August 2003

SO...All of you received the announcement that David and I are kaput. I'll address that later. First I will touch upon some salient moments in the time since the last newsletter which went out on 7 November.

On Friday 8 November we played Roosevelt's in Salem. Nice place. I like the owner. A couple of our die hard fans attended. Otherwise quiet. Well, actually, there were some young people there. The under 30 crowd. With exceptions as rare as gold bars coming out of your ass, these people respond to our music as would lawn statuary. Or lovely bowls of fruit, if you like. There we were, David Brown, Dave Mattacks and myself, grinding out this fat, crunchy, groov-o-matic gusha gusha, and I swear to God we would have elicited the identical reaction in a barnyard. Cows & goats, chickens & sheep, geese & donkeys bleating and braying while we put 90 years of collective experience to work. Reminds me of the one about the guy with the terrible rash on one arm up to the shoulder. The doctor gave him some ointment but a week later there was no improvement. The doctor asked the guy what he did for a living. He said he worked at the circus.

"What specifically do you do at the circus?"
"I take care of the elephants."
"What does that entail?"
"Oh, I feed 'em, wash 'em, clean up after 'em, and once a week I give each of 'em an enema."
"And what does that involve?"
"Well, I gotta reach way up in there and..."
"That's it! Stop doing that and your rash will go away."
"Are you kidding? Show business is my life!"

Yes, well, music is mine.



LET'S GET STONED

Next day, Saturday, I was driving the five year old to gymnastics class when a vaguely uncomfortable sensation in my lower left abdomen suddenly became pain. A lot of it. I held onto the steering wheel and worked to control it. It didn't come on in waves. More like a steady beam of intense pain. Like a pair of hands were wringing out my guts the way you would wring out a dish rag. Lasted about ten minutes. Then it faded.

"What the hell was that?" I thought. Some kind of alimentary hairpin turn, maybe. The rest of the day was uneventful. I put it out of my mind.

On Sunday morning I ran my accustomed six miles, showered, dressed, and as I was tossing a towel over the curtain rod I was stricken. The pain lanced in a straight line from my stomach to my groin. I put my hand on the wall to steady myself. My breath came in short puffs. The pain increased. I dropped to my knees. I was in agony. It occurred to me that whatever this was might be killing me.

"This isn't normal," I thought, and called for an ambulance.

The pain abated long enough for me to walk to the ambulance. I was too proud and too dumb to allow myself to be strapped onto a gurney. In the ER the doctor told me it was either an aortic aneurysm or a kidney stone. That got my attention. I was wheeled down a corridor and into a room where I was sent through a big white bagel several times. Then back to the ER where, after a short wait, I was told that there was nothing to worry about:

I had a kidney stone. I was given a prescription for some heavy duty Motrin and sent home.

That night we played the Dodge Street Grill in Salem. I felt a little delicate but OK. The gig went well. I drove home, went to bed, and had another attack that lasted about two hours. Unbelievable pain, but I didn't mind, really, because I knew it wasn't cancer and that it would pass so I actually felt a sort of calm gratitude.

My stone and I wrestled for four nights running. Every time I went to the bathroom I peed through a fine strainer I had been given in order to catch the stone so it could be analyzed and then maybe inadvisable foods could be determined.

Finally, on Thursday, it appeared. Tiny. If you cut a pea into eighths you get the idea.

Awful small but boy oh boy, awful awful.

Analysis revealed nothing special. I was told that the reason I got the stone was probably because I hadn't been drinking enough water.

Recently I learned that a friend of mine had to go in for emergency surgery because four stones were blocking his kidneys and that he's been afflicted with these things continuously since 1988. Jesus.



THE JOYS OF FATHERHOOD

We had a lot of snow in New England this winter (and this spring), so what better way to enjoy the season than to engage in a rousing snowball fight with your progeny? There I was with my boys, the five year old and the 14 year old, the three of us pelting each other silly. The little one was not much of a concern but the big one is a high school ball player. He's long & lanky and has a wicked whip which should not be taken lightly nor was it. He had my full attention as we exchanged fire. I got off a good one, got him right in the chest, and then noticed the little one approaching. In his arms he carried a bowling ball sized chunk of snow which required all of his strength and concentration to manage. He got within range, about two feet away, and lobbed it as best he could, so that it plopped on my boot. He then turned around and bent over to gather up some more ammo. I, too, bent over, put my hands under his rump and sent him head first into a snow bank. I stood back up and began to chortle in my glee when there was a devastating impact; an explosion on the bridge of my nose. Blinded, certain my front teeth had been loosened, I put my hands up in the universal sign indicating "Por favor, no mas." From the direction of the 14 year old I heard, "Sorry, Dad. You OK?"

Meanwhile, the little one, unseen by me because, well, I couldn't see, got back to his feet and gave me a straight, hard punch right in the nuts.

Thus was the tyrant toppled.
I made a lovely snow fetus.



SHOPPING PANGS

Winter jackets are not items that men often replace. I'm not privy to any surveys or clinical studies on the subject; it's just the way it seems to me. It's my sense that when a man settles on a winter jacket he sticks with it for awhile.

