12 Step Program, chapter 7
Tonio Valdez came into the club late one Friday afternoon as Bob was leading the band in a rehearsal of a new song, Pandora’s Box , looking glum.
Uh oh, thought Bob, bad news.
Depends, said Valdez. I think we, the kids and their supporters, might have won the battle but lost the war.
Huh? Jansen wondered. What does that mean?
The LAPD covered itself in shame, the way it handled a peaceful protest. Beating the kids with truncheons made sure this would be seen as a riot. It was elevated to that by police, so it looks bad on them.
Look at the street, though, pretty well deserted by 10pm in the last few days. Clubs will be closing, and teens now have no place to hang out. The businessmen will get what they want; keep real estate rates high, maintain the tone of Sunset Boulevard.
The kids might have been right and were arguing with their ideals. Ideals mean nothing against money. Money talks.
And bullshit walks, Bob completed the saying. In this case, the cops supplied the bullshit.
I don’r think the police knew what it was doing, Valdez seemed to be excusing them, but couldn’t accept it nonetheless. The police were pawns, but objected to the long hair, drugs, what it thought of as rebellion, which included resistance to Vietnam.
What about Layer Of The Onion, Bob asked?
I think we’ll be alright for now. The coffeehouse has a good reputation and a loyal clientele.
And What’s New?
This is what I came to tell you. I’m applying for a liquor license. If we get it, What’s New will be serving adults who won’t be hassled by police demanding ID. There’s money – and security – in bar sales.
But it started as a teen club.
Yeah, I know, said Valdez, and I’d still like it to be; it’s been filled for weeks and kids are having a good time. They know we are where it’s at. But it has to be filled in order to make a profit and the curfew and riot have made sure we’re not filling up these past few weekends. Let me tell you, What’s New doesn’t make a lot on soft drinks and fries. An adult bar doesn’t need as many people to break even, thanks to booze mark ups.
What’ll I tell the band?
Nothing at the moment. What’s New might survive as a teen club in which case a liquor license will be unnecessary. Then again, we might have to apply. And then again, we might get turned down and might have to close anyway. Until I have to decide, The Hi-Steppers can continue as the house band.
I’d have a Plan B, though. You might need to fall back on it.
Having dropped his bomb, Valdez was off.
As he watched him go, Jansen turned his attention back to Pandora’s Box. The band reconvened, saw Jansen’s pensive look and wondered if there was a problem. Only briefly, whatever was bothering Bob, he put it behind him and concentrated on the new song.
Who knows why The Hi-Steppers weren’t nailing Pandora’s Box, as it had 12 Step Program? This new one was as simple but it’s stops and starts were a little tricky. The band was failing to come in together and seemed unsure of itself.
It could be, too, that The Hi-Steppers was now a recording act and that made it self-conscious. Each player was aware of that and wanted to make a conspicuous contribution. All five guys would play at once as though in competition with one another. Rivalry where once there was unity Jansen had no immediate solution to this. Pandora’s Box lacked the natural dynamism of 12 Track Program. He and the band would have to work harder to arrive at the appropriate, desired arrangement.
Jansen thought he had a good one. It was based on the boulevard riot which started at Pandora’s Box.The club was the rallying point for the demonstrators and consequently the target of the merchants.
Bob’s opening line set the scene: “If you tamper with Pandora’s Box, you’re looking for trouble.”
He wished a finished version could be added to the album, but the song needed work, the album was all set to be pressed and the second single already was out.
That single was coming to life in an unexpected way.
The a-side was Lonely Weekend that, despite being promoted nationally by Barb, was getting only sporadic radio play.
At a radio station in Akron, Ohio, a dee jay accidentally played the flip, 12 Step Program. Immediately after playing it, the switchboard came alive. All the callers asked the name of the song and who did it. The dee jay played it again with the same result. Without intending to, he had stumbled upon a hit.
Other stations flipped the record and started playing 12 Step Program.
It charted and began a climb, eventually getting to #34, where it stalled.
As it rose, teen magazines, notably Teen Life and Great!, took note and came around. Bob did his first interviews while the band sat, stood or leaped for photo sessions.
Bob and The Hi-Steppers were stars.
It didn’t feel like though.
There were no money and no gigs beyond What’s New.
If fame was supposed to take them away from this, it was taking it’s time in coming.
Bob saw irony in this, possibly a song. Wouldn’t that be great?
Until then, his life seemed to be getting more complicated, not less.
Abe Stern knew he’d have to change distributors.
The one Barb had at the moment, Jukemaster, was great at getting records in jukeboxes, as its name suggests, but possibly wasn’t as effective at getting his singles in record stores or the record section of department stores.
You could hear 12 Step Program in any restaurant or bar or hotel lobby that had a jukebox, but would-be customers often couldn’t buy the single at their local store. Probably, they bought something else instead.
Possibly, this why Barb’s previous releases bombed despite the light airplay. What if the buyer liked what he’d heard of Nora Washington but couldn’t find it?
Possibly, that’s why 12 Step Program couldn’t get any higher than 34.
Stern didn’t know, but felt a change was needed