Garbage Truck made the scene at Looney Bin Recording Studios to record their single for Paint It Black Records. Any excitement the band felt was temporarily squelched by setting up their gear and then getting kicked out of the studio by the engineer so he could get levels on the drums.
What this meant was that the engineer made the drummer hit his snare drum monotonously for twenty minutes until he reached a tone that made the drums sound supercool. Following that, he would make the drummer hit his floor toms monotonously for another twenty minutes, then the kick drum, rack drums, and then the cymbals, all requiring slow and careful scrutiny. Trev stayed in the control room taking in the excitement, with the rest of the band hanging out in front by the sidewalk.
Griff and Bradley were smoking cigarettes much to Bert’s displeasure. Bert hated cigarette smoke so much he wrote a song condemning second-hand smoke. He stood a few feet away tossing his curly hair. They all turned around when they heard Bobby step out from the studio.
“So what’s new and exciting?” Bert asked.
“The engineer’s telling Ricardo to hit his snare over and over again. ‘Again’…SMASH! ‘Again’…SMASH!”
“This is gonna take forever. I could have gone to a meeting and come back and not miss a thing”.
“How much time do we have booked?” Bradley asked Griff, puffing away.
“We have a six-hour block”.
“Well, we already lost two”.
“After he’s done with Ricardo, he has to get levels on all of us. We’re gonna be here for awhile before we even cut any basics”. Everybody groaned. “Basics” meant backing tracks with a reference vocal which lays down the rhythm of the song and doesn’t entail guitar solos or any extraneous embellishments. It’s only the foundations of the recording and nothing else.
“Let’s get some food, Bobby”, Bert said in the most nasal, bored inflection possible. “We shall return”.
“Later”. Griff and Bradley flicked ashes off their smokes.
“Paint It Black Records, huh?” Bradley chained one cigarette to another, “What’s their slogan? ‘Shucks folks, another record company’?”
“Yeah, that and, ‘Look Ma, I’ve got a fuckin’ record company’.”
“They’re the happening label now, huh? How did you swing that whole deal?”
“Well, Brad, it was like this……….”
I was walking down Melrose Avenue and most of the stores were closed. I just had some battery acid coffee at Canter’s and needed to walk the thunderpiss off. There were these two weird guys walking by me, and one of them turned around and said…
“Griffith? Griff from Monkey Wrench?” I turned around and it was that guy Dead End Kyle.
“Yeah, dude, what’s up?”
“What are you doing these days? Are you playing with anybody?”
“Yeah, I got a new band now called Garbage Truck. We’ve been playing around town at Fuzzbox and The Other Side and a bunch of other places, you know, just fuckin’ around”. He was a funny lookin’ guy, he wore white denim pants with a white denim jacket, like those weird Persian kids from Hollywood High. He had these biker aviators on, that was cool, but I couldn’t stop staring at his Brian Jones wig. It was like Greg Shaw with a hangover or something.
“Well”, he said, “I’ve got a fuckin’ record company now and I’d like to hear what you guys have been up to”.
“”I have a tape of stuff we’ve done, rehearsal demos”.
“Nah, I want to put some fresh shit out there, you know? I can put up some scratch so you guys can throw something crazy out there, ya know?”
I looked at his friend and he didn’t say anything. I think he was in a band or something but that wasn’t here nor there. I just gave them a blank stare. It was Saturday morning, y’know?
“Well, anyway, here’s my spiffy card and give me a call. I can’t put out an album but you’ll have a beautiful sparkling 7” single you can tote around and impress your friends with. What do you think?”
“Cool, I’m in”.
“Ya still talkin’ to the guys in Monkey Wrench?”
“No, they’re ancient history”.
“Too much fighting?”
“No, I had a bunch of stuff that didn’t fit in with their master plan for world domination, so-“ Dead End Kyle chuckled at that.
“Well, okay, when you come by my place I’ll play you a bunch of other stuff I’ve been putting out. You may like it, maybe not. Call me”.
“And that’s it? You didn’t have to play him any audition tapes or bring him to any shows?” Bradley flicked more ashes.
“No, I had a good rep from Monkey Wrench. He also mumbled something about the way I held my trumpet”.
“Get out!” Bradley pushed Griff. They both laughed, then became very quiet. They could hear cymbals being bashed from the inside of the studio.
“This is good”, Griff tossed his cigarette butt into the street. “Once the cymbals are done he’ll get the bass levels. Trev’s already in there”.
“Right on! I hope Bert and Bobby take their time eating. That way I’ll be the first guitar to set levels!” They both laughed and high-fived each other.
