Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Lost Led Zeppelin Reunion


Chapter 5
The Lost Led Zeppelin Reunion

A couple days after our return from DC, with Jonesy still off in Europe with Lizaveta, I came home from the library to Easytown one evening to find Desmond and Miss Pamela surrounded by twenty or so gorgeous girls in bikinis.  Desmond and Miss Pamela were seated on bar stools holding clipboards, and the girls were stepping forward and presenting themselves and stepping back as instructed.
“Now do you see what I mean?” Desmond said to Pamela, as he pointed to the brunette who was posing for them.  “On this shade brunette and darker, when the hair length reaches the shoulders, I prefer a more muscular thigh, but when her hair style is shorter, then a more slender leg is ideal.  How do mate?” he said, when he noticed me in the room.
I shook my head and started laughing.  “What is all this?”
Desmond looked down at his clipboard, then back up at the girl and said:  “Missy, right?  Thank you…lovely, lovely, lovely…would you give us just a moment please?”  Missy rejoined the other girls and Desmond continued.  “Pamela and I are crafting the Pretty Kitty business model, and I thought the easiest way to explain all my many idiosyncratic likes in different women would be to show her, so I put out a casting call and this is the turnout.  Not bad, huh?”
“A casting call for what?”
“A feline care training video for veterinary schools,” he explained.  “We told them to wear swimsuits because we are using one of several veterinary assistant coats depending on the girl’s hair color and length, and her other proportions.”
“Feline care training video?” I repeated, mystified.
“You know,” he explained, “Pretty kitties.”
“You crack me up!” I said, then chuckled.  “I think you’re the dumbest genius I’ve ever met.  Miss Pamela, I’m glad to see you again, I’ve been thinking about you.”
Her eyes lit up a little, and she replied:  “Have you now?  Howso?”
“Are you still in touch with Jimmy Page?” I asked. 
“I could call him tomorrow,” she replied.  “Why?”
“I listened to Led Zeppelin all night a couple weeks ago and ever since I can’t get them out of my head.  I know you and Jimmy were lovers once, and you said you parted amicably and remain friendly.”
“We did and do, what are you driving at?”
“I have this idea, a way to maybe reunite the three remaining members of Zeppelin with a drummer who sounds just like John Bonham.”
A gleam twinkled in her eye and a smirk creased her lips, and she answered:  “Do share.”
“Well, first of all it would have to take place at Boleskine House,” I replied.  “Jimmy’s interest in Aleister Crowley is intrinsic to my plot.  That’s why I thought of you, I’d like to find to find out if or when Jimmy might be at Boleskine.”
 “I see,” Pamela replied.  “He once sent me seventeen hundred dollars to buy him a Crowley artifact, so I could bring it up by mentioning that.”
“Boleskine House?” Desmond asked.  “Crowley?”
Pamela explained.  “Aleister Crowley was a turn of the century self styled mystic, magician and Satanist who called himself ‘666’ and ‘the Beast.’ He was a hedonist whose one sentence philosophy was:  do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.  He practiced black magic, which he viewed it as a technique for making contact with entities for the purpose of expanding human consciousness onto a cosmic plane.  He was a celebrity in his day, and told anyone who’d listen that he was the anointed one to replace Christianity with Crowleyanity, which obviously never happened.  Jimmy’s lifelong obsession with the occult very much extends to Aleister Crowley in particular.”
“Crowley owned and practiced magic for many years in a mansion in Foyers, Scotland, on the shore Loch Ness,” Pamela continued.  “The mansion is called Boleskine House.  Jimmy bought it in the early seventies and still owns it.  His friend Malcolm has been the caretaker of the estate for many years now.  Jimmy used to spend a lot of time there but I don’t know how much so any more.  I can ring him for you as soon as it’s morning in England.”
I thought it over, then pulled the trigger in my mind.  “That would be awesome.  Yes, call and find out if he’s going to be there any time soon.”
“So what is your plan?” she asked me.
“No offense,” Desmond piped in.  “But given the choice between talking about Jimmy Page and some thousand year old wizard or talking to these twenty beauties—you two are interrupting us.”
I laughed at him while again looking over the stunning collection of women.  “I’ll tell you the details later, finish your audition,” I concluded and left the room.
The following morning was a Tuesday.  The phone rang early; it was Pamela.
“Deak!  It’s Pamela Des Barres.  Great news…Jimmy’s going to be at Boleskine House this coming weekend!”
“Seriously?” I replied.
“I had to reach into my handbag for a couple of tricks and charms, but he’ll be at Boleskine sometime this Saturday afternoon.”
“Tricks and charms?” I replied.  “What did you do?”
“When I first brought it up he said that he hasn’t been to the Crowley house in a while, and had no immediate plans to head there.  I had been thinking about it beforehand, then on the spur of the moment while hearing Jimmy’s voice I got my dander up and went for it.  Back when I dated Jimmy I had a Scottish groupie friend named Glenda who was from Inverness, which is close to Foyers.  She would show up in LA for a month or two or three, then vanish, then reappear a year later for another couple months.  She and I became friends and hung out whenever she was in town.  Jimmy thought she was gorgeous, and he wanted a three way in the worst way.  We actually had the opportunity several times during those years and Glenda always backed out.  So while talking to Jimmy I casually told him that Glenda had recently tracked down my phone number and called me, and that while she and I were reminiscing Glenda confessed that her greatest regret in life was refusing Jimmy’s repeated requests for a ménage a trois.  He piqued right up and took the bait.  I told him this and that about Glenda, and somesuch other about my husband being out of town, and the short of it is that he is going to be at Boleskine House this Saturday awaiting Glenda and I.”
“Holy crap!” I responded.  “That’s awesome, but that leaves little time for much preparation.  What are you going to tell him when you and Glenda don’t show?  Or are you planning to?”
“After the reunion I’ll just call and confess that I was in on bringing it about,” she replied.  “We’ll have a laugh and all will be fine.”
I hung up with her and immediately phoned Larry and asked him get me every last bit of film and audio of John Bonham that he could lay hands on.  Then I got Desmond, under the light hearted threat of eviction, to break away from his girls for a few days and assist me with my ruse.  For the next several days we spent many hours playing along with Led Zeppelin songs, with Desmond perfecting every last note of John Bonham’s drumming.  In the meantime I also studied the Bonham tapes as Larry brought them to me, and perfected my impression of John’s speaking voice. 