I had been wearing the same one for over ten years when the zipper finally gave out. I had to take it in to be mended but needed a backup because the whether was still cold.

So off I went to the mall.

In the men's department I found some jackets that suited me. As I tried them on and regarded myself in the mirror, a wave of nostalgia came over me. What was it? Then I knew: buying a winter jacket is what a boy does with his mother every fall. He's acquired a year's growth so his mother has to take him to the store to get him fitted for winter. The boy's part is to stand still and endure his mother's futzing. Her hands are on him as she tugs the jacket on and zips it up and scrutinizes it. And now here I was, alone, trying on jackets. And I missed my mother.



HALF FULL

Gig: Dolphin Striker
Scene: Portsmouth NH
Date: 27 December 2002
Situation: Snow Emergency
Reality: 3 sets, 90 minute drive each way
More Reality: While I'm working my car gets towed. I don't get home till 5; I have to get up at 6.

So...

My Pay: $100
1 CD sold: $15
Towing charge: $80
Citation: $25
Total Take: $10

The way I look at it, my car was towed and The Dolphin Striker paid for it.

Thanks, Dolphin Striker!



DEAD FRIENDS & DRUNK STRANGERS

I met Alex Arguello in college in 1968. We played guitar together around campus. Blues, mostly. We'd play for hours at a time. Screw homework. In the summer of 1971 we played together in a band called Smokehouse. It was the first time playing in a band for both of us. We played covers in dance clubs around San Francisco. Pretty hip covers, too, as I remember. Stuff like James Brown's Hot Pants & Al Green's Tired of Being Alone. Our paths parted: mine took me to Boston where I continued to play music while Alex's took him back to school and then to a job as a high school teacher in Santa Cruz.

On 24 January 2003 Alex left work and drove to the supermarket. He loaded groceries into his car then walked into the video store and rented a movie. He walked through the parking lot, got behind the wheel of his car, had a massive heart attack, and died.

Just like that. Around the time my friend was passing beyond the veil I was driving up to Newburyport where David Brown, Dave Mattacks, and I were holding forth at Michael's Harborside. It's a lively spot. As I was tuning my bass, a guy with a belly hanging well over his belt emerged from the men's room and regarded me. I looked at him and watched as he leered at me and played air guitar. Apparently he liked to strap his guitar very low because he was waggling the fingers of his strumming hand right in front of his genitals. Weariness and horror contended for supremacy as I snapped my attention back to my tuner and wondered just how low Mr. Flappynuts would go.

Pretty low, as it turned out.

First song, he bounded onto the dance floor and went into a deep split. He did it slowly, with his back to me, so that his posterior protruded directly at me, which reminded me of my dog Harvey who, when stretching in that canine way with the front end down and the back end up, seems to be saying, "Here's my bunghole!" Then he grabbed his hair and mimed pulling himself up. I looked at the crowd and saw drop-jawed shock.

That was basically his shtick which he repeated for most of the evening.

Rock 'n roll!



SOLO YOU CAN'T HEAR IT

About a year ago I got it into my head that I wanted to perform acoustically. True, folky venues aren't filled with smoke and drunk people but the idea still appealed. So I dusted off my old acoustic guitar and started practicing. I hadn't played guitar for about 30 years. Meanwhile, in the course of normal gigging, I met a hotshot named Tom Bianchi who, besides being a solo bassist, singer, and comedian, also does some booking. He booked me as a solo artist at The Skellig in Waltham. January 22 was the date of my debut as a solo/acoustic performer. The Skellig is a bar so there's an automatic audience. Things went swimmingly for 20 minutes but then the fire alarm went off. We were told to evacuate the building. That was that. I'm glad my friend Danny Furlong was there to help me carry my stuff out.

Some time later I received an email from Fly Amero who told me that he had just done a solo/acoustic gig at this place in Haverhill called The Crescent Dragon and that he thought it would be a great venue for me and David. So I sent a CD to Michael Fioretti who runs the place. He got back to me, said he liked it and he wanted to book us. So I told David who said he didn't want to do acoustic gigs. OK so I called Michael and told him Dave didn't want to do it but that, as it turned out, I had been practicing guitar and I'd sorta like to get in there and try it myself. To my amazement and terror, Michael said fine. We booked a date.

On 21 March I arrived early at the Dragon, did a sound check, and waited for the crowd. The Crescent Dragon is a beautiful venue. It's two rooms, basically, one for browsing and one for seeing the show. An art gallery and listening room. There's great food. It's really mellow and a great vibe. I drank scary black coffee, talked with Michael, and watched the clock. Showtime, eight o'clock, rolled by, but nobody showed. Nine o'clock, zip. Crickets.

It hurt. I admit it. I had sent out a Gig Update, it was advertised on the Dragon calendar & in the Globe Calendar, yet absolutely no one came. "I guess nobody likes me," I thought. I was about to pack up when Bela and Michael Maranhas, two of Troy/Brown's most devoted fans, walked in. A welcome sight, indeed. Resisting the urge to burst into tears and hug them, I ushered them into the listening room and gave them the best show I could. They seemed to like it. Michael liked it, too, and said he wanted me back.

So in the end I was very happy.

