Right off, it was clear Johnny just didn’t want me in the band. ‘Cause everybody thinks I look too geeky, a big, lanky weirdo, and not cool enough to be in a rock n roll band.
So he sets me this initiation test. Says I gotta prove myself, earn my place. Says if I can steal a guitar from this music store down in Brooklyn.
In a rare moment of bravery, I ask him, what’d he do to earn his place?
He’s got nothin to prove, he says, but I can set him any test I want and he’ll do it.
And I know he would, he’d do anythin, fearless. Nothin gonna stand in his way of getting what he wants in life, whatever it is, just go right out there and take it, way he used to beat people up and take their money.
And being in a band for him, it’s the same as bein in the army, he’s in this war to make it big. And it makes me hate his fuckin guts for being so sure of himself. But also it makes me want more ‘n ever to be in a band with him, ‘cause I wanna be close to that, and part of that. Don’t want my Mom to be the only woman ever to love me, and that’s about the only way I’m gonna get any girl is by bein in a band.
So I say, sure, I’ll do it, I’ll steal the guitar. He just grunts, but Dee Dee’s like ‘Alrite’, laughin and slappin me on the back, ‘Joey’s the man, Joey’s the shit.’
I’m just glad the initiation test wasn’t to try to talk my way into some girl’s pants, or talk to her even.
We arrange to meet down at the store next day, Saturday, when it’ll be real busy, at 8 minutes past one. Johnny’s idea, comin over all military again. Says he’s goin to create a diversion in the store, get everybody’s attention, then I swipe the guitar and get outta there before the smoke clears.
I ask him what kind of diversion, and he just says, ‘you’ll know when it happens.’
Next day, I’m half way down there, when I start thinking about if I’ve left the cooker on, and I can’t help myself, there’s nothing I can do when that happens and I have to rush all the way back to Forest Hills to make sure, then hurry all the way back. I’m sweating all over by the time I get down there, thinking I’m gonna be late, but I’m just a block away, and it’s only just before one o’clock, so I slow down then.
Couple of stores before the musical instrument one, there’s one selling records. On the way past, I stop when I see Dee Dee in there at a listening post. Headphones on, smoking a cigarette, chewing gum, drinking a beer, singing out loud, popping his fingers, shaking his head and moving his feet. Dee Dee’s got too much life goin on in there for his body to contain it all, he needs like 3 mouths and a couple of bodies to do everything he needs to do. I give him a salute but he doesn’t see me, he’s got his shades on and maybe his eyes closed or somethin, I don’t know.
So I move on into the musical instrument store. There are a whole load of people, stepping round amps and drum kits, but I can just make out Johnny down in front, one of the assistants is plugging a Les Paul guitar into a Marshall stack for him to try it out. The assistant turns the volume way down, and Johnny starts messin around, playing some chords.
Dee Dee walks in and talks to the other assistant, and the guy takes off out back of the store to fetch him something. Then Dee Dee gets the other guy, one was helping Johnny way across to the other side of the store from Johnny. Then I hear Johnny crank the amp right up and through the squalls of feedback shouting ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ and start playing the chords to The Stooges ‘Wanna Be Your Dog’. The sound of it nearly blows the windows out of the shop, and I realise that’s my cue. I grab a Telecaster down from its hooks on the wall and hurry out the door.
I make it back to the meeting place without any problems, but now I’m sweating so much I think I got no salt left in my body or something.
When Dee Dee and Johnny get there, I play them three chords and sing a little something I’ve written. Dee Dee’s face blows ups, his eyes and mouth all shining and laughing, but Johnny. Well Johnny just grunts and says: ‘OK, so you passed the first test.’