There was also some equipment involved.  I bought a megaphone which I cleverly modified by soldering in a flange, an echo and a voice modulator.  Since my plan was to do all the talking, I mastered two voices:  one that was slightly muffled and sounded exactly like John Bonham, and a spooky voice of my own invention, which was that of John Bonham’s holy guardian angel De-ach.  Desmond and I also assembled a drum kit upon which he could adequately imitate John Bonham and that we were able to fit into two large duffels.
After four days of eating, sleeping and breathing John Bonham, Desmond and I packed a few clothes, my modified megaphone and the two duffels of drums and boarded a plane at LAX and flew into Scotland on Saturday morning.  We drove to Foyers and let two rooms in a bed and breakfast about a mile from the loch.  We deposited our things there then went on reconnaissance; we walked the mile to the loch, and once there made our way up the shore and through the trees to Boleskine House.  Once we had reached it, we peered at the mansion from a vantage in the trees.  The house was dark and creepily quiet, and after several minutes watch we still could not discern if anyone was at home or not.  We were taken with the massive stone terrace between mansion and the water—it was a perfect stage, but that the only place for an audience would have been in boats upon the water.  It did seem ideally suited for an outdoor, midnight Led Zeppelin jam session, however….
We quietly snooped around the trees for a few minutes, and eventually found what we sought: a little clearing obscured from view of the terrace, blocked by several trees, where we could set up Desmond’s drum kit and not be seen in the dark.  We snooped around and scoped out the lay of the land, then quietly slithered through the trees and back to our rooms.  Later that night, carrying only the megaphone and two flashlights, we carefully returned to the loch, and to Boleskine.  The plan was for Desmond to not utter a syllable, but I wanted him there to hear every word Jimmy or Malcolm might say. 
It was an eerie night…the moon and the clouds played with shadows in the trees and on the water.  When we reached Boleskine we saw that there were lights on in two windows, whereby we knew someone was home.  Not knowing what else to do to get their attention, I started wandering back and forth on the terrace until someone within took notice of me.  I felt completely foolish, and had been doing so for almost a full hour before a light went on in a third window, and a door opened.  I scurried back into the trees where Desmond was hidden. 
It was Jimmy; I recognized his silhouette where he stood at the edge of the terrace. “Is someone out there?” he nervously asked. 
I paused, then through the megaphone answered:  “Yes.”
“Who are you?” he timidly inquired.  “What are you doing here?”  He looked back over his shoulder at the mansion and shouted:  “Malcolm!  Ring the police!”
“I am De-ach!” I sharply replied through the megaphone.  “I am John Bonham’s holy guardian angel!”
Jimmy went perfectly still and silent.  “Bonzo’s guardian angel?” he finally echoed, softly and in shock.  “Is this a prank, or a bad joke?”
“Do I sound like I’m joking?” I harshly said.  “You recently cast a spell summoning me.”
“I cast such a spell in 1973, but you never materialized so I gave up and never told anyone, not wanting to embarrass myself,” Jimmy explained.  “There’s nothing to brag about a failed spell.”
“That’s probably because you waited twelve minutes for me to arrive after finishing the spell,” I said.
“Something like that, that’s what the spell called for,” Jimmy answered with a small measure of self confidence.
“That’s been miswritten for centuries.  It’s twelve of your years!” I retorted.  “Twelve minutes here passes as 1973 till today does to you.  Do you really think we can astral travel across the universe in a few moments because some curious bloke in Scotland is drawing lines the floor, lighting candles and chanting incantations to see what might happen?”
“Well you wouldn’t be much of a holy guardian angel if you were that far away,” Jimmy skeptically observed.  “What do you want here, De-ach, John’s holy guardian angel?”
“I have come to facilitate the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy,” I confidently explained, then was intentionally enigmatic.  “Ancient beyond your understanding of ancient, and a prophecy accordingly beyond your comprehension.  You, James Page, are an instrument that must shortly be played.  First though, I know you are keenly aware that Boleskine House is the place where Aleister Crowley attempted to perform the rites of the Abramelin grimoire.”
“Of course I know it,” Jimmy replied, weakly deploying false bravado.  “That’s why I bought it.”
“Do you know the consequences when the Abramelin undertaken is aborted?” I asked.
“Why don’t you tell me?”  Jimmy answered, trying to sound brave.  “If you are De-ach, John’s holy guardian angel then you should know all about the Abramelin.  Prove to me you are who you claim, otherwise I’m going to ring the police.  Malcolm!” he yelled toward the house again.
“I’ll be happy to quell your doubts while enlightening you,” I replied.  “Abramelin was a desert dwelling Egyptian mage.  In the fifteenth century a man named Abraham from Worms, Germany traveled to Egypt and met Abramelin at his home, atop a small hill surrounded by trees outside the town of Arachi, where Abramelin transmitted the grimoire to Abraham.  Are you with me so far?  Does this jive with what you know?”
“It sounds right so far, go on,” Jimmy weakly replied.
“Then let me ask you this:  where did Abramelin get the grimoire?  Who transmitted it to him in the desert?  I know, while you do not, for that is where your understanding ends and mine continues,” I replied.
Malcolm finally came out of the house.  Malcolm was Jimmy’s old friend and live in caretaker.   He joined Jimmy where he stood, at the edge of the huge terrace overlooking the water.  “What’s the matter?” Malcolm said to Jimmy.
“Listen to this,” Jimmy answered.  “This voice in the trees claims to be De-ach, Bonzo’s holy guardian angel.”
I continued:  “The sacred magic of Abramelin is a precise and powerful two stage spell that takes more than an earthly year to properly perform.  The first stage is the magician’s preparation for the second.  In the first stage the mage spends months purifying himself by praying every day before dawn and at sunset, and by abstaining from sexual activity and alcohol while conducting himself righteously in all matters.  The mage knows that this phase is complete with the appearing of his holy guardian angel.”
“You speak with some authority,” Jimmy said.  “Do continue.”
“The months of prayer and contemplation are preparation not only for the appearance of the mage’s holy guardian angel, but for the purging of negative influences and energies from the mage’s mind by mastering the beasts of hell.  This is accomplished by evoking twelve kings and dukes of hell, and binding them.  This show of strength is not only to demonstrate superiority but also to enforce the evil dukes and kings to empower talismans providing any number of earthly delights—from riches to flight, to invisibility, to control over others’ desires, and even bringing the dead back to life.”
