Pulling Out the Savoy Truffle

Reflections on music, literature, politics, and pop culture from retired rock musician, writer, and college professor Jim Booth. Email comments to Jim at jim@jimbooth.org.

Location: Advance, North Carolina, United States

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Write Angle

"I won't quote you no Dickens, Shelley, or Keats...
Cause it's all been said before...."
Rod Stewart

I'm working on a new book Completeness of the Soul: The Life and Opinions of Jay Breeze, Rock Star. Some of the stories have already been published in literary journals (you may have even read some). Below is one that's been driving me crazy. Read and respond when you have time: (Warning: no adult content....)


August 21, 1991

Dear Angel,

You know, you have that thing you say to me whenever you call—you say,“Hey, whaddayadoin’?”

Here’s a bit about what I’ve been doing.

I was born and brought up in Reidsville, North Carolina. Reidsville’s a little town of about 20,000 people up close to the Va./N.C. border. It’s only about ten miles from Eden, where Teddy Hatter and Charlie Beagle grew up.

Teddy and Charlie were acquaintances of mine before we all went to UNC together. Actually, that’s not quite true. Teddy and I were acquaintances; Charlie and I were friends. We knew each other from literary competitions that were held for all the high schools in the county. It was through Charlie that I met Teddy.

Charlie (you insist on calling him Professor Beagle) used to get me to come over and listen to his and Teddy’s band rehearse. I always thought their band had a cool name—Nothing Sacred. Maybe I knew even then that it would be Teddy and me. I remember that each time I went to hear them (I always tried not to go too often even though they rehearsed three times a week—you know me, Angel, the soul of modesty) that Teddy would get me to sing a song with them. He kinda flipped out when I sang a song I’d written for them. He went right to work on it, embellishing it and changing it until it was half his own. I changed a couple of lines to fit the rhythm changes he’d made and we’d written our first song together. Took us maybe twenty minutes.

The song was “Her Smile, Winter 1970.” We kept changing the year until we finally recorded it in the fall of 1975. It was a top ten hit for us in the winter of 1976. The reason it’s called “Her Smile, Winter 1974” instead of “1975” is that somebody wrote down the song title for the record company (Teddy or Mick, I think—does it matter?) from an old song list and we hadn’t changed the year.

This isn’t telling you much, is it?
What would you like to know?
I’d tell you anything.
I love you, you know.

Well. We all graduated high school in 1970. Teddy went to N. C. State, Charlie and I to UNC. That’s not quite true. Teddy spent most of his time in Chapel Hill with us, so he was only nominally an N. C. State student.

He was really a rock musician. That was all Teddy ever wanted to be. He lived and breathed it. He still does. Oh. He transferred over to UNC after a semester. How the hell he got in I’ll never know. I can’t imagine he passed a single course he was taking at NCSU. I think, though he never has said, that he withdrew about midterm of that first semester and applied for some kind of special admission to UNC. Anyway, come January of ’71, he was with us.

Charlie was a different case. He went for the books. Big time. College was Charlie’s thing. He still hung around and all that, but he was mainly into his studies. He wanted to be a journalist. Actually, he wanted to be like Hunter Thompson “only with more self -control” he said.

And that’s where I came in. Charlie lost interest in the band. He and Teddy had found Mick right after arriving in Chapel Hill. They then went through a series of drummers.
I don’t know what it is about drummers, Angel. They’re probably the most vital part of any band—the heartbeat, you know? And yet, they’re always the least stable guys. The ones most likely to disappear without a trace. Anyway, there were at least half a dozen in quick succession. Then Sid showed up when the guys opening for somebody or other at Town Hall, the favorite college club. I was being their roadie and saw the whole thing.

Sid just walked up to the stage after their set and said, “You guys write great songs, but you need a drummer. I’m him.” Interestingly, their drummer at the time was packing up his kit and heard Sid. He came over and got in Sid’s face big time. Sid invited him outside to fight. The drummer backed off.

At that point Teddy looked at Charlie, Charlie looked at Teddy, and in the same breath they both told the drummer he was fired. Charlie told me later it was a no brainer. If Sid was crazy enough to fight somebody for the job, he was the man for them.

Boy, I do go on, don’t I?
Thanks for letting me tell all this.
I still haven’t told you much.
Sometime I think, what’s there to tell?

