Battery Acid Blues: The Bouncing Black Lung

Introducing a new weekly rock column by Keir DuBois. (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 4/24/97).

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a documentary video release from the summer 1995 tour of a band called The Clap, quite possibly one of the greatest blues bands to ever rock the world. Unfortunately, they are no longer with us; the death of their lead singer in the incident described below relegated the remaining members of the band to playing backup gigs on the oldies circuit. Still, they were a phenomenal band during their two-month heyday, and the following is but a slice of their meteoric career.

“Yeah, yeah it’s like that!” The bass player looked up at the crowd after the band took the bottom out from underneath the last song of the set. “The last song, dammit,” he thought to himself.

“There, you dupes,” he thought. “You wanted your damn hit song, didn’t you? Well, tough shit. We wanted to play some other stuff first, stuff that you didn’t like and didn’t want to hear, even though it’s on the same album as that damn hit song, even though it’s been on all of our last five records that none of you bought; so your sorry asses had to sit through the whole two hour show and six encores before you got to hear that song. Happy now?!? Ja-heez-us, whoda thunk that a silly knockoff called ‘Your Mama’s a Ho’ would be a million-seller? Yeah, it was nice to beat the shit out of that Boyz II Men record and have them kiss our asses and all, but it’s a song, for cryin’ out loud, just a song, and we get to be immortal musicians of the world? God, we can’t even read music.”

In the dressing room he looked in the mirror and tried hard to avoid the image in the corner of his eye of the drummer on the floor behind him being smothered by three groupies at once. “Well,” quipped the bassist to his reflection, “if we are immortal musicians of the world, then we should at least get our own dressing rooms.”

Outside his brother the guitarist was signing his extended name onto the left cheek of a female fan. The fact that she was screaming with ecstasy while he was trying to do this severely hampered his penmanship.

When the deed was done she promptly fainted in his lap. This would not have been a problem if she had not weighed three hundred forty-four pounds and twelve ounces. Of course, to him it felt like more, but that was only because he was barely one-third of her tremendous volume. “Damn,” he squeaked as nineteen of the road crew pulled him free, “they grow ‘em big in this neck o’ the woods, don’t they?”

Later during the press conference the band was asked if they had known that a heart attack had taken place at the location of their show. “Now wait just a minute!” croaked the singer, whose strained voice by now was practically inaudible, so that once it could be determined by everyone else of his intention to speak due to his wildly flailing hands, the band, their manager, and their lawyer had already vigorously denied the incident. By now the conference was silent. They craned to hear his wisdom. “Yeah, there was a heart attack, but so what? With all the junk that gets injected around here, she was lucky it was just a heart attack!”

The congregation was stupefied. “Yeah, uh, yeah,” he continued, but that was as far as he got before collapsing into a coughing fit that during its course deposited at his feet his left lung, which, as soon as its nicotine-darkened sliminess hit the floor, slid down the ramp, gaining velocity until it sped along the tile and out the door before screeching to a halt and disintegrating from exhaustion, nearly one hundred eighty-three feet from its gasping owner.

All along its path the bouncing black lung had caused silent, open-mouthed stares from the entire press corps. As the lung gurgled its last it was beheld with extreme curiosity by all, none of whom thought for a second about the man from whence it spewed, including himself, until he realized he could not hold his breath any longer. The loud gagging of the singer brought everyone back from their own personal surreal universes, but not quickly enough for anyone to save him from his own excess.

The guitarist spoke first; “Well, evidently we’ll be needing a new vocalist, preferably a non-smoker. For all preening premadonnas interested, um, I guess auditions will be held tomorrow. Right guys?” This evoked muffled affirmation from his bandmates. Gradually the press corps came back to its previous buzzing activity, and as the body was removed, the questions came again, and the room now regained the decibel level of the dull roar it had achieved prior to the incident. While the other two group members and their legal and managerial cronies began spin control in earnest, the bass player quietly slipped out.

“Wow,” he thought. “This is what we get for opening a tour in Las Vegas.” He recalled the maniacal antics of the promoter. Sure, they could fill Sam Boyd Stadium on the strength of one hit song, a fluke b-side from a neglected single, sure. It’ll happen when Hootie flies. That evening they were all baffled to see the members of Hootie and the Blowfish on TV fly and subsequently crash and burn in quite possibly the worst video ever made. “What the hell,” thought the band. “Let’s pack ‘em in.”

Of course, it was all different now. The Clap would have to change their image, their sound, and their underwear, just in an effort to get future singles played on the air, sandwiched between Dishwalla and Celine Dion, just so the band could continue to eke out a rock and roll existence in some godforsaken corner of L.A., next door to an oil derrick and around the corner from the charred foundation of the Epitaph Records building, which The Clap had burned down in protest to the existence of the Offspring. “Oh well,” thought the bass player. “At least we got to play Isla Vista.”