This is the first in a series of true rock and roll mini-stories that will be inspiration for my next book.
The only reason we ever started hanging outside the back stage door for every show that came in to town was to figure out how to meet bands for the next time Queen came to town. We would show up in the afternoon before a show and hang around fidgeting and giggling, hoping the band would get out of their limo outside the back door so we could goggle and paw at them. We never expected get backstage or were prepared to ever even be asked to the parties. It came as a complete shock (to all of us) when a roadie came up to me at the Jefferson Starship gig we hadn’t been able to get any tickets to, which was almost over and asked me my name really politely, and respectfully, and asked if I wanted to go inside with him , because there was somebody he “wanted me to meet” Nina and I stared at each other with big wide eyes, we have never actually crossed the threshold into the sacred backstage before and she gave me her denim jean jacket, I don’t know if I said I was cold or I would need it, or if she was just preparing me for whatever was to come, whatever that may be, the best that she could.
He led me through the bay and right up to the wings of the stage, while the band was in the full troughs of hour two, I was in a state of shock. And then off the stage, waiting for the audience to beg them back for their last encore, came a long-haired, hard rocking vision, the mysterious reason I was there.
“Craig, I’d like you to meet Sherry, Sherry this is Craig “
I may be remembering it wrong but I think he even gave a courtly gallant little half bow, if he didn’t it certainly seemed that was the way it was, at that moment. No, I’m sure of it. It’s too vivid a memory for me to have created it.
Craig took my hand and said, (the formality of it all still resonates)
” Nice to meet you Sherry, I really hop e you will wait here, until I’m done, so after the show, so we can get to know each other. It won’t be long. Is that okay? I would really like that.”
A perfect gentleman. We might as well have been at an embassy ball.
I think over the roar of the crowd and the amplifiers, in the darkness of the wings on the other side of the stage lights he must have seen me nod my head or say yes, or both, or neither.
And then he was back on stage, this grown –up, genuine guitar god. Who had chosen me?
I didn’t know it then, but he wasn’t that much older than I was. A teenage prodigy, a California skater boy, in his first big band, on one his first major tours. And such a lovely soul. Nothing but the best of memories, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer way or a nicer person for my introduction and indoctrination.
I will never forget the stunned look on Nina’s face when I caught her eye on my way out, and she realized I wasn’t coming back out the magic portal and was instead pulling out of the Back Bay in the back of his limousine. I still really couldn’t believe it was all happening. I had no idea where we were going, or how I would get home or what would happen next. All I could think was I hoping she’s not pissed off I’ve still got her favorite coat.
I was nervous on the ride, so as always I run my mouth and do my best to be charming and entertaining a flighty, chatty, bimbo-esce, empty-headed, goofy sort of way. I still do it, when I’m self-conscious, even though it’s a lot more charming at sixteen, than approaching sixty. Gracie Slick is in the front seat, with the driver meanwhile Craig and I, and a couple other people in the back. I didn’t know who they were, I didn’t know anything, at all really about the band and its members and its history, I only knew of Craig because his picture was a regular feature in fan magazine these days and his long black hair and amazing licks were pretty distinctive. Gracie , well even I knew what a big deal Gracie was, somehow , I had picked that much up, ,even n though I didn’t understand yet , exactly why. I may not know much but I knew I was in the presence of rock and roll royalty. And as always, stupid me, I spent more time talking, than listening. After I nattered on for what seemed like forever with nobody else saying a word, Gracie threw her arm over the back of the seat and turned around and gave him a big grin and said…
” Where did you get this one Craig?
“She’s not bad at all.”
“I like her. She’s all right”
Even I in my ignorance and innocence knew immediately there was no greater seal of approval. It’s a moment and a validation, I will always treasure and I will never forget.
One day I’m going to get a tattoo, of a white rabbit, that says” Approved by Grace. 1978”
In the morning he asked me if I could get home all right from there. I had no clue where I was or if I could but of course I said yes, I could probably take a cab or something. He gave me an autograph. I still have it, we had spent much of the night talking about his interest in UFOs and it was a line from one of the songs he had written for the next album he was very proud of, and two twenties for cab fare. I was embarrassed to take it, but it seemed like he might have been insulted if I didn’t, like it was an awful thing to do, to turn it down, just on principal, and besides I didn’t have a dime! And it seemed so sincerely offered, and he was so worried it may not be enough, and that I was sorted out. I assured him I was fine, knowing I was far from it. I was way out somewhere in Virginia, about a million miles from home, in a place I was completely unfamiliar with; I knew nothing about public transport, I might as well have been on mars! Now, I know taking a cab from crystal city to Rockville would have been about hundred and twenty dollars. But I didn’t worry about any of that I was still travelling on the wings of fate and I figured they would fly me home somehow, once it was all over, just as they had winging me into all this in the first place. Luckily it turned out there was a metro station only a block away. It’s my first time on it, but I was thrilled it was there when i found it. I went down into the lobby and sat down on a divan next to Gracie, I think I just needed a min or two to process it all, before I even attempted to deal with the fact I had no clue where I was, and wanted to wave goodbye to Craig as he pulled away for the airport before I headed off for home, wherever that was. She had the newspaper spread open in front of her looking at the entertainment section and was reading the review of the gig from the night before (I still have that too, I took the paper with me when I left) and there we sat, all mashed up together, leaning in, reading it at the same moment, sheltered and enclosed behind the open newspaper tent, cozy as old chums. She was not guarded at all or protective, she was really friendly and spoke to me like an equal, she was so open, and it was so intimate. It felt like a real moment, like i was seeing the real her. She had no need to put up a front or an act.
The reviewer said she should have retired she was too old to rock and roll (at the ripe old age of about 38) even though he could find no real fault with her performance. She was really hurt; I could see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice. She couldn’t seem to understand why a stranger would say such cold and terrible things about her and the band and I think it wounded her, maybe not much, or for long, but at that moment .
Now and forever, when I think of her, I don’t think of a rough and tough rock hard music goddess and a legend and a notorious bad ass, even though of course, back then I knew almost nothing about rock and roll. I still find out things about the people I met back then now that amaze me, who they were and what they meant that I never appreciated at the time. I think it was my ignorance that gave me the courage to treat them like regular people and not stars and went a long way towards my being accepted and allowed. If I knew who they were then, I never would have had the nerve to speak. She was all of those things, but most of she was just a girl, was trying to cope with getting older and starting over who sang her heart out the night before and who still cared enough to wake up after the show and the first thing she wanted to know how she did and if people liked it, who really cared what people thought and what they said and if they approved.
And as for that no –talent nobody who wrote it, I would still like to kick his ass.
And ask him, looking back at his life, what exactly is it that he has done?