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Rock and Roll in the Night
Looking back, I can see that I should have recognized the signs that something was wrong - like the feel of a heavy rock and roll song building excitement going into the ending chords or like the biblical warning signs of the apocalypse.
The frightened man looked up from the crumpled paper he was writing on. The steady hum from the highway cars speeding by was distracting. He knew they'd find him soon. He couldn't stay at this Mobil station forever. He picked the butt out of his mouth and threw it to the concrete. It was his last cigarette. He forced himself to write the words he almost didn't believe himself.
I know I should have known better. I'm John. I'm from Vermont. It's a nice place to live, but it aint happening. I came to Boston with my band ‘Thor's Hammer' to make it big in music. Our master plan was a familiar one to aspiring rock musicians. We wanted to play loud and hard to establish ourselves. Once we had a fan base, we would go into the recording studio and magically win a big recording contract with someone. We had a hard hitting sound and style that went over in blue collar south Boston. The problem was no one wanted to hear our originals. We couldn't made the big leap from being a good copy bar band to a recording and touring band. After 6 month's of living in dives in the south end, we all started to get impatient.
Gary, the singer, was the first to leave. He simply went back to Vermont. Donny, the bass player, took a job as a truck driver. Both Greg, the guitar player, and me the drummer, tried to find another gig. We answered several newspaper ads. But they all turned out to be kiddie basement bands or dreamers. Then Greg got into a jam. His girlfriend was pregnant and he needed bucks. His girlfriend's father offered him a factory job 50 miles away in Worcester. He took it. Our last night together we both polished off a six pack and listened to some live tapes of the band. We laughed and had a good time. But the laughter was strained. I could tell that it was hard for him to give up all his musical dreams. As for me - the bucks were getting tight. When Greg left, I was left all alone in the big city without a gig and just $25 to my name. Looking back with the knowledge of horror I know now, I wish I left town with Greg.
The next day, I took my guitar to the subways or ‘T' as they call it in Boston. I can't play guitar, but I can sing. I picked a nice bench. The suits didn't like my non-commercial material and wouldn't pay a nickel. Being as I didn't have time to memorize the Captain and Tenille songbook, they were not impressed by my efforts. They avoided eye contact and quickly walked by like I was some kind of subway rat. But some working folks threw in change. I made $27. Around 3:00 when no one was around, I made a horrible mistake. I picked an entertainment newspaper from the trash. A one line ad caught my hungry eye and lead to my doom.
Pro drummer wanted for working Shock Rock band.
I called the number from a pay phone and left a message. Some guy with a strange European accent called back around 11:00 that night. He told me stuff that was too good to be true. After I assured him that I previously played in a professional band (In theory Thor's Hammer was a professional band - although in reality, we barely made a living.), he told me that they needed a drummer immediately. He promised $150.00 for a Friday night job. The bad news was this guy seemed bad news. He didn't want me to sing any vocals. He demanded that I show up early and set up at the club and that I wear all black. Most of all, he demanded that I tell no one about this job as his band had a secretive following. He said "No one tells anyone about my band."
In the spirit of ‘beggars can't be choosers', I accepted. I was broke. That $150 would go real nice in my pocket. Also the part of the dreamer in me clung to the slim hope that this might be my big break and change my life. That night did change my life. But not the way I thought.
The gig was north in Salem - some joint called the Bloodrock. Not being familiar with Salem and not sure my beat up Ford would make it, I decided to leave early and succeeded in getting lost around the commons. The Salem commons is close to the location where early settlers used to hang witches. I spotted a retired old guy walking around the commons gothic gates.
When I asked him how to get to a place called Bloodrock, a wicked look of horror came over his face. He told me ‘stay away from that place if you love life!' As I watched the old guy half run - half walk away I half expected him to have a heart attack. At the time I thought he was just another anti-rock n roll creep. Now I can see he was trying to save me. When I finally found the place I was disgusted. It was a real dump. It was an old building by the waterfront The outside was painted gray or not at all. A small sign was outside said ‘Appearing Tonight - RIDERS ON THE STORM.' All interior walls were painted black. The men's room was bare sheetrock. The floor in front of the small stage had several loose floor boards. It was a mystery to me how the place escaped being condemned.
The thing that really gave me the creeps was the cold temperature of the place and the musty smell. It was like being in a tomb. I amusingly thought it was a step down from playing in Boston's subways as I unloaded my gear.
