Joe was primarily working on a solo music career at the time, so I, often with the help of my roommates, would spend days weeks filming and (badly) editing promo videos for him for his P.R. package. Those video days are some of my happiest memories of my five year sojourn in San Francisco. I was thrilled and proud to be involved in one of those côteries where everyone clicked, everyone worked well with each other, and yet everyone was doing their own thing in the midst of all the ubiquitous collaborating.
Those were some seriously partying days, those video days.
I began playing keyboards for Joe in anticipation of touring live with him. That was the first (and only) time I have done anything musical that wasn't solo classical. It was exciting and surprisingly difficult surprising because I had hitherto spent my time wrestling with impossibly complex classical music, and here I was stumped with simple, elementary keyboard work, and the bafflement came from having to play with others. (Should have acquired a Does Not Play Well With Others shirt for our rehearsals.)
We (Joe, me, and some chick bassist whose name escapes me now) had a great time coming up with our stage personæ I was going to be in formal white tie with a laissez-faire attitude that rivaled the boredom of that hot keyboardist from New Order what was her name? I even spent a chunk of the (very small amount of) money I had at the time on a turn-of-the-century wool tailcoat. (Still have it. Bit moth-eaten, but then aren't we all.) Joe was going Nu-Wav/RockNRoll to match the mood of his pop-industrial music. It was good music, too. Sorta Daniel Ash with a little more soul.
Then one black day arrived in which Joe came over and announced, "I'm moving to L.A. to work in Thomas Dolby's studio. You should come with."
Life for me at that time consisted of dreary, full-time temp work in which I was consistently underpaid. My outlet, my joie de vivre was all the art going on in and around me, in large part enabled and coaxed out by Joe and Robin. The thought of their departure, and all that they would take with him, was crushing. I actually flirted with the idea of moving to L.A.
That idea lasted about four seconds, but I was shocked to have entertained it at all. It underscored the importance of these people in my life.
They packed their UHaul, and as we went into the alley to wave farewells, he said, "We couldn't take everything. There's stuff in the warehouse. I left the door unlocked. Happy looting." And they were gone.
My friends and I were all affected by their departure. We went over to their house and picked through the remains with a quiet, somber air of going through a deceased loved one's estate sale.
We scored some cool lamps, rolling chairs, leftover food. I found his old Betamax machine (which I still have and use today!), a glass Japanese cocaine bottle, and some other knick-knacks. I also found four rolls of undeveloped film which I took thinking, "Someday when I'm rich, I'll get these developed."
We kept in touch for a while by phone and, once it was invented, this thing called 'email'. We saw each other a couple times when I'd be in L.A. or they in SF. Eventually, I lost them. It's been about seven years, I guess, since we've communicated. I don't believe he ever completed his solo music project. I'm not too shocked. He was a perfectionist and would tweak shit to death!
The other day, I found the rolls of film in an old box. Undeveloped film of crucial, inspiring friends from my past. Thirteen year old film. A time capsule.
I went to Walgreens, dropped them off, then went on holiday to the Cape.
When I returned last week, I went to pick up the film. One roll was entirely black and rendered no prints. The other two rolls were holiday photos of Joe and Robin, one in London, very dark and fuzzy for the film sitting in my various attics all over the country, one roll in Yosemite and one in Brighton.
What a trippy experience to develop something you've had in your possession for over a decade, and to literally timewarp back to an era long gone, and even somewhat forgotten. Yet the 'now-ness' of picking up film from Walgreens made me believe in some way that what I was seeing was the present.
It was an experience definitely worth the $29.
Here's a photo from a trip circa 1991 to Brighton. You might recognize these people from their rather successful career in the 80s. Joe's in the middle.