Michael reasoned that I could build a following by opening for better-known performers so he got permission for me to open for Kerri Powers. I hadn't heard of her, but then I haven't heard of anyone in that genre. I veered away from the folk scene when The Kingston Trio was climbing the charts.

On May 9th, the big night, I again arrived early and did sound check. When Kerri walked in I thought, "Whoa, she's tall." When she came up, smiled, and held out her hand, I thought, "Gosh, she's beautiful." When she was twenty minutes into her set I thought, "Shit, she's good." Bluesy, funky, great playing, great singing, great originals, great covers. She's really, really good. And you know what? Seven people came. Seven. Just a few feet from the busy street scene there was some intense music going on and only seven people knew about it. Makes you wonder what else you're missing.

Oh yeah. I played, too. I was good.



ALSO...

I subbed for Barrence Whitfield's bass player at the Fleet Pavilion opening for Etta James. I showed up, learned the songs, and did the show. Everything went well. Only thing, I had never played with Barrence before so I was unprepared for his exuberance. On the last song, a 90 mph boogie woogie, he literally threw himself across the stage, kicked his feet in the air, climbed the drum riser and screamed like a demon. It took a moment for me to recover from my initial impression that he'd been shot and my second impression that he'd forgotten to take his medication but then, reassured by the happy love coming from the full house, I returned my attention to what I was doing. I hope to play with him again sometime because I enjoyed the music but also I want to see him do that again.

I did a show with Jon Pousette-Dart. It was outside at a hot air balloon festival in Rhode Island. There were balloons everywhere, rides, displays, all kinds of stuff. The sun was setting when we took the stage. It was a beautiful evening. We opened with I Think I Know, a light, bossa nova kind of song. "Whyyyyyyyyyyy, do you run, from the..." HOOOOOOOONNNNK! the air was shattered by a feedback blast the likes of which I've rarely heard in all my years on stage. I was blown backward from the monitor, and as I reeled through a mist of detonating mosquitoes, I saw God. He was looking right at me. He was giving me The Finger.

And that's some kinda finger, I'm tellin' ya. 3-D.

Who needs LSD when you have feedback?

We rummaged around for our ears, swapped the ones that didn't fit, and started again. And were blown out of our pants again. Birds dropped out of the sky, squirrels attacked children, and a dog, driven mad, eyeballs protruding, spun in circles and barked hysterically; but I couldn't hear him. I was strangely calm, floating above my body, watching myself laugh as I pushed my head into Eric Parker's kick drum and farted at the crowd. If anyone within a mile radius of that sound system was constipated, he was cured in that moment.

The quote of the day is attributed to the owner/operator of the sound system:

"It worked fine yesterday."

Yeah, well, so did my ears, you goddam son of a bitch.

Otherwise, it was a great gig.



HARD TO DO

Our divergent opinions on acoustic gigs was one of the things that brought David and me to divorce court. I love playing with David but unfortunately (or fortunately...who knows?), we couldn't agree on matters of business and direction. It's like driving with someone else in the car. You see a rest area or a turnoff or whatever, and you want to take it, but common courtesy compels you to consult with your traveling companion. You have to negotiate. Sometimes it's so much nicer to be alone and free to turn right or left or around and not have to hammer it out with someone.

David Brown is a phenomenal guitar player, songwriter, and producer. He and I both know that he helped me grow as a singer. I hope our paths continue to intersect and that we have more opportunities to make music together.

Buena suerte, mi amigo.

WEIGHT A MINUTE

Some of you who are new to my mailing list have queried me about the Weight Update at the bottom of my Gig Updates. It all started in last November's Newsletter when I related how my doctor told me I was too fat (that Newsletter and all the Newsletters are archived here: http://www.johntroy.com/news.html ). The Weight Update became a motivational tool for me.

I figured that if my weight went up I would hear about it from you people. Boy was I right. So when those after-hour urges for chips or buckets of lard came on I would remind myself that my fans would kill me if I caved in. It actually worked and I thank you all. On 5 February I topped out at 240 lbs. On 10 May I hit 199 lbs. Since then I've been within 5 lbs. of 200. Sort of hovering, I suppose. Getting used to the old me. Anyway, I intend to get down into the 180's. My focus for the moment is to keep it under 200. So I'm stopping the Weight Update because there's no news with it anymore. I'll let you know when I hit 185.



PRONGS APLENTY

A chorus line at Chipndales? No, Hammerhead, it's my four-pronged attack:

1. Solo/acoustic --- Just me and my guitar. I get to play while seated. It's wonderful.
2. The John Troy Band --- This is more like what David & I used to play except now it's mine, mine! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
3. Freelance --- This is me hiring myself out as a bass player to whomever has the proper amount of taste, discernment, and money.
4. A Yet To Be Named Cover Band --- I have a little band on the side that will be playing hipster covers in the Boston area. Rolling Stones? No. Otis Redding? Yes.

I love my prongs and I hope you do, too. I'm also in the process of recording a new CD at Bill Smith's Club 39 along with a possible live recording done at The Chit Chat Lounge.

Lots to do.

Movie reviews to follow.

BukbukBUCKetafishabubbawukkaBANG,
John




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