The B.C.R. Story
By Mike Stevens
As they took the stage for their last 'I've Always Liked Country, Honest! Tour' concert, guitarist Elvis Kidd was totally bummed out. He thought about the vote the band had taken yesterday, where they had voted to make their next show, this show, their last 'young country' concert. No longer would The Killer Rodeo Riding Thrillers take the stage. Everyone under 30 likes this style of music. and we're just giving up on it!, Elvis thought to himself, morosely. The other guys wanted to play 'alterative' music, which might be okay, except for the fact that this was where the real money was. He would play Bohemian Chant music if there was any money in it. But there wasn't, just like there wasn't in 'alternative'. He had recently knocked-up his latest girlfriend, whose name escaped him, and he was desperate to make some money. He was falling behind on his credit-card payments, and he hadn't paid the rent in over 3 months. Also, the price for his recreational drugs kept going up. At this rate, he might have to quit them soon. He might also have to give up on his dream of getting rich playing music and get a 'real' job. Damn, what a bummer that was going to be.
Now, the band had voted to, in his opinion, make an ill-advised switch of musical direction. Sure, they were paying to play now, but success was just around the corner, he could feel it. He would play any type of music to avoid a real job, but 'alternative'? It would was career suicide, if you asked him. Besides, what about the several hundred dollars he had shelled out of his own pocket to purchase the new cowboy boots with matching hat, western shirt, and a neck-tie? He wouldn't be caught dead wearing them just out in public. He had only bought these things so their future fans would think of him as a real cowboy; in a cowboy band. He wanted to stick it out a little while longer, but everyone else had voted to switch styles. He snorted the last line of his coke, put on his hairpiece, pulled on his designer boots, put on his cowboy hat, and got ready for the band to hit the stage; at least that's what they called it. A stage, his a**; it was actually a trailer they used to haul horse and cow s**t away after the fair was over, but it had been 'transformed' into a 'stage'. As they waited for their turn to go on, 'Country' Ned Ralph was wrapping up his gig. If a former rocker was playing state fairs as a 'young country' act, things must be extremely tough in rock. 4 fans made up the entire audience. The man who took their money said he could 'guarantee' a standing room-only crowd. What he neglected to tell them was they were apparently standing somewhere else, because they sure as hell weren't standing here. Come to think of it, they hadn't seen that man since he snatched their money from Elvis's hand and ran off. He was starting to think they'd been had! Oh well, there was nothing they could do now, except play. After polite applause for him, Ned exited the stage, and then it was time for them to go on. As they launched into their best song, 'The Planting; Seeds of Love', Elvis wondered if they would ever play again, on the State Fair Legends of Country Music Tour. He sure would miss the great smells: the smell of hamburgers cooking, the smell of popcorn popping, and the smell of fresh crap after some circus animal just took a huge dump. Well, maybe not that last one, but the others, for sure. How would the taverns they'd be playing ever top that? He thought to himself, Huh, let's see, the smell of a hamburger or popcorn, vs. the aroma of urine and vomit; it's a toss-up! These guys are fools to give this all up, thought Elvis to himself. He was absolutely sure they were making a colossal mistake.
From the moment they hit the stage, Elvis Kidd felt his foreboding had been justified. The crowd of mostly 'slackers', as he called them, had started booing almost from their first note. It was going to be a long night, if they didn't get booed off the stage first. Elvis pulled at his ugly, striped shirt, hiked up his bell-bottom jeans, and stared straight down at his cheap, canvas tennis shoes, through thick-rimmed square glasses. Once again, he'd shelled out his own money to buy this outfit, so he would look the part, only to be hosed, again. He could tell from the cascade of boos, that these less-than-enthused people were buying exactly none of it. There was no way the 12 people in the bar could have found out about the country deal, could they? If that was the case, they were s*****d. These people would think of the band as disingenuous about their always having liked this style of music, and would think the band was only trying to cash in, which happened to be true, but they couldn't ever find that out. But then what else could it possibly be? They had the right look, all their songs had lyrics about personal angst, and they had avoided eye contact with the audience. These kids just wanted the image. What had they overlooked?