“All of this is consistent with my knowledge of Abramelin,” Jimmy said.  “What is your point?”
“The point is that your hero Aleister Crowley was a fat old drunken fraud!  His Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Order of the Temple of the East were not ritual magic societies, they were nonsense designed to part suckers from their membership fees!  He performed the Abramelin faithfully for several months, claimed his holy guardian angel Aiwass had finally spoken to him and revealed that a new dawn was coming for mankind which Crowley himself had been chosen to initiate; but when it came time in the Abramelin operation for Crowley the courageous to confront and master the beasts of hell, instead Crowley the coward chickened out, got married and went to Cairo.  He was more beholden to sex and drugs and alcohol and earthly lusts than any genuine desire to develop himself spiritually and magically by completing the Abramelin operation.”
“Did you really travel across time and space just to come here and bash Aleister Crowley?” Jimmy asked.
“To the point,” I responded.  “To confront the beasts of hell you have to be able to face them, and to face them you need access to them.  When Crowley performed the first few months of the Abramelin his prayers gradually created an aperture that opens into hell, right over your lodge there, and after briefly peering into that horrific opening Crowley cowardly aborted the Abramelin and fled Boleskine for Egypt.  The aperture, however, remains to this day, and the beasts he unleashed have been freely ranging through it for eighty of your years.” 
“Holy crap!” Jimmy exclaimed.
“Golly!” Malcolm added.   
   “I’ve got beasts of hell coming in and going out here at Boleskine?” Jimmy fearfully asked.
I ignored him and continued.  “Now there is a Led Zeppelin prophecy, one of many, eons old and from the far side of the universe, and there are intergalactic forces and starlight and ancient oracles all converging tomorrow night that could ripen that prophecy to fruition.  Would you like to hear it?” I asked.
“You sound like I may not like it, but yes, I’d like to hear it,” he answered.
“Long ago it was written:  As the zeppelin begins its oriental trajectory, there will be three stars high and one fallen to the earth; when the four stars chance to align again then will the light of the music of the spheres shine forth for a blinding moment.”
“It does sound mysterious and mystical, what is the interpretation?” Jimmy asked.
“It means that tomorrow night, at this very same midnight hour, your old mate and drummer John will be passing by this very aperture, and will be able to spend a few hours with you here at Boleskine.”
“Oh my God!” Jimmy cried.  “We used to call Bonzo ‘the beast.’  Please don’t tell me he’s actually become one!”
“John is not a beast and John is not in hell,” I reassured.  “You and he will make two, bring John Paul and Robert to this place and the four stars of the prophecy will be aligned and there will be music.”
“Are we really going to play with Bonzo again?”
“Only if you get Robert and John Paul here,” I said.  “You three set up there on the terrace where you’re standing now.  Provide some recording equipment, and mike these trees where you now hear my voice for the drums, this is where John will play.”
“I cannot believe this is happening!  Does he need a drum kit?” Jimmy asked.  “I have one in the house.”
“No, drums will be provided for John,” I answered.  “And when you hear them do not try to look upon them, for the drums he will play have been enchanted to disappear when seen by human eyes.”  I started gradually lowering the volume on the megaphone as I concluded:  “Tomorrow at midnight the Abramelin life restoring talisman will exert its virtue and Led Zeppelin will rise again!”
“Is there anything else?” Jimmy asked me.  I did not respond.  “Oh my God!” Jimmy said, grabbing his hair.  He was profoundly shocked and amazed, and started nervously pacing circles on the terrace while Malcolm stood and watched.  At length they went back inside Boleskine House and Desmond and I slipped down to the water, through the trees and back to our rooms at the bed and breakfast.
The next day Desmond and I watched our handiwork unfold on television on MTV UK.  The buzz was reverberating across the world.  Robert Plant was in Moscow for a series of shows.  He had abruptly cancelled the last three nights and was filmed boarding a flight to Scotland.  John Paul Jones was in Hollywood working on a film score; he had up and left the set and was spotted boarding a plane to Scotland.  Jimmy had called the Rolling Stones for their mobile recording studio, which was speeding north through England, and when someone leaked to the media that Jimmy Page had hired the truck, a helicopter took up the truck’s course and filmed it from above all the way to its destination at Boleskine House.
After sunset that evening Desmond and I hauled the two duffels containing his drum kit into the trees and along the water’s edge to Boleskine House, where we set them up in the clearing near the terrace then waited till midnight.  The house was brightly lit and bustling.  The terrace was covered with amps, keyboards, guitars and basses, and the components of a drum kit were stacked off to the side.  The Rolling Stones’ mobile recording studio was on the lawn beside the terrace and there were wires and patch cords everywhere.  At various times we saw Jimmy and Robert and John Paul and Malcolm come out of Boleskine and stare anxiously into the darkness and then return into the house.
Finally at midnight they assembled on the terrace and nervously took up their places:  Jimmy on his guitar, John Paul on the bass, Robert at the microphone and Malcolm manning the sound board.  Jimmy stepped to his microphone and timidly said:  “De-ach?  Are you there?  It’s midnight.”
“We see that, most excellent,” I replied into the megaphone.  “John is here.”
I then adjusted the megaphone, shifted my throat and spoke with my Bonzo voice.  “Percy!  Jonesy!  Jimmy!  I’m so bloody happy to see you mates again you don’t know!  Did you bring any beer?”
“Malcolm,” Jimmy said into his microphone, “would you please fetch John a beer?”
“That’s not necessary, there is no beer here, sadly it was just a joke,” I replied feigning John.  “I can’t wait to play again and we only have short time, so let’s get started, shall we?”
“Start playing,” I whispered to Desmond, and he warmed up by tapping some drums and cymbals.
John Paul, Jimmy and Robert were all standing in anticipation, so feigning John again I said into the megaphone:  “What shall we play?  Any requests?”
In preparation for this moment Desmond and I had studied and memorized every moment of every album, and of every last bootleg Led Zeppelin concert and bit of video we could scrounge, and Desmond had perfected every last fill and every least flick of the stick John Bonham ever struck on the drums, but none of that prepared us for the response. 
