Friday, August 14, 2015

A Dream of Johnny Thunders: The Mo(u)rning of August 14, 2015

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Photo © Robert Barry Francos

This morning, before I woke up, I had a dream about going to see Johnny Thunders perform a solo show. It was actually going to be three shows in three locations, and although he died in 1991, the dream took place in the present. Any time there is a (f#) in the text, it means there is a brief footnote at the bottom with an aside comment in refection/explanation of the dream.

What I remember at the start was that I was already in the first club. When you walk in the door, there is a room with a bar to the left with some early-CBGB’s round-type tables along it, and the dressing rooms lined the right side of that room. Right before the dressing rooms, on the right side, was the open entrance to the second, slightly larger room. Couches lined the walls, with one couch overlapping the entrance door, where I sat. The small, raised stage was in the far corner to the right, diagonally across from me, and behind the stage were windows across the whole room, much like Max’s front wall.  There were a total of perhaps a couple of dozen people in both rooms of the joint.

As I was sitting there waiting, with a book in my hand, I looked over to my right and standing next to me was Johnny Thunders, looking at the stage. He looked the same as in the ‘80s, but perhaps three or four inches taller. I said to him (f1) that I was looking forward to seeing him play. He thanked me and seemed a bit nervous. I showed him the book I had in my hand that had a photo of him that I had taken (f2). He asked if he could see it, and I handed it to him.

Then I asked him if he was going to play “Pipeline,” as he hadn’t played it in a long time (f3), and he had sort of an “Oh, yeah,” remembering look, and said he needed to practice it. He left and disappeared into the other room to head towards the dressing rooms. I could hear him rustling in the dressing room behind the couch, and I concerned if I was ever going to see my book again, as he had taken it with him (f4).

I could then hear him practicing, but noted that it wasn’t “Pipeline,” but rather the main theme from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” In the dream, it made me think of a couple of the Universal films that used it as their opening credits theme, such as The Mummy (1932) and Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932).

Meanwhile, I was hoping he was going on soon, because I knew my partner was coming to pick me up at some point. I ran out the door of the club, which was in a downtown kind of turn-of-the-century building, and I could see her drive up to the front in the car were now drive (f5) through the big glass doors. I ran back upstairs to grab my stuff and saw a co-worker of hers (f6) sitting on the couch where I had been, and he said she was coming up to see the music. Relieved, I looked over to where the tables were and saw three couples I knew of my own ex-co-workers (f7), so I knew my partner would have people to talk to while I watched the music and take pictures.

At that point, I realized I didn’t have my camera, only my cell phone. I was a bit sad that the photos would not be as good.

Suddenly someone came up to the mic stand and said they were running so late that Thunders would not have time to play, and we’d have to go to the next venue. I rushed out the door, and the next thing in the dream I remember was standing in the front of a club that was long and narrow like CB’s, with blank walls on either side like Max’s, but the stage in front was higher, like the Ritz. JT was up there, obviously nervous, and being calmed down by three other musicians who were big on the scene at the time of the Heartbreakers (f8). In the dream, I remember thinking that one of the trio reminded me of Neon Leon, but he was lighter, and had white streaks dyed into his hair. Another had on some full-body ogre costume (more GWAR than Shrek). I knew who two of them were, but not the ogre guy. JT was still taller.

After a while of us standing and waiting in the audience, and as the other guys are still talking to JT, the guy with the hair streaks announces that JT is not ready to go on yet, so we should head out to the third venue.

It’s daylight when we get outside, and there are some vans parked with drivers who are taking everyone to the third venue, which is out in the countryside. The person driving the van I’m in is a current co-worker (f9). She drives our group out into the desert, and is very perky and animated, as she is in real life. After we dip through a short tunnel at the border of the venue grounds, we stop at what appears to be a religious-based (f10) building in the middle of the desert, with nothing else around as far as the eye can see. Some monk-type people take us to the doorway, but not far in we are told that we cannot go any further if we are not a member of the organization. There is a wooden gate, much like those on a church dais where communion is given. The floors are black and white marble tile, and there are statues of what I interpret to be Saints on either side of the walls.

There are some people already in there (obviously members) milling around, nearly all in silhouette from the candles and stage lights, and I’m hoping that they won’t block my view of the stage. I can feel the crowds pushing from behind me, and thinking this feels uncomfortable on so many levels.

Then the alarm went off, waking me. So three Johnny Thunders shows in one night, and never got to hear him perform, other than practicing “Swan Lake” through the wall. At least I had the opportunity to say hello, unlike I did in my waking life. That’s something, I guess.

There is a lot of subtle and blatant imagery here, including some recurring themes in my dreams (f11), and I actually understand quite a bit of it. It’s rare I remember dreams more than five minutes after waking, but this one stayed with me for hours. RIP Johnny Thunders.

(f1) As many times as I saw the Heartbreakers, the Waldos (JT would often play with them even though he wasn’t part of the band anymore), including some solo performances, as well as published articles about him in FFanzeen and know friends who were close to him, I don’t ever remember ever actually speaking a word to him.
(f2) This book and photo does not really exist, though I have lots of pictures I’ve taken of him both solo and in the Heartbreakers/The Waldos.
(f3) The instrumental “Pipeline” was actually a rather raucous staple in the JT canon.
(f4) Even in the dream as I worried about it, my “real” inner voice said, “well, it is Johnny Thunders. He did have a reputation.
(f5) Which is how I know the dream takes place in the present, rather than in the past.
(f6) He doesn’t exist in real life.
(f7) Only one, David M–, is someone that actually was a co-worker, in the mid-‘80s at Travel Agent Magazine.
(f8) Again, none of them based on real people.
(f9) She has been volunteering at a local international venue, which I’m sure is why I dreamed her in this particular service position; ironically, in real life, she doesn’t drive.
(f10) While it feels Buddhist from the outside, the symbolism inside is Catholic, which does not surprise me considering JT’s Italian heritage.
(f11) For example, the theme of losing my camera in one way or another is something I dream about every few months.

No comments:

Post a Comment