May 1986 we opened for Mötley Crüe at the Santa Monica Civic. Three thousand people.
September '86, Poison and DIO, Special Guests Juggernott. Four thousand.
Monsters of Rock, 1988, Long Beach California. Metallica. Dokken. Scorps. Van Halen. And us. Jugernott and thirty thousand screaming psychos. Second stage, but still.
Stanko lived on an empty cul de sac with a chain fence at the end and a board nailed up over the driveway, STANKO'S RANCH in curlicue rope. His dogs were chained up in the front yard sleeping, and there were chickens pecking the ground. The chickens were new.
The street was stacked with cars and you could hear the noise inside the house, speakers thudding and voices tumbling over each other. I squeezed the Camaro in and pulled on my jean jacket, it gets cold in L.A., don't listen to the no seasons crap. I ran my hands through the ends of my hair to shake it out.
Some guys were on the sidewalk shotgunning tall boys, Dave, Tall Paul who doored at the Whisky, a couple people I didn't know. I flipped my cigarette butt into the gutter.
"Mikey, man." Tall Paul slapped my palm so hard it stung. He was six-six or more, huge and black and bald with a grey mustache. "Damn shame to see the ranch go down."
Everybody else had already moved out and the bulldozers were parked in the lot next door. Twenty years Stanko'd lived here, and next summer the whole block would be a Best Buy.
One of the guys I didn't know was talking on a cell phone. He threw his arm around me, held out his phone and took a picture. "I shit you not!" he shouted into it. "I know, where are they now, right?" He left his arm on me 'til I shook him off.
Dave, one of those dudes you just see all the time, he shoved the guy out onto the lawn, yellow and dotted with DQ curls of dog shit. "Sorry, my fucking cousin from Fresno," he said.
"Teach him some fucken manners," I said. "Fresno's no excuse."
"Mikey!" It was Nog, our old roadie when we could pay him, standing on the saggy stoop. His hair still hung down the middle of his back, but all thin on top, and the skin was pink. He waved a big square bottle of Jack and I walked over.
I took a long, gulping swallow that scorched me from inside. "Where is everybody?"
"Stank's in the lair. I brought party favors." He tapped his nose and opened the door.
The noise hit me in the face, the air shaky with power chords and bass drum, Def Leppard or ACDC, I couldn't tell it was so loud. Should have brought my earplugs.
It smelled of smoke and Aqua Net and some jackass was jumping around in a bad wig and a Poison sweatshirt with the neck ripped out, like it was a costume party or something. Like it was all a joke.
It was slow going, bodies the whole way, but they moved when they saw who I was, clapped me on the back and grabbed at my hands. We rehearsed here, and Stanko lived in a little room off the back. Now our gear was gone but the PA was still working, cranking Van Halen now. "Hot for Teacher," I could pick out the riff over the rumble, people laughing and some guy yelling Watch this! and dropping trou, looked like he was trying to unscrew a bottle of Night Train with his asscrack, what the hell.
Every gig the crowd came home with us, partied 'til dawn. It had slowed down these days, sometimes just a couple people playing cards, but tonight it was jammed like our best day. And the faces, people I hadn't seen in years had come out. Ace and Danny who rode with the Mongols, Sherry who cocktailed at the Rainbow and gave our bass player Dane the crabs, Maggie Campo who let me crash on her couch one summer. She'd always been big, with these huge tits, you can't take your eyes off them, and this giant smile with a gap in her teeth. Her cousin worked in a hospital. County Jen, she called herself. "Queen Morphine," I wrote that for her. No one was real surprised by the OD.
Nog banged on the door. "Me and Mikey!" he shouted.
The door cracked for a second on Stanko's red eye then busted wide. "Get that ass in here, man." His t-shirt was cut off at the sleeves, and huge pink koi swam down his arms. His jeans were dirty, and his big rooster tail of black hair was fucking perfect.
"Stanko Johannsen the third," I said, and slapped his back. It was just a futon, halfie little fridge, a toaster oven and a TV, and guitars on stands. A 1987 Flying V, a Gibson Explorer, a Jackson Randy Rhoads. Girls in short skirts, two of them, were on his bed. You could see a black lace V on the blonde when she moved her legs.
"Last rager at the Ranch. Craazy, eh?" He left Norway when he was like five, but it was still there in his voice. Stanko poured out white powder on the glass of an old picture frame, lined it and styled it and tended it with a credit card, like he was raking a bonsai garden, and held out a cut straw.
I snorted it back and wiped my face. It was speedy trucker shit, stuck in my throat like crushed aspirin. There used to be a guy who brought us pharmaceutical grade, in little glass vials with spoons in the screwtops.
Stank took his blast and passed it off to Nog.
"Where's Bonner and Dane?" I asked. The rhythm section, they hardly ever partied any more - kids - but they'd have to be here tonight.