Before I set up my drum kit, I checked out the band's gear. I was amazed at the age of the band's equipment. The electric guitar was a very old Gibson. It looked like an valuable antique. The bass was an old style Rickenbacker that looked like it was from the early 70s. The keyboards were a huge hammond organ. The monstrosity took up one third of the stage. I thought bands gave up those organs in the 60s. I didn't even recognize the type of microphones or the PA. A weird sound board was behind me. I wondered if these antique instruments would work much less rock.
I finished setting up around 7:00. Just then some losers wandered into the bar. I sat on the stage and waited for the rest of the band. I was hungry. As I didn't want to eat anything that was made in the condemned kitchen of this pub and I didn't have any money anyway, I decided not to eat anything.
Finally sometime after 10:00 some tall dude brushed past me. He was tall and pale like he just got out of prison or something. The guy silently checked the band equipment. Then he turned to me. Something about him made me not look him in the eyes.
"I'm Vincent. The first set is standards. Then we go into originals. We've been playing together for a couple hundred years. Don't screw up the drum parts."
Suddenly two other weirdoes walk up to the postage stamp stage. Without saying a thing to me, they picked up the antique instruments. The keyboard player - I never learned his name - handed me the first set list. It was a strange list of old, gory tunes. I suddenly regretted ever agreeing to this gig.
While I was reading the set list the band suddenly broke into the first tune - The Doors ‘Riders on the Storm.' The band was loud and incredibly tight. These guys were more than good and were playing like they had played together for a hundred years. While the band played on, I racked my brains trying to remember how these strange songs went. I kept the drumming simple and concentrated on keeping up with the band. ‘Riders on the Storm' was connected to ‘Break on Through.' Vincent's deep voice sounded spookier than Jim Morrison.
You know the day destroys the night. Night divides the day. Tried to run. Tried to hide, break on through to the other side.
A weirdo crowd gathered in a circle around the stage. They were all dressed in black. I‘m used to heavy metal crowds shouting and throwing fists in the air. These creeps were all motionless like they were silently grooving to the sonic blast music. Most of crowd looked like devil worshipers or witches. What kind of people followed this band? It really freaked me out. I wasn't sure if the scary way some of the creeps in the pub looked was a put-on or real. For the first time in my brief rock career, I was scared of the crowd.
We blasted through loud versions of The Beatles ‘Come Together', ‘Iron Maiden's Killer', Alice Cooper's ‘I Love the Dead', Judas Priest's ‘The Ripper'. During The Ripper, I got lost briefly and played through Vincent's solo guitar break. He turned to me and shouted "The next screw up and you're a dead man!" I didn't doubt him. Not wanting to die on stage, I concentrated harder on keeping the tight beat. This gig had turned into a nightmare. Why did I ever come to this hell hole?
Some crowd girls dressed in black were staring at me like they were interested in me. At the time I thought they were groupies. I turned to my right and half smiled at them. They didn't smile back. There was something soulless in their eyes that spooked me. In their black garb, they were strangely beautiful and repulsive at the same time. I decided to look straight ahead and keep drumming. Maybe if I ignored them, they would go away.
Finally we broke into ‘Helter Skelter' and the first set came to a merciful end. I was exhausted. The band walked off the stage and left me alone behind my drum kit. The place was pretty full now and the crowd looked like something out of a B horror flick. I was to scared to get off the stage. The girls to my right were still looking at me. They weren't going away.
After only 5 minutes, the other band members reappeared to start the second set. Vincent turned to me and said "No matter what you see, keep playing - no matter what." It seemed like a strange comment...at the time.
Without telling me anything about the 2nd set tunes, the band suddenly launched into the first song. The volume was louder than the first set. Every so often the lights dimmed as the band's drain of electricity was taxing the below specs electrical system. The Riders on the Storm originals were some kind of heavy metal / downer rock. I somehow made out some of the lyrics that Vincent was screaming.
Under the moonlight Where I wait for your blood Under the moonlight Where I wait - like a wolf in the night.
After 10 minutes of hard driving music, Vincent screamed BLOOD! At first it looked as if there was a fight in the crowd. Some of the figures in the crowd lunged for fan's throats. The band kept the driving beat. Behind my drum kit I saw that about half the crowd were vampires and the rest were human victims.
