“You have to be Ringo?” I asked.
“Well, yeah,” my now-ex-girlfriend replied, as though it should have been obvious. “They already have a John, a Paul and a George.”
“You don’t even play the drums,” I reminded her. “You’re going to end up being Pete Best.”
There was a reason my friend Cammy called her Indie Barbie and I suddenly knew why. Here she was, breaking my heart to join a Beatles tribute band and she showed no signs of recognition in my joke. She had the black-rimmed glasses and the argyle sweater vest and the ballet flats, but nothing even remotely intelligent registered on that stupid, heart-shaped face. I wondered how I could have ever been in love with this person. How did I share with her my Smiths tapes, my battered copy of The Collected Lyrics of Tom Waits, my Blondie records? As far as I knew, she didn’t even like the Beatles. “Eight Days a Week” had never shown up on a mix CD she’d made me, and she never once brought over an Abbey Road tee-shirt to sleep in. This, more than the shock of the breakup and her implied infidelity, was what really sucked.
“John said he’d teach me,” she chirped. “We’re playing at Leroy’s Lounge on the 27th,” she said. “Will you be there?”
I had two choices. Spend the rest of the evening alone and face-down on the floor listening through my Zevon collection or call Cammy over to join me in laying face down on the floor listening through my Zevon collection. I got off the couch long enough to dig the phone out from under the bed and call Cammy. Being alone was ideal, but Cammy had Transverse City on vinyl and it was impossible to mope effectively without “Splendid Isolation.”
I was halfway through side one of my Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School cassette and a six pack of Coors Lite with Lime when Cammy let herself in. She had on that polka dot dress I really liked and her Doc Martens. I sat up and cracked open another beer. “Want one?”
“Johnny, you make me sad,” she said. “I expect someone with such good taste in music to have better taste in beer.”
“They were left over from last week’s shindig,” I said. “And I didn’t feel like going out to the store. There’s other stuff in the fridge, help yourself.”
“My plan exactly.” She disappeared for a minute and returned holding a bottled White Russian. “Let me guess,” she said, cracking open the cap. “These were Indie Barbie’s.”
“No, those were Steve’s girlfriend’s. Nellie drank all her Twizted Tees.”
She took a swig, considered the taste and shrugged. She sat on the couch and propped her feet up on the foot locker between my beer can and this morning’s empty coffee cup. She was the only person I allowed to put her muddy feet on my furniture.
“The Beatles represent everything that’s wrong with music,” I said, staring up at the ceiling. I was high on that post-orgasmic bliss, where everything was suddenly clear and I could finally make sense of the world. Cammy was kind enough to fuck me to the A-side of Transverse City, and she fucked me in a way that didn’t make it seem like a pity fuck. We’d been through this before; she was the fuckee, having just dumped a boyfriend who she found out was shooting up again. I held her hand at the free clinic and we celebrated the negative results of her HIV test with a long fuck from “Werewolves of London” to “Lawyers, Guns and Money.”
“Yeah?” she said, reaching across me for her half-finished White Russian. “How’s that?”
“Because of what they represent. The fandom. The screaming adoration for mediocrity. The Who were a much better band, but they didn’t get a cartoon. You can’t buy a plush Pete Townsend. And the tragedy of John Lennon? Bullshit. People die of gunshot wounds every day. Marvin Gaye’s own father shot him and people don’t gather around to sing “Sexual Healing” in Central Park. John Lennon’s become the “Remember the Alamo” of pop music, and it’s fucking stupid. “Imagine” might be the most cloying, most saccrine, most idiotic song this side of “Mmm-Bop.” No, thanks, I don’t want to imagine that there’s no Heaven and I don’t want to imagine there’s no Hell, because God willing there’s a hell, and God willing, John Lennon is roasting in it.”
Johnny Strikes up the Band continues...