copyright © 2002 Todd Ristau

Strum It

(Lights up. TODD sits on stage wearing his old Huns jacket and holding his Epiphone electric guitar. He strums, poorly, some chords. Pause. He looks up and speaks directly to the audience.)

Some of you may know, I'm writing my memoirs. When I was in high school, John Lennon was shot. That was December 8th, 1980. I will never forget that date. I was in a band then, not a very good one, but we all had real guitars. I'd worked 6 months as a dishwasher to get the money to buy my Höfner Beatle Bass. I also had a Les Paul Custom Deluxe–black and left handed and fucking gorgeous. I couldn't play it very well, but I tried my best. I was on the phone with my friend Matt Clark, who was teaching me the chords to the song Just Like Starting Over, when Howard Cosell interrupted Monday Night Football in the other room to announce that John had been shot. I cried like a baby, even though I had never met the man I was mourning.

(plays some feeble chords, perhaps to a John Lennon song)

When I went to England with this band I was in, the Huns, I met Paul McCartney. He played my bass. It was great.

(plays some chords or notes to a McCartney Beatle Song)

While I was with the Huns I met a lot of famous people. I met Elvis Costello, Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead. I hung out with the Long Ryders after they played Dingwalls in Camden, Thomas Dolby...and a lot of the big names in the Trash Scene: Guana Batz, Stingrays, Milkshakes, Vibes, Living in Texas....we played a lot of the places the Stray Cats had played, like the Ad Lib Club, and we rehearsed in the same rehearsal studios that the Clash used to rehearse in up in Camden. That was really cool, because they were the most important band in the world.

(plays some chords to some Huns songs)

I remember when I first heard a Clash song on the oldies station. I nearly died. How could London Calling be an Oldie already?

(plays some more chords)

I lived in New York for a while---While I was there I got to go backstage and meet Jerry Lee Lewis when he played the Lone Star. I shook his hand and told him I thought God would take care of him. He looked at me like I was insane, but he said, "God Bless you to, son."

(plays a rock-a-billy riff)

When I was living in New York I was working at night at the HOME for Contemporary Theatre and Art. I was helping them read scripts and also setting up the very first No Shame Franchise outside of Iowa. One of the founding patrons of HOME was Jim Stark. Jim Stark was a friend of a friend of mine, David Gothard. Jim Stark was also Jim Jarmusch’s producer. Jim Jarmusch is the guy who made Stranger than Paradise, Down By Law, and a movie called Mystery Train. David got me a meet with Stark, and Stark got me a job working for Jarmusch.

(more chords)

I did post production work on Mystery Train. One of the leads in Mystery Train was Joe Strummer.

(more chords)

I only got to meet Joe once. It was after the screening of Mystery Train at the Lincoln Center….after we all had dinner, the cast and all, Spike Lee’s little brother, and the Karismäki Brothers….we went to a bar on the Lower East Side called Mona’s. There I had the very great pleasure to get stinky drunk with Joe Strummer. We traded Jack and Cokes until long after the bar was closed to the public. Then he turns to me and he says, "I’m gonna let you in on a little secret….I’m drinking you under the table."

I said, "That’s no secret."

He said, "The secret is...I’m a rock star, right? I got a reputation to uphold, so I have a deal with the bar tender. When I’m drinking Jack and Coke, only every third one has any Jack in it."

I said, "You suck."

But he didn’t. He was one of the nicest, most down to earth people I ever met, and even though I only talked to him that one night...I’ll never forget him...and I’m always going to miss him.

(pause) Goodbye, Joe.

(plays Clash City Rocker as lights fade)


"Strum It" debuted December 27, 2002, performed by Todd Ristau.

[Todd Ristau's website] [Ristau Entertainment Ltd.]

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