Monday, January 13, 2014

Fine Line

Back in the days when I played a lot more music than I do now, my bands did all the normal band stuff: took band photos, released records, toured, and we even made a video.  Starring my Crosley, natch.

Fine Line - Th' Losin Streaks from Alex Zangeneh on Vimeo.

I started Th' Losin Streaks back in 2003 since my earlier bands had slowed down and weren't doing much.  I'd just graduated from art school and had all kinds of energy so I called a couple pals I knew from other bands and suggested we put a new project together.  Within a couple of months we had a set worked up, a mix of songs I'd written and covers of obscure sixties bands like The Sonics.  We were sounding pretty good, but my limitations as a guitar player were very evident.

Enter Mike Farrell.

Outside of Sacramento Mike is almost unknown - in Sacramento, he's a legend.  Imagine Jimi Hendrix crossed with Keith Richards and you're in the ballpark.  He plays rock, jazz, country, folk, blues, avant-garde and heavy metal.  That's pretty impressive; what's really impressive is that he'll fit all of that seamlessly into the same song.  

We'd crossed paths many times and had talked about playing together, but it had never worked out - until the Streaks.  He loved the songs, the name, the sixties schtick, and the fact that me, the bassist and drummer were all nerds - he had recently gotten himself off drugs and we were about as square as you are going to find in a rock and roll band.

We started recording our first album two weeks after Mike joined the band and finished it in a second session a few months later.  I wrote most of the songs, we did a few covers and Mike added two songs of his own.  Everything turned out well, and one of the songs, "Your Love, Now," got some airplay and was even labeled "the coolest song in the world this week," in Billboard magazine.  To this day th' Losin Streaks album is the recording I'm most proud of.
My friends Alex and Marina Zangeneh Azam approached us about making a video for one of the songs off the record.  They had picked one of Mike's songs, a Who-inspired romp called "Fine Line," and had come up with a whole story concept around it.  We loved their idea and shot the whole thing on 8mm movie film over a blistering summer weekend.  It was fun to do and I was super excited that they had included several scenes using the Crosley. Alex is a car and motorcycle nut of the highest order (that's his Ford Anglia parked behind the Crosley in front of the coffee shop) so it makes sense that he wouldn't let a resource like a Crosley go to waste.  The video turned out great.

But, this was 2004.  No Youtube, no Vimeo, no way for us to really promote it, so not many people outside of our immediate circle ever even saw the video.  We'd planned to include it as a 'bonus' on CD versions of our follow up record, but we never did get around to making a second album.  Eventually we got busy with other stuff and just sort of forgot about it.
We toured the US and europe, got some really great opportunities (like opening up for The Zombies) and basically had a blast for five or so years.  Playing with that group was a life changing experience, definitely the highlight of my music 'career' such as it was. But, toward the end we were drifting in different directions - Mike and our drummer Matt were each working on solo albums, and I was pretty burnt out from standard band drama and taking care of the drudgework like booking shows and fixing our 1969 Ford van.  We called it quits while we were all still friends.
Matt, Stan (the bass player) and I kept in close touch, but I saw less and less of Mike as time went by.  He was busy with his new projects, and was running with people I didn't know at all.  I started to hear ominous rumblings from mutual friends, and eventually it became pretty clear that he had fallen off the wagon and gotten back into heroin.

I don't know what to make of that.  I play in rock and roll bands and all that, but I'm a square - I've never even smoked pot.  I mentioned in my last blog post that one of the hardest parts of my car hobby is that many of my friends from the Crosley community have passed over the years. I've lost a lot of friends, but at least they died of old age, for the most part. There's a logic there.  It makes sense.

With my music friends it's different.  I've had friends die from drug overdoses, from suicide, from unhealthy lifestyles - and they're young.  My friend Micah died because his liver gave out at 38 years old.  Thirty-Eight.  There's no logic there.  It just doesn't make any sense.

Last month, Mike hit bottom.  I don't need to go into details, but he was homeless, jobless, and ended up in jail.

When Alex and Marina heard about Mike's situation they went into their archive and dusted off the master for the video.  It took some tweaking to get it into a digital format that would work these days, but they got it done and posted it online to help remind people - and Mike himself - who he really is.

The good news is that Mike is in rehab and seems to be doing pretty well - he's clean, and working on staying that way.  I hope so.  One of our friends put together an online donation site to help defray expenses and has raised over $5000 in less than two weeks.  That tells you something - not a lot of heroin addicts have that many friends.  Mike isn't just a good guitar player - he's a good guy.  I'm not going to say that he hasn't gotten lost at times, but at his core, Mike is one of the sweetest people I've never known, and I'm proud to call him my friend.

Get well, buddy.  Soon.

No comments: