Monday, April 13, 2009

Today I consider myself the unluckiest man on the face of the earth!

OK, so I love this story. It's not movie-related, beyond that an enterprising documentarian might make it into an interesting film. It's a music story.

It's the story of a guitarist/bassist named Jason Everman. Why should you know Jason Everman? You shouldn't, and that's the point.

A long time ago, about twenty years in fact, in a town called Seattle, there were a couple of friends who were in a band. Wanting to record a debut album and supposedly needing some dough to cover the costs, they sought to add a fourth member to their three-piece outfit. The band hired a fourth member, who helped finance the recording. He got in on the promo photo. He got an album credit. But supposedly he never played a single note on the released album. The fourth member, a guitarist, hit the road with the band, but supposedly his stage presence was a little too "showbiz" for the band's punk ethic. Therefore, he was fired shortly thereafter.

That fourth member was named Jason Everman. The two friends, in case you haven't guessed, were named Chris (later Krist) Novoselic and Kurt Cobain. After several early name changes, the band had settled on the name Nirvana. So Jason Everman joined a long line of men whose patron saint is Pete Best, the drummer fired from the Beatles a few weeks before the release of "Love Me Do." So Jason Everman became the Pete Best of Nirvana. (Actually, arguably one of them. The drummer at the time, Chad Channing, would have his own Pete Best moment. In fact, Nirvana went through something like five drummers before hiring the sixth, Dave Grohl, a few months before Nevermind. Zillions of records later, Grohl must count himself as one of the luckiest men on the face of the Earth, considering his perfect timing.)

But that wasn't the end of Jason Everman's story. Having been fired by (he claimed "left") the then unknown Nirvana, Everman had the good fortune to latch on to play bass in another young Seattle band. With this band. he recorded a few Beatles covers that would later show up as B-sides or in collections. And naturally he got in on some promo photos and such. But once again, Everman was found to be out of step with the band's persona. So once again he was relieved of his duties. The name of that band was Soundgarden.

So Jason Everman managed to get fired not once, but twice by iconic bands that turned out to be on the brink of stardom. All within the space of about a year. As I've seen it said, that's like Pete Best getting fired by The Beatles and then getting hired and fired by The Who. Thus, Jason Everman joined the short list for unluckiest man on the face of the Earth.

But that's not the end of the story. Everman went on to join a band called Mindfunk. True to form, he lasted one album there. Likely frustrated at this point, Everman enlisted in the Army. It turns out that Everman was a much more successful soldier than a musician. In the military, he would join the elite Special Forces. He would see action in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And how do we know this? Because completely at random, he was interviewed for this New Yorker piece. The article covers a showing of a play about Iraq, with a group of veterans in attendance commenting on it afterward. It's an interesting interview. Everman sounds like a rational and coherent Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, talking about something close to a poet-warrior ideal. There's a funny moment in there. His friend mentions that he's already fulfilled the artistic ideal portion of his journey. Everman casually mentions he was a guitarist. The writer, naturally, only learned later that she had been speaking to a fascinating footnote of rock history.

So what is Everman doing nowadays? Oh, studying philosophy at Columbia. Not a bad gig, really. Pretty impressive. Would it be too glib to suggest that he has had plenty of experience staying philosophical? I'll say it anyway. If yiou believe in karma, you have to figure this guy will one day be President of the United States.

So anyway, Chad Channing. An interesting story there, too. Channing was the drummer for Nirvana's debut album Bleach. He laid down some demos for Nevermind that Grohl would later follow. How did he leave? It seems like there were a couple theories, mostly involving his desire to contribute to the songwriting. He actually gets a credit on Sliver ("Grandma, take me home/Grandma, take me home"). When that didn't happen, he "lost his inspiration" and was fired, or left, or something. That was a year before Nevermind. That gives him a legitimate claim to Pete Best status, particularly being a drummer. He played in obscure bands since then. Then suddenly a few years ago, he put together a band with him in the lead, named it Before Cars, and released some material. You got to salute the guy for plugging away.

There are some great articles out there about Pete Best types. The best, I think, is the guitarist who left The Police to join another band because he thought it had a better chance at success. The frontman for that band was a transvestite. Does that choice look as baffling to you as it does to me?

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