In 1999 the band I was playing with - New American Shame - was selected by the Cult to be the support act on a tour of The States. This will be the first of many stories from those 10 weeks - and spill over encounters that continue to this day. This will be a two or three part story about the show we played in Las Vegas, and all of that night's ensuing entanglements.
The tour started in San Francisco, went north to Seattle, down to Portland then east to Salt Lake City - continuing east to Chicago, Detroit, up into Toronto and then onto New York. After that, there were several stops down the Eastern Seaboard, and over to New Orleans - continuing west making stops all along Interstate 10 through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, San Diego and then out to Las Vegas for the second to last stop. The final show would end up being seven sold out shows at the House of Blues Hollywood.
So, by the time we got to Las Vegas we were all pretty chummy. Or, at least as chummy as you can be with two guys whom you'd worshipped since sophomore year of high school. Maybe chummy isn't the right word. Lets go with comfortable. we were being ourselves, and the cult and were loving us. The show in Las Vegas was at the Hard Rock Cafe.
As this was the closest we had been to Seattle all summer, there were going to be some "friends" flying in from home in the form of individuals knowledgeable in, shall we say, the fine art of post show massage and relaxation techniques. After we finished sound checking, someone told me that Steve Jones, of the Sex Pistols, was on the side of the stage, watching and seemingly enjoying himself.
Half an hour later, up stairs in our dressing room, deciding what madness we should occupy ourselves with until show time, I hear, "There he is again!"
Like kids hearing Santa on Christmas Eve, we all ran to the dressing room door trying to catch a glimpse without being seen. And there, out our door, walking down the hallway was ... the back of some guy in a t-shirt and jeans.
Never being one to let an opportunity to meet a legend pass, I went stampeding down the hall.
"Ehhhhh excuse me? Uhhhh, sir? Yeah hi? Hey are you Steve Jones? Wow! That's killer. I'mgeoffreadingandiplaydrumsinnewamericanshame.ijustwantedtointroducemyselfandsayitsanhonortomeetyou," I say.
I can't really recall what he said, only that he didn't neck punch me, or tell me to slag off, or anything other than seeming to enjoy some 'kid' paying him some fucking respect. It was great. He went on his way, and I went back to our dressing room, to cheers of, "duuuude no wayyyyyyy!" and "oh man, yer such a DICK! I shoulda gone WITH you!"
I was a hero of the moment. The evening had barely started, and already I had one of those "if nothing else happens in my career, this was pretty damn cool" moments.
It was nothing compared to what the night would bring.
So, we (New American Shame) go and play our show. It is almost impossible to get tired of playing rock music to a house packed to capacity with rock fans. What we were doing wasn't rocket science, but it seemed to convey. Performing in front of The Cult's crowd, it felt like we made a connection every night we went out there, and that's really all you can hope for.
After we got off stage, a friend that had made the trip from home and I high-tailed it out the back door, through the loading bay and out to our tour bus - intent on stealing a few moments alone. My friend looked like a Barbie Doll from a Marilyn Manson video - which is to say she looked great.
As we're rushing to make our way back- in the way we had come out - we run smack into Mr. Steve Jones.
Trailing Jonsey was somewhere between eight and 12 girls - all high heeled and low cut. This was Vegas, after all, and this was Steve Jones. There was a lot of after market accessories on these ladies. I look at him, and then behind him, and then I notice he's doing the same thing to me. Then we both gave the same little 'half smirk/half dude nod' to each other. He told me he'd been trying to get all of these girls in the back door, but was having a mild amount of difficulty with the gentleman whose job it was to not let people in the back door without passes (even if you were in the Sex Pistols). Jonsey had a pass, of course, but he was in the market for a dozen more. I told him I would run in and find The Cult's tour manager, or at least send someone down whose job it would be to tell the door guy to stop doing his job so well.
I excused myself from my friend and got someone to open the backdoor floodgate, all before The Cult started in on "She Sells Sanctuary," my favorite song in the world. Things were going great.
After the show finished, The Cult's guitarist Billy Duffy told me to hang around for a bit. He had to do a meet and greet, and wanted me to wait for him. He said we'd take a cab to catch up with the rest of our two bands who were headed to a strip club. So I did. He did his thing, I milled around until he was done.
When we left, it was Duffy, Martyne LeNoble and myself. We walked out of The Mint (the venue inside the Hard Rock Casino) and passed a long, rectangle bank of slot machines with a double life sized, mirrored statue on top of it. At this point, I'm VERY aware that I'm currently bro-ing around with a guy whose music made me want to attempt to live this life in the first place - still in the moment and enjoying it, but extremely aware of how close to a dream come true I am.
Duffy gives a little head nod up to the statue, "How ya like that, mate?" he asks.
