Monday, July 18, 2011

Little Green Men (conclusion)

For awhile after that, life with the guys was a breeze. Late in their following tour they played what was probably their greatest concert ever -- at Little America in Antarctica. It was transmitted "live" all around the globe. An estimated 4 billion zombies snuggled up to their Cyclopses and saw the concert. The pros said it couldn't be done, but as usual The Men showed them how to do it. And the result was something historic.
I still remember the searchlights sweeping the sky and the light motes bouncing off of the icebergs....
Temperatures at the concert site hovered around -20, not counting the wind chill -- the kind of temps that, when you step outside and take a breath, the hairs inside your nose instantly freeze and crackle ... or you just pass out. Fairly mild weather for Little America in February.
The Men were set to take the stage at 4 p.m., just as the "midnight sun" began to set. There was no audience, except for a few techs, camera ops, and me -- and the billions of zombies eagerly waiting in warmer climates. And a few scrawny-looking penguins who gathered around the site to see what all the fuss was about.
I remember standing there in my electric underwear as the bone-chilling breeze blew by me and ruffled the fur collar of my parka, and I realized this was either going to be one of the greatest concerts of all time ... or it would go down in history as the dumbest thing the band ever did.
And then I realized I couldn't feel my feet. I was frozen to the spot.
The band took the stage right at 4. The satellite Cyclops hookup to the 4 billion zombies watching at home went off without a hitch.
The Men opened with the mellow, artsy stuff that everyone wanted to hear -- "Welcome Home," "Sublime Feline," "Hey Jules," all the faves. Jon wrapped his reed-thin fingers, more precise than a violinist's, around the neck of his motar and pulled deep blue bass tones out of it ... and those blue motes of fiery light floated up into the sky above the wind-blasted tundra ... and then were blown in a rush into Kainan Bay, where they sizzled and spat and slowly sank out of sight.
Jeff rode out gorgeous riffs on his bank of keyboards, and the light-emitter belched out anguished orange balls of light -- anguished because Jeff's fingers were freezing and he couldn't hit the right keys.
We thought at first that something was wrong with the equipment, but it was much simpler than that: Jeff was the first to let on that the frigid temperatures might not lead to a truly sweaty, sizzlin' concert performance. Or even a mildly warmed-over one.
Jon started frosting-over around the edges -- a definite crust of white began creeping up his sides and was dutifully caught by the Cyclops cameras. He started shakin' all over.
After their third number, the band had a quick huddle. This situation called for an abrupt adjustment in activity.
That's when The Men did something completely unexpected and unrehearsed that I thought would permanently endear them to the Earthbound audience. They dug into their bag of tricks and started performing a scorching set of rock and roll oldies.
"Johnny B. Goode"! "Great Balls of Fire"! "Wild Thing"! "Louie, Louie"! "Tutti Frutti"! "Wooly Bully"! "Mony Mony"! "Roll Over, Beethoven"! And -- perfect in its appropriateness -- "Stray Cat Strut"!
Oh jeez, it was such a total gas, such a HOOT to see the freezin' guys jitterbugging and duck-walking their way across the stage in front of the cameras, simply trying to keep warm.
And meanwhile my teeth chattered and I was so cold and I was laughing so hard I thought I was gonna pee my pants....
Jon and Jim and Joe and Jack rolled and hopped and be-bopped and waddled back and forth across that stage and occasionally fell over because their stick-thin little legs just wouldn't work right in the cold ... and their hair whipped around in the wind and fell over their faces and got caught in their fingers as they sucked notes faster and faster out of the motars, sending cascades of freeze-dried motes of light spiralling up over the back of the stage and drifting off to sink in a frozen sea.
All Jeff could do to stay warm was keep pounding on his keyboards and try to keep up with the rest. Jules at least had his drum kit to bash away at, and his sheets of aluminum siding and those two huge gongs to beat on.
I think all the guys may have actually broken into a sweat during "Friday On My Mind" -- or maybe it was on "I Fought the Law." A pretty historic moment, anyway.
Even the penguins seemed to enjoy the performance.
That tour ended with the release of the reassuring and uplifting MEN FROM EARTH album -- the entire Antarctica concert on disc. Fans couldn't get a more positive message than that: The Men were back, and they were here to stay.
The disc was their biggest seller ever.

