A young man grows up and learns about friendship, love, music and the wildlife during the 70's.
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What happens when a young man from a middle class family is introduced to the world of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll?
If you came of age in the 70's then you may well have lived a similar childhood. If you didn't then consider this an archeological remnant from the past.
Where do love and sex collide? When do the drugs stop mattering quite as much? And Rock 'n' Roll. When should that cease to matter?
Follow the exploits of Stephen, a young man coming of age in a small bedroom community for a large North American city. Then... imagine if you had access to most everything your teenage lust might desire...
Chapter 1: Editor’s pick for disease of the month: The Bubonic Plague
You know that you are living the rock and roll lifestyle when someone offers a small block of hashish to you as payment for services rendered… and you accept it.
The residents of Wiarton had two oddities descend upon them that weekend when The Hash Puppies pulled into town; a rock and roll band, and a stripper. Now, for those of you who have never been to Wiarton, it is a small sleepy burg, which clings to the shores of Colpoy’s Bay inlet, on Georgian Bay in Northern Ontario. Its main claim to fame is Wiarton Willie. That’s the Canadian equivalent to Punxsutawney Phil. You know, that mangy rat that comes out of the earth every spring only to turn tail and disappear back into his hole, leaving us with another eight weeks of winter.
The weekend started out inauspiciously enough, with yours truly picking up the lead guitarist / vocalist and his girlfriend in my old metallic blue Datsun B210 hatchback. Eric and Christie; Christie and Eric; soon to be husband and wife; but I’ll get to that. Soon to be ex-husband and wife; but I’ll get to that as well.
Eric was a handsome specimen of masculinity… with a very androgynous persona. He was mid-height, call it 5 foot 8. Curly black hair, wiry physique, well toned muscles… and a completely infectious grin. Man, he was a goof, but a completely loveable goof. And man, could he play that guitar. He was always in great shape; despite the fact that his lifestyle dictated that he should have no reason to be so.
The idea to give the band it’s name came about because around this time Eric would hide his stash in an old beat up pair of Hush Puppy shoes. The leap from Hush Puppies to Hash Puppies was a no brainer… at least if you were stoned and were privy to the reference.
On the other hand, Christie, or Chris as her friends called her, was kind of stocky, red-haired (which probably should have told Eric something) and completely manic, with breasts that could have seen a boy right the way through puberty. She was a mass of contradictions. One minute, a real party animal and the next, a complete party pooper. Sort of made your head spin to try and keep up. I never knew how she and Eric met. One day, he just sort of showed up with her in tow.
“You know where we are going, right?”
“Relax, Stephen,” said Eric to me. “He’s so serious,” said Eric to Chris.
“Eric, I need to know where we are fucking going!”
“Here, let me spark up a doob…”
In those days, that made everything right. Now I am older and wiser. I know that it really doesn’t make everything right. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t give you that illusion…
Needless to say, we got lost. Not badly so. Not irreparably so. But lost is lost, especially when the band was due to be on stage at 9:00 PM, it was currently 8:00 PM and you had just got your bearings enough to realize that you were still two hours away from where you needed to be one hour hence.
So what did you do? Why, smoke some more dope of course. Didn’t get us any closer to our destination, but…
By this time, my poor old Datsun was starting to make peculiar noises. You know, very un-car like noises. Ugly noises. Noises one can imagine a badly winded pony might make while carrying a pre-weight loss Richard Simmons up an extraordinarily steep hill. Death rattle sort of noises.
Well, two hours turned out to be closer to two and a half by the time we pulled into the parking lot of the Churchill Hotel only to find a man standing nearby taking a leak on the front tire of an old grey beater Chevy pickup truck. Eric grabbed his overnight bag and guitar case, I grabbed my duffel and the amplifier, and Christie grabbed the dope. Let me just say at this point that pot sort of messes with your sense of time. The fact that we might have just made a group of customers wait an hour and a half didn’t really perturb us too much. I mean, we did get there, and we would just play later to make good. No biggie. And besides, the Stones, in their heyday, would sometimes make their audience wait upwards of four hours before they would take the stage. And they were already in the fucking building. It’s all good. All’s fair in rock ‘n’ roll.