"Bonner's playing a wedding. Dane said he'd already be here, I need him. The fuck."
"A wedding band? Jesus." I wiped my face, scrubbing and sniffing. "Best drummer on the Strip, bar none."
Stanko shrugged. "Got to pay the bills, man. Not like anybody's renting three-twenty no more." Stanko's landlord was eighty or something, never remembered to raise the rent. In 1987, three hundred and twenty bucks for a crack alley bungalow in east Hollywood was high, but fuck, we were signed. Small label, but we were primed to jump to the majors, limos and Lears. Goddamn Nirvana.
"Where you going to stay?" I asked. I was already surfing a couch myself.
"A dude, I work on his gear." He said it doot. "He's got a studio in his garage, futon on the floor by the drum riser. Said I can crash a few weeks. Then I don't know, man." He looked at me seriously for a second. "Something's got to get going." He worked out at Demeter Amps on Ventura in Sherman Oaks. Wasn't what you'd call real money.
I counted off on my fingers. "There's flyers in the car right now for the Troub. I got two calls in to that guy at Sanctuary that re-signed Ratt last year. There's that killer new track you and me came up with last week, 'Glitter Sister G-String.' It's about to happen. Keep the faith, bro." I clapped him on the back of the neck. "E'Nuff Z'Nuff? Those assholes are touring with Aerosmith, not half the band we are."
Nog was on the futon telling some joke about a dog a cat and a penis, trying to get a laugh out of the girls. They looked scared.
"I know, I know." He took a swallow off Nog's bottle and passed it over. "I keep faith." Even the lines in his face were cool, like Keith Richards when he was forty.
The door banged open. Our first drummer, went to high school with Stank. Nog roared. "Fuck me Jesus, Sticky Rick!" We kicked him out because he was always too loaded to remember the changes.
"You filthy cocksuckers," he shouted back, flipped off the room. His face looked boozy and broken. Like Keith Richards now.
Stanko stood up to hug him, and I waved the Jack. "Long time," I said.
"Whose fault is that?" he asked and grabbed the bottle. His hair was buzzed and muddy blue skulls sat on his neck. Bad news lightning bolts on his collar bones stuck out over his shirt.
One of the girls, black eyes and tiny ears, passed the glass and I hoovered a line, and an extra half. My teeth went numb and clacky. "I need a beer," I said.
"Bathtub," Nog said. "Did you girls say Van Nuys? I'll give you a ride later. It's on my way."
Sticky Rick mumbled something in Stank's ear and made him cackle, and I shut the door behind me.
In the kitchen some guy heaved a bowling ball at the sink and smashed the porcelain. He threw his hands up in the horn salute and the crowd bellowed. At the bathroom door the singer for the old Mash Hounds nodded and said, "Watch it, somebody's dropping weight in there." When the door opened, a girl with smeary mascara tumbled out. The tub had old brown rings around it, probably from before Stanko moved in. Cans and bottles were piled up on bags of supermarket ice and there was a metal bucket filled with little airplane bottles of booze.
We should own houses in Morocco and Cabo San Lucas. I should have a pilot's license and my own DC-9. I swallowed one of the little bottles. Jagermeister, nasty sweet clings like cough syrup, took half a Bud to wipe the taste. I tucked a handful of bottles in my inside pocket.
The hall wobbled a little as I walked back down it, like all the music down the years had got into the foundation and bent the re-bar, and the last party was making the house roll on its slab.
There were even more people in the practice room, and they'd spilled out the doors to the little back yard. Everyone was talking at the same time so no one could hear anything. I was grinding my teeth like a beaver.
"Fucken Juggernott!" somebody yelled in my ear. I couldn't dig up his name, maybe he used to work the soundboard at the Roxy. I raised my eyebrows, tilted my can his way.
"Saw you at the Texxas Jam man, nineteen eighty-eight. Shredded. Can't believe it ends like this." He kept his mouth right in my ear, it stank like a taco truck. "Two thousand and eight, bro. End of a fuck, king, era."
I leaned to his ear. "What do you mean, era?"
He pulled me back in and yelled wet in my ear. "Hey, not just your band, the whole fucken scene gone to shit. Can't find a decent metal act to save your dick these days." The smoke from his stubby cigarette danced into my eye. "You guys were a fucken institution, like the goddamn gas company. And now you're packin up too. Oh well. Young man's game."
I banged him into the wall and slapped his fat face. "We played last night, you sack a shit. We played the night before that, we're at the Troubadour on Wednesday, fucken showcase. We are the goddamn gas company!" I was shouting, I could feel it shaking in my chest.
I shoved him back into the wall and slid into the crowd, pinballing against bodies to make it back to Stanko's room - a line, a shot, anything.
