Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The night I met Richard Butler

By chance, I would meet Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs at Irving Plaza at the Waterboys show in 1985. The band had opened for U2 the night before and was touring to promote "This is the Sea," the band's second full-length album [Plan 9, this cool local band opened the night].
At the time, I was hanging out with these three young women from Long Island who I kept running into at shows. It seemed like every time I turned around, there they were. So we exchanged numbers and all started hanging out together.
I was at the bar ordering a drink when Butler came up and sat right down next to me. I did a double take. It's Richard Butler [!!]. I can't believe it! I introduced myself and told him I loved his music. He thanked me. I asked him how the new album was coming along and told him that many of us were anxiously waiting for it [There were a lot of rumors that the band was working on a groundbreaking album. “Midnight to Midnight” would be released about a year and change after this meeting]. Butler said the recording was going well and that the album would be edgy and raw [it actually turned out to be very slick and poppy]. Not wanting to be a nag, I told him I was looking forward to it and scurried away to be with my friends.
When I got to the table, I started bragging that I just met Butler at the bar and they didn’t believe me. I told them, "Go see for yourself ... he’s right over there!" They didn't believe but didn't budge from the table.
About 15 minutes later, Butler would shimmy right by our table and quickly out of the club, moving as swiftly as if he had run into a bad one night stand or something. In other words, he couldn't wait to get the hell out of that place. The Long Island girls looked on in awe as Butler passed by.
"Good night," he said to me in that distinct voice, waving.
The girls all looked like they had seen a car crash.
"I told you he was here!" I said, giddily.

A few months later, I would be back in New Hampshire, mentally bruised and beaten, deeply depressed, and disappointed that I couldn’t make it more than two years in the world’s biggest city. Looking back now and going over some notes from the past, it wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time.
Trying to get anywhere in the music industry was a disaster although I had some OK demos to work from. No matter what I tried - forming my own band, joining others - it just wasn't going to happen. Of course, it is a disaster for everyone but the lucky few. But, I can't imagine what it would be like now, with all the technology, to be starting out again. I did become a better guitarist and wrote reams of poetry and lyrics. I would write many more songs and form other bands. But something was always missing.
I made great friends and greater enemies. I experienced true sorrow and joy, probably for the first time. You learn a lot from seeing deep despair, gratuitous greed, vicious crime, unlimited energy, victories, and collapses, all the while flirting with homelessness but cherishing every single moment. It seemed like I had been to hell and back.
Frustrated with being a “failure,” I would start a music magazine upon returning home which delved into serious public policy, random ramblings, and music commentary, in many ways, a precursor to Politizine, on primitive Xerox [later, professionally printed]. It felt good to poke things in the eye, to stay creative, to learn.
The glory years of the lost summers would never be experienced again though. Sex, partying, and everything else had become complicated. People were getting pregnant and starting families. AIDS was starting to spread and people in the cities at least were starting to get a little scared. The Furs would still play in the background but the revelry and vicious bite would not be as amusing. It would become all too real.

Tomorrow: The Psychedelic Furs, live ...

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