When we walked in through the back door of the place, we were suddenly forced to re-think our initial assessment of the situation…
Did I mention that the entertainment prospects in Wiarton were somewhat limited? As we would learn over the course of the weekend, there were three bars in the town and three local acts (who played two types of music… country AND western) that rotated around those three bars on a weekly basis. New talent was somewhat of a rarity and, apparently, warranted considerable attention.
As such, when we came through the stage door, we were confronted with the not too inconsiderable sight of eighty or so people, evenly split between Indians from the nearby reservation and Satan’s Choice from the local chapter. Many of the Choice wore a red bandana, which meant they had either gone down on their old lady while she was on the rag, or they had killed someone. Either way, I didn’t want to get on their bad side.
The whole assorted lot of them was pretty tanked by this point, not to mention pretty belligerent. Fortunately, Ian and Roger had been there for quite some time and had all the gear set up, save Eric’s guitar amp. At least they hadn’t waited until Eric had shown up to break out their kit.
“Where the fuck have you been!”
Ian, The Hash Puppies’s drummer; was a big blonde bear of a man who was usually quite loveable. That is, except when the coke was coursing through his veins and he was starting to peak. Starting to peak while not on stage yet; that just boiled down to bad timing.
Rock music and pharmaceuticals walk a very fine line together. Take a drug too soon, peak too early and give a sluggish performance. Take a drug too late, peak later than you intended, and give a tentative performance. At this point, Ian was pretty much drum solo intensity, and he hadn’t even laid stick to skin yet.
“Right… all set,” said Eric, completely nonplussed by Ian’s obvious disconcertion… “Let’s rock and roll.”
Roger, The Hash Puppies’s bass player, was Bill Wyman incarnate. Black hair, new wave meets punk look; frenetically laid back. “Let’s play some tunes.”
Eric, Ian, and Roger took their places on stage. I took mine behind the light mixer; Christie found Roger’s brother, Rick, in the crowd and ordered a drink.
This was rock and roll, folks.
The lights went down, and the crowd was waiting like a pack of hungry wolves sensing that you only have another click or two left in you before you succumb to the cold. A final snort, the drumsticks rise before beating out a tattoo on the snare drum. The lights blaze, the guitar roars…
“Been a long time since I’ve rock and rolled, woman…”
The lights pulsed. The band was rocking. My back was to the crowd. Did I mention that the crowd was fairly belligerent?
Rock and roll ended and the crowd responded with a guttural sound presaging a kind of anticipation. Whether this was of a good time to come or the prospect of disemboweling the hapless newcomers wasn’t quite clear.
Next up was J. J. Cale’s great song made classic by none other than God himself.
“She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie… Cocaine.”
Listening to a band rehearse is a rare treat, especially when they are good and you love the music that they play. But watching a band play the music that they love live is taking it to a completely different level. The band was definitely on that night.
After Cocaine, the crowd became a little bit more focused in their enthusiasm.
“Play War Pigs.”
“Play Dazed and Confused.”
The band swung into Roger’s first vocal excursion of the evening; Suffragette City by Bowie.
I hazarded a glance behind me. Drinks were flowing; bottles were tapping in time to the music. Smiles were starting to appear. The vibe that had started out so ominously was now turning a corner. The band could feel it. The music was re-invigorated. Ian was peaking. Madison Square Garden was beckoning.
The response was gratifying after Roger’s tune finished. The requests started up again.
I had to smile. At a time when the best you could hear at most bars was lackadaisical covers of top forty tripe, this crowd was calling for all the stuff that was The Hash Puppies’s stock in trade. Eric called Roger over to the drum riser, and a brief discussion that I could imagine as readily as if I had been on stage with them ensued.
“Waddya think?” asked Eric.
“What the fuck?” replied Ian and Roger.
And just like that, the set list became an all request evening. To their credit, they never missed a one. Once the Choice realized these skinny white guys knew Zeppelin, Sabbath, and the Stones like the back of their hand, everything for the rest of the weekend fell right into place. The band had won them over.
At one point during War Pigs, a heavy hand fell on my shoulder. The lights on stage went dark for a moment until I regained my composure. When I turned to see who the hand belonged to, I was confronted by this big mother fucking mountain of a man done up in Satan’s Choice regalia; including the red bandana. He wasn’t smiling. I could almost read my obituary.
“You guys are fucking awesome… whadyaalldrinking…”
It was hardly the legendary Stones Touring Party of 1972, but it was still pretty sweet. For the rest of the weekend, we were well taken care of.