Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Every good performer needs a steady tambourine player. I believe it is one of the truisms of modern music. In order to protect the integrity of my gift to humanity, I play every instrument on my records. Considering the antiquated state of my recording equipment, this can be a little bit difficult, but not impossible. It just takes a lot of time and overdubs.
The problem with this is that when I perform my music live, there is no way I can play all the instruments. I tried once but was crushed by the cumulative mass of the many woodwinds, brass and percussive instruments I play. I blacked out and eventually awoke in a free clinic in Mobile, Alabama with three cracked ribs and a bizarre scar on my cheek. I believe I finally surrendered to the great void during a rather complex sousaphone/oboe duet in the middle of “Cat Wonderland, Part VIII.”
In order to perform my music live, I require a few select musicians to fill in the blanks. The most crucial piece to my ensemble, and the piece that never changes (after all, double-bass bassoon players are a dime a dozen) is the tambourine player, Juan.
A little about Juan. He stopped speaking in 1982 to protest what he called the “perfidious British invasion of the Falkland Islands.” Juan, a Filipino-American born in Costa Mesa, California, had no connection to either side of the mundane conflict, just got swept up in the fervor of the times. Juan eventually became a human shield and set out aboard a schooner for Stanley. Juan, ever resourceful, tied himself to a Photography Store with his shoelaces and began shouting out the slogans of the time. “Down with Maggie” and “The Whole World is Watching” were among his favorites.
The British, humorless as usual, arrested him almost immediately and held him at their Antarctic Research Station for the duration of the war, two weeks. Upon his release, Juan petitioned the UN to bring war crimes charges against Britain. After the entire assembly of nations laughed at him and refused his request, Juan called them all “a bunch of zionist pig-fuckers” and vowed to never speak again. The delegate from San Marino, who was involved in a scandal in 1979 in which he was coincidentally accused of being a “zionist pig-fucker” personally threw Juan out on the Manhattan streets. Some say this might be why San Marino is held in such high regard to this day, but I think it’s the high quality of their canned meat products.
Anyway, Juan roamed the Manhattan city streets, literally and figuratively, for years until one fateful day in 1985 when he wandered into “The Magic Yellow Pyramid”. “The Magic Yellow Pyramid” was the place I used to play every time I was in New York until I was banned in 1988 due to my controversial song “I Ate Princess Diana’s Nose”. Some people couldn’t understand satire if it bit them on the ass.
I was in the middle of a rather intense sousaphone solo when Juan silently walked up on to the stage, still wearing his “Falkland Islands War Human Shield” shirt. Juan picked up my indigo tambourine and just started jamming along. It was as if Gaia herself had ordained this moment as special in her infinite wisdom. All my fans know never to touch, or even glance at the indigo tambourine for more than three seconds. The sight of some random individual picking up the sacred object silenced the crowd. I, however, sensed the greatness of Juan and kept playing. Eventually the crowd realized Juan’s greatness and started cheering again. I think we did five encores that night.
After the show, we hung out with band and some of the people who follow my show from town to town. Juan pantomimed his exciting story for us. I immediately asked him to join me in my travelling band. He agreed, and to this day I use Juan on all my tours**.
**Due to various laws, codes, treaties and doctrines, Juan is forbidden entry to the following places: England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, San Marino, Luxembourg, Malaysia, the Seychelles, Argentina, Easter Island, and the City of Barstow, California.