It’s spring and you know what that means: tour season is upon us and I’ve spent the last month with our pals Hurray for the Riff Raff, making a big giant loop through the western United States and even popping up to Vancouver. It’s been a wild blur of deserts and rocky martian landscapes, mystic Saguaro cacti, hairpin turns on the Pacific Coast Highway, mountain ranges, rainbows, lots of cows, and then finally back down to the Texas flatlands, where the tour began.
On our last night, in Dallas, I found myself outside of a record shop next to the bar where everyone was celebrating a hard-fought trek. The windows were covered in fliers, but peeking in, I could make out warehouse shelves full of old records and CDs. And even though it was almost 10 o’clock, the open sign was on and the owner, Bill, let me in. The place wasn’t lit all the way through, and well-worn cardboard dividers barely hinted at any organization. Bill took his seat behind the counter and continued watching his t.v. program. I realized after a minute that he was actually smoking a cigarette—something you experience indoors less and less. It made me homesick. Bill’s was like a combination of Rock N Roll Collectibles (RIP), Magic Bus (RIP), and Jim Russell’s, a dying breed of record store that’s as much garage sale and living room as actual shop.
I was Bill’s third customer of the day. He told me how John Densmore (drummer for the Doors) once came in his shop (Bill wouldn’t take his money). I ended up buying a couple of records (A Beatles interview LP and Johnny Cash’s The Baron). It was the kind of simple, holy moment that spells out this whole music thing.
Outside Bill’s shop was a plaque on the ground, inscribed with this Plato quote: “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” One thing I’ve come to appreciate about art and music—the struggle to realize a vision—is that it’s treated as extremely serious business by the people who endeavor to make it their living. There is a lot of pain and sacrifice. It turns friends into enemies and vice versa. Whether you’re a record shop owner, a band on tour, filmmaker, writer, whatever, the romance of such a living comes with a price.
Sometimes it’s important to reflect on that price, to constantly gauge your health and well-being against the stress and terrors of a deadline, whatever form it takes. Sleepless nights, erratic diet, self-medication, angry and disappointed crowd/customer/band member/editor/girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/parent — we accept this as all part of the normal routine. But it’s just art. It shouldn’t make anyone lose their mind. Don’t be afraid to stop for a minute and make time for something more important.