The “Puppets of Weltschmerz” played hard steely club music, hate chords, music of the Angry Young. They were lead singer/songwriter and guitarist, JayDee, his brother, guitarist Carl, the giant Samoan, Jake, on drums, and Kringe, an old army friend of Carl’s, on bass. They were burly, rough, with shaved heads and beards trimmed to sinister goatees. The Puppets pumped music for JayDee — singer at the center. Carl off-center, disturbed, smoked cigarette after cigarette, chased beer after beer with bourbon hating Father more and loving Mother deeper than JayDee could ever imagine. Shows at dark clubs Carl drunk naked spoke in tongues. Often he and JayDee would come to blows in the middle of a set, yet kiss and make-up and play on till morning.
They did construction work for Father. Roofing. Hung-over, sick, exhausted after an all-night show, they sweated for Father from hot red dawn to humid dusk. Cigarette, cigarette, cigarette, dry as saltine crackers, made the beer at lunch, and at day’s end, seem that much cooler. A six-pack for each of them and cigarettes before a long cold shower scrubbing off another day of paint-splatter, roof-dreck, tar. Triumphant screeching wailing guitars; stentorian drums; shriek life-complaint. Dissonance stretched pained expressions. Hip gyrations of The Young. JayDee’s energy was his own Hard master. Unlike father-driven Carl, a crazy loon, JayDee strove to escape Father and hard labor, to see his band succeed. Despite more clothes off, booze-inflamed belligerence. Fights in the audience. Blood on Carl; sweat on JayDee’s own fat body.
He had learned to focus. Transform Anger to Desire. Wrestle not past phantoms, but his here-and-now guitar. JayDee drank to frenzy but stopped short of madness, his concentration and ability intact. He kept it together. He was disciplined. He let “fans” (the Puppets were really quite popular in their part of the City) buy him beer, and even cigarettes, saving his money for studio time. Followed the advice of older musicians he had known: record, record, record.
Fat JayDee, five nine, 250, was no heartthrob. His was a different music anyway. No melodies for throbbing hearts, but thunder for the foot stomping, fist pumping, Angry Young. Was JayDee still young? Twenty-seven. Older side of young. Clubs, auditions, demo-tapes; burdened with work, practice, Father, daylight, and Carl’s naked murderous inebriation.
His sound was the thread that stitched his life through work, exhaustion, time. Time. Tick tock Time. Would he one day stop playing? Already his Angry Restless Young songs could be “placed” in a certain category, a certain style that could be traced to certain influences and a specific period in time? They hadn’t lost their vigor, but they were no longer “new.” What would become of him and his guitar? Could years of listening, playing, dreaming simply merge into a bitter silence? Could he possibly imagine roof work in the heart-break phantom wind of on-stage memories and repeat scenarios of what could have, would have, should have, might have been? Carl dead, Father dead, his old guitar a souvenir? Nothing to wake to? Nothing? Nothing?
Perhaps he’d never leave The Young, despite onset of Old. He’d be the ridiculous gray fat man wearing tired styles, and playing old, out-dated tunes. The restless, Angry Young now sad, mute, weary Middle-Aged replaced by…whomever else young and their particular complaints. Could Carl live to 40, or would madness besot him while naked beat him down?
Playing anger amplified lightened JayDee’s burdens – what would become of him without life’s sound? Alone in his room. Headphones. Stomp, grimace. That’s not Future snarling in the mirror, merely Past.
JayDee heard what the Young today…not music of his day. Where was the music of his day? Songs surrounded him when he was young. Songs of his day, days of his day. No longer JayDee’s day, nor his Young. Your day is your striving. What you think is your day — money, fame, gigantism of Self — you realize later, is not. Striving was your day. Everything next, everything after, the “else,” just Time eating tomorrow, spitting Old at yesterday. Not the music of his day, when JayDee…striving…agressive with illusions of himself. Not in front of him, Life, as it had been, but behind. Memories, real and imagined. Lyrics of youth, love, striving. Yearning music-of-his-day days. Ecstasy of striving. Drink, drink, drunk not to recall. So many dreadful second comings — dollop-smear of lipstick, wayward eye-lashes, blood-red rouge thick as sirloin; sagging skin; out-dated hair, clothes, shoes. Had some primitive priestess, deep in trance, envisioning life-shapes and flesh forms to come, glimpsed the harlequin costume of an ex-Vaudvillian crone? If so, why not JayDee in the celebrity singer costume of his life’s ambition? Perhaps what was never to exist was never to be seen — from any point in time. Wasn’t that the object of his striving: to impress Fate, or having failed, to seduce fate, after much romance, into taking another look?
Memory: sly, cruel doppelganger of Desire; memory: the penalty for having lived past Young.
ADAM ENGEL can be reached at: email@example.com