This entire trip was laced with memories for me. Memories of things bitter and sweet. That's a tired old chestnut, I know, but I am a melancholy bloke. The first time I flew over this acrid expanse, was back in 1984 to do a record. We were on our way to L.A. and in our naive twenty year old hands, we held the Palm Beach Post, The Miami Herald, and our local paper, the News tribune. We were reading about ourselves, in three papers, on our first plane ride. The last time I was in Las Vegas (2003) we rolled up in a tour bus, and walked like we owned the place. Our record was top ten and we stayed at the MGM Grand, with separate rooms for band, management, and crew. The tour money was flowing like water, from the label. I was looking out the window from the back lounge thinking it would be great to come back here and really see this area. The time before that was to cremate my Dad. I hold a grudge to this day with Vegas, I can't forgive the town, where my father died. The last time I was in Albuquerque, my boys played a show for 7500 people. I stood side stage, wondering how any of it could have happened. Those days are gone. Now I am just a guy in a car, with his brother, on one of the best trips ever. Bitter and sweet, but no less remarkable and no less memorable. In the darkness, deprived of landscape, I watched this slide show in my head, while my brother drove.
We were on our way to Santa Fe' to see one of my oldest and dearest friends. He's is a hero to me, and I owe him a debt of gratitude for changing my life, I could never repay. When we played together, I would tell people I was in a band with him, and my credibility was immediate. My fondest memory of him is arriving at his $150.00 a month apartment to see him, knee deep in water, with his jeans rolled up. He turned and asked if I wanted coffee, oblivious to the surroundings. Another time he pulled out of the Cab Stand parking lot and the rear axle fell out of his Honda Accord. He had a hit with Creed by then, but lamented the loss of that car. I negotiated the purchase of his Toyota Forerunner and when he got in it, he turned to me and said, " I'm just not a new car kind of guy." That's John.
We pulled onto the long, grey, gravel road. The impossibly steep drive took us to the left of the house and past the mud covered Toyota parked unceremoniously, off to the side. The house is anchored to a desert hill facing north west, and it looks like it grew out of the ground. The requisite logs protrude from the classic adobe exterior. The tea stained colors were awash in flood lights hidden by the landscaping. This house has a great history. It was built over a hundred years ago, and was owned by a local family. They sold the place to a guy named Glen Frey, in the seventies. Rumors run rampant about the multi day parties and the comings and goings of music royalty. The property adorns several cement tokens to commemorate the songs written here; Hotel California, New Kid in Town, and Lyin' Eyes (all under different working titles, that would later change). The house stayed in his hands until his romance with the place and his wife had eroded. One night in his absence, his wife threw a party and a fire started. She and her guests stood and watched it burn while singing, dancing and drinking to commemorate the event. It was rebuilt by the man that John bought the place from, who is now a fugitive from the law. The inside is immaculately designed by John's wife Cece, and decorated with mid century and western furniture. The walls are feature local art, as well as some pieces by my pal, Paul Tamanian.
It was magazine ready when we arrived and I did several laps to take in the all the details. Cece, heard that we wanted to leave at five A.M. and quickly dispensed with our plans, demanding to make us breakfast. She informed us that we would be going on a hike with John, in the morning. I like a commanding woman that knows what she wants, and we gave in with no struggle.
The morning came too soon, and Davey and I crawled out of bed, sore and groaning, from the long drive. The sky was clear and the crisp air was chilly. Cece was having coffee in the sitting area outside. We looked out the at the view, that surely was the selling point for this amazing home. I had tea, and we readied for the hike. They recently acquired the hill that bordered their property. They own the half facing the house, and Microsoft co founder, Paul Allen, owns the other. Pretty good digs if you can get em'!
Off we went up the hill.
On the way down we could smell the eggs, shrimp, mushrooms and peppers, Cece had cooked for our omelette's. She has recently taken to the art of cooking and I have to say, it was one of the best meals I have ever had. Good company, and palatial views, never hurt a great meal. We ate and told old war stories about things that happened to us during the gold rush. The absurdities of the business, Scott Stapp's fall from grace and reality. The mutual power brokers we knew, that had drifted out of the limelight, and into addiction and anonymity. John laughed and said..."Just like us!" He has turned his back on mainstream music, and dedicated himself to playing and recording with a local artist. "The Sean Healeh Band" is the proud new owner of my favorite guitarist. He has never looked happier, and his playing is, as always, impeccable. The songs blend blues, desert lyrics, deep soulful vocals, and well constructed solo's by John. If they ever stop recording, the album is going to be great.
John and Cece are busy people, and needed to get started on their day. We hated to leave but, the twenty two hour drive ahead, was hanging over us. Cece made me promise to come back, we hugged goodbye, and were back in the people mover headed for Texas and home.
More to come.
(If enough people ask, I will post a video of John talking about Ronnie James Dio's manager, as we hiked.)