On the fourth tour I started seeing something that bothered me a little.
Fans had started dressing up like the band, complete with potato bodies, long, stringy hair and longer, dangling arms.
This wasn't the first time that musicians had made a big impact on fashion -- Cyclops commentators noted how Elvis, The Beatles and Madonna had affected the styles of their day.
But the apparent level of acceptance for The Men among Earthpeople led Jon to make a statement that brought the group even more free publicity -- not all of it good.
"I have to admit that we seem bigger right now than The Beatles ever were," Jon told a group of newssheet reporters during a tour stop in NYC.
To hardcore zonk zombies this was blasphemy, even if it happened to be true.
And when the Cyclops and the scandalsheets got ahold of it....
"This isn't the first time that a band has had to face a backlash from the public due to some stupid, poorly-thought-out political statement," Carl told the Cyclops. "We'll survive it."
And we did. Most folks just let Jon's comments roll right off them. After his flop solo album and earlier statements about What Makes Great Music, Jon had become well-known as the group's resident crackpot.
But when The Alley Cat Revelations finally leaked-out to the public, well....

So there I was, road manager of one of the biggest, most popular performing acts in the planet's history, trolling the backstreets and alleys of SeaTac and Cheyenne, looking for Dinner ... or at least as many cats as the local Oriental restaurants hadn't already snatched up to serve to their customers disguised as sweet-and-sour chicken or pork-fried rice....
There I was on many nights, dressed basically in SCUBA gear covered by a set of worn-out old overalls, long hair dangling, crouched, hunched-over, slowly making my way down a deserted dark alley long after sunset, calling out gently in a gravelly voice like some character straight out of Charles Dickens:
"Here kitty, kitty, kitty...."
And when some unsuspecting, mangey old feline took me up on my offer for undiscriminating companionship and warmth (there was always at least one, eventually, and I got really good at waiting them out) -- I'd snatch him up by the tail and tuck his mewing head into my belly and carry him gently back to the hotel, where he would then be tossed into a vat of furiously bubbling oil....
A few minutes later I'd deliver the latest in a series of (what they told me were) scrumptious meals to the guys, my REAL employers, whose job mine was to keep happy, and again I'd have accomplished my main mission for the day.
And so the show went on.
And the most shameful part of it all, of course, was ... getting paid -- fairly well! -- for doing all that!

The band wasn't -- COULDN'T have been -- prepared for the backlash, the ugly fallout, once The Alley Cat Revelations slipped out to the public -- thanks to the same scummy newssheets that once printed Jon's vomit-inducing RAW pics.
Somehow, having a diet made up mainly of house- and alley cats just didn't go over well with vast numbers of the disc-buying and concert-attending public. Even hard-core zombies -- who supposedly didn't care about anything beyond getting their next fix from the Cyclops -- rejected the guys almost overnight.
I'd been almost certain that in light of the guys' great sense of humor, gorgeous music and utter uniqueness, the public could forgive them for almost anything. But....
The band couldn't imagine anything other than being loved by an audience. They weren't ready for the booing. For having rotten vegetables thrown at them during concerts -- even POTATOES....
The first time a rotten potato was thrown from the crowd and landed with a PLOP! near Jeff, I thought all his eyes were gonna pop right out of his head. He immediately ran to the side of the poor, dented, moldy vegetable, sobbing "You'll be OK! You'll be OK!"
Then the crowd started throwing tomatoes. Which didn't go PLOP at all. They went SPLAT instead.
All over the band.
It was all over.

But that's all over now. The Men are waiting somewhere in their giant cocoon, in suspended animation. Waiting 'til the vibrations are right and it's safe to come out again. Waiting for a time when they won't be booed. For a time when their music won't be judged based upon their appearance, their diet, and the reactions those things provoke in others.
Knowing us Earthmen, that could be a long, long wait.
The Men will know when the time is Right. They always did before.
But, hey ... I miss you guys.

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