The International Writers Magazine: Extract from 'Singing for My Supper'
Singing For My Supper-
The Greatest Self Help Book Ever Written
Chapter Nine: Rock and Roll Haze - Bent Antenna
Phillip E Hardy
In late 1980, I went to a dirty Hollywood rehearsal studio to audition for a group named Bent Antenna. I was surprised to see an unknown project conducting a cattle call. For those unfamiliar with this practice, it is a try-out where many candidates are being reviewed. I stood outside the door listening for a while, thinking to myself, “I can sure as hell do better than the guy in there now.”
Fresh from my pickup shows with the Fad, in addition to learning new drum tuning techniques; I was somewhat cocky when I got my forty-five minutes of time with the band. What immediately struck me was how attractive they were. My young mind determined this was a marketable quality. After playing three songs for the lads, they offered me the drumming job on the spot. I usually hate having people ask me to make quick decisions, but I knew I liked these guys right away.
Bent Antenna featured a tall, handsome lead singer named Angelo who was an ex-navy seal and bar bouncer. What he lacked in vocal ability he made up for in looks and personality. The other players all possessed potent chops, incorporating elements of progressive rock and jazz into their style. This was something we had in common.
Both Angelo and Nicky the bassist hailed from New York City. They told me they appreciated my abrasive qualities, having been used to it from “the old neighborhood”. They said in addition to playing ability, this was one of the reasons they wanted me to join the team. As the boys were well rehearsed by the time I came on board, we were ready to hit the circuit within a few weeks.
Bent Antenna had booked their first show at a popular new joint in Santa Monica called Blackies. The date of our engagement was December 9, 1980. That day, I went into work at the ungodly hour of 6:00 AM. On the office desk, I saw a copy of the Herald Examiner that displayed the headline “John Lennon shot to death in New York.” Still hardly awake, those words had a surreal quality. I just kept reading them again until the truth of what they said sunk in.
Blackies was a small club with a rectangle bar and economic stage. I arrived midway through the first set. The crowded place reeked with an air of melancholy. The first act was called The Children's Hour and featured a diminutive singer with a powerful voice. The other person I noticed was their super solid drummer.
A few minutes before we went on, I walked over to compliment the tall percussionist. “Hey, you did a real nice job on the skins tonight.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it,” he answered.
“My name is Phil Hardy.”
The other musician nodded. “Don Harvell, it's nice to meet you."
I kept the conversation going. “Weird night to play isn't it?”
Don shook his head. “Definitely,” he answered.
I thought about something appropriate to say. “Well, I guess it's the best place for a musician to be tonight.” It was a cliché but I added, “John would have wanted it that way.”
“Are there a lot of Hardy's in LA?"
I remember thinking this was a strange question coming from someone I just met. “I wouldn't know, since I'm originally from Long Island.”
“Was your father an engineer?” Don further probed.
“Yeah,” I answered with slight trepidation.
“Was he a gun collector?”
“You're two for two,” I answered with increasing interest.
“Your father's name was Robert, Robert Hardy right?”
“Yes, that's right.”
“Wow,” Don said reaching down to pack his cymbals. “Your parents were good friends with my folks in Manhasset; and they told me you and I used to play together when we were little.”
I couldn't think of anything profound to say. “That is Weird,” I answered.
Don continued packing up his drum kit. “My dad said your old man screwed him on a trade for some rare, old pistol.”
I remembered father showing me a handgun many years earlier, which he told was a collector's item. “It was a Navy Colt revolver from the Civil War. I remember it.”
Don smiled in acknowledgment. “Yes, that was it.”
“Sounds like something my father would do.”
After our brief conversation, I got up on stage and banged out grief over losing my favorite Beatle. Don decided to stick around to repay the compliment at the end of our set. For several years thereafter, we kept in touch; and I ran into him when we were both playing at the LA Street Scene. Since the last time I saw him, Don has played with well known acts, which included an appearance on David Letterman. He was also recently voted best drummer in Austin Texas.
In the spring of 1981, Bent Antenna started working with a flamboyant, homosexual band manager named Mark Gordon. He increased our bookings and types of venues we were playing. This included USO shows, with a bonus gig on the aircraft carrier USS Constellation. This show was scheduled for Friday at noon, so I took the day off from the grinding shop.
On Thursday afternoon, I hastily packed my freshly painted, ugly blue AMC Matador with the requisite gear. After a slight mishap with my car door and another passing vehicle, I went to pickup Jerry Leon. We drove down to a seedy area of San Diego, to a hotel called the Front Street Inn. As a young, inexperienced lad, I thought it looked like a decent place. After checking in, I met Mark Gordon in the lobby. I excitedly said, “Hey Mark, good job booking the hotel. Looks like a nice joint.”
“I love this place. It's where all the gay sailors stay,” Mark nonchalantly answered. “Come on, I want to introduce you to Kozmic Blue.”
Mark was referring to a Janis Joplin impersonator who happened to be a man. Kozmic Blue answered the door of his room dressed in a tightly fitted, white sailor suit in the company of two shirtless, young Navy men who sat drinking beer.
