Friday, August 5, 2011

Number Nine Dream: The Crackers

After a desperate job search I found myself working at a fire damage restoration company. It was the spring of 1981 and I kept running into people from Seattle.  It seems that jobs were scarce in the Northwest, not that jobs were all that abundant in Albuquerque either.  Anyhow, it was a weird, dysfunctional company run by a creepy egomaniac and staffed by assorted goofballs (myself included)  

I soon found myself working with Joe, an amiable fellow from the state of Washington. He quickly became known as Joe from Seattle and he was far more pleasant than my previous work partner, Clint, or as we liked to call him "The prick from the sticks." He was from some podunk town near Austin, and he swore that everything from McDonald's to toilets were bigger and better in Texas.  Clint didn't last long, he broke under pressure (i.e. everyone was ready to kick his ass), but Joe was cool he smoked weed so we hit it off from the start.  

Joe called me one Saturday morning and asked if I had any smoke. I did, and after a quick daredevil bike ride from Chelwood down to University, I arrived at his apartment.  Joe was a musician, I never met someone from Seattle  that wasn't. He was an above average guitar player and it wasn't long before he was strumming along to whatever tune was in his head. That's when Brad got there, he wasn't from Seattle, Brad struck me as midwestern, Cleveland maybe, an uptight skinny blond dude in a land where that makes you stick out like a sore thumb.  Once we sat down, he told Joe to play some Beatles, when Joe asked him which one, Brad turned to me "What do you want to hear?" without hesitation I told him "She's a Woman" Joe immediately started playing the intro and Brad joined in "My love don't give me presents.."  These guys were good, they had their phony Beatlemania licks and British accented harmonies down pat.

Brad then pulled out a file folder full of notes, drawings and lyrics, he spread them out on the coffee table. It was his template for rock stardom. He had a band name "The Crackers" he had a logo, a Ritz cracker with "Crackers" stamped on it. I raised an eyebrow as he explained  "Just think of the sponsorship deal we could make with Ritz" Next he explained that the band members would dress like Revolver era Beatles, he then turned to Joe and admonished him "You'll need to lose weight, you know that?" chubby Joe looked hurt and anxious, but said nothing.

Brad continued, their first video would be shot on the roof of a downtown building, just like the Beatles. Joe blurted out in a Liverpudlian accent "I've got blisters on me fingers" Brad wasn't amused. Their first album would be enclosed in a round cover sleeve that would resemble a Ritz cracker. "What do you think?" he asked, I shrugged, the weed was taking hold, the conversation lost its momentum.  "Pipe dreams" I thought to myself, It's time for me to go home.  Joe got fired a month later and I never saw him again. 

A year or so later, I opened the local paper and there's an article describing a new band and their lead singer. The band was The Crackers, I checked the photo, Brad was front and center, Joe wasn't in it.  About a week later while watching the local news, I saw a  report that a local band was filming a video downtown, it was the Crackers. I rushed off to find the album, but nobody had it in stock. A disturbing glitch in Brad's master plan, after a few trips to Natural Sounds I gave up on finding a copy of the disc.

Brad had hedged his bet that a blitz of publicity would offset the band's lack of name recognition. He was hoping to build a fan base without grinding it out in shitty local clubs. Instead he would let the media do the work. It was a brilliant plan, maybe even ahead of its time, but it was doomed to failure. Ultimately all the shrewd marketing tricks up his sleeve weren't enough to save the band from the trash heap of indifference.

Let's jump ahead to 1983, I'm at the 7-11 on the corner of San Pedro & San Antonio in the far Northeast Heights. I'm waiting to make a phone call (before cell phones, we used pay phones at convenience stores) when I saw a familiar face restocking the USA Today rack.  It was Brad, he looked at me but failed to make the connection. He looked around nervously, either embarrassed or afraid he was going to get robbed. Before I could call him over, he quickly jumped back into a shitty Subaru, piled high with newspapers and sped off.  

I had to chuckle as I watched him, what a strange turn of events. The best laid plans sometimes go asunder, fate is fickle and fame is fleeting. Today a video star...tomorrow a chump. One of my buddies came out of the store in time to see Brad scramble. "Who the fuck was that?" he asked, "That was the lead singer for The Crackers" I replied, "No shit, looks like a paperboy to me." he answered.