Wednesday, April 19, 2006

10 Years Ago: Dave & More Stones

Last night (present day), I drove over the hill into Hollywood and attended an industry showcase for a young performer named Sara Haze. (She's only 16 or 17, by the way. She and I have written a couple of songs together, and she totally kicked ass last night). She's being managed by my friend and former songwriting protege, Dave Robyn Woekener. What was interesting was that it was exactly 10 years ago today that I attended the first concert Dave performed as a songwriter singing songs I had been working with him on in my capacity as a creative director at Espy Music (then called Bob-A-Lew).

(I enjoy helping other songwriters. But I do this by digging into their souls, forcing them to confront the stuff most people avoid. If writers don't do this, then they are boring and their writing is vanilla and their potential unrealized. At least, that's my philosophy. I scare a lot of songwriters.)

Looking back at the diary entry of April 19, 1996, I start to get a notion of why people think I'm just bit out of my mind. It starts out:
You're not going to believe this but yesterday I had yet ANOTHER kidney stone. Only this time it was on the right side.
And so what did I do? Well, I was completely not going to go through the hell of the ER again like the last time. I was, as I said, "working" at Bob-A-Lew Music. I wasn't actually an employee, but I got up everyday, took a shower and went down to their offices (Kim & Ronda Espy) as a type of physical therapy. This was my second attempt at bringing myself back to life by doing a dayjob in an office. (The first attempt was a year earlier when I did reception and filing at a music agent's office with my friend Jim Durkin -- that ended abruptly when I became too sick and was hospitalized).

I look back and realize I was relentless. While others around me were dying, I simply refused to give in. I might be wearing diapers, but I was determined to will myself back into health. One way of doing that was to "work" in an office. That's why, once I was back out of the hospital, I called Kim & Ronda and asked if I could just come down there and do something, anything. Sweep the floors. Whatever they needed. Luckily, they did have some actual work that needed to be done.

They had stacks and stacks of papers filled with numbers -- and these numbers had to entered into a computer. It was busywork. The kind most people hated. But I liked just having a monotonous stack of work that required little more than simply typing numbers because, as weak as I was physically, all it required was for me to sit and type.

But also, as I mentioned before, they made use of this skill I developed while at National Academy of Songwriters. In the music business, it's called "Creative" -- yes, that's the technical term. Dave Robyn Woeckener was my first victim. I had discovered him at a big songwriter song evaluation event and invited him to pay a call at the office. In our first meeting, I basically had Dave -- who's a really butch, straight boy rock and roller -- crying like a baby.

I don't mean to make people cry, but I was excavating his soul and forcing him to confront a lot of pain he had been suppressing and keeping out of his music. The result of that meeting was a song called "This Ain't Good" which eventually got him substantial radio airplay and is one hell of a song.

Anyway, 10 years ago, I had another kidney stone. Refusing to go to the ER, I happened to have some Tylenol 4 with Codeine, so I took a few, then laid on the bed, doubled up and drank water until the stone passed. Okay. That's not so unusual. That's pretty much the only way to get rid of a stone. But here's where I look back in amazement at myself and wonder, "What the hell was I thinking?"
I was determined to see David Robyn play tonight.
That's right. I was sick as a dog, dying of AIDS and I had just flushed a kidney stone out of my system after lying in bed in pain all day long. And what was on my mind?

Going out to the club to see Dave so he could see how proud I was of him singing this song, which I considered the first song of his career. (He'd been playing and singing and writing on stage for 10 years before this, but I didn't care).


Dave Robyn Woekener

So, last night at Sara's show, I saw Dave, gave him a huge hug and reminded him that it was 10 years ago today that he played his first gig singing that song. Dave eventually also wrote a song about me which he called, "Learn How To Fall." Isn't that a great title? It was one of the greatest honors of my life.

Learn how to fall.
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