“I’ve thought about it for twenty four hours,” Jimmy said.  “Since this is a new beginning I thought we’d start it by playing the first song we ever played together.  That was an unforgettably powerful jam, and worked out very well as our first song last time around.”
“What was the first song they ever played?” Desmond hastily whispered to me.
“I don’t know!” was my hushed answer.
“You’re the voice,” he said in a nervous whisper.  “Get them to play something!”
“Go ahead and start playing, I’m adjusting my drums,” I said to Jimmy, John Paul and Robert using Bonham’s voice.  “I’ll fit right in with you in a few seconds”.
“We’ve waited five years for you, we can wait a few moments more,” Jimmy patiently replied.
I said nothing, and Desmond and I sat silent in the awkward dark.  I suddenly remembered Desmond’s problem of late, and how his drumming was significantly better in the presence of women.  It was too late to address the complete dearth of women in our present circumstance, and I didn’t want to make him aware and self conscious if he wasn’t already, and so kept it to myself and nervously watched the event unfold.  Finally, Jimmy and John Paul looked at each other, shrugged, and started playing a chord progression.  We both recognized it instantly and Desmond jumped in and started playing “Train Kept A Rollin’” exactly as Bonham used to play it in the very early days of Led Zeppelin. 
It turned into a twelve minute jam that was bliss to the ears.  My front row seat for that performance alone was worth all the risk and effort that had brought it about.  While I listened I couldn’t help but wonder if Robert, John Paul and Jimmy were discerning that it wasn’t John.  Desmond played Bonham with uncanny accuracy, and with the same boundless energy, and to most ears would have passed as Bonham himself playing.  But these were not just any ears we were trying to fool.  I wondered if I was hearing the difference between Desmond and actual John because I knew the truth, or because my keen ears discerned the difference.  When they finally concluded the song I was anxious with anticipation as to their response. 
“God!  That felt great!” Jimmy said.
“John, I still can’t believe you’re here, that all this is happening!” Robert said. 
“How are you, mate?  And where are you, mate?” John Paul asked.
“Time is short,” I curtly said in John’s voice.  “Let’s spend it playing.”
“Bonzo, let me ask you something,” Jimmy said.  “Have you grown two fingers since departing?  When you dropped the sticks and played the middle part with your hands it sounded like you have twelve fingers.”
“No way!” I whispered to Desmond in panic.
“He heard that?” Desmond replied.  “We’re done, or undone, or both!  They heard the difference!  How are we going to pull this off?  If he can hear my extra pinkies we have no shot!”
“No new fingers,” I answered into the megaphone in John’s voice.  “Let’s play ‘Dazed and Confused,’ or write something new.”
“I smell fish in the thicket,” John Paul said.  He doffed his bass and set it in its stand, picked up one of the footlights and using it as a torch started walking toward us.
“This is weird getting weirder,” Robert said into the microphone.
“Jonesy, stop!”  Jimmy implored.  “Bonzo’s drums are under a spell, and will disappear if you look at them!”
“I don’t believe that,” John Paul answered.  “And seeing is believing!”
He pushed aside a branch that was part of our camouflage, and as Desmond and I shielded our eyes he blazed the floodlight in our faces.  “Who are you two and what the devil is going on here?”
We put our hands in the air and stepped out from behind the drums.  John Paul scrutinized my face by the light he held and said:  “You look familiar.  Why do I recognize you?”  Desmond and I stepped onto the strip of lawn between the trees and the terrace with John Paul right behind us.  When we stood where we could be clearly seen, John Paul said:  “You’re the Deak, aren’t you?  That’s why I recognize you, isn’t it?”
“I am,” I admitted.
“What is all this?” Robert asked, then pointed to the megaphone in my hand and added: “And what’s that?”
Jimmy unstrapped his guitar, Robert clipped his microphone to its stand, Malcolm came over from the truck, and they gathered beside John Paul and looked at us expectantly.
“John Paul is right, I am the Deak,” I admitted, “and this is my drummer, Desmond, who you may also know otherwise as the Sexadactyl.  This was all my idea and I take full responsibility.”
“What exactly was the idea?” Jimmy asked.  “You pretended to be our deceased friend visiting from the dead.”
“Like I said,” Robert repeated, “weird getting weirder.”
“I love you guys,” I explained.  “Led Zeppelin is one of my very favorite bands.  Desmond and I have a couple weeks down time while our Jonesy is away, and meeting Miss Pamela at Frank Zappa’s gave me the idea.  I don’t know what I expected to happen.  My greatest hope was a night of new Led Zeppelin music, and of possibly jamming with you myself.  I’ve wanted to meet you for years.”
“Why didn’t you just contact us through Peter Grant or the record company?” Robert asked.  “I’m sure they’d have put a message from you right through.”
“We did contact you!” I protested.  “Larry and I reached out to your manager and your record company several times over the years.  We never heard a word back.”
“Are you kidding?” Jimmy replied.  “It was we who never heard back from you.”
“Now what are you talking about?” I asked.
“We’ve all been big fans of yours for years,” John Paul explained.  “You were a child star when Led Zeppelin was soaring, and it was either in ’70 or ’71 in Cleveland.  You were no more than ten or eleven, and playing the venue the night after we came through.  Bonzo and I heard one of your songs on the radio and came up with the idea.  We got hold of a plastic Halloween pumpkin and filled it with prophylactics and cigarettes and shots of liquor and rolling papers and Cleveland groupies’ phone numbers and other such appropriate gifts for a boy.  Bonzo and I had a magnificent drunken laugh collecting and filling the pumpkin with the goodies, and we tied it with a bow and attached a Led Zeppelin birthday card which we all four signed and I handed it in person to the promoter who promised to give it to you the following night as an advanced or belated birthday present from the band.”
“Are you kidding?” I cried.  “I never received such a pumpkin!  Do you think I’d forget it if I had?”
“What a bummer,” John Paul remarked.  “I always wondered if you got it and why we never heard any response.”
“Nor retaliation,” Robert added.
“So you learned enough about Boleskine and Crowley and the Abramelin operation to convince me of your credibility, and you do a spot on impression of Bonzo, and your drummer knows every last beat of Bonzo’s drumming; and you got Miss Pamela to coerce me to Boleskine House with hopes, now dashed again, of forbidden delights, and you two trekked through these Scottish woods with a megaphone and a drum set and had the stones to wander onto my property in the middle of the night pretending to be John and his holy guardian angel all to trick Led Zeppelin into reuniting?”