It was a hot day in Hollywood with the blistering sun burning out anything resembling clouds or moisture I the sky. Griff carried his trumpet with him down the quiet residential street just two blocks west of the busy East Hollywood main drag. The residential street was just as dirty and littered as the main street with shattered brown beer bottles, shredded newspapers, dog poop, plastic shopping bags and other assorted trash snagged into bushes and other scarce outgrowths of vegetation where there was any. One thing was certain: there was no shortage of palm trees on this street. There were fallen palm fronds all over the road along with orange berries fallen from the trees, slippery if you stepped on them, which Griff made a point of sidestepping.
He pulled out a piece of paper with the name “DOC” scrawled on it and an address that fit the street he was on. Walking a few more houses ahead of him he saw an old white craftsman home with rusty, white iron railing around the house. In the driveway a 28’ Pleasure Craft boat was propped up on a trailer instead of a car, blocking most of the driveway for him.
He closed the gate behind him to go up the driveway when three dogs, a Pomeranian, a Yorkie, and a Shih Tzu, raced up barking at him. Griff stopped dead in his tracks as they yammered at him. “#$%%@#^*&*^^&^%$^”, they barked.
A side door to the driveway opened up and a jolly-looking elderly lady with wire-frame glasses, snow white hair and spackled Fifties makeup opened the door and yelled at the dogs.
“Zsa Zsa! Eva! Magda! Quiet!!!!” she shushed the little dogs, who stopped without an occasional gruff half-bark. “Sorry about the dogs, kid”.
“Request permission to come aboard, ma’am”, Griff said holding up his horn case. The woman let out a laugh that wouldn’t fool a five-year-old.
“That was a courtesy laugh”, she said. “If I got paid a nickel for every time I heard that line around here I’d be rich enough to kick the Duchess of Windsor out of her goddamn throne”. Griff blushed.
“Is Doc around? I need to get my horn fixed”.
“He’s in the bamboo shed out back. Just follow the Guy Lombardo”.
The dogs still circled Griff by the ankles, sniffing him angrily.
“Zsa Zsa! Eva! Magda! Inside! NOW!!!” she commanded. The three mutts ran in and she slammed the door.
Griff walked all the way past the endless boat and saw a tiny bamboo shed with corny big band music blaring out of an old boom box. Inside the shed were horn cases stacked atop each other horn parts old and rusty, some brand new, all strewn around machinery and cleaners on a shop table.
A gray old man in his sixties with a fishing cap and thick glasses was oiling up a trombone when Griff walked in. “Hi, Doc”.
“I’ll be right with you”, he said, not looking up from his work. Griff looked at postcards of Hawaii, Fiji, and other exotic locales posted on the wall. There was a joke postcard of a topless native girl that said in comic writing, “I got some Nay-Nays with my Mahi Mahi”.
“Oh, good mornin', what can I do for you?” Doc looked up from his work. Griff opened up his case and pulled out this trumpet.
“Some of the valves are getting stuck”, he ran his fingers over them.
Doc took the horn from him to inspect it. “Oh, that doesn’t look too bad. Probably just needs an overhaul, that’s all”.
“Great, do you remember me when Jeffrey Chandler used to bring me over?”
Doc stopped what he was doing to appraise him. “Oh, sure, now I remember, last summer, yeah, right before my Catalina cruise. Hell, a shame what happened to Jeffrey. You seen him lately?”
“No, I thought maybe you’ve talked to him”.
“No, I’m holding his horns for him, you know he’s in a pretty bad way. Ran into a patch of bad luck and lost his place, everything. We let him stay here for awhile but he got the panics and ran out. Dogs didn’t like him anyway”.
“What do you think happened? He always had his shit together”.
“Well, I’m not one to gossip because I’m a practicing Christian, but he kinda caught something contagious from one of his female acquaintances. That’s all I know. Anyway, his horns are safe here, I keep this place locked up all the time”.
“Well as long as they’re safe”.
“Look, you’re a friend of old Chandler, I guess I can float you an insiders discount, I’ll go easy on you. Whatever you save here you can give to the poor old guy if you see him. Deal?”
“Deal. I guess I’ll be shoving along now. When can I expect my horn to be ready?”
Doc tore off a ticket stub and handed it to Griff. “Next Friday. Aloha!”
“Aloha!” Griff walked out past a tiki statue, more Pagan than Christian, probably so.
A few nights later Griff made it to The Glitter House to see The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion but the show was sold out, so he hung out in front by the sidewalk. He was glad he didn’t get in because he was feeling kind of sluggish from staying up all night recording and eating bad food, like M&Ms (Plain) and Crunch Taters (Mighty Mesquite), etc.
The music sounded better and clearer outside than it probably did from inside the club. There was no mass of thick, sweaty bodies blocking your ears from hearing the music, for one thing. Griff chuckled to himself.
A ticket scalper in flannels walked up to him. “Blues Explosion, dude. I’ll let you have a ticket for thirty-five dollars, dawg, I’m givin’ em away, check it”.
“Isn’t it funny how bands so sound so much better outside the club? I should go to more shows and dig ‘em from the sidewalk”.