A hand grabbed my wrist. My fist cocked up and when I turned there was my sister-in-law Justine. It'd been years since I'd seen her. She looked fantastic, her hair dark and straight and cut in bangs, with little black glasses that made her look like a TV lawyer.
"Holy mother," I said. "Where did you come from?" Ex-sister-in-law, if you can have one of those. My ex Suzi had it all - hair, style, a body like a rocket. She'd danced at the Hollywood Tropicana, which made her like a goddess or an Amazon queen around here. Her little sister Justine had been just a kid.
"I know Dane's wife," Justine shouted. "Small world, right."
I nodded and tried to think of something to say. You could see the noise shaking in the air like heat off the freeway.
"So doozy john," she said.
I tapped my ear. "What?" When I leaned in I smelled her neck.
"Too loud," I shouted. She shook her head and shrugged. I took her hand and pointed to the front door, pulled her through the crowd. We used to make fun of her, me and Suzi. But now Suzi looked like their mother, thick waist and cheeks that had slid down both their faces. Justine'd been hot for me, Suzi said, when she was sixteen and Juggernott was just about to be the biggest band in the world. Suzi had read her diary.
We stood outside the door and watched some asshole throw rocks at Stanko's dogs. The music from inside was still buzzing in my ears. I really should have brought the earplugs.
"So yeah," Justine said. Her hands spooned her elbows. "Suzi's gone."
I looked at the sidewalk, where taggers had exed out each other's names. Where would she go? She was a part of the place, like the porn stars at the dog park and norteño polkas on the radio. "What the hell. Was she going to call?" Like Oki-dogs at midnight and Lemmy's table at the Rainbow.
Justine shrugged and shivered.
"Come on, I'll put on the heat." The Camaro slumped low at the curb, still evil and fast, even with the rear bumper hanging a little loose. Just let it start first time.
I grabbed a stack of flyers fresh from Kinko's off the passenger seat and we slid into the buckets. I held my eyes shut for a second, then popped the ignition - twitch twice left then hard right and pump the gas - and it roared up, like a lion or a bear under the hood. I played it cool and tweaked up the heater.
"So what, she married an accountant?" I asked. "Moving to Scottsdale or, or Delaware?" Suzi's face is still tattooed on my shoulder, above the Chinese earth dragon. Now I say it's Lita Ford.
"Remember she was working on her cosmetology license?" Justine rubbed her hands together, held them over the vents. "She's real good, got picked up for hair with a musical. Touring company, that one about Abba."
"Oh." She used to spray up our bangs with Aqua Net and egg whites, and paint on our eye shadow.
"Ten months, so she let her apartment go."
"Yeah, those schedules are rough." We opened for Tesla in Japan once.
I could see Nog in the rearview mirror, big google eyes and the honky-tittie hand grab. He jacked an air dick into his wide, hairy mouth and popped out the side of his cheek with his tongue. I goosed the accel to burn him with the exhaust. He yelped and jumped out of the mirror.
"So that's that," I said.
"She doesn't hate you or anything. Anymore. It's been what, fifteen years?"
I took one of the little bottles out of my pocket and sipped it, awful tequila. "You still going to be a movie star?"
She laughed, this throaty husky sexy thing. "Finally went back to school. Nursing. I finish in June." She took the bottle from my hand and swallowed the rest, handed it back empty and warm.
"Wow. Cool." Glasses like a TV nurse, not a TV lawyer. "Say, what are you doing Wednesday?"
She sent an eyebrow up her forehead. "A date with Mikey Millstone?"
I winked and handed her the flyer. "You won't believe how tight we sound."
Justine shook her head and smiled. "Jesus, Mikey. You will always be the same. Look, I told Barb I'd find her and Dane, O.K.? It was real good seeing you." She patted my leg and kissed the corner of my mouth, and even the bad booze tasted good on her. The door creaked and she slid out, and the smell of her hair stayed, perfume and menthols.
I killed the ignition and stood in the cul de sac, swung my arm back and chucked the bottle over the fence at the freeway. How long did Suzi stick it out before she split, six years?
Nobody ever said it was easy being married to a front man.
MetalHammer magazine, March 1987. "Remember the name Juggernott. You'll be hearing it for a long, long time."
Kerrang!, August 1988. "Juggernott. Big hair + big hooks = rocknroll superstars."
Rolling fucking Stone, January '88. "L.A.'s Juggernott might just be the real deal."
Back inside it was even louder than before, like everybody was screaming as loud as they could. The room stayed steady if I kept one eye shut, and I slammed around, grabbed a can from some guy and drank it down, then tossed it into the crowd.
People were spraying beer and Sticky Rick was bashing at the plywood nailed over the window with a bent mic stand. People were taunting him on, and when he knocked a piece off and got to the window underneath a yell went up. Some girls scooted back when they heard the glass shatter, and I caught one of them - Maggie Campo, of the warm couch and giant rack.