“That about sums it up,” I said, then turned to Desmond and said: “Did I leave anything out?”
“Yes, the part about Miss Pamela and I opening a finishing school for groupies,” he answered.
“That has nothing to do with this,” I replied, “but speaking of that, I didn’t want to say anything earlier for fear of rattling you, but considering there were no women around I thought your drumming was great.”
“Oh man!” he cried, then hurried back into the trees where his drums were set up.  We all watched him curiously, and I briefly explained to Jimmy, John Paul and Robert how Desmond’s drumming improved dramatically in the presence of women, and was actually mostly useless without them around.  Moments later Desmond emerged from the trees escorting a woman.  As she got close I could see that she was wearing a short, tight black dress, a gold belt and black heels, she was carrying a black and gold handbag, and her face was gobbed with makeup—there were no mistaking, she was a drab.
“Everyone, this is Annabelle,” Desmond announced, introducing her around.  Then he addressed me.  “I hired her to come out ahead of us, and to hide in the bushes nearby while I played drums.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me?” I asked.  “Why the secrecy?”
“I didn’t want you to hit on her while I was busy playing,” he explained.  “If I saw that I might have gotten pissed off and distracted.”
“So what do you propose to do now?” Jimmy asked.
“Well, I know Desmond’s no Bonham, but I daresay he’s as close as a man can get, and with such an incredible collection of talent as is on this terrace right now, and the great pains you must have taken to set up all this equipment, it seems to me it would be a shame to pass the time being mad at a certain someone merely for trying to fulfill one of his dreams,” I said.  “Speaking for Desmond, we would consider it the highest honor to jam with Led Zeppelin.”
“I’m amazed at the length you went where a phone call might have sufficed,” Jimmy said, “and in hindsight feeling a bit foolish about what I fell for, but since we’re all here I’ll play.”
“Raising our hopes that we were going to record with Bonzo again only to dash them with reality is a bit of a bummer, but what else are we going to do?” Robert asked.
“Onward and upward!” John Paul said.
We dragged Desmond’s drums out of the darkness and set them up on the terrace.  Jimmy took me inside to a room full of guitars and I picked out a cherry Les Paul, Annabelle joined Malcolm at the board, then we all plugged in, tuned up and jammed all night there on the shore of Loch Ness. 
The music was hot, crisp, fresh and loud, and went on till dawn.    As players we five clicked instantly, and we wrote and recorded three songs that night we refer to as the Midnight Morning session.  The songs came together is if they indeed pre existed our jam and proceeded through an aperture from another world.  However, after the fact, upon long consideration, Robert, John Paul and Jimmy decided against releasing the three song EP as we had originally planned.  They regarded the songs as inspired, incredible and perfect Led Zeppelin; too perfect, in that they feared the confusion it might bring to their legacy.  The news was sad to me, as I was greatly looking forward to being forever musically associated with Led Zeppelin; but to play with them for a night was the highest honor and an unforgettable experience that I treasure like gold in my heart, and if they ever change their minds I am ready for the day that brings Midnight Morning to light. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chapter 6 -- The Sexadactyl Meets The Smiths

Chapter 6
The Sexadactyl Meets The Smiths
When the sun actually rose up and ended the ‘Midnight Sunrise’ session with Led Zeppelin on the Boleskine House terrace we had a pleasant parting with Jimmy, John and Robert.  Malcolm furnished us with a copy of the tape, and after promising to be in touch soon about the future of the three songs collaboration, Desmond and I walked back to the bed and breakfast and enjoyed the breakfast portion of our stay then phoned Inverness airport.  We were told that it wouldn’t be more than an hour or two wait to board a flight to London, so we packed our things and hired a taxi to the airport.
It was about noon when we had checked in with the airline and were waiting in the lobby—I was day dreaming a new song while Desmond browsed the newspapers lying about.  I was gazing nowhere out the window, and while so doing my reverie was snapped suddenly by a newspaper in my face and Desmond excitedly pointing to an ad.
“What’s jerking your pants?” I asked.
“What’s today’s date?” he excitedly replied.
“October first,” I answered.  “Why?”
He was beside himself with glee.
 “The Smiths are playing at a place called Eden Court in Inverness tonight!  Look!  We’re right here—we have to go!” 
 “Who are the Smiths?” I casually inquired.
“The Smiths and Morrissey are amazing!” he exclaimed.  “I’ve been hanging with this Brit Beatrice at one of the clubs on Sunset Strip and she gave me several of their cassettes—all their albums, singles and some assorted bootleg stuff.  She said the band came out of nowhere a couple years ago and have been storming Britain ever since.  I’ve been listening to them incessantly for two months and know every note.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned them.  They are fantastic, pal, they are going to be international, and if you’re not careful you may someday soon look over your shoulder and find them melodiously breathing hot singles down the back of your neck!”
“My career is twenty years worth of number ones and counting,” I confidently responded.  “And no Morrissey Smith who’s turned a few heads in London is going to outshine my star.”
“It’s not Morrissey Smith—the band is called the Smiths; their singer’s name is Morrissey.  Yeesh.”  Desmond shook his head, left me there and took the newspaper to the payphone.  He returned a minute later and informed me that the Smiths’ show was sold out.
“That settles that then,” I replied, knowing what he was about to suggest.
“That doesn’t settle anything!  Let’s go down to Eden Court and introduce ourselves to whoever is there and show your face and shamelessly exploit your stardom to get us into that show tonight!”
“We could do that, if I really wanted to see this band I’ve never heard and only know by name, and barely that,” I teased.
“Very well,” he huffed.  “You fly back to LA.  Your friend, your drummer and housemate, your confidante, the greatest wingman and chick magnet you ever have or will know will go it alone—aw come on man!  Let’s go to the show!  We are standing in Inverness,” he emphatically repeated.  “We could probably walk from here.”
I tried to stay stoic but ere long cracked.  I smiled and laughed and said:  “I can take the muse’s hint—what’s the place called, Eden Court?”
