“So there I was, alone with a temper,” Headquarters, how do I even begin to explain this place besides debauchery at it’s very finest. We were not just a rock band were a gang of pleasure driven degenerate bastards. Fridays rolled around and we would all come together at “Krack-Headquarters for pre-game fuel up. John N, would walk through the door from work with tales of crazy shit-flinging patients, screaming insane rants at the top of their lungs. We never lost the irony that he had left a loony bin at work to come home to a whole different circus. Especially when the Grand Admiral Belligero had already gotten started. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of time,” John N, would always say. These Friday warm-ups would hazily drift into Sunday evening comedowns of legendary proportions.
I must introduce the band first, on drums the legendary Charles Baylow, a master at his trade. I have never,nor will I ever play with a better drummer. John N. on guitar, he played his Strat with a voracity I have never seen before. He played like he was attacking cardboard with a box cutter; short sharp and deadly. The Grand Admiral Belligero was something to behold. I monstrosity of a man who slung his Les Paul lefty and made it cry like a baby in need of feeding. All three I have mentioned hailed from the New York boroughs and man could you tell from the way they carried themselves; worn like a badge. I, having met them after their arrival here, was asked to join the band after their original bass player fled California without a word a couple nights before a weekend of “Important” gigs. I had filled in with them a couple times, and played fader jockey for the boys at a local dive bar, so they were confident in my abilities. I got the call on a Wednesday and by Friday I was a patched in member of the hardest group of street thugs San Diego’s music scene had to offer.
It was a moment in time that can never be matched. When we played together it was transcendent we would look around at one another in disbelief of the sounds coming through us. It was pure chemistry, not only mentally and spiritually, but chemically as well. We were walking drug/booze receptacle bins that were never full enough to be taken to the curb. The three-four day benders were legendary. Most nights we would get to our adequate chemical levels and take the stage with John N. banging out the beginning of “Tangled up in Blue” and proceed to destroy whatever audience had the balls to engage us. Musically it was beautiful, but there was no polish. We played unbridled, and with reckless abandon akin to the likes of early Zeppelin or a cookin Dead set. It was truly a beautiful thing. There are no words that can begin to explain the feeling of playing “MeLisa” or the intensity felt during the crucible of “Whipping Post.” There is just no fucking way it can be done. I’ve heard people talk before about the magic at KHL gigs, but there is no way to explain how it felt to be in the center of it. To not even put forth the effort, but to have it flow through you like a conduit. There is no drug, no rush, no woman (bar one) that could send that feeling through me. The simplest way I can explain it is…. that shit came from somewhere else. It had very little to do with us.
When Lenny arrived you knew it. Our posse would roll out of Baylow’s 1970s Dodge van looking ready to rumble. We all had our roles: Johnny N. the consummate smooth talker was our in-house PR representative. Our drummer Baylow was our driver, getting us from point A to Point Z safely. Admiral Belligero was our weight. If you thought about fighting one of us you would think it through, knowing that you would probably have to contend with that bastard. He was loud, opinionated, and wasn’t scared of shit. The only thing that struck fear in him was a little girl from Queens NY that he married some years earlier. Yes, he was a force to be reckoned with and he let everyone know it. “Are you fucking kidding me? You can’t stop me. You have no idea who you’re dealing with,” said Belligero whenever anyone would have a thought contrary to his. He would also bankroll many of our extracurricular activities. Then there was me the new guy who quickly found my role amongst these animals. I was the tech-guy I would set up the PA system, I always ran the reel to reel when we were in the studio; this was my thing. We all played our roles separate from one another and things always went our way.
Set up for gigs was always seamless because I handled it alone. “You do what you do, and I do what I do,” Johnny N. would respond if I tried to justify any of the crazy recording techniques I would employ. You readers must understand those are typical things musicians talk about when they are “talking shop” if you will. Truth is, we seldom talked about music. Our conversations usually dealt with bangers, whores and our scrotums. Most other musicians would shun us when out in the music scene. We thought it was because we had what they wanted, but in the rearview I see now it’s because we were fuckin scary. With Lenny every gig was a crusher from Baylow’s first stick count to the last cymbal crash at the end of the night. When Lenny stepped into the room you Knew…HA…HA…HA…HA!
And night after night this went on, eventually it became tiring to anyone attached to Lenny. Eventually the drugs stopped working and our feet had to hit the ground. Not one of us wanted it to end but we all knew that it must. If not, there would be four body bags being carried out of headquarters. The last days rolled out in more voracity than the previous two years. It was an epic ride, and we all embraced the sadness and joy like any long-lived frat would at graduation. We were the same. We were all kicked back into the music scene on our own. We were set free in the wild to find our own way.
So here is how it rolled out. On day one of the extraction we stocked up on drugs, liquor, and well plenty of everything. The members of this club included: Tequila, Jameson, Budweiser, Meth, Cocaine, marijuana and every upper downer laugher screamer that you could think of. “In three days we did every drug known to mankind since 1200 A.D.” (Thompson n. pg.) We played two gigs on this cocktail of radness.
We were in love with the music that poured out of us. We had every element dialed at this point. And when Johnny N struck the first chord it fucking lit off like the Fourth of July. It was a voracious haze that lasted the next three days. Pandora’s box was ripped open by four hard cocks that just wanted feel that climb in “Whipping Post” just one or two more times. The end was nigh and we felt it, and so did our audience. Over the last couple years, we had gained a faithful group of heathens that would follow Lenny. I distinctly remember the last rendition of “Melisa” and literally sobbing after the bridge led us into Belligero’s solo. I looked over at that moment and knew he felt the loss even more than I. This was it, done, over, we had lathered. We had already rinsed and repeated. As I loaded the last piece of gear in the van that night the sound of the door swinging shut sent a shock through my body; the coffin lid had been closed. The following night we left the remnants of the insanity in a cupboard. What was left inside rivaled the contents of the arc of the covenant. We left headquarters to transport to the gear to its final resting place. As we trudged down the stairs the last in line (my confidant Tita) pulled the locked door shut behind her. It was over, we all left the parking lot separately; the opera had come to its end.