I have to explain here that when Sonic Temple came out I thought "Fire Woman" was a cheap rehash of "Sanctuary." I went to see The Cult on that tour and they sucked. Ian was drunk, Sorum was out of the band by that point, and I was completely disappointed. So, I never bought that record. On the tour we did together, they were all sober, and they were hungry again. I found the songs on Sonic Temple to be some of my favorite to watch the band perform. I had seen the cover - which features Duffy and his axe - but never really put together what it was.
Back to Vegas, and I take a second look at the statue. Then I realize the mirrored monster statue is the "Legs spread wide, guitar hanging low, arm in the air windmill style" from the cover of Sonic Temple.
And then I really realize, just in that moment, that it's him.
I found myself saying, "Oh yeah, man. That's that thing from...the... from your.... Ooohhhhhhhh shit! That's fucking YOU!"
Martyne gave a little non-condescending smirk, and Billy just chuckled - saying something about getting "comped" whenever he comes here.
Then the three of us got in a cab and were off.
Billy Duffy and Martyne LeNobler of The Cult and I arrive at the front door of the strip club, but they won't let me in. I'm wearing a sleeveless shirt, and apparently that's a no-no in Las Vegas strip clubs. Never having really understood the appeal of going into a candy store that prohibits you from putting the candy in your mouth, without missing a beat I was ready to jump back in the cab solo, and see what trouble I could muster up back at the Hard Rock Hotel. But Martyne took off his jacket and let me wear it, so in we went.
The place was done up like a harem - linens and tapestries hanging everywhere ... whatever. I'm really not a fan of strip clubs. I mean, some of my best friends are roofers, but I do everything in my power not to hang with them at work.
The foreman stripper leads us back through a maze of fake tits and dudes in fancy suits till we arrive at our party. My entire band (New American Shame) is there, as is Ian (Astbury), Matt Sorum, his drum tech Mike Fasano (aka Sack), members of The Cult's crew and my new best friend - Steve Jones. All the good seats are taken, leaving me ever less enthused about being there, rock legend shoulders be damned. I also have no intention of spending $20 before tip on a drink I can go make on our bus - for free.
In 10 minutes I was late for the door.
I stood up and took off Martyne's jacket. "I'm gonna get out of here", I said to the querying looks from everyone as to why I was removing the clothing article that was my ticket to remain in the club. "I'm gonna head back to the Hard Rock." I returned dude nods and handshakes before being on my way. The place was pretty crowded, so my trek to the exit was slow going.
When I reached the foreman stripper, she nodded goodbye as if I was with a group of people leaving. She was right. Behind me, also having decided to head back our home base for the night, was Billy, Martyne, and Mr. Steve Jones.
We all jump in a cab, with Martyne riding shotgun and me in the back seat, in the middle - Jonesy on my left, Billy on my right. The whole way back to the Hard Rock, in my head, I was humming, "One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong. ..."
As we pull into our parking lot, the talk of a late snack comes up. I vote in the affirmative. We all dismount the cab, and before I realize what's happened, Billy and Martyne bag out, and it's just me and Jonesy walking into the '50s-style diner restaurant inside the Hard Rock.
As you might imagine, Steve Jones, a really nice guy but an honest to god rock legend, eating a meal with a dude he's met only a few hours earlier could lend itself to some awkward silent moments.
It didn't go down like that.
We sat there and talked smack about this and that until the server presented the check. In his cockney accent, and full British politeness, Steve informed our server, that he (Steve) was pretty sure he was always comp-ed at the Hard Rock. After having Jonesy repeat himself (his accent, even watered down from 10 or 15 years of living in Los Angeles, still sounds a bit like talking with a mouth full of marbles), our server - pointing to the front of the diner - asks Jonesy to go take it up with the manager.
In a way meant more to share a killer secret than to name drop, I ask our server if he knows the guy I'm sitting with. He doesn't; and is not impressed. In fact, the server isn't nearly as enthusiastic in his response as I had hoped. I was instantly sorry that I brought it up.
Jonesy comes back a few moments later - properly comp-ed. (The next day, after relaying the story to my band mates, they confirm that they had stumbled upon Mr. Jones later that night on the casino floor, playing blackjack at a Sex Pistols-themed card table.)
Just as we were leaving, a cute server girl came up to us carrying a tray holding some kind of "chick-shot" (meaning a shot of booze that incorporates Kahlua and/or whipped cream and/or Peach Schnapps). A middle management "guy" trailed her.
"Mr. Jones, I'm a huge fan, and I wanted to buy you this blowjob shot," she smiled.
I sort of chuckle, audibly, as I've been known to, and help myself to the free booze while Jonesy informs her that he is a sober guy.
"So you're a big fan, huh?" he asks.
"Yeah, I sure am," she answers.
Baited, Steve adds, "Name one of our songs. ..."
She fumbles, and drops the ball. She can't do it. She stammers into some sort of unintelligible explanation before Jonesy cuts her off, letting her off the hook in front of the corporate ruse to which she surely was a patsy with a "Don't worry love" as we stood up to leave.
It was sooo punk rock.