The booing was getting louder the further the managed to make it into the song. Elvis saw a brown object out of the corner of his eye, and a beer bottle exploded on the amp right beside him. This was getting out of hand! Maybe their lyrics were just being perceived as unintentionally funny; they were trying to appeal to the fans desire to hear songs about feelings. Sure, that must be it. Their singer, Charlie Ripper, had been warned against trying to write lyrics about things and subjects of which he knew nothing, and now the kids were getting very angry about the lack of believability in their lyrics. It had nothing to do with their seeing the band was only in it for the money. The fans weren't laughing out loud at them; they were laughing at their song lyrics. Because Charlie didn't know the first thing about feelings, the new band, which was now known as Downer Loser Hole, was paying the price. Now, in their very first 'alternative' rock show, they were getting booed off the stage; albeit by only 12 people.
Backstage after the disaster, Elvis was suddenly very angry about the whole change in direction. He would come up with a new style, preferably one that hadn't been done before.
Songs about Hell and death, which were critical to their success in the world of heavy metal, which was the style of music they were most comfortable with; and which Charlie Ripper had gotten away from, must be gotten back to if their band had any chance. After all, the fans they were targeting didn't want any 'feelings' crap. They felt like hell, so they wanted songs about how they felt. They would laugh openly if they heard 'feelings' songs. Elvis was bummed out as he racked his brain, trying to think of a new approach that hadn't already been done over and over. What they needed was a gimmick; something that would set them apart. So far, he'd had no luck thinking of something new. Everything he thought of had already been done to death. As he was thinking, he had the television on. He was absent-mindedly watching a circus movie, not paying much attention, when a scene came on showing the clowns.
Look at them, getting cheered by adoring fans, instead of booed, like we're used to. It must be nice! Then, as he watched, the new direction they should take suddenly became crystal-clear; "clown metal". It was perfect! No one had ever done anything remotely like it before, at least on purpose. And, he would be able to hide behind clown make-up, so he wouldn't feel that crushing sense of embarrassment he had always felt up to this point. He had always been scared to death performing in front of people, but, disguised as a clown, he would be more comfortable. Now he would inform the rest of the band.
They were on some kind of a creative roll. At first; when Elvis had told the others his idea, they had laughed and made crude clown jokes; they thought he was only kidding. But when they realized he was serious, they stopped laughing and started trying to come up with riffs. Whatever Elvis wanted, Elvis got. After all, he was their unquestioned leader.
Elvis understood the fans they were targeting would immediately see through them if they thought the band was only in it for the money. That was a problem, because they were only in it for the money. Elvis hoped the audience would be as loaded as he and fail to notice this fact. They would have to be very careful. Of course, the clown outfits and 3-ring stage he was thinking they could use should help to distract their attention. If they played their cards right, no one would be able to tell: A. The band was less than sincere, and 2; they really couldn't play very well. Elvis hoped that if they used enough flash-pots, at just the right moments, the fans wouldn't notice all the mistakes. And, if encouraged to drink excessively, they wouldn't care.
They had written songs about Hell, about death, and about clowns. That ought to just about cover it. They all had purchased clown outfits, which damn near took all of their combined money, but Elvis knew, knew in his gut, that this wouldn't be just another waste of money. This would pay for itself, and then make them all rich. He already had the whole show planned out in his mind. Besides the clown attire, they would play in an exact replica of a three-ring circus, and make posters that proclaimed "B.C.R: The Second-Greatest Show on Earth!" He was excited, just thinking about it. The only thing they'd have to be careful about was tripping, due to the floppy, oversized clown shoes, and falling down. On second thought, the audience would think it was only a part of the show and go crazy. He decided they should all trip, on purpose, on their way onto the stage. Man, somebody shut off his flow of great ideas! This was uncharted waters for all of them, but especially for Elvis. Always before he hadn't known what to do, and was totally self-conscious playing live, and usually got s**t-faced before every show, but now, he would have the clown make-up to hide behind. Everything would be worked out in advance. Now, instead of pure fear causing him to drink, he could drink just for the joy of it. And, like he'd already thought before, if the crowd had a lot to drink also, so much the better; they'd be less-likely to notice the band could barely play their instruments.
