Alice and I headed for Los Angeles, where I knew we could crash with my old band mates and hoped to get my foot in the door at a record company, just mopping floors at first. I knew a good song when I heard it. That had to count for something. I could suffer a janitor gig before my ascension to A&R powerhouseI’d certainly had my share of worthless jobs. One more couldn’t hurt.
I wanted to put trouble in the past, where it belonged. For several months I’d worked as a promoter. Every band flopped, and I was blamed. Club owners, tour managers, angry drummerseveryone was after me for money when there was none to be had.
Alice and I had been together for seven years, which is long enough for marriage, though we didn’t want that. I didn’t sleep around. We split the bills, laundry, the dishes. We survived arguments. Bad jobs. Twice she even punched me in the face. A signed certificate and two rings didn’t seem much of a distinction.
And Alice had been married before, to a Kirby vacuum salesman who divorced her when business picked up. She was against matrimony. But when I asked her to leave town with me, she didn’t hesitate. She made good money at the Knockout Room, a club in Broad Ripple. She cleared out her bank account, gave her furniture to another waitress.
And the next day, just after one p.m. on the hottest day of July, we finished packing our clothes and precious few items into my Cavalier and drove west, going to California. The trip was the closest we’d come to a honeymoon. Alice thought she’d never escape Indiana.
Through Illinois, then down through Missouri and into Oklahoma, Alice and I planned our new life. She talked about getting a job at one of the bars on the Sunset Strip.
“Maybe I’ll work at the Whiskey,” she said, which was the only club she knew. Industry-types always dropped in to glimpse rising new acts. The Doors were signed after their Whiskey show. Van Halen had been the house band. Most groups did pay-to-play, purchasing a block of tickets and roping their friends into buying them. If no one bought the tickets, the club made money from the musicians.
I had tried this as a promoter, which is one reason people were after me.
Alice wanted to meet her favorite bands. She was into guitar players. It had taken her some time to accept me as a lowly bassist.
We listened to her tapes that first day. Elton John’s early work. Janis Joplin. Carole King’s Tapestry, with “So Far Away” and “Home Again,” that moving voice.
“What will you do if they won’t hire you?” Alice said. She meant the record companies.
“If I’m not good enough to empty their trash cans, I’ve got roblems.”
“But later, I mean. If they won’t let you sign bands.”
“I’ll figure something out.”