We went into a gloomy Inverness afternoon and had a nibble and a pint of stout at a pub across the street from the club, where we watched the Smiths’ roadies unload equipment as we ate.  Desmond was agitated, anxious to be assured that he would get into the show.  I rarely exploited my fame (mostly because I rarely needed to) but it had never failed me, and so I entertained myself taunting him with feigned drama and worry over whether I would be able to get us guest listed.
It was late afternoon when we wandered across the street and casually entered the side door into the theatre that the roadies were accessing.  We surveyed the strange surroundings and were rather quickly approached by a large and amiable bearded man.
He recognized me and said:  “Oh my God!  Deak, is that really you?  To what honor do I owe the presence of rock royalty in my humble club?”
“Just passing through Inverness,” I casually replied then introduced Desmond.  “This is my drummer.”
“Of course I recognize the Sexadactyl!” the man replied with a laugh, involuntarily glancing down at Desmond’s famous hands.  “What can I do for you two?”
“We understand the Smiths show is sold out and we want in,” Desmond boldly explained.  “Who does Deak petition?”
“I am the owner, my name is Nigel; it’s a great pleasure to meet you both,” he answered, shaking our hands.  “Yes, the Smiths are supposed to play tonight.  They are astounding talent, a truly great band that arose out of Manchester a couple years ago.  The press describes them as up and coming but for we in the know they arrived a while back.”
“See!  It’s not just me!” Desmond crowed.
“I’m always open to new and great,” I iterated.
“And it would be my honor to have you as my guests at tonight’s show,” Nigel continued, “but we’re on the unfortunate verge of postponing, or more likely cancelling the show altogether.  Inverness is the Smiths northernmost date, and it may be a while before they’re back this way.  The drummer Mike Joyce is in hospital with mumps, and as of an hour ago he was still swollen like a puffer fish.”
“I can sit in on drums if you want the show to go on!” Desmond assured with all confidence.
“You are rehearsed enough to play drums for the Smiths gig tonight?” was Nigel’s incredulous reply.  I too looked at him curiously.  “I’d love to save the show, and more importantly, the receipts, but I don’t see how that’s possible.”
“If you have a drum set and a pair of sticks I’ll be happy to show you,” Desmond bragged with his natural swagger.
Nigel gave his head a funny cock and led us to the stage, where the drum kit was erected and ready for play.  Nigel gave sticks to Desmond and said:  “Show me.”
Desmond proudly explained himself.  “One of my girlfriends turned me on to the Smiths over the summer with a handful of assorted cassettes.  I know every note.  I have a bootleg of the Smiths’ Nottingham show sound check in March earlier this year.  Mike played a spontaneous drum solo that was about thirty seconds long while the engineer synched his mics.  I thought it was great, and play it all the time.”  He sat down and played something I’d never heard and didn’t recognize—but two other men did, a pair of roadies who appeared from the shadows, and one of whom said:  “I heard the drumming…is Mike better?”
“No, that’s Desmond,” Nigel explained.  “You might know him as the Sexadactyl. He plays with Deak, and he says he knows every note of the Smiths and swears he could play the gig tonight.”
“Name a song and I’ll play it,” Desmond boasted.  “Or better yet—get Morrissey, Johnny and Andy out here, give me a copy of the set list, we’ll take it from the top and the moment any one of them has the slightest reservation about playing with me I’ll put down my sticks and leave with no hard feelings.  I can play anything with anyone anytime anywhere.  I’m a drummer.”  He then commenced to very loudly pounding out the raucous drum intro to the Smiths song ‘The Queen is Dead’ while shouting about Prince Charles wearing his queen mother’s wedding dress.
Morrissey, Johnny and Andy heard and hurried to the stage, along with several others of their entourage, thinking that their band mate was returned from hospital and playing the drums.  Desmond repeated his boast to take the set from the top right then.  The three Smiths had a brief conference and decided to give it a go.
Desmond expertly twirled his sticks in the air like batons while Johnny and Andy tuned up.  Then they commenced playing and flawlessly executed the seventeen song set.  The three Smiths were so impressed by the exactitude of Desmond’s drumming that they were actually excited about the show.  “I can’t believe I’m playing a gig with the Sexadactyl!” Johnny Marr almost gasped, looking admiringly at Desmond’s twelve fingered hands.
“The Sexadactyl?” Morrissey repeated curiously.
“I was born with a condition known as sexadactyly—six fingers on each hand,” Desmond explained.  He held his hands forth for Morrissey’s inspection.
“How unfortunate,” Morrissey said piteously, inspecting Desmond’s deformed digits.
 “Don’t pity a blessing!” Desmond replied.  “I’ve got two extra drumsticks and love knobs built into my hands.”  He started wiggling them in the air as he sang:  “I love the ladies and the ladies love me, and they especially love my sexadactyly!”
“My pity just gave way to revulsion,” Morrissey remarked.  “Imagining where those appendages have been and done what with whom—I don’t know if I’d be able to focus knowing they were only a few feet behind me all night.”
I had been standing in the background throughout, and at this point Nigel recognized that awkwardness and hastened to bring me into the conversation by formally introducing me to the band.  I didn’t recognize any of them, nor did I know a note of their music—they were complete strangers to me.  But they all knew me—Johnny and Andy warmly shook my hand and told me what huge fans they were and what an influence I had been on them over the years.  Morrissey was much more reticent and aloof.  He shook my hand quietly saying only that he was pleased to meet me.
“Do you know my music too, or am I as new to you as you are to me?” I asked.
“I know all of your songs…your music is brilliant,” he coolly complimented. 
Then I spontaneously uttered, without pause for forethought, what popped into my mind.  “I don’t know any of your songs, but if you want to pick out one or two of mine maybe we could work them into the show and I could come onstage for a short jam.  Desmond and I are already tight.”
“That’s a great idea,” Andy and Johnny concurred, both acknowledging that they could play any number of my songs.  But Morrissey differed.
“That sounds like a wonderful idea, for another time and universe,” he said.  “But I don’t care to sing a duet and a second guitar would only interfere with Johnny’s intricacies.  What the Smiths need tonight is a drummer who sounds exactly like Mike and nothing more.  I don’t mean to sound rude, and I’m exceedingly grateful that because of your drummer our show may go on, but an unrehearsed drummer is enough complication for one show, don’t you think?”
“Fine by me,” I calmly responded.  “Desmond has been raving your praises all day, and I just heard the songs, so I will sit where Nigel puts me and expect to enjoy a great show.”
