Saturday morning I was at the gym, and apparently the forces of interdependence decided it would be blog fodder.
Part one- public nudity. Everyone at the gym, if you’ve never been, is running around in scanty little outfits that leave very little to the imagination, which is nice to look at in some cases, horrid in some cases, and sweaty and straining in all cases. This is a given. Despite the reputation of my particular gym’s location as being a meat market and gyms in general as being some sort of Roman orgy, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of wanton naked flesh running around.
Until yesterday. The elliptical machines I prefer to warm up on are near the corridor that leads to the locker rooms. I was on one, and next to me was a guy who checked in at the same time I did. He’s a regular, and we said hi and he seemed a friendly sort. Next to him was his friend.
Suddenly, amid the occasional people going in and out of the ladies’ locker room, a ghastly old woman comes out wearing only a towel on her bottom half. She’s only half-heartedly attempting to cover one scary boob with her arm, then she gives up and they’re both just flopping in the wind. I don’t know if she had soap in her eye from the shower and didn’t know she was in front of the entire cardio room or what, but it was not pretty. She was walking around in that corridor for a minute or two. The guy next to me was pointing her out to his buddy and they were laughing. Then I got a chance to use some FARK terminology in real life other than ‘asshat.’
I tapped the guy next to me on the shoulder, and he immediately got a serious expression on his face- he probably assumed that I was going to chastise him for making fun of a confused old woman. What I said was:
“Pardon me, do you have any eye bleach?”
He almost fell of the elliptical machine laughing.
Part two- Metallica’s Garage Inc. Disc Two. Let me repeat that. DISC TWO. I WAS LISTENING TO DISC TWO, NOT DISC ONE. Which if you don’t know, is composed of their excellent NWOBHM covers from their Garage Days eps, some b-sides, Lemmy’s birthday party, etc. One of the songs popped up, and I was reminded of a simpler time in life, and a mystery that I have been unable to solve to this day…
In high school, I had a long distance romance with a beautiful, intelligent, cool girl from a farm, and I somehow managed to creepily bumble through it before she justifiably dumped my ass and moved on. No hard feelings, E, hope you know that!
My dad had gotten me into Los Lobos around this time, and I had shared that with her, and before the schism we had gotten concert tickets. Uh-oh… has anyone heard this one before? We were 15 and from Oregon so of course very cosmopolitan, so we would attend the concert together like civilized people and that would be it. I’m sure the gentlemanly thing would have been for me to give her the extra ticket, but none of her friends liked the boys from east L.A. She could have given her ticket to me, as my best friend liked them, but that must have smelled like defeat. So we were deadlocked and went ahead with. I think in a way I was also hoping that the summer magic, the sounds of Los Lobos’ “Kiko“, the spicy Zydeco opening band or some other bullshit would set me up for reconciliation. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve every been Alpha male enough to count that kind of coup.
To bring this story to its point, the concert was wonderful musically and awkward personally. They came out for an astonishing 2 encores, and played a bunch of cool blues and soul covers. I’ve seen Los Lobos twice since then, and they are known for doing Cream, Marvin Gaye, stuff like that. There’s even a guy, website now defunct, who kept a list of all their covers, and it was mindboggling. He had never even heard of what I will bring before you.
There’s a question I’m sure you’re asking. “Where’s ‘La Bamba’?” Well, it’s right here, in just a second.
They came out for a third encore. Which, while not unheard of, was notable. I mean, this was Los Lobos in 1994 in Oregon, not the fucking Beatles. The guitarists launch into a brief distorted fanfare and then a crunchy riffing that would be recognizable to any young metalhead, especially one such as myself who had been obsessed with Metallica as a much younger metalhead. “Am I Evil”, originally recorded by Diamond Head, the intro based in part on themes from two of Holst’s “Planets” suites.
I am completely blown away. This isn’t some song that sounds like “Am I Evil,” it’s it, note for note, full on distortion. The arrangement is very distinctive, it’s on one of my favorite albums… Emily asks me what’s wrong. “They’re playing a fucking Metallica song, nothing’s wrong.” She shrugs. The song intro riffs for a while, crescendo; then goes into a brief solo, same as on the album, tapping, harmonics and all. When it reaches the tritone that signals the beginning of the song proper, right before the other instruments come in and Hetfield/Harris sing ‘My mother was a witch/she was burned alive…’
THEY LAUNCH IN TO MOTHERFUCKING LA BAMBA.
The crowd is on their feet. It’s probably the most recognizable song for them, sure, but I don’t think it had the same impact for them that it had on me, the sound guy and a couple roadies.
I’ve used a light touch for this mystery ever since, in part because of my tender feelings toward the times in which they occur. Also because it brings up an interesting dilemma. Either I am completely insane or Los Lobos really really is the coolest band in the world and no one will ever know or care. I actually saw them on a magazine cover back in the 90’s that proclaimed them the coolest band in the universe, but I think that was hyperbole. Los Lobos are an awesome band. Really world class versatile musicians, passionate the whole run. Commercially they are in a sense a one-hit wonder, and that one hit was a spanish-language song from a musician biopic starring Lou Diamond Phillips. You tend to associate a sort of shallowness with musical groups in that category, and I for one am glad that Los Lobos have completely transcended that.
So, the dilemma. Since I have found no record of them ever doing this type of shenanigans, I am forced to conclude that:
a. there is some instrumental song by… I don’t know, Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac or something that sounds note-for-note identical to “Am I Evil”, which is incredibly unlikely.
b. I hallucinated it all.
c. They stepped out their bounds and did an obscure cover of an obscure band which contains an obscure shoutout to one of the most brutal,metal symphonies ever.
I’m throwing a. out right now. It’s not impossible, but come on. I really, really don’t like option b. either. I’ve hallucinated before and I’d like to think that the elaborate cognitive processes involved in me thinking about the song and what it meant and listening the parts, etc. were not all part of a waking dream. That just sucks. Option c…. I love it. “Am I Evil” was included on some copies of Metallica’s “Kill Em All” but not most of them. A lot of my friends out here on the west coast had never heard it. Diamond Head’s “Lightning to the Nations” was hard to find… there was a cassette version, but it was in short supply, to my chagrin, and I know the vinyl was a collector’s item. So the person who would dig this cover would be a Metallica fan, and the Metallica-Los Lobos overlap was pretty tiny. This was the early nineties, and musical eclecticism was not de rigeur, kids!
So for now, until I have the wisdom to unlock all secrets, I’ll let the secrets of Los Lobos’ collective mind be hidden, and I’ll hope that all the saggy boobs remain covered.