fabian’s.

I kinda fell into a funk after that.

Mail piled up, phone calls went unreturned for a week or two.  Instead of doing our regular social circuit, Sandy and I spent some time hanging out at a movie theater and Mexican Restaurant in Paramus with people from my old job.  I felt like I had a lot taken from me, and I had little recourse, and the whole episode really burned me out.  

Part of what we had been trying to do was create a scene that everyone cared about, a group of friends that all had a common goal.  In this case, it seemed as if people I had been friends with for more than a year – including one guy I spoke with at length almost every day – were willing to pull up their stakes and find another campsite without even giving us a second glance.  It was a kick in the gut, and made me wonder if I was doing anything meaningful.

I looked for comfort from Footstone and cuppa joe, but they rightfully weren’t about to take sides.  First of all, they were in bands – what if they were presented with the same situation?  Second of all, they all played shows together.  They helped each other.  Footstone recorded in their studio.  Plus, as I illustrated at the very beginning of this blog – this was Dromedary’s story.  Footstone, cuppa joe, and all the other people who wander in and out of it are as tangental to our story as we are to theirs.

I didn’t realize that at the time.  I thought it was just one, big story.  So when most of the other people didn’t react to it the way Sandy, Rich and I did, it just made me sink even further.  

I ran it by a few other people, to get their reaction, and the reactions were all over the map, with some people telling me to go ahead and put out the CD, and others telling me to just forget it and move on.

I had to think long and hard about whether or not I acted wrong.  Did I do the wrong thing?  Should I have capitulated immediately?  Was I really a shitty friend, and a greedy bastard?  Had I fallen into the same kind of pitfalls that other labels did, looking to cash in and screw bands out of whatever I could?

I knew a band at the time who had a really strong reputation, that had been around for a long time and built a great fan base through touring and being super-nice guys (the name of the band is irrelevant, and their legal issues aren’t my business to discuss).  They were approached by a producer who had excellent credentials, who wanted to record them and then use his credibility to shop the band to bigger labels and land them a deal.

It sounded like a sweet deal to the band, so they signed up.  There was a term on the contract: the producer had X number of years to find them a deal, and if he did, he got a percentage.  The band, apparently, didn’t notice the fine print that said that if they happened to find a deal on their own, that the producer was still entitled to the same percentage.

It became apparent pretty quickly that the producer was lackadaisical at best when it came to shopping them.  He was hoping that someone else would sign the band, and he’d be able to cash in.

The band, pissed off at what they had gotten into, basically decided to do nothing until the term of the contract was up.  They didn’t record, they didn’t tour much.  They didn’t want the producer to get a penny of their money, so they basically stopped being a band until the contract ran out.

I remember thinking that the producer was such a scumbag.  He basically shut down a good band because of his greed.  Was I that kind of scumbag?

It took a lot of conversations with people for me to become convinced that I had done the only thing I could have done.  In the long run, it didn’t really matter anyway – fifteen years later, with the benefit of hindsight, what bothers me most was not that the label suffered; it was that friendships were broken over it.

As has been the case so many other times in my life, it was Ralph and Mark that helped lift me out of the doldrums.

While I was at this low point, Ralph called me one afternoon and invited Sandy and me to join him for a drink in Hoboken.  I felt like I needed to get out, but really wanted to avoid the typical places.

“We’re not going to Maxwell’s,” Ralph told me.  So we met him near the train station, and stopped in at Enzo’s for a slice of pizza.  We dropped into Boo Boo’s for a beer.  Then we walked to a bar called Fabian’s – it was much more of a locals bar, a bit off the beaten path.  I think Ralph sensed my discomfort with being in the middle of indie-land, even on a weekend afternoon.

At Fabian’s, Ralph introduced us to weiss beer (“wass boh,” as he called it, and as we still call it today).  They served it in long, two-pint glasses, and they went down really easily.  I must have drank six of them, and Ralph bought every one.  Every time I went to get my wallet, he put his hand out and said “No, dude.  I’ve got tonight.”

At some point Mark showed up as well, with some of the guys from American Standard and a few of their friends.  

The afternoon turned to evening, and the evening turned to night.  Eventually, loaded out of my mind with not a care in the world, we said goodbye and Sandy drove me home.

The next day when I woke up, I realized something: Ralph, Mark, Sandy and I spent hours together, drinking in a Hoboken bar, and Dromedary and Footstone barely came up in conversation.  We talked about everything – sports, politics, music, women, life in general.  We just hung out.  I knew that we weren’t part of their closest group of friends, but we were their friends nonetheless.  We weren’t their label anymore.  I mean, we were, but only in the sense that we put out records and they were a band.  

That day, those guys made me understand that I was doing the right thing.  They were my friends, and I felt – and still feel – thankful for that.

~ by Al on March 27, 2009.

2 Responses to “fabian’s.”

  1. Ahh Fabian’s. How I miss thee.

  2. That weiss boh ain’t bad either!

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