We did our show and I was backstage downstairs when I see Jeff on a TV monitor on stage. I grab a drink and head up to the stage. When I arrived I knew some of his roadies so they let me hang with them on the side of the stage. We’re watching Jeff rip when one of his guys says. “Hey Jimmy, why don’t go grab a harp and go out there and play one?” I gave them a sly smile and go back to the dressing room and grab my harps. I should explain that at this time I had a reputation of walking on stage unannounced so to speak. I’d grown up watching the Jackie Gleason Show, The Dean Martin Show, etc., and they were always having surprise guests coming on doing a “cameo” appearance. I fancied myself just carrying on a showbiz tradition plus it was fun seeing the faces of my victims. One of my more memorable “cameos” was at the Los Angeles Forum. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were playing and backing up Bob Dylan. I was in LA with the Eurythmics and I’d just toured with TP the year before so I knew all the roadies. I was, again on the side of the stage being egged on to walk up on stage by the roadies, but I said I didn’t have a harp. He says, “No problem,” and opens up a drawer of a road case and there’s a load of harps in every key. I say WTF and he shrugs and says,”They’re Dylan’s.” I looked at the set list and picked a song I could play harp on and then walked on at the right moment to Howie’s mic and started blowing. Tom whipped his head around and gave me a WTF look and Stan, Mike and Benmont are cracking up. Later Stan told me they were all talking about it later figuring one of them had invited me up without telling the others and then when no one said they did they all said, “That motherfucker!” Stan thought it was hilarious, but I’m not so sure about Tom.
Meanwhile, back in Yokohama, I arrive with my harps back to the side of the stage with the roadies and start listening to Jeff and the band trying to figure out what key they’re playing in and then finding the right harp. Jeff didn’t sing but he had a mic for talking to the crowd. Finally I find the right harp for the song they’re playing. This is how I made my entrance… They are in mid song as I casually walk out with a harp between my fingers like a cigar. Jeff looks up and says Jimmy what the hell? Doing a bit of a Groucho Marx bit, I get close to him and say, “Hey Jeff if it ain’t cool I’ll just piss off, but I’ve got the right harp.” He says, “No… play…” and gestures to the mic. I play a modest little solo and then walk back off. The roadies are slapping me on the back and we all had a good laugh about it. After about fifteen minutes I grab my harps and say I’m going to get a beer. I head down to the dressing rooms, and as I rounded a corner I see about 10 people in a heated discussion speaking Japanese and English with British and American accents right in front of our dressing room door. I also heard my name. Uh oh.
As I’m saying excuse me and trying to get through they all turn on me and say in unison, ” YOU! ” They’d all seen me on stage with Jeff on the large TVs backstage. They were all yelling at once saying things like, ‘Who the hell do you think you are getting onstage with Jeff Beck!!” You’re toast! You’re so FIRED!”
I was leisurely poring myself a beer as they were raging as I glanced over and saw Jeff ripping a solo in a blaze of glory on the TV. I held up my hands to calm them down and shut them up, pointed at the TV and asked, “Do you really think I could get close to Jeff Beck on stage let alone play a solo without his OK. I’d have been tossed off like a rag doll the minute the roadies saw me. Jeeez! Think about it. And FUCK YOU!”
Richard was sitting in a lounge chair between them and me looking at me shaking his head with one hand on his forehead like he had Excedrin Headache # 409 kicking in. I knew I was fired so I just tried to enjoy myself. I had only been on the ground in Japan for less the 48 hours and my head felt like a pile driver was hitting pay dirt on my eye. I took another pain pill, gathered up my sax and harps, and got a ride back to the hotel.
We were staying in one of those massive Tokyo hotels. I had a great, huge room. I was on the phone trying to get through to America when there was a knock on the door. It was my good buddy, the road manager who hated me. I looked through the peephole and said come back tomorrow. He wasn’t having none of it. He kept banging on my door saying if I didn’t open up he’d get house security.
I finally let him in and he had such a smug, arrogant look in his eye. Oh, he was going to enjoy the shit out of this little scene. I went back into my big old bed and leaned against the headboard and just stared at him in a chair at the foot of my bed. He says, “As I’m sure you know, as of this minute YOU are fired from the tour and you’ll be flying out tomorrow.” He hands me my ticket (yes we actually had paper tickets then) and I immediately notice the red round sticker which bumps me up to business class is missing. I calmly say I will need all my equipment, amp, saxes, harps and micas, etc., in the lobby immediately. I will also need $20,000 for breach of contract and severance pay. He’s wide eyed and sputtering now saying that it would be impossible to give me my equipment because it’s on a carnet and they are on their way to Australia and it has to be with them. I reply that’s the saddest story I ever heard. I want my gear, NOW!!! Now get the hell out of my room. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer soon. I got a hold of my manager, Gary Ballen, who was working with a group I was soon to get to know better called NWA. He’d already been contacted by Richard Marx’s manager, Alan Kovac. They knew each other and had a business relationship. Gary asked what the fuck happened. They say you’re storming on to stages, raging drunk, giving drugs to the band members… and on and on.
It turns out my good buddy Paul Warren said I was giving the band valium and cocaine. True. It was he my wife and I gave it too after he kept pestering us for it. My manager worked out a deal and we did get the $20K, but the deal was I had to leave Japan the next day. I gotta admit was I feeling pretty low and after the phone call to the wife and her yelling at me about what a fuck up I am, and blah, blah, blah.
What was my main concern at the moment was the missing sticker for business class. Tokyo to LA is a long ass flight to be stuck back in coach. A car was waiting for me outside the lobby. The driver looked like Odd Job from the James Bond film Goldfinger. The drive from downtown Tokyo to Narita Airport is about 2 hours if you’re lucky with traffic and I was bummed. Odd Job spoke a little English and after a while we got to be friends and he told me a little about when the shit hit the fan. He worked for the promoters so he knew that side of the story. Apparently Jeff’s people were pissed at RM’s management and RM’s people were kissing the Japanese promoter’s ass and on and on. I told him my plight with my ticket and Richard Marx’s people taking my sticker for business class and he told me to wait in the car when we got to the airport. He grabs my ticket and runs in. Right at that moment I knew things were going to be all right. You see in my life I’ve always gone on vibes and instinct. Sure enough, fifteen minutes later he comes out with a business class ticket.
It’s always a drag to fuck up a gig but the truth of the matter is I was a terrible fit in the Richard Marx band and organization.
And on that flight I KNEW things were gonna work out. Little did I know within a week I’d be working with legendary director David Lynch on film called “Wild At Heart,” starring Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe. I even ended up having a small role in the film and joining SAG.
I got a call for a session not really knowing who David was and when I told my brother Gary who I was working with (he was an avid film buff) he went nuts reciting “Eraserhead” and a bunch of other shit Mr. Lynch had done. Ah hell that’s a whole ‘nother story.
And I also started working with a little combo called NWA. Within 2 weeks I literally went from one of the whitest, milk toast acts in the business to some of the funkiest black muthafuckas to ever come along. (read more about me & NWA here)
We don’t know where we’re goin’ but we always seem to get there…
Rome, Italy 1/7/2014