Set in the mid-1970s, this musical odyssey and coming-of-age story follows the adventures of a struggling rock band as they try to make it big. Band leader Daniel Travers' life is a mess and he can't find a way out. His band, the Killjoys, is going nowhere and the amphetamines he's popping are making him crazy. Then out of nowhere, an agent calls with a week-long gig at a hot club in Washington where he was told Jimi Hendrix and Heart got their starts. With an imagined Pete Townshend whispering encouragment, Daniel and the Killjoys are off to a tumultuous week filled with inner-band turmoil, a cheating club owner, bar-brawling bikers, and lots of women.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Roger L. Trott is a former musician. He lives in Lincoln, California.
Read an Excerpt
THE RINGING in my ears seemed to be coming from deep inside my head, a piercing sound interrupted only by percussive thunderclaps of pure pain.
Ring. Bang! Ring. Bang! Ring. Bang!
Trying to shield myself, I shoved balled-up fists into both ears, but it didn't help. Pete Townshend, wielding his cherry-red Gibson SG like a tommy gun, loomed above me, windmilling power chords from The Real Me. I winced at the stack of Hiwatt amps pointed right at my head and strained to watch his bloody fingers attack the strings.
But what was that annoying ringing? Feedback?
The ringing suddenly stopped, but the pounding continued until Pete paused and looked down at me. "Look, mate, it's simple." Bang! Bang-Bang! "C minor, B-flat, F. Down the neck. Bloody easy. Sounds hard, but John and Moonie are doing all the work, see."
A grin spanned his mug; tears of pain ran down my own.
"It's this chord, man," he insisted, showing me his twisted version of a C minor. "You play it like you mean it, you turn it inside out and shake it, and the birds'll come rushing up, right? And the joint'll be packed, and everyone'll think you're the Ace Face. It'll be just like the Marquee in '64, mate."
I tried to speak. I tried to tell Pete that I didn't believe, like he did, in the Universal Chord, the harmonizing combination of notes, pure and easy, that would connect us to everyone else. Or maybe I did. I wasn't sure. But I knew I believed in the other angle, the dark corner of the quadrophenic personality that we shared. Can you seen the real me? Can you? Can you?
Pete rubbed his big geezer nose and shook his head. "C'mon. You'll suss it, mate, just like the Who always did. Just bang these chords. And then John does his bass run and Roger comes in. Like this."
Once again his arm swept around in an arc, and I cowered.
And then the ringing started again. I jerked away and my eyes popped open.
Shit, the phone.
I blinked away layers of twisted dreams and squinted at the alarm clock. Ten o'clock in the morning. Townshend disappeared, but the phone kept ringing. I knew Mick wouldn't answer it. The last time I'd seen him, he was passed out on the couch with the TV test pattern reflecting on the lenses of his glasses.
Struggling against a mess of sheets, I shoved out of the water bed and staggered into the kitchen. I stumbled over a growing pile of empty beer cans next to the refrigerator and searched the cluttered tile counter for the phone. The ringing continued to assault my brittle, dehydrated brain. I flung aside a weekold newspaper with Jimmy Carter's smiling face on the front and grabbed the phone.
"Hel —" I coughed, clearing stale Budweiser from my throat. "Hello."
"Daniel Travers? That you, man?"
I didn't recognize his voice, but the nasally twang sounded vaguely familiar. Was it Pete himself calling to finish his tutorial?
"Uh, yeah?" I answered cautiously.
"Hey, this is Rick Astley with Big Country Productions. How you doin'? Didn't wake you up, did I?"
Tightening my grip on the phone, I steadied myself. No dream, this was real. Rick Astley worked for a talent agency in Denver and booked rock clubs throughout the western U.S. He was Big Time. I remembered talking to him a couple of months earlier after sending him one of our demo tapes. He hadn't seemed interested in us then.
"I've been up for a while," I lied with another dry cough. "How're you doing, Rick?"
"I'm cool, man. Hey, how's your band? What d'ya call yourselves? The Killjoys? Where'd you get that name, anyhow?" He sounded like he was speeding on caffeine. "You guys been playing much lately?"
"Yeah, sure." I struggled to keep up with Rick's DJ-like patter. No time now to get into the band's name. With my free hand, I brushed long strands of hair away from my mouth.
Rick took a sucking breath and was off again. "Listen, Danny, one of my bands canceled out on a gig I booked for 'em next week, and I was hoping you guys could fill in. I listened to your tape again, and I think you're ready for the job. You interested?"
Wow. I tried to think. What would Townshend do? He'd do it. No doubt. Maximum R&B, on and on, mate.
