Me and Matt Tahaney used to drive into The City to see this band. They were called Beyond Blue, and they played The Bottom Line on Bleecker Street right down from where a guy named Bob used to sell records. We had terrible fake ID’s, but this was before magnetic strips and holograms, and the bouncer didn’t give a shit, anyway.
We knew the guitarist, Steve. Everyone called him Smiley because he always looked so serious when he played. The lead singer’s name isn’t coming back, but I can still see him on the two-foot tall stage: his hair was perfect. If you saw him on the street, you’d say, “That guy’s a lead singer;” he had skinny legs and cheekbones; his shirt would be unbuttoned by the third song, and off by the fifth. The bass player looked like Jon Lovitz, and they’re jammed together, all eight of them, into a tiny space built for comedians and folk singers. There were eight of them because they had a horn section.
Heaven’s got a horn section. Something about a horn section, especially in a small room made of brick
The sax player wore a yarmulke and had curly hair. He looked like a rabbinical student, possibly because he was. The trombonist was the band’s clown: he would fuck around behind whomever was soloing and do silly little goat dances while he shook his maracas. His name was Gary, and he sung the closer. Same closer every show. Goofy 12-bar that sounded like something Louie Armstrong and his Hot Five would have tossed off on a Tuesday in Tulsa.
The lyrics started like this:
Roll me a joint.
Roll is as big as a spliff.
And they didn’t get much smarter, but after only one chorus the entire room could sing along. They did. We did.
Beyond Blue played mostly originals, but they did covers, too. All horn stuff, and the section could blow. Late In The Evening by Paul Simon, and the three of them would hit their entrance after the line about stepping outside and smoking a jay. It was a fine sound.
And just about every show, the keyboardist would hit a few chords–not even chords, parts of ’em, little clusters of 9ths and 13ths and all the jazzbo bullshit–and then we’d get a story about white boy problems, about safety schools and rich kids and the Upstate New York that painters used to jerk off to. The guitar solo only sounded right on a Stratocaster and the horn section would chirp in behind the lyrics and the harmonies; it would all bounce off those tight brick walls and we would cheer loudly when California crumbled into the sea.
This is how the original went:
There’s no tape of Beyond Blue doing it, none that I can find, so it’s gone just like Walter Becker is.
Play it loud.