2 Weeks of practice; $125 bucks for each clown outfit; $50 bucks for each pair of floppy clown shoes; and $20,000 bucks for a replica big-top. They had a lot invested in this show. Elvis had to 'borrow' one of his parent's blank checks to pay for it all. It was a good thing he could forge his father's signature. He knew all those nights buying beer with one of parent's forged checks would one day pay off one day. He felt a little bit guilty, but comforted himself with the thought they'd soon pay them back, and much more. His parent's money, their time, and the band's future were at stake with this incarnation of the band. They couldn't fail. But, Elvis just knew this gimmick would be their long-awaited ticket to the top. Yet, he was still nervous. They were hanging it all out on the line, to either be embraced, or laughed at openly. Theirs would be a unique form of hard rock music, which had never before been attempted. It was all or nothing now; there was no turning back. They would either be huge, or they'd all be flipping burgers, soon!
Elvis Kidd was petrified. They were just about to hit the stage in their clown outfits. As he waited to go on, Elvis took huge guzzles from his bottle of courage. What if they were laughed at, and not in the pre-planned spots? What if, instead of being distracted by the flash-pots and clown antics, the audience actually listened to the music? Hitting the correct notes had never been one of their strong suits. What if he tripped over his floppy clown shoes at the wrong moment, such as during a song? There were so many things that could go wrong. What he needed before their first 'clown metal' show was to relax. The bottle of 151 was almost gone, but Elvis was so nervous, he barely felt anything. He quickly polished off the bottle and cracked open another, from which he guzzled greedily. At last, he started to unwind. It was much too late to sweat the details. Now, it was time to rock!
Most of the audience, lured by the chance to see something so unusual, numbered in the thousands and looked to be 3 sheets to the wind. They might actually pull this off. Now that he was finally a little buzzed, Elvis got braver, in a hurry. Suddenly he realized he was more than a little buzzed. He was crocked, and dressed like a clown. Elvis couldn't help but think of Happy the Clown:
When Elvis was a boy, the circus had stopped in his town. His father had taken him to see it, first filling up his flask full of whiskey. He had thought little Elvis hadn't seen. When they arrived at the circus, his father had made a lame excuse about needing to run to the bathroom, and left little Elvis alone in his seat. Elvis knew it was only an excuse to go somewhere and guzzle the liquor from his flask. Even so, he was shocked to see his father staggering back to his seat. He was plastered, and man, did he ever reek of whiskey! Judging from the wet spot on the front of his shirt, he had gotten so drunk, he had missed his face. He could barely speak when he had blurted out,
"Son, how would you like to go down and meet the performers?"
Elvis had unwisely said yes, as he really wanted to meet the clowns; he had always been fascinated by them. So he and his s**t-faced father had started down the stairs. They were about halfway down them, when his blotto father had fallen, and would have fallen all the way to the bottom, had not Elvis quickly grabbed the back of his bowling shirt, preventing his plummet. His father had said thanks, and mumbled something about,
"These fricking uneven stairs!" and suddenly they were standing among circus tents. Elvis had stared as scantily-clad ladies were leading horses in the direction the stage, and a knife-thrower was practicing off to their left.
How cool! thought a star-struck Elvis, but who he really wanted to meet was a clown. He insisted they go find the clowns, and his father, staring glassy-eyed at the ladies leading horses, had reluctantly agreed. They had both gone in search of the clowns, spying a beat-up trailer with the words "Happy the Clown" stenciled on the door. They had knocked, and upon hearing,
"Come in!," had walked into the filthiest trailer Elvis had ever seen. Empty pizza boxes and empty beer cans where everywhere. A dumpy-looking old man sat alone in one corner. Except for the make-up bag sitting before him, little about him screamed 'circus clown'. Elvis wasn't able to describe his bitter disappointment upon meeting one of his idols. The clown snarled,
"Yeah, can I help you?" barely glancing up from the racing form he held between his nicotine-stained, grubby fingers. He was a total loser.
"Yeah pal, you sure can," responded his s**t-faced father, "my kid here wanted to meet a real circus clown."
"Nice to meet ya, squirt! Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm very busy," replied Happy the Clown.
Busy doing what? Elvis thought to himself. His father turned red in the face, redder than he already was, and yelled,
"Look pal, the least you could do is take a couple of seconds to talk to the boy!"
Happy responded with a stream of expletives, and screamed,
"I tried to be polite, but if you two don't clear out of here, I'll be forced to call security and have you two bastards thrown out!"