Kozmic raised a glass and giggled. “The Navy is throwing me a party.”
“Hey Blue, this is Bent Antenna's rocking drummer Phil Hardy and his friend Jerry.”
I moved forward to grasp Kozmic Blue’s limp, sweaty hand. “Nice to meet you and we're looking forward to playing with you tomorrow.”
Kozmic answered eagerly, “Thank you cutie.”
I wouldn't say Jerry was homophobic; but when I looked over at his face, I noticed he was appalled by the scene. Reading the cue, I said, “Hey Mark, we're going to go check out our room, have a swim and grab some dinner.”
Mark lightly patted me on the ass, “Alright, don't do anything I wouldn't do boys.”
Once we got into the room, Jerry and I threw our stuff on our respective queen beds. “Well at least Mark didn't get us a room with one bed.”
Jerry rolled his eyes. “I can't believe we're staying in a hotel full of faggots; and that Kozmic Blue is the biggest one I've seen.”
“Don't worry little buckaroo, I'll double lock the door tonight,” I answered.
“I'm not so sure about you anymore,” Jerry quipped while unpacking his shaving kit.
I licked my lips and nodded. “Yeah, I've suddenly got a taste for man ass.”
Jerry and I went out for greasy burgers, and then headed to the nearest strip club. After a healthy portion of tits and beer, I think we both felt more secure in our masculinity. When we arrived back to the hotel, I decided to take my gear over to the Constellation.
It was midnight when we arrived at the foot of the carrier. There, we were greeted by a young ensign. Within a few minutes, he had six sailors loading my drums. I'll never forget the sight of my kit being carried one piece at a time up the long gangway to the colossal vessel.
As we stepped on to the carrier deck, I nearly gasped at the size of the Constellation, which was lit up like a city. After we had secured the drums, the ensign asked Jerry and me if we wanted a tour of old bucket. “Are you kidding me” I answered, “It's nearly one in the morning.”
The young naval officer laughed. “Not a problem; this is a twenty-four hour a day operation. I can even get you guys some chow if you want.” He motioned towards the main galley.
“No, we've eaten,” Jerry answered.
“But we wouldn't mind seeing some of those planes.” I pointed towards the line of aircraft that stood fifty yards away.
By the time Jerry and I were done playing on the carrier it was 3:00 am. With the three hours of sleep I got at the hotel, we might as well have stayed on the boat. It mattered little because I was twenty- five and pumped up with adrenaline. Jerry and I headed back to the behemoth at around daybreak after grabbing a coffee and doughnuts.
It was family cruise day on the Constellation. The faithful, old carrier was packed with civilians anxious to see the on deck air show planned for the afternoon. The boat was also loaded with musicians and roadies from various LA bands Mark Gordon had procured for the long day.
While watching one of other bands, our guitarist Beau came over to tell me he was queasy. “Seasick? How could you be seasick? I can't even feel this damn thing moving.” I gently took him by the arm. “Why don't we go to the infirmary and see if they got any Dramamine?” Beau, who was getting paler by the moment, shook his head in agreement.
After getting our guitarist squared away from his bout of sea faring barfing, Bent Umbrella played our set. At a typical show, I usually operated at an ability range of eighty to ninety percent. For this occasion, I was tired, wired and waiting too long to play well. I was also having some stiffening of my forearms.
The following Saturday, the band was rehearsing at some Hollywood studio. We were preparing for a big show at the Starwood, which was one of the best LA nightclubs. Our manager Mark did me two favors on this day. First, he provided me with a therapeutic massage to loosen up my arms. Second, he introduced me to his gorgeous sibling.
Anne Harris was a twenty-five year old single mom who lived with her equally attractive sister in Woodland Hills. She worked as courier during the day and did manicures as a sideline. Her home was rented but well kept. Additionally, she had things I was unaccustomed to like unscratched furniture, lots of pillows and a king size bed.
She came in to watch us rehearse wearing black slacks, knee high boots and tight tee shirt. Her long, brown hair nearly touched the cushions of the dirty studio sofa. She watched intently, while I banged out my hardest beats and flashiest fills. During our break, I went over to introduce myself. “Your outfit is in the pocket,” I said bowing down to kiss her hand.
Anne answered, “thank you kind sir.” Her voice sounded as smooth as a vintage Stratocaster in the hands of Buddy Guy.
“This is my sister Anne,” Mark chimed in with his an affected southern twang. “I brought her down because I knew you two would hit it off.”
“God bless you Mister Gordon,” I responded. I plopped myself down on the sofa next to Anne and began to chat her up. Everyone else in the band was hooked up so that whittled down any possible competition. In any case, I don't think it would have mattered. Anne had eyes for me.
In spite of being Joe debonair when we met, I was as nervous as a French Poodle on our first date. For starters, I had a nasty argument with my dad during the afternoon. This was after he told me he stopped taking his lithium. Second, I showed up about forty five minutes late. In spite of these issues, I began to relax because Anne accommodated my drama queen antics.