Sid joined up in mid October of 1970. That was really the last time Charlie and Teddy acted as a united front. I’d never felt like I could get past that—in terms of the band, I mean. We were all friends and all that, but there was this deeper connection between them that I always felt uneasy trying to breach. You know how it is—you sense two people know something that you can never know, and no matter how well you get to know them you’ll never have or know that thing they have.

Kind of like us, I guess.

Anyway, from that point in mid October when Sid joined, things just kind of went on the skids between Teddy and Charlie. Charlie took to hanging out with some j-school types and Teddy started spending all his time with Mick and me—and Sid.

Usually guys leave bands over women. You know, somebody gets a girlfriend and pays more attention to her than to the band and pretty soon he gets himself thrown out. So he consoles himself that he made the better choice—you know, love over music. But I doubt that anyone who ever left the music for a person was ever really satisfied. But Charlie left over wanting to write rather than play. I’ve often admired him for that. And I’ve always been completely puzzled by it.

The music is bigger than anyone, Angel.
That’s how it is.
And you can try to leave it, but it will never leave you.
Yeah, that’s a little scary.

So Charlie just drifted away. He came to rehearsal late, he left early, he wasn’t really there when he was rehearsing—that kind of stuff.

As Charlie absented himself more and more, I started filling in. At first I would just play with the guys to warm them up. Then gradually I began to play with the band as they rehearsed their set. Teddy and I wrote two new songs together: “Mary, Quite Contrary” and “River Kisses.”

Always, I got right out of the way when Charlie showed up. But it reached a point fairly quickly (we rehearsed four nights a week) where they didn’t get much done when Charlie showed up because he and Teddy would spend all their time at each other’s throats. Then came the time when Charlie stopped showing up at all. We just went ahead. We even played three shows in late November.

I didn’t know how to feel about it, Angel.
I don’t know how to feel now.
In a way, I think it must be like a second marriage.
You either know they love you as you or you wonder.
At some point, though, you have to stop wondering.
I stopped wondering—you should, too.

Then, just before exams, at our last rehearsal in Chapel Hill before the holidays, Charlie walked in as we were doing out last three numbers. He didn’t say anything, and to this day I don’t think anyone noticed him but me. Maybe it was because I was and am so sensitive about what he gave me by giving me the band. By this time, mid December, Teddy and the rest of us had even talked about a name change. I’d tossed out the name The Lost Generation one night after rehearsal when I’d had a few beers. Everyone had liked it; Mick and Sid were all set to rename the band. But Teddy seemed to be waiting for something; that night when Charlie showed up, he got it.

When we finished playing, Teddy looked over at Charlie. “So. What’d you think?” he asked.

Charlie just nodded his head in that way he does that says, “I’m way ahead of you.” Then he said, “This band is how it should be. This band can go all the way. Don’t you think so, Jay?”
I was standing there with my head down, feeling guilty, and I didn’t realize for a second that he’d addressed his question to me. Then I realized that they were all looking at me instead of at Teddy.

I looked at Charlie. He had that homespun look of wisdom he usually gets on his face when he knows he’s got you. Then, I looked at Teddy again. He had that” Go ahead “ look he’s so famous for.

I didn’t look at Mick or Sid. I guess I didn’t feel they were involved, even though they were right there and integral members of the band. It just seemed like it was about Charlie, Teddy, and me.

I nodded “yes” in answer to Charlie.

I saw this sad little light pass over Charlie’s eyes as he smiled at me.

Teddy looked surprised; he rarely does.

Then Charlie asked quietly, ‘What are you going to call it?” He meant the band.

“The Lost Generation.” Only after he’d answered did Teddy look at Charlie.

“Cool name.” Charlie smiled.

Then Teddy smiled. “Jay thought of it,” he said.

And they both smiled at me. And I smiled.
Then we all went out and had a bunch of beers to celebrate.

Neither Teddy nor Charlie ever spoke to me about it again.

Maybe they talked it over between themselves, but I never felt they did. That’s the thing at work between them that I was talking about earlier, I guess. They just knew it would be okay for it to be this way.

So Nothing Sacred ended and The Lost Generation began.
You know what I mean by all this.
You know what I’m trying to tell you.
That’s how things happen, Angel.
That’s how things happen.
Things end—things begin again.




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