"Danny-boy? You there?"
Danny-boy? "Sure. What's the gig?" I braced my hand against the green Formica of the kitchen table. Bread crumbs stuck to my palm.
"This is the deal: It's five nights at the Mai Tai Hotel in Puente Harbor, up in Washington. The gig starts next Tuesday and runs through Saturday night. You get a flat $750 for the week. You want it?"
"Next week?" Holy shit. I squinted at the TONY'S MUFFLER SHOP calendar tacked to the wall. "You're talking about November 2? Next Tuesday?"
He laughed. "Let me spell it out for you, man. November 2, 1976. Five days from now. Got it?"
I swallowed and tugged at the elastic waistband of my boxers. Maybe four years of playing the boonies of Northern California would finally pay off. But now my brain really locked up on me. Where the hell was Puente Harbor? Did we have any other bookings that week? Would the Blue Bomb, our '66 Dodge van, get us there in time? Shit, the damn thing sometimes broke down just backing out of the driveway.
Astley's voice cut through my foggy thoughts. "Danny, you still with me? You want the gig?"
"Sure. But where's Puente Harbor?"
"Look, it's not too far from — where are you? — Reedley?"
"Right," I said, giving up. "We're a couple hundred miles north of San Francisco."
"Yeah, well, you just head north up I-5 and turn left at Seattle. You'll figure it out. It may take you a couple of days unless you bomb straight through."
Beads of sweat inched their way out onto the skin above my eyes. "Look, Rick, we want the gig for sure," I said, already fearing the band's reaction, "but I need to talk to the other guys to make sure everybody's free. Can I call you back later to confirm?"
"Sure, man. But I need to hear from you today or by no later than first thing tomorrow. You guys would be doin' me a big favor, and I'd remember it."
Big Country Productions could book us anyplace. This was it, the break I'd been waiting for. My hungover brain tried to burn through the vapors in an effort to get itself around what was happening. The door to my future had been suddenly flung wide open and the light was blinding. Can you see the real me? My heart slammed against my eardrums.
"You tracking me?" Rick asked, clipping each word. "I need to hear from you by tomorrow morning, right, man?"
"Right, right," I spit back at him. "But what's this place — the Mai Tai? — what's it like?"
"Piece'a cake, man. Great place to break in on the Northwest circuit. That's why I'm giving it to you guys. Hendrix played there before he became big. And Heart played it when they first started out."
"Hendrix and Heart?" My pulse kicked even higher. "So it gets a pretty hip crowd then? We could do some of our originals?"
"Uh, probably not a good idea, friend. You guys aren't big enough, yet. Just stick to the covers." He then paused, and when he started again, his cadence shifted, slowing as if he needed to better consider his words. "Look, the Mai Tai gets the usual rock club crowd, you know? Locals, cruisers, maybe a few chopperheads, people like that. You play some hard rock, stuff they know, and they'll dig you."
I pushed down my disappointment. I knew we were ready to do our own stuff. But something else he'd said caught my attention. "What's a chopper —" I started to say.
"Hey, get back to me by tomorrow, O.K.?" He now sounded impatient. "I've gotta get goin'."
"Yeah, sure. We're playing a gig tonight. I can talk —"
"Cool. Call me by ten. If I don't hear from you by then, I'll have to give it to someone else, O.K.?" Then the line went dead. Wait, did he mean ten o'clock his time or my time? Was Denver in a different time zone? Did it matter? My head continued to pound, and I dislodged another strand of hair from the corner of my mouth. And what the hell was a chopperhead?
* * *
I SAT SLUMPED in a cracked kitchen chair, trying to regulate my heartbeat while gazing around at the kitchen of the decrepit house Mick and I rented for $95 a month, when Mick shuffled in, weaving his way toward the counter, his way-too-long blue-flannel robe sweeping the floor behind him.
"Who the bloody hell you talking to so early?" he said, squinting at me, fingers sorting through his tangled black shag of hair. "What time is it? It wasn't me mum, was it?" He struggled to the stove, fumbled with the knobs, and finally turned on the heat under a rusted teapot.
For some reason, Mick's accent sounded particularly fake this morning, perhaps because Townshend's had been drilling away at me all night. The chords from The Real Me suddenly banged against my brain, and I pushed them back, but I could still hear them echoing around in my skull.
"You're not gonna believe it," I said. "Remember when I sent out tapes to those talent agencies? The one in Denver just called and wants us to do a weeklong gig in some town in Washington. Next week."
