On the 13th Day of Gheorghe-mas, Bill Graham gave to me . . . 13 Regrets.
So on the 13th day of 2013, I offer you an unprecedented 13th Day of Gheorghemas, brought to you by legendary rock entrepreneur Bill Graham . . . who died in an appropriately unlucky manner befitting the date . . . his helicopter crashed into an electric tower on the way to a Huey Lewis and the News concert. I have just finished reading the revealing and entertaining "oral history" of Graham's life, called Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out, which is told by over a hundred people -- famous people like Keith Richards and Pete Townshend and Jerry Garcia and Eric Clapton and Ken Kesey, and not so famous folks who worked with the man: headwaiters and secretaries and actors and writers and set-designers. And then there is the voice of Bill himself. Robert Greenfield fluidly blends this chorus into a narrative, and you soon realize that this is no stylistic conceit . . . Bill Graham is the kind of guy that requires over a hundred people to explain his character. By the time I reached the end of this five hundred and fifty page account, I felt like I knew the man . . . and I'm not afraid to say that I got a little tearful on the last page. His death may have been the death of rock'n'roll.
Despite my cynicism towards our materialistic culture, I still try to appreciate what I have in my life -- a beautiful wife, a job, a house, a family, friends, a dog, a new mountain bike and Greasetruck studios. If I ever forget to appreciate what I have, then Clarence turns up at the end of the year with this annual post and reminds me. But still, I have regrets.
Some people are adamant that they have no regrets in their life. I think those people are fairly dopey. If a person doesn't have any regrets, it means they've never made any difficult choices. Robert Frost summarizes it best: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both." Unless you have access to a time machine, or you've cloned a doppelganger of yourself that can lead an alternate life for you . . . or you build a matrix-like environment on a supercomputer that replicates the entire universe and you watch how various scenarios play out for your digitized simulacrum . . . but I digress. You can't do it all, although Bill Graham came close. Reading his story has made me regret a few things about my life. Perhaps you share them.
1) I regret not living in Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love
2) I regret never being hypnotized the way Robbie Robertson got hypnotized -- and I tried this once; in college, I opted to go see a hypnotist perform at the campus center instead of studying for a religion exam in a class that I was failing, but his schtick didn't work on me and I got a D- on the exam.
According to Bill Graham and Robertson, just before The Band's first big live gig at the Fillmore, Robertson came down with a horrible sickness -- he was running a high fever and couldn't get out of bed -- until this French hypnotist Pierre Cleaumont mesmerized him and got him on his feet. Graham gave Cleaumont a seat right on stage, and any time Robertson started to wane, he would look over at the hypnotist and the hypnotist would hold up a crystal and say "GROW" and Robertson would be able to perform a few more songs. I would really like to be hypnotized like this, but I think I'm too cynical.
3) I regret needing so much goddamned sleep . . . Bill Graham doesn't sleep for five hundred pages of the book . . . that's how he gets so much done.
4) I regret not being a tall and soulful African American sexual dynamo, like Otis Redding. Not much I can do about this one.
5) I regret never destroying my guitar and amplifier in front of an audience. I'm just too cheap for this stunt. Most bands played two sets a night at the Fillmore, but not The Who.
6) I regret that I heard songs by Jefferson Starship before I heard songs by Jefferson Airplane. Nuclear Furniture . . . yuk.
7) I regret that I've never run an illegal, underground craps game. Billy Graham started out this way, in the big hotels in the Catskills. But this kind of stuff happens late at night, so #3 preclude me from this.
8) I regret that I can't Latin dance. Bill Graham's dancing opened lots of doors for him, sexual and otherwise. I may actually try to remedy this . . . I told my wife that I'm willing to take dance lessons and she was very excited, but I'm afraid that this road diverged far too long ago.
9) I regret that I'm not old enough to pretend that I went to Woodstock. I am definitely glad that I did not actually go to Woodstock, because -- by all accounts -- that experience sucked. Bad sound, bad acid, bad food, and no bathrooms. The opinion of all the folks that actually went to Woodstock is this: "If anyone says they had a good time at Woodstock, then they weren't there." Way more fun to get stoned on controlled medicinal grade marijuana and watch the documentary.
10) I regret that I didn't follow The Dead for a few years (the funny thing is, I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who now say the exact opposite).
11) I regret not being clever enough to post this on January 3rd, which was 1/3/13 . . . but I don't think like that.
12) I regret that Random Idiots never got big enough to play stadiums -- and even though the promoters would beg us to do so, we would refuse, and stick to more intimate spaces like Monroe 3rd.
13) I regret that I didn't get to do a cameo in Apocalypse Now. Or even Porklips Now. And I also regret, then when I die, there won't be an eight hour memorial concert for me in Golden Gate Park, with Jackson Browne, Joey Satriani, Carlos Santana, Robin Williams, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, The Grateful Dead, John Fogerty, Joan Baez and Kris Kristofferson all performing in my honor.