By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
The garish rock 'n' roll bar, painted an eyesore "rock dude" purple, is fittingly situated in the company of half-empty strip malls, failing video-rental franchises and vacated car lots on a horrible, comfort-free city thoroughfare designed strictly for utilitarian purposes. It's the kind of street that had its fiscal heyday in the early '70s and has since played host to countless ungainly operations made obsolete by shopping malls, suburban sprawl and unsympathetic new-business laws common to a modern Western megapolis.
Inside the bar, one can't help but gawk at the myriad of crap which litters the walls and vestibule: poorly designed fliers advertising upcoming dismal rock shows; framed photographs featuring the owner in unflattering happy/surprise poses with various heavy-metal has-beens and never-weres; gold and platinum records which were not presented to the owner, but hang in his place anyway. A giant felt-markered polymerized wall calendar hangs near the rear exit of the place, complete with misspelled words and indecipherable names of local rock and speed-metal bands. On the opposite end of the smallish venue is a good-size stage inhabited with the ghosts of innumerable '80s hair bands--whose days are never to return, although the owner of this place would offer anyone a wishful wager to the contrary.
This is the same owner whose reputation as a thief has been mythologized across international datelines. There are people who want this man's head.
He treats his employees as if they're maggots, and some of them wind up believing that of themselves. His laborers are mired in self-esteem so low that they're able to absorb verbal abuse, personal belittling and threats in front of his loyal bar patronage. Abolition is lost on his Napoleonic mind, and their slavery comes cheap to him. When they do get paid, it will more than likely be shorted and will always be attached with pangs of guilt, as if the owner is doing them a favor.
He has live entertainment at his bar, and the inexperienced musician who clatters forth will assuredly get a thorough deflowering in the evil ways of greedy business. Usually, though, it's some grave combo creating an atmosphere of voluminous misery with dire dollops of din in front of family, friends and whoever else they could drag there to simulate a "draw." The accomplished musicians know the score and usually steer clear or come armed with lawyers, guns and money.
The owner moves through his bar with an air of self-righteousness, an unknowing send-up of self, stopping only to offer phony hugs and prissy kisses to those preferred customers who occasionally stop by: past-their-prime strippers, B-level heavy-metal celebrities of yore and other riffraff.
This is a place I have been going to for a long time, mainly for laughs. I've never seen a sober night here. Nobody comes here to remain sober; it ain't that kind of place.
But one night a few weeks back, I just couldn't hang with the Zeitgeist and neither could the singer of a surprisingly above-average rock band onstage. Apparently, the owner's blatant disregard and exploitation of humanity were enough for him as well.
"You're a fuckin' asshole, a thief and a rip-off," said the waifish singer to the owner from the stage. The singer had the power of a loud PA. The owner was milling around among the 25 or so people in the bar.
It took a minute for the owner to realize he was the target of vicious name-calling, and when the diatribe registered, the shocked owner moved toward the front of the stage and stood in front of the singer, mad as fuck. The band started another song. Mike stands tumbled over. The owner yelled something at the singer. Tension mounted. Then, without warning, the singer jumped at the owner as if going for his wig, as if 15 years of employees and bands getting ripped off were his propellant. He landed on top of the owner. They stumbled back and fell into some tables, sending people and drinks scattering. Bottles and glasses broke. The Wholike wallop of the band stopped. Beefcake security moved in. The singer didn't have a chance against the doorman's seeming history of Marines, rapes, muscles and perverse white-trash joy in beating on the helpless. The doorman had an ungodly minimum-wage loyalty to the owner. He should have been a cop. He had the singer in an anything-but-legal choke hold and was landing punches to his ribs as he dragged him out through the main entrance where he tossed the singer into the cold night. Bravo!
It was nice to see a rock 'n' roll moment for a change. And with that, I went back to the bar and ordered another beer.
With Undiscovered Soul, Mister Locklear tackles the patented Bruce/Mellencamp blue-collar, pro-American shtick and amazingly takes the genre to an even lower ebb than the aforementioned. Below the reaches of parody, even.
If ya can picture that.
If not, try this from "Harlem Rain" and set it to an acoustic dross, the kind popularized in the power-ballad '80s, when Mr. Locklear was a Jon Bon Jovi assistant: "The old man down on the corner/Is drowning in his pain/I can see the sorrow in his eyes/His tears, they leave a stain/The streets have left him broken/He's in the final phase/It's been a long hard road/From his glory days."