Nigel had heard the whole exchange, and hurried to say to me:  “You will be watching the show with me, from just off the stage, if that’s alright.”
Nigel brought me to the side stage place where we would stand.  There was a set list taped to the floor, which I appreciated, knowing the titles of the songs I’d only just heard for the first time.  I then took a long walk around Inverness while Desmond, Johnny and Andy worked out some finer points of the music. 
Several hours later the Smiths with Desmond on drums took the stage and started playing to the Eden Court crowd.  Their first song was the chilling ‘Meat is Murder,’ after hearing which I not only eschewed flesh for life but was hooked on the Smiths.  Johnny Marr’s guitars had a very unique quality:  his playing complemented itself, so that he often sounded like two guitarists.  I quickly recognized the presence of a rare player.  And while Morrissey’s first impression had been to rub me as a pretentious prat I was so very wrong—he was a perfect gentleman blessed with a glorious and legendary voice.  With Andy Rourke and Desmond forming a tight rhythm section I was mesmerized as I enjoyed the most unique musical experience I’d had in years.
The set was fantastic, and included the songs ‘What She Said,’ ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore,’ and ‘Frankly, Mr. Shankly.’  Nigel perceived my excitement and delight, and between songs tried to explain what he could about the band. 
As the show continued I noticed that as Desmond relaxed and waxed confident he began flirting with women.  While playing, whenever he had a quick moment, however brief, he would use a drumstick to point and smile at someone in the audience.  He also blew kisses while continuing to drum with his feet and other hand.
Now I don’t know if it was Desmond’s very real animal charisma, or conservative Scottish girls fueled by repressed adolescence, or the Smiths’ music, or in varying degrees any combination thereof, but I clearly sensed a growing fervor among the females in the audience, each one of whom it seemed that Desmond had individually singled out and engaged in kissy lips and eye contact.
At one point toward the end of the show Desmond locked eyes with a gorgeous brunette near the front and motioned her to come up and join him.  She was an agile woman who with five quick steps and an adroit leap was onstage in moments.  All three Smiths were initially shocked by the disruption, but that quickly gave way to giggles as they played on unfazed.  Morrissey watched curiously as she walked between him and Johnny to the drum set where she played a long solo on Desmond’s tongue with her own.
The kiss lasted over ten seconds, which ticked by in slow motion before the collective stare of the on looking crowd.  She then gamboled across the stage before leaping back into the audience as Morrissey drolly observed into the microphone:  “She looks like she forgot to eat before the show, but I suspect her belly will be full afterwards.”
The audience cheered wildly as the band launched into ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again,’ which I saw on the set list at my feet was the final song before the first encore.  At the same moment I also noticed the pronounced poke in Desmond’s trousers and knew his groin was an inferno.  Simultaneously stimulated by music and sexual energy, his naturally jacked up libido was raging, and I knew a coming release was imminent.
He lost control and played the upbeat song far too up tempo, so that Johnny, Morrissey and Andy had to struggle to keep pace; and when the Smiths had concluded their parts in the song Desmond kept right on drumming—for thirty three minutes.  With no access to any immediate outlet but the drums he gave the skins a violent spanking while also engaging the women in the audience, who he had swaying and dancing by conducting them with casual flicks of his sticks.
It was truly one of the most inspired drum solos I have ever witnessed, and these eyes have seen many.  Desmond achieved the rare ‘hummingbird effect’—at times he blurrily looked like two and even three men as he mercilessly thrashed Mike Joyce’s drum kit.  Andy and Johnny were both standing near me; they took the strange turn of the show in stride, and we all chuckled and looked on in awe as Desmond continued pounding at his insane pace, which impossible as it seemed, was not slowing but growing.  I knew he still had Led Zeppelin in his brain—he had specifically mentioned ‘Moby Dick’ earlier that morning on our way to the airport from Boleskine House—and that his furious drumming was his simultaneously striving to channel and emulate the late great John Bonham.
Morrissey was standing alone by the far curtain, with his arms folded and clearly steamed.  In the twenty ninth minute of Desmond’s epic solo I noticed that Morrissey had put his hand up and was speaking into security’s ear.  I hurried to the edge of the curtain and got Desmond’s attention and pointed to Morrissey and the security guard.  Desmond quickly motioned to Andy and Johnny to return to the stage, and to Morrissey too; and after spending three more minutes concluding what had been a truly phenomenal drum solo, well worthy of the spontaneous interruption, the band launched into a final chorus of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again,’ finished the song again, then bowed and left the stage.
As the crowd cheered for more, I could see Morrissey periodically flashing glares at Desmond, who didn’t seem to notice.  Meanwhile Andy and Johnny were laughing and enjoying the moment.  Morrissey came over to Nigel and me and said:  “Were it not for the fans I would end this and leave right now.” 
An energized Andy, Johnny and Desmond, along with a reluctant Morrissey, went out and proceeded through the first three song encore, then left the stage again and enjoyed more cheers before returning to the stage to play ‘William, It Was Really Nothing,’ and ‘Miserable Lie’ to conclude the show.  I surveyed the audience and noticed several women vying for Desmond’s attention.  I also noticed that he was again singling out individual women while he played. 
As the final song wound down, Desmond suddenly dropped his drumsticks and executed another of his incomparable athletic maneuvers.  I thought I’d seen his entire repertoire of gymnastics, and absolutely nothing could ever compare with the time he did a back flip off the rope ladder dangling from a helicopter onto the stage at Wembley, but what he did just then was no less spectacular. 
He gave his stool a mighty twirl, so that it extended full height, then took a running start and launched himself off it and over the drums.  He aimed directly for Morrissey, who was preoccupied singing to the crowd and hadn’t yet noticed that the drumming had ceased.  As Desmond sailed through the air he cupped his hands, and utilizing Morrissey’s head as a pommel horse he crushed the singer’s coiffed pompadour and vaulted into the crowd with a forward flip, where he stuck his landing like an Olympic gymnast, with his arms raised triumphantly.  The women roared.  He landed facing the woman whose kiss had lit him like a firework in the first place; she touched his bare chest and kissed him again.  By then word had spread to just about every woman in the place that the Smiths drummer that night had been the Sexadactyl, and seemingly every woman in the place strained to reach him at once.  They hoisted him up and paraded him on their shoulders the circumference of the theatre before returning him to the stage.