His dad came unglued, "Why you stupid butt-ugly, reject of a clown; how dare you fricking use fricking language like that in front of my fricking son?"
"Oh, I'm sorry; I didn't mean to talk that way in front of you, boy. Turn around so I can tell the back of you to fricking get lost, runt. At least then I'd know you were leaving! Now why don't you 2 screw-ups just screw your way out of my face? I have too big of a hangover to argue with you two."
Elvis had expected his dad to take a swing at the rude clown, but heard instead, "Oh, now I understand your poor attitude; I know how bad those hangovers can be. Happy, I think I have just the thing you need. I have some 'medicine' in my pocket that'll do wonders for your pain. If you'll come with me outside, I'll give some to you." Then, his dad patted his coat pocket, and winked at Happy the Clown. He knew then, as Elvis did, what his father meant by 'medicine'. He was going to give the loser clown some of his booze. Happy agreed, and they disappeared out the door.
Sure enough, when they had returned, both had the glassy-eyed look of men who'd had too much alcohol, and Happy slurred,
"Thank you, friend, for the 'medicine'. It sure did the trick. I feel like a new clown! I think I'll now be able to face those little bast-err-kids."
By this time, Elvis's father was so blotto, he couldn't even speak. He just mumbled a reply, which Elvis couldn't even understand, and fell over on his face. Happy slurred,
"Well, it's time for this old clown to hit the stage, and entertain the kiddies." And with that, he had gotten up, barely, wobbled over to the door, and was gone. All Elvis could think, as he helped his father up to a sitting position, was how disappointed the 'kiddies' were going to be in Happy. The clown was crocked!
His father was still breathing, at least. Man, Elvis had thought to himself, they must have had a lot of liquor! He expected to hear booing, when the kids realized Happy was 3 sheets to the wind, but instead he had heard the last sound he expected to hear. It was the sound of laughter! This, Elvis had to see for himself. Leaving his bombed father slumped against a wall, he went to the stage entrance, and saw an unbelievable sight; there was a totally-sober-looking Happy, blowing up balloon animals, joking with the kids, and looking like a real clown; not the stinking-drunk bastard-clown who had just brushed by him. Happy the Clown was at the top of his game; so flawless was his routine, it took Elvis's breath away. He watched in spellbound fascination, as Happy told the audience,
"On behalf of myself and the whole crew, thank you for coming. We all hope you'll come back real soon to visit all you new circus pals! For now then, its goodnight from all of us."
Elvis had hurried back to Happy's trailer, where he found his father in the exact same position he'd left him in. He couldn't wait for Happy to come back, so he could tell him what an amazing job he'd done. Then, he was back. As Happy had approached him, Elvis had said,
"Wow, Happy, that was a truly-amazing performance!"
Happy had just looked at Elvis stupidly, and fell against the wall. From the ground, Happy the Clown looked up at him and said, "Thanks; now, do I know you?" The man had still been loaded to the gills!
He was thinking about the lesson he'd learned that day, when he heard their introduction,
"…tee-shirts, personalized wrist-bands, posters, and many more items are available for purchase at the concession stand. Now, please look to the center ring and make an awful noise for "The Clown-Princes of "Clown Metal", Big Clichéd Rip-Off!"
He took one last gulp from his liquid courage, straightened his rubber nose, made sure his floppy shoes were laced as tight as they could be, and hit the stage running. He was petrified.
As they launched into their first song, some of the flash-pots detonated, right on their first chord change. If they screwed up, no one would be able to tell. That night he'd met Happy the Clown had taught Elvis a valuable lesson, one that he was remembering now, as they had started their set. And that was, no matter how loaded you felt inside, you had to pull yourself together, and still appear stone-cold sober, at least on the outside; no one must know. So, Elvis reached down deep for all of his wits and firmly planted his oversized shoes, raised his rubberized nose high, proudly threw his white glove-covered fist over his head, and with his playing hand, and struck his strings like Satan himself! He flashed a confident smile, (although inside, he was dying!) The song they were attempting to play, "The Headless Skull", would turn out to be the title track from their debut album. Of course, Elvis had no way of knowing that at the time. He was only trying to look like he knew what he was doing. Truth-be-told, he had already loaded his clown-pants, he was so scared. But, no one in the audience that night could tell. To them, he looked super-confident, although his band mates could smell his fear. Sure he was petrified, but there was no way he was going to let fear win. He was pleasantly surprised, when after somehow making it through that first song, the audience went nuts! After that, Elvis finally relaxed. What a night! Now, this was rock and roll.
