.
And we all knew it was just a matter of time…
We’d been in Japan for a couple of weeks when Rod and the entourage – about twenty of us – went out for a night of Sake Madness,- as Rod liked to call it – and some Korean BBQ. The restaurant had put up some dividers to create a private dining room for us. We were all seated around a long table which had all these small little grills dug into the table where you’d cook the food yourself. During the course of the meal, after about my fiftieth sake, a wicked cramp knifed through my guts and I was off in search of the toilet before an extreme case of – what my old man use to call – “nicotine shorts” ensued. Get the picture?
When I reached the bathroom, to my shock and horror, I found the “toilet” consisted of a little pedestal with a 12” inch hole with two bricks situated next to the hole with which to balance your feet on and hang your ass over the hole while praying for good aim. How the Japanese manage to never shit all over themselves and their clothes I’ll never know. And there was no door on the “stall”!!! With the ballast I was carrying at that moment…. I mean there was no way …oh never mind. I quickly peeled off all my clothes and got down to business.
In my weakened condition, paranoia soon reared its ugly head and proceeded to consume me. I was convinced the boys would soon be paying me a courtesy call, pushing me over and taking my clothes – not all that farfetched really. Just the previous night backstage just before we were about to go on, the roadies that took care of my saxophones explained to me that the sax player that I had replaced used to give them a lot of grief and if I ever made that mistake with them they would do to me what they did to him. They then proceeded to take their knobs (British slang for cocks) out of their pants and rubbed them around the mouthpiece of my sax. In my best George Sanders impersonation I replied dryly, “Never heard of herpes, have we? “ There was no response and as I walked to the sink to wash my mouthpieces I casually said, “You will.”
Needless to say, from then on they could take my horns onstage for me but I always took the mouthpieces. But I digress…in my weakened, paranoid state in the toilet a plan of action soon began to take form – my mental state was such that I figured do unto others before they do to you…
After I dropped a gut, I proceeded to tie all my clothes in a bundle in my leather coat, stash it under the sink and put just my shoes and socks back on – Capezios, I believe – and take a casual nude stroll through the restaurant back to our table. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I almost made it back without incident – but no such luck. Keep in mind that apart from the bathroom, it actually was quite a beautiful place, with fine art work and plants placed through out the restaurant. As I approached the desk a lady standing with her child caught a glimpse of me, put her hands over the child’s eyes and let out a scream I won’t soon forget. Oh hell, I’ve long since forgotten – but it was fairly memorable at the time and LOUD with feeling. I remained calm though, and proceeded past her with a tip of my imaginary hat (always the gentleman) and entered our dining room.
Immediately, I was greeted with a standing ovation – roars and cheers. I took no notice and calmly walked to my chair, sat down and asked someone if they could please be so kind as to pass the soy sauce. By this time Rod and boys were chanting “table dance, table dance, table dance…” Soooo… when the boss says dance, you dance… Up on the table I go and, thank God, I had had the sense to wear my shoes as the little grills were all fired up now.
I’m doing my little jig up on the table. Rod and the boys are laughing and shouting at me. All of a sudden I feel all these hands patting my legs. And I’m thinking to myself as I keep on dancing “Whoa, these British lads are getting a bit friendly.” What I didn’t realize was that some sparks from the little Korean BBQs had caught the hair on my legs on fire. Soon I realized my dilemma and took a running leap off the table. There’s an amusing photo of that moment floating around somewhere in the great beyond. Taken from behind, the photo captures me from my ass down in mid-stride, with my block & tackle hanging down between my legs and about a foot long blue flame and smoke coming off my legs. Incredible. I never felt the flame.
Well… From that moment on I was immediately accepted by the boys in the band and the crew and was initiated into the Sex Police – a venerable institution with history going all the way back to when Rod was in the Faces – a great honor and rarely achieved by mere Septics Later, they rationalized it all by saying ‘You’re not American…. you’re a crazy Mexican.” Who was I to argue???
The whole incident was immortalized in song on the Tonight I’m Yours album on Tora, Tora, Tora (Out With the Boys).
As Rod would often say, “It has been a silly life.”
© 2010, Zavala Music, Inc.