, quarter beat
. half beat
; whole beat...
"... in New York City."
I'm so, so, so, so, so startled for a minute I forget I'm supposed to start playing, forget to do anything but exhale the smoke in my lungs that tries to choke me as it rushes into the surrounding air joining all the other smoke, blending its molecules with other molecules, intermingling, twisting, threading, rushing into lungs of people sitting in the audience, rushing into the light which is firmly settled on Joe, or Joe in the light.
Joe in the light. Joe in the lie. Joe speaking the lie, compounding the lie.
Billy prowls the stage already, prowling, marking, marking territory, daring someone to encroach on his domain.
He's staked out the area around Joe, Joe as the area, Joe.
Joe starts playing, Pipe is there, right after him and in comes Billy, Billy on Bucky's Stratocaster, moving, flying, pouring himself into the music, straining himself through the guitar until the rest of us experience him in his most elemental form: Music.
Billy moves into Joe's space, behind him, and then they turn, they turn to one another and it's then. Then, then, then, then, then, then that it's clear, then that I see it, then that others could see it if they had the eyes to look. Billy, with his cigarette hanging from his mouth, and Joe with his earrings and mohawk and torn, worn, shredded clothing.
Billy's back, back with us, back with Joe, with Hard Core Logo, with Joe, with Joe and Hard Core Logo. He doesn't play for people off the stage, no private concerts for anyone but Joe, Joe, Joe Dick, Joe the head of Hard Core Logo. Billy's back for Joe, not just Billy Tallent, but Billy, who plays for Joe and Joe alone, the rest of the world a mirage he imagined from too long a night or too hard a binge or too long without his music to ground him to his reality.
And Joe turns back to the microphone, away from Billy, unable to forget the world the way Billy can, and Billy stays close, he moves closer, he moves behind Joe, stands at Joe's back, the only one Joe ever lets stand behind him, close to him, near him, on top of him. He can feel Billy, feel him behind him, I can see it, I can see Joe's distraction because even though Billy is the only one he'd let stand behind him it doesn't mean he's comfortable with Billy there, out of sight, moving, stalking, playing.
Billy was different when he came back from Los Angeles, different, more calm, more sedate, more... More, more. Not the Billy we'd known for twenty years but now Billy's back, and Billy's back because of Joe, because Joe wanted him back, because Joe lied to us, lied to the world, lied to Bucky Haight's memory to bring Billy back, because he needed Billy, and he is nothing without Billy. But Billy was different the first concert, different, different, not the same Billy, calmer, nicer, not Billy but Billy Tallent.
And now it's changed, and it changed when we saw Bucky, when we saw Joe's lie, but Billy wasn't mad, he wasn't mad, he just became... Billy again. The Billy who grew up with Joe, the Billy who loves Joe, the Billy who is the meanest son of a bitch any of us have ever known. The vicious Billy Joe remembers and Joe loves and Joe is addicted to more than his blow to go to such lengths to bring him back.
People think, they think, they think because they don't know, that Joe is the dangerous one, that Joe is the one you have to watch out for, and Billy tides things over, he smooths things over, when he isn't fighting with Joe, when they aren't hitting each other, when they aren't cursing each other, when they're on the same side, when Joe is being The Dick.
But it's Billy you have to watch out for, Billy who is the danger, Billy who has the snap that puts Joe's to shame, that puts Joe to shame, Billy, Billy who is malicious and vindictive when pushed too far, Billy who wasn't angry that Joe had lied to him about Bucky or Bucky's benefit. Billy, the quiet one who's been The Dick's foil for years, decades, years and years; foil, not bitch, part of Billy and Joe and Joe and Billy longer than there has been a Hard. Core. Logo.
I watch Joe become more focused when Billy steps away from him, moves away from him to his own corner, back into the shadows, back into the shadows where he says his music resonates because then it's his guitar and Joe's guitar and Joe's voice and the rest of the world is gone, including him and Joe and it's just them. Them together, them as one, them, them, them.
Blue tatoo... Blue tatoo...
In the shape of a heart.
And then it's Billy and Joe, Joe and Billy, and I forget to play again, feeling the unease, the malaise, the fear well up in me as I watch them together, watch them communicating, watch them speak as honestly as they ever do, and this song, Bucky's song, Bucky's words become their joke, his notes become their seduction, their foreplay; they're here but not here, they're there, where they go when it's just them, where Pipe and I don't matter because I'm barely picking out notes and Pipe can't see what's happening between them and because we can't follow when they become them and nobody's noticing, can't see, can't see, because the music distracts them, but it doesn't distract them because they are the music and if the music's in harmony then so are they.
The music's in harmony but Billy's still angry and Joe doesn't care, doesn't care about what Billy's going to do in retaliation, can't care because he and Billy are back in harmony. He and Billy are here on stage in front of however many people are hiding in the darkness out there playing only for each other because that's what they do when they're together, when they're about to be together and Pipe is the odd man out, and I'm the odd man out and we're the odd men out of Joe and Billy's private universe, a universe where we don't matter and the crowd doesn't matter and the groupies don't matter because it's only Joe and Billy, Billy and Joe.
And it's happening, it's happening again and again and again, it's all happening again, it's all foreplay, all foreplay, all the lies, the lies and the hate and the anger and the shouting, and Joe fucking with everybody's minds because he knows Billy enjoys it, gets off on it, loves to see him get away with it and loves it even more when Joe's caught, so he does it all for Billy, all for Billy, all for Billy, all for Billy...
The music continues to spill out of Billy, into Joe, out of Billy, into the audience, out of Billy, out of Billy, Billy seducing, Billy's seduction with his music because this is the real Billy, this is how Billy seduces; not with words or actions but with music, and he doesn't need words, doesn't need actions because he has the music, his music, Joe's music, my music, Bucky's music. It's all his, and he's only playing for Joe.