When they finished their set and many encores, the band started to walk off, but the crowd called them back. They were used to booing and having objects thrown at them, not this. They had already played all their songs, so it was decided they would make one up, on the spot. It was a dangerous decision, made in the heat of the moment, but they were giddy with excitement. It mattered not a bit to the audience it was a riff they stole from another band; they got lost halfway through, and finished up playing a whole other stolen riff, or that the singer's lyrics didn't make a bit of sense. The crowd was going crazy, cheering everything they did. Finally they managed to end, all at different times, and literally floated offstage. Man, this was unbelievable!
Elvis was sky-high as he made his way to his dressing room. This "clown metal" was an untapped goldmine. Tears started rolling down his face; not of sadness, but from pure joy. All he had worked for, all he had dreamed was coming to fruition at long last; mostly by accident, it was true, but they would be more than happy to take the credit and the glory, like they had thought of this and pre-planned the whole thing. No one had to know it had only been discovered by Elvis absent-mindedly watching an old circus movie on T.V. Elvis could see the future, vividly. He could see venues that held more than 25 people; he dreamed of a the huge record contract and of owning many expensive homes in exotic, warm-weather locations; the imported, expensive beer he would now be able to afford; the luxury cars; the private jets; and the young, teenage girls; a different girl every night, even on school nights! He was so wrapped up in his daydreams; he almost missed seeing the record company executive who made his way backstage to talk to them. He was about 45, trying hard to look 35, Elvis guessed. Elvis could relate to that, but everything else about the guy was a complete joke. Then, he remembered him. A long pony-tail hung greasily down to his waist. He had tried to cover his bald spot by combing over some of his remaining hair. He wore a white power-suit that was designed to show everyone how much he was worth. He ran over to Elvis' open dressing room door, and said enthusiastically,
"Hello! My name is Paul Olive, and I understand that when it comes to band matters, you're the man to see. I'm looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership between "The Clown-Princes of Metal" and my record company, Piled High Records.
Back when they were playing 'young country', they had taken a demo tape they'd taken their demo to Piled High. They'd been ushered by a secretary into Mr. Olive's office, where they played the tape for him. Mr. Olive had burst out laughing, saying,
"Who put you up to this? This is a joke, right? Eh, ha, ha, this is unbelievably awful!"
Obviously, Mr. Olive didn't remember him. Now would be perfect time to get the bastard back. Mr. Olive was still speaking.
"…guys are going straight to the top! I---"
"Please let me interrupt you, Mr. Olive," said a boiling-mad Elvis. "you probably don't remember us, but we used to play 'young country' music, and when we brought a demo to Piled High Records for you to hear, you thought it was some kind of practical joke being played on you; it wasn't! Do you have any idea how much that your laughing at our music hurt? Well, now we have the leverage to s**t right back on you. We would never, ever, sign with any company you had even driven by, let alone owned. Now sir, kindly take your bastard self out of here and get lost!
After Mr. Olive had left, Elvis was as excited as he'd ever been. He just knew this new type of heavy metal music would take them all the way to the top. He already could see the cash rolling in. He couldn't wait for tomorrow to come so they could get to their practice room, located in a room above an auto-body shop, and start to arrange their new songs for their first album. True, they hadn't yet signed a record deal, but with the way they had gone over huge in their first concert, they'd be able to pick and choose between record companies.
All of a sudden Elvis was bursting with great ideas for still more songs. The paint fumes wafting up in great clouds from auto-paint from below may have had a little to do with it; for they made for a free, cheap high, but he didn't think so. He was just so stoked! The band could go in so many different directions, simply by dressing like a clown, and singing songs about Hell and death. Elvis's only regret was it had taken 48 years to stumble across this. Oh well, at least the kids couldn't tell by his heavily-lined face, he was an old bastard! He would be covered by clown make-up; they would think he was their age. By wearing clown make-up, he'd be able to rock well into his 80's if he wanted to. All he'd wanted out of music was to get laid; but now he would get laid, and get rich.
