Care of Business
by Phil Dole (Deviant)
I spent a number of years working the lunch shift at a Korean-owned Jewish Deli in the Gastown area of Vancouver near the cruise ship terminal. It was a convenient day job if you had a rock and roll lifestyle: you didn’t have to get up too early and you didn’t have to work too late. During the tourist season, I’d get off around 4pm. In the winter, it was closer to 2pm. Plenty of time to get a little drinkin’ in before the nocturnal activities began. One of my most frequent first stops was The Railway Club, a second floor private club that owed it’s unusual liquor license to some grandfathering clause that exempted it from many of the peculiarities that were a hallmark of British Columbia’s liquor laws at the time. It was a great music venue at night, but by day it was a hub where the city’s creative lushes came together. Musicians, filmmakers, journalists, and artists, sprinkled with a few citizens of the world. At least until the after-work crowd starting rolling in and afternooners started moving on. I must have become a regular at some point. This was before cell phones, so the regulars relied on the bar phone to let them be reachable the way people are supposed to be reachable if they hadn’t just fucked off out of the office and down to the boozer. People who wanted to find me in the afternoon knew the number of the Railway Club by heart.
On one particularly fateful day, I was sitting at the bar next to the phone. It rang. The bartender answered, nodded, and passed me the receiver as soon as he heard the word “Deviant”. It was Paul Brennan. Brennan was a drummer with a bit of a local pedigree that I’d met at the Railway Club a few weeks earlier. He’d been in the Animal Slaves and MOEV. He went on to be a long time member of The Odds and has gone on to work with a long list of major Canadian artists. But young Paul was still eager to put as many irons into the fire as he could to see where they led him. And as it happened, my then current band, the demolition garage-rock unit Six Inches, had two upcoming gigs but had suddenly become drummerless. Paul was down. He rehearsed with us a couple of times and had played the first show. We were two weeks out from the second show and he was not in the Railway Club that afternoon, but calling me at the bar.
I returned his salutation, then there was an awkward silence. I looked over at the fellow sitting next to me at the bar who seemed to be waiting curiously for something to unfold.
Paul went to his no-nonsense place and without going into any clear specifics, he confessed that the gig he’d played with us had been a personal nightmare. I had assumed he mostly meant musically and organizationally speaking, as Six Inches were a chaos magnet, but images from the night started flashing back into my brain, and reading between the lines I was getting the sense that there may have been cocaine and unwanted same-gender sexual advances involved. Whatever he was alluding to, the crux of it was that he hated the experience and would rather die than play another show with us. Then he hung up. And as I hung up, the eavesdropper to my right was now grinning.
“So, you need a drummer?”
This is how I met John Jansen, a drummer I played with for number of years, first in the death throws of Six Inches, then in a spin-off band called Bloody Mary, and eventually two incarnations of Mary.
I ordered a round of drinks and proceeded to tell John what I could remember about the “nightmare” gig. I can’t remember now who was on the bill, but the show was at the Channel 1 Klub, a tiny black-and-white themed art-and-punk club in a basement space in the West End. It was run by a wiry goth named Simon who seemed to have trouble resolving his love for people in bands with his hatred of the bands themselves. It was clear he’d rather be running a dark dance club where people in bands hung out. We checked in with Simon in the afternoon and then went to our rehearsal space to get our gear.
Our rehearsal space was in an abandoned Boys Club run by Luxury Bob. Luxury Bob was a pivotal mover and shaker in the early Vancouver punk scene, putting on shows, running underage clubs, etc., and he was one of the infamous Montgomery brothers. His brothers, who went by Dimwit and Chuck Biscuits respectively, were influential drummers. Dimwit had been in Pointed Sticks, The Modernettes, and DOA. Chuck had been in DOA, Black Flag, Danzig, and later was in Social Distortion. The Boys Club was a great set-up. There were living quarters, a big kitchen, workshop spaces, practice rooms, and a gym where they could put on the occasional show. I’m not sure how many people were living at the Boys Club, but Dimwit was living there. So was Barry Taylor, who had been the drummer for The Young Canadians. We shared Barry’s practice room with his new band Roots Roundup and a couple of other bands including Tankhog (with Steven Hamm and Terry Russell of Slow).
We pulled into the back alley behind the Boys Club and it was immediately clear that the usual slip-in-slip-out was not going to happen. The alley was jammed with illegally parked cars. Punks were everywhere. The back gate was being guarded by a gargantuan beast of man who informed us that no one else was being let in at the moment. Mike, our singer, briefly explained our situation and was met with a disapproving look, like he’d just made the lamest “I’m on the guest list” attempt of all time.
“Is Bob here?” Mike asked. “He’ll tell you.”
The beast looked over the gate and yelled, “Bob — you got a minute?”
Bob appeared and ushered us through the gate past a long line of punks to a beer keg parked at the back door of the building. Bob went back to pouring beer.
Mike’s face lit up. “Say, Bob, how much for a beer?”
“Seriously, how much?”
Bob put the cup and nozzle down, put his thumbs in his ears to make wiggly antler hands, and putting on his best politically incorrect downs syndrome voice he said, “it’s free, Mike, it’s free…”
He went back to pouring. “Now do you believe me?”
“I think we’d like some beer, Bob.”
Bob poured us each two plastic cups of suds and we went inside. Realizing that none of us had thought to ask Bob what was happening, we decided to see what was going on upstairs while we drank our beer. Up in the front foyer, punks and technical people were wandering in and out of the gym. Cables were running everywhere. We flagged down the first familiar face we found. Might have been Ed Hurrell. Whoever it was, they told us that DOA was shooting a video in the gym and they were about to shut down the kegs for a bit to get everyone inside for some crowd shots.
I noticed Paul was staring, drop-jawed over my shoulder toward the stage entrance to the gym. Our bass player, Walt, must have seen what Paul saw, for he too was suddenly mesmerized. I turned to look, and there was a chubby older guy standing quietly unnoticed by himself in the corner with a guitar slung around him like he was waiting to play. But before I could put a name to the face, my band was pushing by me and walking over to him.
Randy Bachman. We learned later that DOA had done a version of “Takin’ Care Of Business” which would explain why he was there. At that moment, however, I was having trouble with the juxtaposition, but I slid in behind my bandmates all the same. Paul and Walt were doing the fan-boy thing: I’m so happy to meet you! Do you ever still talk to Burton? And so forth… Mike, on the other hand, had a different agenda. He always did. He was the sort of person who would purposely say your name incorrectly as many times as he could in a conversation to see how long it would take for you to correct him. And then he’d keep doing it anyway just to get under your skin.
“Randy Bachman,” he said. “You’re a cruel, mean, son of a bitch.”
The fan boys were so mortified that I wasn’t sure if Walt was ever going to breathe again. Randy Bachman was stunned and ego bruised.
“What makes you say that?”
“I saw the way you made that child cry.”
“On TV. Some special where you playing in a prison. And then there was a shot of this little kid with a balloon. He was so happy. That balloon meant everything in the world to him and you mercilessly walked over and stomped on his balloon, bursting it, crushing his dreams. The kid started bawling his eyes out and you just walked away…”
Randy picked up on the reference, his body posture became less confident, his tone defensive. “No, no, no. You see, that was my kid…”
Mike cackled, “your own kid!” He stared shaking his head in mocking disgust.
“Hang on, it was a safety thing. All these balloons were dropped during the finale, and what you couldn’t see is that there was a six foot drop at the end of the stage. He was crawling after a balloon headed straight for the edge. What am I going to do, let him follow the balloon over the edge? I took the only option open to me given my hands were full…”
My tale was cut short by John Jansen as he paid for another round at the Railway Club.
“Stop,” he said. “You had me at ‘I need a drummer.’ “