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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Judith Rochelle

Life gives you chocolate and you make a whipped dessert out of it

I look at the places my life has taken me and hope that I was smart enough to enjoy them all while I was there. I had great experiences working as a reporter for weekly newspapers, covering everything from local political meetings, to the trial of a man who shot his wife because she wrecked his car. I once did a tour of thirty stores in one day interviewing Santa Claus. It’s a good thing I didn’t wreck my car! I’ve things both sane and insane, like promoting the opening of a shopping center by sending people up in hot air balloons and stopping traffic for four miles in every directions.

But I think the real richness of my life, besides the hunk I live with, came from my years managing rock bands.

Rock musicians are a breed unto themselves. The music is their life, and one of their first goals is to be able to move their practice sessions from someone’s garage to a real practice studio. Sometimes they’re lucky and they get to practice far enough out of civilization that only the cows and horses can comment. Other times the poor manager gets to field phone calls from neighbors and—if you’re not lucky, the police—about that “awful sounding stuff”. But wherever they practice, it’s all about the music.

The sound.

Their sound.

It’s about fitting a thousand pounds of equipment onto a stage made for fifty. It’s about writing that one song that will click with the audience, bringing instant stardom, unlimited supplies of Jack Daniels and, when no one’s looking, easy access to “that stuff that makes you feel good.” It’s about chasing around Nashville and rubbing elbows with country rock legends because you’ve got a singer that knocks everyone’s socks off, as long as you can keep him sober.

I used to wonder why my bands needed booze or drugs to get high, because to me, being on that stage, bathed in hot lights, with an audience screaming for more, ought to be enough high in itself. I sat on enough amps back stage listening to an audience go wild over one of my bands to get high on it myself, and I wasn’t even playing.

Rock musicians, in many ways, are also like children. Again, it’s all about the music. And whatever it takes to make it work. I once had a band walk off a job as an opening act for a well-known recorded act because of the way their road manager wanted to set the equipment on the stage. It was in a concert club in a college town with three thousand kids waiting to get in to see them.

But they were a hometown band, and three months later they saved the club owner’s butt when an act bombed and they agreed to fill in at the last minute. The same three thousand kids came back to see them and the club owner paid a very satisfactory price.

Sometimes you’re their accountant, sometimes, their mother, sometimes a little bit of everything. You get them to the gig on time and tell them no, they can’t meet someone under a tree to buy a baggie of grass. You make sure no one is pouring too much liquor down their throats and you chase away the half-naked groupies.

Because, again, it’s all about the music. If you want to succeed in an industry far more cutthroat than publishing ever thought of being.

And the music is great. It’s good. It’s terrific. The success of a good song can give you the same high as really good sex. The success of your client can take you to orgasmic levels. And despite all the pitfalls, there’s nothing like being at the top, even if the bottom is always just a misstep away.

People have often asked me why I haven’t used all my years in the music business as background for any of my books. Well, I’m finally getting to it. One of my Desiree Holt novellas, "Having It All", will be in the March Ellora’s Cavemen anthology, Flavors of Seduction 1. And later this year I’ll be finishing a wild story about the rise, fall and redemption of a talented musician who manages salvation because the right woman falls in love with him.

Stay tuned!

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1 comment:

robynl said...

wow, you've lived a lot and done a lot.

the upcoming book should be interesting with all your time spent in the music industry.