I decided to take my date to Madame Wong's West, which for me was a favorite weekend haunt. On this particular night, the brilliant John Hiatt played to a half-empty house. To calm the nerves, I drank a copious amount of bourbon. Consequently, I had to use the bathroom several times.
After returning from one of the restroom stops, I found a young, skinny dude sitting next to Anne. I leaned over and said something nasty to get him to scoot off. Though I'm sure Anne thought I overreacted, she didn't say a word about my behavior.
As we walked out to the Wong's parking lot, the Jack Daniels rendered me a bit dizzy. Nevertheless, in a prudent move I handed the car keys over to Anne saying, “I'm way too drunk to drive, you drive.”
“But I've been drinking too,” she answered, handing me back the keys.
“You're sure as hell more sober than me,” I said offering the keys back. I opened the passenger side door and nodded. “You drive.”
You would have thought Anne would have kicked me to the curb after my bone headed behavior. Surprisingly, she invited me in for coffee. We smooched on her sofa until the sun came up. I left her house smitten and in desperate need of sleep.
During the late spring and summer of 1981, Phil was a busy boy. I was taking three college courses at night school and doing frequent gigs with Bent Antenna. I also worked as a substitute drummer for several other bands. This included doing some recording with a musician and part time drug dealer named Nick Lee.
I met Nick at a big, party jam at Blue Moon Studios in Playa Del Rey. Having similar musical tastes, we instantly hit it off. He was a solid player and easy to hang with. For my drumming services, he paid me with liberal amounts of cocaine. This was an indulgence that I had begun to enjoy with greater frequency.
One night in early June, Nick booked a recording session at Mad Dog studios in Venice. He was able to secure the guitar playing talents of Walter Egan, who a few years earlier had a hit single called Magnet and Steel, which was produced by Lindsey Buckingham. Walter was a friendly, attractive guy who took direction easily from me on how to play Nick's largely reggae influenced material.
For my work in the studio, Nick gave me a gram of blow. This was in addition to the sizable amount we inhaled while recording his demo. The following day, I had a prime time gig at the Troubadour with Bent Antenna. Before the show, I snorted a half gram and played our songs at an enhanced speed.
During the summer months, I continued to burn the candle at both ends and for good measure, the middle bit as well. This included using increasing amounts of demon dust. This unhealthy habit combined with breathing in oil every day at work caused me to develop a nasty case of bronchitis. One particular weekend, I was hacking like a lung cancer victim while staying at Anne's place. As any normal person would have done, she worried about me.
On Saturday evening, Anne's sister Lena came home in a hysterical condition. She received a call that her drummer boyfriend had been arrested for drug possession during a tour in Tokyo. While she sobbed in the bathroom, Anne and I went in to see if we could help. Turning on the charm, I had Lena laughing within a few minutes. Afterwards, Anne gazed at me with misty eyes and said, “I'm not worried about you anymore.”
A few weeks later, I invited her to my place for a home-cooked dinner. At the time, I was living in a pretty upscale duplex in Playa Del Rey. As a bonus, the unit had a backyard with a Jacuzzi. We had a perfect evening of bad cooking and hot tub antics. In the morning, Anne started fretting about her job. Due to an inherent lack of patience, something snapped in me. In a feeble attempt to make a man out her, I chastised the poor girl, calling her a baby. This was not a brilliant move.
For the next few weeks, Anne wouldn't talk to me. With nothing but time on my hands, I sat around pining for her. After a proper dose of her indifference, the ugly realization, I had blown it finally set in. This was painful because she was addictive like the blow I had been using.
In an effort to get my shit together, I left Bent Umbrella and stopped using any drugs. In the interim, I was dating a pretty forty-year old woman who used me for sex. For this purpose, I was only too happy to oblige. I also started hanging out with a crazy cab driver named Lowell. During the fall, he helped me get over Anne by dragging me out to jam sessions and parties.
In October, Angelo from Bent Antenna invited me to a party at his Laurel Canyon house where he was living with a beauty named Serena Fontaine. I took Lowell and Jerry Leon with me. At the hilltop bash, I ran into Anne, who looked pretty damn beautiful. Though we flirted, I was gun shy and didn't act upon my feelings.
On the way home, Lowell remarked, “You were going out with that Anne chick?”
“Yep, I sure was,” I answered with a sigh. Lowell grinned like a madman. “Dude, how did you blow that?”
“Beats the hell out of me,” I answered.
© Phillip E Hardy May 2012
Extract from his biographical novel ' Singing For My Supper' available on Kindle
Singing For My Supper- The Greatest Self Help Book Ever Written
By Phillip E. Hardy
Mad Dog Productions
Singing for My Supper, the Greatest Self Help Book Ever Written is now available at Amazon Kindle books. This humorous, irreverent and honest work combines storytelling, self help, socio-political and theoretical perspectives for improving life. The writer offers his often audacious insights about better living through planning, action, discipline and attitude. This book amusingly chronicles the author’s dysfunctional childhood, relationships and experience as a rock musician.