Mick's eyes widened, blinked, and then returned to their usual squint. "Sod off, mate."
"I'm not kidding. It's some place Hendrix once played."
The eyes widened again. Without his glasses, Mick's pupils swam in a watery sea of red instead of their usual ponds of glass-muted brown. He searched the pockets of his robe for his black-framed glasses, without which he was legally blind. Mick claimed he didn't need the thick, corrective lenses, but I knew he was full of shit. Even so, I could never tell how much he could see, with or without the glasses. He slipped them on and leaned against the counter.
"You're daft, Daniel," he observed with what we both knew was great insight. "And where are your bloody clothes? Please, nothing kinky for me today, thank you. Too early. And I need a cuppa first."
I ignored him, gazed out the window, and focused on a brittle orange leaf clinging to the limb of an old oak behind the house. Slowly, as I watched the leaf pull away from its mooring and blow happily away, I fully realized the opportunity being offered to me: I could leave Creedly behind. Unlike Townshend, I had no true guru or avatar like his Meher Baba to guide me through life, but I did have ol' Pete, and he'd just have to do. A smile worked its way through the fumes of last night's six-pack.
"You know what this means, don't you?" I said.
Mick, in the middle of spooning instant coffee into a plastic 49ers mug, glanced at me. "We're going on holiday in our undies?"
"We're getting outta this stinking town."
He snorted. "Oh, sure. For a week, maybe."
"Maybe forever, if we're lucky."
"Uh-huh." With shaking hands, he poured lukewarm water into the mug, dropped in two aspirin, and stirred the coffee with a dirty fork. "Before you start picturing yourself on the cover of Rolling Stone, you might want to consider that the others might not be so keen on the idea. I'm not even sure I'm up for it."
"Are you outta your mind? This fuckin' town is a dead end."
Mick shook his head in response and shuffled off toward the living room. "I'll be in here dying on the couch if you need me." But the blue robe with the cigarette burns in the sleeves reached the door before its occupant stopped and looked back at me. "Did you say Hendrix played there?"
"Well, bloody hell."CHAPTER 2
I HAD EXPLAINED the gig to the band and now there was silence. From my seat in the top row of the gymnasium, I looked at Rob, Sam, Mick, and Yogi perched on the bleacher seats around me. We had arrived early for the dance at Creedly High School and had already set up our gear on the gym's stage. We were ready to play, but first we had to fully discuss the Puente Harbor gig. In anticipation, I had screwed down my brain with two cross tops — the small, white amphetamine tablets I kept in the vial in my pocket — but they weren't helping.
As if I didn't have enough to worry about, Pete Townshend wouldn't get out of my head.
Can you see the real me? Can you? Can you?
Good question. I was lucky enough if I could make it through every day without splitting into four pieces, without shooting off in every direction, trying to manage everything that came into view. Talk about your quadropheniacs. I was a mess, but nobody knew.
I had seen the Who in '73, in that acoustically abysmal barn of a concert hall in south San Francisco called the Cow Palace. With Mick and Rob, I had waited in line for five hours just to get inside. And then we had sat on the cold concrete floor for another couple of hours before the bands came on. But once the Who hit the stage, man, it didn't matter. My heart ran up my sleeve and into my throat every time Townshend's legs splayed out and his arm swept around in a brutal attack on his guitar. He played in a way that let everyone know he was one fucking angry, dissatisfied, alienated geezer. And when Keith Moon — drunk, PCP'd out, jet-lagged, whatever — toppled backward off his drum set, Townshend did the coolest thing: He asked some kid to come out of the crowd to play drums on the last few songs. Pete understood. He might be one alienated son of a bitch, but he was one of us.
I'm not one to do the hero-worship thing. I know most of those celebrities and rock stars are screwed up. But as I watched the Who that night, I realized Pete was different: He was totally flawed, and he knew it, and he screamed and jumped and bashed his way through it. Love me anyhow, I dare you, he seemed to say. He didn't try to pretend he was anything other than what he was. I saw it; I felt it. He was searching for something, and he got into my head that night and wouldn't leave me alone. And now he didn't care that I had a hangover — I'm sure he'd had plenty. No, Pete continued to bang away. Can you see the real me?
As the Who defined Townshend's yin and yang, my band — Rob, Mick, Sam, and Yogi — framed the four corners of my closed-in, polar-opposite, quadrophenic world. I bounced among these four poles like a pinball, trying to keep the band together. Sometimes I didn't know where I left off and they began. And it wasn't like I'd absorbed their good parts, just the negative self-doubting stuff that drove me out of my head. And, believe me, I had enough of my own stinking shit to deal with without taking on theirs. But that was the deal. Pete explained it to me one night. That's what you accept when you're part of a band. If it's not, then that band's not gonna happen for very long. And when it comes apart, if you really care about it, your guts go with it and there's nothing, nothing left.
And so I now sat on the top row of the bleachers in my white coveralls and black work boots, Pete Townshend angry in my head, trying to figure out why those four parts of me wouldn't come together, knowing why I didn't believe in the Universal Chord. I'd read somewhere, probably CREEM, that Townshend had ended up with a nervous breakdown trying to find the unifying combination of notes that made up the lost chord; here I was, on the verge of a breakdown just trying to unify four guys.
While I considered where I next wanted to move a discussion that could soon turn into an argument, my gaze kept wandering around the nearly empty gym. There, hanging from the ceiling, were all the Creedly championship banners; there, all around us, were the now empty bleachers still ringing with cheers for the basketball team; and there, down on the plywood stage, was Yogi's drum set, roughly occupying the spot where I'd been grudgingly handed my diploma nearly three years earlier, and where my brother, Kevin, had received his diploma the year before they shipped him off to Vietnam. That memory made me wince, and I forced my mind to swing back to the here and now; but I couldn't shake the weird feeling that, in this echoey hall of mixed memories, my future was once again about to be decided.
Two girls on stepladders were draping yellow and black streamers along a banner above the stage that read CHS HOMECOMERS — SHAKE YOUR BOOTY. Yeah, right: KC & the Sunshine Band. That was something Pete and I both knew: The music was changing, and rock 'n' roll was going down unless something came along and kicked its butt. From what I was hearing on the radio these days, mainstream rock had become a load of self-satisfied crap, mired in its own excess, bloated, bankrupt, and out of gas. Yeah, something needed to save rock 'n' roll, and it better come along and do it fast.
Rob, sitting backward with Sam on the row below the one occupied by me, Mick, and Yogi, suddenly leaned forward and waved a hand in my face. "You still with us, Daniel?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Getting In Tune"
Copyright © 2008 Roger L. Trott.
Excerpted by permission of Coral Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I lived the life, I was a rock musician in the 70's and 80's, and the world desccribed by Roger Trott is the real deal, right down to the Heart sisters (although he left out the poodle). "Getting in Tune" is as authentic an experience as you'll ever have to being on the road, and standing on stage in front of a raucus, inebriated, and wildly unpredictable crowd. Punk was just about to explode, and this has to be the best trip back to those days you'll find anywhere.
Have you been in a Rock and Roll band? Do you know someone who has been in a Rock & Roll band? Wanna visit or revisit the 1970s? Read Getting In Tune.
I knew nothing of rock n' roll life in the 70's before picking up this novel so not only was the book entertaining, it was educational. The book gave a raw, honest perspective of life in a band - the good, the bad, and the ugly. I would never have expected to be able to relate to characters that are so completely different from myself but I found myself understanding, sympathizing, and caring for the guys in the band. It was a sad moment when I turned the last page leaving Daniel, Rob, Mick, Yogi, and Sam behind. I would snag the sequel in a second. Great read. (Favorite quote: 'It's turned black! And it's all your fault!' page 166)
I enjoyed Getting In Tune from the moment I started reading. The characters, the 70's, the music...so many things I connected with. It was written in such a way that I could clearly visualize all the people, events, etc. It was one of those books that I couldn't wait to see what would happen next!
It is one of those books that you don't want to end because you are living it. Roger brought the characters to life. I found myself laughing outloud especially during the animal cookie attack. What happened when the band arrived home?
As a writer, I like this book because there¿s nothing fussy about the prose. It¿s clean, straightforward, and the characters are engaging right off the bat. Yes, they¿re recognizable types, but they feel true. Equally entertaining is how much Trott captures the details and mood of an era. Was cracking up all the way through. The water bed right at the beginning, the phone booths, the songs playing in the background. Hell, the word bodacious, the smell of the amp tubes and the wires and litter on the stage floors. This book captures the energy and drive and confusion of a particular culture. Even better, it recreates the high of loud, rocking music when everyone¿s locked in to the same groove.
I loved this book. It was great fun to read. It's a rock 'n roll romp that made me feel like I was on the road with the band during the '70s. I loved Daniel's search for the universal chord. We are all in search of that indescribable chord in music and in life. Trott nailed it through the lead character's voice. Only a musician could write a rock 'n roll book like this with a group of young guys on the road. He nails it. Only trouble is I want to go on the road, too!