The scalper just glared at him and walked away.
“Oh, be that way”, Griff mumbled, and the espied some girls down the street by the parking lot.
He walked down the darkened side street towards a big parking lot, where there were kids hanging out. He noticed Cheese from Spitball Fanzine who had a few magazines in his hand.
“The Cheese stands alone”, Griff quipped.
“Griff the rock star”, Cheese returned, “Dude, check it out, hot off the presses, the new Spitball. There’s a big piece on your band, man”.
Cheese handed him the new issue, which had Kitten Claws on the cover again.
A few girls shrieked with laughter across the parking lot but it was too dark to see who they were.
“Who’s over there, Cheese?”
“Mykela, Jesti and Shawna from Kitten Claws. Dude, Mykela’s so hot, set me up, bro”.
“Why don’t you go talk to her yourself?” Griff asked as he was thumbing through the new issue.
“She doesn’t like me, man, she likes you”.
Griff kept thumbing through Spitball, the cheap pulp paper spitting out ink all over his fingers, staining them badly.
“Gettin’ ink all over my fingers. I’d better not jerk off tonight or I’ll have a Guttenberg Bible printed between my legs”, Griff chuckled.
“So, how about it, dude?”
Griff lifted the issue higher towards the dim parking lot light, and saw a piece on Stacey Gash and Chuck from ShangriLa together.
“That creepy Stacey Gash from Spinpsycho is dating Chuck from ShangriLa? I met that girl last week. She’s bad news”.
“Isn’t it awesome?”
“I thought he was a recluse and didn’t trust anybody”.
“Yeah, he’s sensitive, man he really feels”.
“So why’s he taking in this nut case as a girlfriend? What an idiot!”
“Dude, he’s so sensitive he puts on a dress so he can understand women”.
“He’ll need more than a dress to figure this bitch out”.
“Griff? Mr. Rock Star Griffith?” Myklea yelled from across the lot. “Get over here!”
“No, you get over here!”
Griff kept scanning the fanzine until he saw a column called “PUNK AS FUCK” written by someone named Slam Pit Stu.
“Oh! There it is! Your big write up!”
The column was printed in tiny font and it seemed as if there were thousands of bands were listed in the column. Griff had to search all over the page to catch the short blurb at the bottom of the page, which read: “Garbage Truck played a cool set at Fuzzbox. Great show, guys!”
“’Great show, guys?’ That’s the big write-up?” Griff asked.
“Dude, you can have this issue even though I'm down to my last three”.
Mykela walked up to the guys with Jesti and Shawna passing a bottle between themselves.
“I thought you were guys weren’t drinking”, Griff looked over at them.
“Jesti’s doing all the drinking”, Shawna said. “I’m just monitoring her”.
Jesti passed the bottle over to him. “Party punch. Imbibe!”
Griff took the bottle and had a swig. “Thanks”.
Mykela smirked and said, “Hey, we’re all going to Java The Hut to see Lady Godiva’s Operation. You goin’?”
“No, I see enough of those guys in my own band”.
“We’re not just going for the band. I heard Chuck from ShangriLa’s going to be there”.
“Will he be hiding from everybody in his bathrobe?”
“I’ll go! I’ll go!” Cheese jumped up and down. “Free Spitballs for my girls! Look Shawna, your band’s on the cover!”
“Whatever”, Shawna mumbled derisively.
“What about my comp issue?”
“Dude, I owe you one, I’m down to my last three!” Cheese whined.
“So, Griff, are you coming???” Mykela asked. “Java The Hut! Free coffee! ShangriLa! Your guys rocking out!!!”
“Yeah, but they’re playing their music, not mine. It’s gonna hurt”.
The girls laughed. “Your loss, Big Shot! C’mon Cheese, you can sit in the back seat. Shawna’s got a big Caddy”.
The four walked off all talking at once, piled into the Cadillac and drove away, leaving Griff by himself in the now-empty parking lot. He felt his bladder humming, so he walked down the lot towards the dumpster by the wall. He pulled his hose out and peed.
The sound of his urine made a funny noise, like water splashing the skin of a bullfrog, a lily pad type of tinkling. Griff looked down at what he was peeing on and saw a big purple face above a yellow Security Guard jacket. It was a dead black man, but not just any dead black man, but the bouncer from The Lounge and The Glitter House who used to scream at him all the time. His eyes were open and staring vacantly at Griff's golden stream splashing all over his rubbery face.
The blood from his caved in skull coagulated with Griff’s amber urine, trickling down in a stream past the dumpster, gleaming in the darkness. Griff leaned in closer to get a better look and once he realized the man was stone cold dead, he jumped ripping out a girly yelp, "YOW!!!". He held on to the dumpster for support, looked around to make sure he was alone, and said, “What the hell do I do now?”
EVERY GOOD BOY DIES FIRST
END PART ONEPainting by Brandt Peters