Making superstars of us all
Pauly's latest mid-life crisis has made superstars of us. At least, that's what my conversation with him sounded like last night, after he finished scolding me for not calling for so long.
Several weeks ago, he called to enlist my help in a project he had embarked upon. At 51 years old, Pauly had decided to preserve some of the more notorious moments of our long friendship: the tapes we did while under the influence of various drugs. He actually claimed that these tapes more closely resembled art than the years he put into performances with the more professional bands he played with.
"I can't believe we were doing this kind of thing while I was wasting my time playing cover tunes with the band," he told me last night during a long telephone conversation.
He had managed to put together a collection of our more interesting musical moments, comedy pieces we did using the most primitive equipment. With modern technology, he was able to digitize these pieces and then "burn" them into a CD. Although he dated the originals from 1972 to 1976, many were made as late as 1981, and include work we did after technology began to change and we could afford to purchase things like a toy synthesizer.
Nearly all of these sessions came at Pauly's request - though in last night's conversation he made it sound as if I had initiated them. Even though he would not admit it, Pauly craved these sessions because they gave him something the band could not, a sense of creativity that he now berates himself for ignoring.
These recording sessions actually began long before I got involved with him, when he and others used Nick Romeo's basement in Little Falls to create odd master pieces, things he would later define as "Incredible String Band-like" pieces. I became a member of this circle when he and others decided to record a Christmas message to me when I lived in Oregon. When I got back, we continued the tradition in recording a tape for his girlfriend, and then started recording just for fun.
At their best, these tapes were wonderful experiments in sound, the kind of which other people did as modern art. We were no so arrogant. We merely got together to fulfill a craving each of us had. For me, they were an opportunity to engage in performances I dreamed about but lacked talent and courage to do in public.
Pauly's selection of material focused on our best friend, Frank, who died in 1995, yet who played such a critical role in our lives. These songs were written around his odd personality and preserve moments of great humor.
"I thought I would be sad doing this," Pauly told me last night. "I thought hearing him again would depress me. But these piece were so funny, I couldn't help but laugh."
This is not the first time Pauly has committed himself to such a project. I remember him making a tape version of this collection in 1989, just as he turned 40. I suppose we'll suffer through such a period again when he reaches 60.
For me, preserving those memories has become a life long ambition, something I started many years ago in 1980 when I watched each of my friends turn 30, when I realized that we would not, could not live forever. It seemed important to me that their essence be captured in some venue, if not tape or cd, then as stories of their lives. I doubt if anyone will ever heard the CD, but I hope someone, someday reads the stories and gets a glimpse of them as I knew them.