Getting out of the car, I knew I wasn’t going to have the best night. I didn’t know exactly what I was in for and apprehensively took hold of the brass door handle. I maneuvered throughout the bar. I couldn’t find her. I had bounced between four bars looking for her, she wouldn’t stay still. I shouldn’t have asked why.
I tried to stay lighthearted, but I’ve never been great at trying. We’d agree and then suddenly the problem would be something else. It didn’t stop. No one was going to win. I’ve always been more accustom to a slow burn. Waking up one day and realizing its been over for a while. An implosion.
I’d never watched such an explosion. And I’ve seen actual buildings explode unintentionally. At its most heated moment, I calmly asked “When you say something like that, are you trying to be helpful?”
“Of course not” she responded and we laughed. We stopped by another bar and grabbed a table. I was trying to keep up a pleasant conversation by myself when my ears were delighted by a familiar riff. I was transported. I was thankful, because I wanted to be anywhere else.
Suddenly, I was back in Boston. A sticky night some years before. I was talking with my friends after some gig. We were drinking Buds and chain-smoking. We spent so many evenings like that, I can’t delineate which are which any longer. Talking about records, shows, the meaning of Rock ‘n’ Roll and why we played it. We passed so many records around you’d think we were smoking them.
My friend Amber, of whom an idol will be built, was wearing a faded band t-shirt. No big news really, that’s what we all wore. But something about it captivated me. Thin Lizzy Johnny the Fox. It raised a good question: What did the boys get up to once they got back in town? The conversation turned to that record soon after and, to my excitement, someone put it on the turntable.
Johnny the Fox is an understated masterpiece. A cornerstone of hard rock. Pummeling melodic bass lines grounding dueling lead guitars. Overdriven Wah refrains competing with cymbal decay. Johnny the Fox is sonically gorgeous.
I knew from the first lick how devastating this LP playing at this bar, at this moment, during this argument would play out. I tried to take it in stride. When the DJ passed by the table, I thanked him for playing it. Apparently, he didn’t. The bartender did. I wasn’t winning points with anyone that night.
By the time ‘Don’t Believe a Word’ came on, I had lost interest in anything besides politely going home. And by the time ‘Old Flame’ came on we were heading out the door.
Its funny. There’s a somewhat arbitrary aspect to creating a song. But those songs connect with people in a way that is anything but arbitrary. There’s an arbitrary aspect to putting a record on at a bar. But to me in that room, it was anything but arbitrary.
‘Old Flame’, what a heartbreaker! Really, dude?! You’re gonna play me like that? In that moment, you – the universe, or the bartender – are gonna “True Love, she comes and goes” me?! That’s rich.
We got outside. It was an ambush. I tried to leave and got caught in a web of don’t leave, don’t talk to me. It stretched for miles to her house, where I was promptly ordered to leave.
I waited around the corner for a car to pick me up. Apparently, this was unusual and I was asked to leave again. Or maybe I was asked to stay. Not even she knew at that point.
My car arrived and I made my escape. I didn’t much feel like talking, and the driver began flipping stations. Catching the end of Tom Petty’s ‘Don’t Do Me Like That’ I was cursing why the stereo kept digging the knife deeper when ‘Old Flame’ came on.
A few days later, she came over to talk but showed up with her friend downstairs and just packed up and left after reminding me it was my fault. I put ‘Old Flame’ on.