Hazy Days and Cloudy NightsHow It All Got Started 014: Carson
Monday, June 18, 1984
Carson made one quick stop at a convenience store to pick up Stuff and Things, a free weekly classified ads magazine. Once home, he zipped past his parents, who were reading quietly in the living room, and bolted up the stairs to his room.
He turned on his stereo. It was still tuned to the classical station, so he whirled the dial all the way to the right and found KNAC, the new wave station that seemed to have a better variety than its competition, KROQ. The Replacements’ “Color Me Impressed” filled the room.
Car threw himself on his bed and flipped rapidly through Stuff and Things. He found what he was looking for about three quarters of the way through.
“Bands Seeking Musicians.” Specifically, the ads seeking bassists.
Looks and chops a must
NO BIG HAIR
Songs mean a lot
He frowned. That wasn’t him. Looks? Maybe. Big hair? Not even close. Songs meant a lot, sure, but he’d never written one.
Did people write on a bass guitar? Car wasn’t sure he was that much of a singer, and it seemed weird to write something for someone else to sing.
“Chops a must.”
That settled that. Car knew he wasn’t that good. Not yet.
TOURING BAND SEEKS BASSIST:
Own equipment and transportation
Jaco Pastorius, Flea, John Taylor
We leave July 1st!
The idea of going on tour was exciting, but Car knew he was a long way from that. He’d only just decided to find a band that would take him an hour ago. Might be a good idea to actually play a little before he thought about how cool a tour would be. Driving around, seeing the country, meeting people (girls!), staying in hotels… it would be awesome, when it finally happened.
He made a mental note to check out Jaco Pastorius, whoever that was.
Big sound. No poseurs.
Cramps, Misfits, psychobilly.
Car thought about this one. He’d heard the Cramps and the Misfits, and he liked that stuff well enough.
He thought he could handle that.
He called the number.
A clear male voice answered on the second ring. “Yes?”
“Hi… I’m calling in response to the Stuff and Things ad for a bassist?”
“Oh, right. What’s your name?”
“Carson. Carson Meunetti.”
“Hey, Carson. I’m Don. So what are you into?”
Car shrugged. “Just about anything.”
“S’cool. You ever see us? The Donny Zombie Murder Show?”
Car had seen their flyers around town, that was for sure. They were the biggest local band around. Pinnacle Records even sold their 7″ single.
“Never seen you guys, but I know who you are.”
“Cool. So, you think you’d be into our kind of stuff?”
Car hadn’t heard their music. One of their flyers came to mind: a pen-and-ink sketch of a skeletal, rotting corpse with a flaming pompadour and a leather jacket bent over an old-time Elvis microphone. Dripping, horror-movie lettering.
Car shrugged again. What did he have to lose?
“All right, then. We’re practicing tomorrow night. Swing by, and bring some beer if you want, ‘kay?”
Car suppressed Christmas morning excitement. “Okay! I’ll be there.”
Don gave him directions—it was in town—and they hung up.
Car stared at the phone. Was it that easy?
On the radio, Sid Vicious’ cover of “My Way” started up. Car leaped for his bass, switched on his little amp, and hunted for the bass line.
A couple minutes later he was satisfied that he was at least as good as Sid, so that was something. Would it be good enough for Donny Zombie?
The phone rang. Car immediately assumed it would be Tess, then bitterly swallowed that down. Dammit, Tess…
“Where the hell have you been all day, Carson Meunetti?”
Car grinned. “Hello to you, too, Lina Porter.”
“Oh my god, you will not believe the day I’ve had.”
He laughed. “No, you will not believe the day I have had.”
“How’d it end up?”
“Well, I’m not jumping off any buildings, I guess. Tomorrow will be better… maybe really great, actually. You?”
“I came, like, two inches away from being grounded for the… wait for it… entire summer.”
“Yeah. Top that!”
“I’ll see you your ‘almost grounded’ and raise you a ‘Tess broke up with me.'”
“Yeah.” Car told Lina about his afternoon.
“So you… wait, you passed up a trip to Costa freakin’ Rica so you could be with her, and she…” Lina groaned. “Car. That girl!”
“Yeah.” His stomach hurt, thinking about it. “I know.”
“So what are you gonna do? Are you going?”
“Nope.” He closed his eyes, pushed Tess way, way, down, opened his eyes, and smiled.
“I’m gonna join a band.
Quick and deadpan: “Don’t you need to play an instrument first?”
“Oh, hah hah. Clever. Look, you: I’m getting better. Good enough, I think.” He told her about the lousy but earnest and inspiring garage band he’d heard, and his upcoming audition for the Donny Zombie Murder Show.
“Christ,” Lina said. “Eric loves those guys. He’s buddies with the drummer. Zane somebody or other.”
“Oh, yeah?” Car couldn’t keep his general dislike of Eric Finn out of his voice.
“Yeah. Anyway, good luck and stuff. Do you want to hear about my day, speaking of Eric?”
Lina told him an edited version of the day’s events. She’d known Car since forever, but she wasn’t about to go into certain details.
Car listened. “Hey, they showed mercy on you and you’re not grounded, which is good. Are you really through with the Eric thing?”
“I dunno. Maybe. Probably. I dunno.”
“I know, you think he’s an asshole.” Lina paused. “He kinda is. But that’s not the whole picture, y’know?”
“Besides,” Lina said, “You’re all hot to go be in his favorite band!”
Car had to laugh. “Ya got me there.”
Lina used a beat of silence to shift the subject. “So are you really going to do that?”
“Audition for Donny Zombie.”
Car heard the skepticism. “What?”
“I’m just checking that this isn’t one of your trademarked things you do; a thing you get into for, like, a week.”
Car bristled, but had to give it to her. He tended to jump from one thing to another. For a while he was going to be a journalist. A poet. When Lina got into ceramics, Car started drawing. Everything kind of petered out.
“I really like playing bass.”
“Are you gonna tell those guys you’re going to school in the fall?”
“Yeah, why not? I can do both.”
He laughed. “I can!”
“Okay, okay! I hope it works out, Car. Seriously. Maybe you’ll dump the whole law school thing and go be a rock star.”
“Well, I don’t know about that. My parents would probably disown me.”
“Can’t have that,” Lina said.
He loved her, but she was being a buzz-kill. “Anyway, I’m glad you’re not grounded. Summer wouldn’t be any fun if we couldn’t hang out.”
“Oh my God, I know. Speaking of which, when are we?”
“Soon!” Car thought about it. “I saw Preston. He mentioned something about a party. If it’s happening, I’ll let you know.”
They said their goodbyes. Car found himself fighting off both nagging doubt and irritation with Lina for planting it in him.
This wasn’t one of his things. He could do both. He could be in Donny Zombie and go to school; keep his parents happy and live a little bit of his own life.
He totally could.
“Save It For Later” by the English Beat rolled out of the stereo speakers. Car picked up his bass and dove in.
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