Elvis Kidd woke up at 4am the day after B.C.R. had gone over huge in their first concert. He couldn't sleep; he was too wound up for that. Even his usual sleep-aid of 151 and a couple if sleeping pills hadn't made him tired. He still couldn't believe 5 guys who could play hardly a lick, could make a great living playing music. Whoever had said,
"These moron fans will buy anything!" was right on the money. He felt like celebrating. Suddenly, he had the perfect idea, he would go out drinking. Not the piss-water he normally drank; today, he was king of the world! No, today it was the good stuff; imported beer. Now that he was about to become rich and famous, he had better get used to having the finest things in life. He might even spurge on doughnuts, to go with the beer. What the hell, he thought; after all it wasn't everyday you could fool a bunch of people into believing you knew what you were doing. And it was a huge bunch. There soon wouldn't be anything he couldn't afford.
Elvis was just about to head out the door to a restaurant for a beer and breakfast, when the phone rang. It was probably that debt collector who called Elvis several times a day. He got pissed off, answered, and snarled into the receiver,
"Look, d***o, how many fricking times do I have to tell you, the fricking check's in the mail!"
There was an awkward silence, and then the voice on the other end replied, "Ah, Elvis?"
Oh crap, it wasn't the debt collector! "Yeah, this is Elvis speaking."
"Elvis, my name is Saul Trumpet, the owner of First Strike Records, and I want to sign your band."
Elvis thought, this had better not be some dip-s**t with a tape recorder, who records s**t-house bands in his parent's basement! "Gee, Mr.-- err-Trumpet, is it? We already have received multiple offers from other record companies, but if you'll tell me your offer, we'll consider it." Elvis lied.
Trumpet whined into the receiver, "I lot of other offers, ehh? Well then, I'd better give you my top offer, I'd hate to lose you guys to another record company. Here's my offer: My representatives happened to catch your show last night, and were so impressed, they called me immediately, and said,
"Saul? You have to sign this band; the kids went absolutely ape-s**t!"
So I'm prepared to offer your band a 2 album deal, worth up-front money of 2 million, plus 2 million per album; plus royalties, of course."
Elvis almost crapped his drawers; 2 million bucks upfront, plus 2 million bucks per album; plus royalties? They had hit the mother-load! He was freaking inside, but replied casually,
"Okay, I guess we'll accept your offer."
" Welcome aboard; B.C.R. will be joining our stable of top-flight bands, including Love Monkey, and Satan's Lucky Hammer. But, I'd bet the good name of Saul Trumpet you guys will be the biggest group; biggest of them all! Do you have enough material written for an album?"
"Sure do, Mr. Trumpet."
"Great, show up at my studio on Main Street, across from "The House of Guns" a week from today to begin recording."
"Thanks, Mr. Trumpet, and you'll never regret this!" replied an ecstatic Elvis.
Trumpet gushed, "I know I won't. We'll see you in a week, then."
Elvis hung up the phone and sang, "We're in the money! We're in the money!" Then, he thought, no longer will I have to pretend to like something, just to fit in and make a buck. With one phone call, his whole life had changed, forever.
Elvis's phone was ringing. He thought about letting it ring, in case it was the debt collector, but answered it. It was their singer Charlie Ripper saying he wouldn't be able to go into the studio that evening because he was just too sick. But Elvis knew it was only an excuse. Last night, during their last practice before they went into the studio, Charlie had had a panic attack. Now he was calling to say he was just too sick to record. They needed Charlie; true, he usually missed the right notes; and true, he was a puss, but without their front clown, they might as well skip it. Elvis snapped,
"You'll either be there, or we'll find another singer!"
"Gee, you guys would have no loyalty to me?" Charlie whined.
"Charlie, the only thing I have loyalty to is colored green, and multiplies itself by, oh, I don't know, at least 6 million!" yelled Elvis.
Sheepishly, Charlie sighed and replied, "Well, since you put it like that, I guess I have to be there, I'll see you tonight; but I'm telling you, I've already got, "The Spinning Heaves"; by practice time, you'll probably have to prop me up with a stick!"
Elvis answered, "Okay, Charlie, just be there," and he slammed down the receiver. Damn, what was he, a babysitter?