"Maggie!" I shouted over the crowd. "Maggie!"
"You old coyote!" she screamed back, bleary eyed and slack at the mouth, and went up on her toes to kiss me. Somebody falling hit my back and knocked me into her, grinding and tasting her salty vodka mouth. I moved my hands down to grab but the crowd swayed and I got ripped away and shoved into the hallway.
Fuck it, go to the bathroom.
"Hey!" Stanko yelled from the kitchen. "We need to talk at you." Dane had finally showed up, and he and Stank and Nog were standing around by the counter. The sink was hanging off the wall, and the pipes were dumping water onto the floor.
"Dane, you giant motherfucker!" I reached up to clap him on the shoulder. "Good to see you, brother." He hadn't spiked his hair, so it lay lank and long down his back. He just nodded and didn't say anything.
"Check it out, doot," Stanko said. His eyes were wild and the drugs were pulling at his teeth. "I met this guy at the shop, getting a PA for Morongo, you know, the casino Indians. Used to see Juggernott at Gazarri's."
"Cool." I looked up at Dane. "You never told me Suzi's sister was around."
"Listen, listen." Stanko slapped me in the chest. "So he knows the guy does booking, maybe get us some dates, okay? He says two sets a night, two nights a week for the month. We take home six grand, yah?"
"No shit?" Not exactly the Forum, but Hollywood was all pay to play and the Camaro needed new muffler, new radiator, new brakes.
"No shit. Some real nice dough." Stank smiled.
"Killer, doot. When do we start?" I was trying to figure it, six thousand, four people, four weeks, two nights, two sets, but the numbers were slippery. Stanko and Dane looked at each other.
"They want us to add some tunes," Dane said.
"What do you mean?" The water was up over the toes of my boots.
Stank pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. "Just a couple covers they want, it's not a deal." He handed me a list, bands crossed with songs, in Excel or some shit.
"Queensrÿche? Whitesnake? Hell no. Fucking Europe?" Dane wouldn't look at me, just scraped the label off the Löwenbräu in his hand. "So wait. Wait a fucking second. They want one of those joke metal cover bands?"
Sticky Rick was screaming and swearing in the rehearsal room and the other voices were getting pissed, girls screeching, a fight starting again.
"And you sucks want to be one of those joke cover metal bands?"
Stanko lit a cigarette. "You know those songs doot, you got the pipes. Diamond Dave, Halford, you can sound like whoever you want."
"So you want to be a fucken krakeoke machine."
"We'll play Juggernott gigs in the week," Stanko said. "Maybe this gets us some exposure. They might let us pass out flyers at the casino."
"Probably not though, dude," Nog said. "Competition and all."
"It's this or nothing, Mikey," Dane said, with his eyes on the dirty water, wouldn't even look at my face. "Way past time to move on."
I knocked the bottle out of Dane's hand and sloshed back to the hall. It was so far, way farther than the last time, than all the hundreds of times I walked down here to take a piss in my life.
Unlacing leather pants is hard. The lace in a knot at the top, I tore the hole, oh shit. So expensive to fix, the time in Jersey City.
I got them to my knees and saw my eyes in the mirror, creases like work boots. I stretched my forehead up, still looks good, still looks good, got to quit smoking it's hell on the skin. Cinderella, Testament, Ratt, Quiet Riot, Britny Fox. Celtic Frost, Krokus, TNT, L.A. Guns, Vixen, Mr. Big.
The door banged open and I turned around real slow, fell back on the sink.
Justine. "Woops," she said, and put her hand at her mouth.
"There you are, darlin." She looked like if Suzi was a school teacher. No, nurse, nurse.
"Hi Mikey. Your pants are down."
"That's what pants is for," I said. "Down."
"Are you okay?" she asked.
I gave a wink and pointed south. "Patient in need, Nurse Justine."
"Oh Mikey," she said, and bent a little to look. "You can't even get it hard."
I wagged my heavy head. "Mikey Millstone baby, always ready. Like a ICBM." Write it down, great lyric.
"Looks like trouble getting out of the silo, general." She touched my face and walked, pulled the door behind.
I looked down and she was right. I twiddled the skin, yanked it. Suzi in the Camaro back seat with her bra unhooked, skirt up and no panties, no never. Juggled my balls with two fingers, closed my eyes. Triangle tan lines on her tits, her O mouth painted. O glitter O. I fell on the door. All the girls every girl here in this bathroom greased up and legs slicking, legs slicking. W.A.S.P. Warrant Tesla Hanoi Rocks. Mouths and asses and hands and sweet necks. Shouts and fighting through the walls and a crash like a truck hit the house and a crack just there in the ceiling and a fist fisted the door.
"Somebody in here." I spit in my hand. Somebody in here.
M C R
This work is copyrighted by the author, Sacha A. Howells. All rights reserved.