Vincent suddenly stopped playing guitar, pulled a young woman on stage and sank his teeth into her throat. After quenching his thirst, he threw her back into the crowd and began playing again. The bass player stage dove into the crowd and sank his teeth into a fan. I realized then that the band were all vampires. This whole gig was a scam to lure rock and roll fans into the nightclub for these beast's blood lust! The band's shock rock appearance was not a put on. They really were vampires.
I wondered how long this crazy band had played together. Vincent had said they'd played together for "a couple hundred years." Before rock and roll they probably were a small jazz band. Before jazz they probably were a Dixieland band. Before that maybe they were traveling country musicians. What kind of music was there before the 1900? I also wondered what happened to the band's last drummer. I figured that the crazed girls to my right went after all the bands drummers. Being that I believed that I was too young to die for my music, I tried to think quickly.
I used to talk to the crowd in my old band a lot. It trained me to think on my feet. I got a desperate idea. It would be my only chance.
While keeping the beat with my feet and my left arm, I grabbed an extra drumstick with my right hand. I wrapped duct tape around two sticks and fashioned a crude cross. Then I leaned over and turned the PA volume up all the way. The band volume screamed!
Then lights dimmed and went out. The band's PA cutout. The band's drain on the juice burned out the cheap bar's fuse box.
Holding up my makeshift, drumstick cross, I sprinted for the door and my escape. Vampires in the darkness growled in anger at me but got out of my way. I ran to my car and slammed the door. I turned the key. The tired half-dead battery barely turned the engine over. Would the car start?
"Come on." I pleaded. I was almost in tears.
Like an answer to a prayer, the engine suddenly burst into life. I threw the car into reverse smashing the bumper of another parked car. Turning the wheel I pealed out of the dirt parking lot. Suddenly I felt something big land on the roof of the car. I twisted the car and the crazy thing fell off. I looked back in the rear view mirror and saw a large, black, winged creature slip off, fall and roll in the road. What did Vincent say? "No one ever tells anyone about my band."
A second thing landed on the roof! The vampires were apparently trying to make sure I didn't spread any bad publicity about the band. I sped up to 65 on the Salem twisting side streets and the thing fell off. I didn't look back to see what it looked like. My heart was pounding.
I headed to the Massachusetts turnpike. Somehow I had beat the odds and got out of the club alive and knew their secret. They wanted me dead. I wanted to put as many miles between me and Salem as possible. I drove 80 miles an hour down the pike.
After about a half hour of hard driving, I calmed down and lowered rickety Ford's speed to 65. I took the exit north. I drove until the tank ran as low as I would dare drive on and then finally stopped for gas. I realized that I only had $5 on me, but that $5 would probably get me to Vermont.
After buying gas, I sat down to think. I didn't know if I would get away. I wanted to leave my story so others would know what the hell happened in Salem. These rock vampires should be exposed. I always thought that in the music world, drugs and sex were the only things you had to worry about. Rock and roll - It's far more dangerous than your parents told you.
The man driving the Ford walked back into the Mobil station. He handed the crumpled paper to the long-haired attendant in the Meatloaf Bat out of Hell T-shirt.
"Please keep this in case anything happens to me on the road." The attendant behind the counter silently nodded. But it didn't register with the grease monkey. He was too busy listening to Black Sabbath's ‘Electric Funeral' on his boom box. As the man walked back to his car, a dark shadow passed in front of the moon. A black figure descended onto the parking lot. It looked like half man - half bat. The frightened man ran and jumped into his car. His shaking hand fumbled and turned the key. This time the Ford started the first time and he tromped on the gas!
The grease monkey didn't know if the black bat-like thing was his imagination or...what could it be? He saw the guy in the Ford tear out of the parking lot. He thought he saw the black bat-like creature spread it's wings and fly away in pursuit. The stunned attendant leaned over the coke machine and tried to get a better look. He couldn't tell if the guy in the Ford got away. He didn't get a look at...it must have been his imagination. Yes...that was the only explanation.
The grease monkey turned up the volume on his boom box and picked up his entertainment magazine. A one line ad caught his eyes. The ad said ‘Pro drummer wanted for working Shock Rock band.' He smiled. He had been practicing hard and would do anything to get out of this gas station job. Hoping and dreaming that this was the big exciting break that would change his life, he eagerly picked up the phone.
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