Monday, September 21, 2009

High Times At The London Bridge

My band, Brainstorm, played five nights a week, for nine months, at a big, beautiful dance club just outside Detroit. The club was called "The London Bridge", and the two guys that owned it, loved us. Originally, we were an all black (except for me) eight piece band, with two horns and two fabulous girl singers. The club was in Dearborn, an all white suburb, but it was cool because we drew a mixed, black and white crowd, and everyone got along real well. The club held hundreds and hundreds of people, and the reason the owners loved us, was that folks were lined up around the block to get in. It was 1975-1976, and we were a big hit in Detroit. I was twenty-six years old.

The night club had a huge dance floor, and everyone who was anyone came out to see us and dance to our music. Many celebrities came through, including members of the Detroit Pistons, and musician Frank Zappa (who tried to steal our bass player).

The owners loved us so much that they gave us a spacious and very private dressing room to hang out in during our breaks. Many times, the eight band members and a few friends would be down in our dressing room, partying, telling funny stories, and, of course, smoking a few joints, and we would literally forget that there were a couple hundred paying customers upstairs waiting to hear us. We weren't trying to be rude, we were just having so much fun that we completely forgot where we were. Sometimes an hour would go by, and suddenly we would come to our senses and rush upstairs to the stage. And in the nine months we worked there, never once did the owners look at their watches, or try to hurry us up. In fact, they never even mentioned it to us.

Now, this was the mid-seventies, and these were high times in America. But I wouldn't say we were really heavy drug users. We smoked some pot, and people would sometimes buy us drinks, but that was about it. I do, however, remember one night that was a little different.

Someone had brought some coke down to our dressing room. This was unusual, but how could we refuse? We all sniffed a little and went upstairs to play our set. Now, the thing about Brainstorm was that in addition to being an incredibly passionate and high energy band, we were also very polished, and highly rehearsed. We had tight arrangements, with great vocal harmonies, horn lines, instrumental transitions, and dramatic endings. So, we were up there playing down our set, and, like always, everything sounded perfect. All the T's were being crossed and all the I's were being dotted. Everything was in it's place. But about halfway through the set, I turned around and looked at Ranel, our drummer, and we both cracked up. Because, while everything was perfect and in it's place, the tempos we were playing at were off the charts. It was like a 33 rpm record was being played at 78 rpm.

Now I realize a lot of younger people today have no idea what a 33 or 78 rpm record is. So let me just say that on that night, we played those songs FAST. I mean, Alvin and the Chipmunks would have felt very comfortable jamming with us that night. It was indeed high times at The London Bridge.

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