Andy and Johnny had spontaneously started playing a simple, catchy progression for ambient music while they split their attention between the spectacle of the Sexadactyl and Morrissey trying to restore the poof in his flattened hair.   The flummoxed singer attempted to take back the spotlight by singing something, but Andy and Johnny were just vamping on a spontaneous riff, and Morrissey could think of nothing to sing nor hum, nor anything he could do to attract the slightest attention of the audience, and ere long he set his microphone down and went backstage disgusted. 
Moments later the ladies deposited Desmond back up on the front of the stage; he turned and faced them, then fell into their open arms; a wild cheer went up, and that was how the show ended.
While security dispersed the crowd Desmond slipped through and joined me side stage.  His face was comically smeared with lipstick.  Nigel had gone off to attend to some matter, so we were alone.  “That was some show,” I remarked. “You were absolutely right, the Smiths are brilliant—I’ve never heard anything like them.”
“Great minds think alike, only some are slower than others,” he jibed.  “Maybe next time you’ll take me seriously when I tell you something is good.  But seriously, that was seriously fun.  I’m going to offer to sit in for any more gigs they may have coming up, if Mike is still ill.  You don’t mind sticking around another day or two if they need me, do you?”
Recalling the various countenances I had seen Morrissey show Desmond, from curious disgust to outright contempt, I said: “I’m not sure they’re going to be all that excited to see you—at least Morrissey, anyway.”
 “Nonsense!  Of course they are!  That was a great show!  Let’s go to the green room,” he insisted.  “There’s a private party.”
Before I could protest I was following him backstage and into a hallway.  We looked around and saw where a few people were slipping through a private door.   We made our way there, and the bouncer shook our hands and welcomed us in.
It was a good sized room fairly packed with people, booze and trays of hors d’oeuvres.  Johnny and Andy happened to be right inside the door, so we stopped there to say hello.  Moments later Morrissey spotted us and crossed the room purposefully. 
Desmond was in such high spirits that he was blind to the anger in Morrissey’s eyes, and said to him:  “Given that we had no rehearsals, I thought the show came off great!  Don’t you think?   If Mike is down for another day or two my schedule is free and I’d be happy to sit in again for any more upcoming gigs.  You guys are my new favorite band besides me and Deak and I would love to play with you again!”
“I’d rather have a root canal with a jackhammer,” Morrissey replied in monotone.
“Than what?” Desmond innocently asked.
“Let me state it more clearly,” Morrissey softly said.  “I would rather filet my own fingers with fish hooks than play another gig with you.”
“What? You’re jesting, right?  That’s harsh,” Desmond remarked.  He was sincerely perplexed.  “That may have been my greatest solo ever.”
“There has to be one, and that was it,” Morrissey proclaimed.  “That was the worst Smiths gig ever—ever!  If I could exchange a year off the end of my life to remove it from history, to blot it from ever having happened, I swear to God I would make that exchange.  My hair was pitch perfect and in one degrading instant you turned it into a broken bird nest.”

“I take it you were unhappy with my performance?” Desmond asked Morrissey.
“That, flabbergasted and disgusted and a thousand like adjectives!” Morrissey exclaimed in his heat.  “I don’t know how you made it through the entire set, deaf as you are.”
“Deaf?” Desmond repeated. 
“Yes, deaf,” Morrissey stated.  “Before the show I very clearly said to you that we wanted someone who sounded as exactly like Mike as possible.  You obviously did not hear me say that because Mike does not casually meander into migraine inducing thirty minute drum solos—if one could call your pounding and rattling actual drumming.  I sipped a pot of tea and conceived three new songs while you battered those drums as if they’d done something deserving punishment.  And when we want women onstage during our show we bring them up, but I would never coax half the audience on stage for the sole purpose of shoving me out of my own spotlight and into the oblivion of shadows.  I don’t ever remember being so humiliated in my life!”
I chuckled inside as I watched a look of sincere shock overspread Desmond’s innocent face. 
Morrissey continued to berate him.  “Every Smiths performance is art, and you debased tonight’s work into a burlesque act, a nudie show, a parade of drabs; you turned a unique Smiths concert into a collection of mostly unattractive women wiggling and jiggling their largely grotesque bodies under my stolen spotlight.  If I ever need my head pounded again I’m perfectly capable of finding the nearest wall and doing it myself.  I need to find a glass of chianti and to rest my neck and throat.  I’ll see you both later,” he said to Andy and Johnny; “it was a pleasure finally meeting you,” he said to me; “and I hope to never see you again,” he coldly concluded with Desmond.  Then he turned and was gone.
 “We love him like a brother,” Andy said.  “When the pain in his neck subsides he’ll remember the better moments of the show while forgetting the unpleasant.”
“Thank you for your offer,” Johnny added addressing Desmond, “but as soon as we got off stage we got word that Mike will rejoin us tomorrow.  And thank you again for sitting in—speaking of which, Andy and I are somewhat familiar with Inverness:  can we show our gratitude by taking you out for a couple pints afterwards?”
An extremely gorgeous brunette came walking toward us.  Desmond turned his attention to her and said: “Did you enjoy the show darling?  Would you like to join the Smiths and myself for a drink later?”
She toasted us with the champagne in her hand and the rest of the night began.  After the backstage party wound down Andy and Johnny gave us a mini tour of the pubs of Inverness.  There were excited ladies from the show everywhere we went, and before long one pub became three, a couple pints became several and the night morphed into a drunken dream and then darkness. 
The following morning I awoke in a hotel with the brunette from the green room.  I groggily gathered my bearings and found that Desmond was in the next room with two other Scottish girls. 
Desmond and I gathered what few things we had, checked out, kissed the girls goodbye then went to the airport and boarded the first flight to London, and from there returned to LA.
While waiting at the airport I phoned Larry in Los Angeles and asked him to root out every Smiths single and album he could find.  Then I asked him to contact my friend Bruno in Tuscany, to have Bruno ship the Smiths a crate of wine from his vineyard, which produces some of the finest vintages on earth.  I also asked him include a note from me saying how very much I had enjoyed meeting them and watching their show and hearing their marvelous music for the first time, while extending an open invitation for any and all to visit my Easytown mansion if they were ever in Los Angeles.