Rhythm Alley Redux - 01 - Preface
"Hi there" - Peter Gabriel, "Big Time"
Occasionally in the course of a conversation, I mention having once owned a rock and roll club in the 80s. Maybe we're discussing local business ownership or music or the desire of pretty much every adult male human I've ever met to at some point in their lives own a bar. I honestly don't think I bring it up to be "cooler than thou" but there may be some of that too because let's face it - it's pretty fucking cool. Those mentions usually elicit double takes (and maybe a spit take or two) and some sort of explanation which has been refined to a better elevator speech that I have for my last job - "I met a woman there, we got married there, we bought the place and then we sold it after about a year". After a recent such recitation, it hit me how much I'm now downplaying a part of my life when, almost thirty years on, not a day goes by that I don't think about the club or one of the bands that played there. The fact that I'm still ecstatically married to the woman I met there guarantees that memories of Rhythm Alley are never far below the surface.
I also find that many people that I've come to know well since that time still have no idea that I owned a nightclub and might find it interesting. Hell, a lot of people who knew me BEFORE that time that I've reconnected with don't know either. And I'm quite sure that there's not a single person outside immediate family - even those who were there for it - that know the whole story of how Jeannette and I came to own what was at one point during our tenure the only rock and roll club in Chapel Hill.
Finally, as time goes on I realize that I'm forgetting more and more of the details and I'd like to capture what's left before it's too late. The period from 1984-1986 really marks the beginning of my life as an adult human being (I refer to the time between my graduation from high school a few months shy of 18 to early 1984 as "proto-adulthood") and while I never repeated (as of yet) the experience of owning a rawk club, much of what makes me who I am today dates from that period and I want to retain as much of that as possible as I figure out who I'm going to be for the rest of my life.
Cop-outs, Caveats, Mea Culpas and Excuses
This is not a history so don't expect absolute factual accuracy - most of this will be from my memory with the occasional correction from Jeannette and others (those of you who were there, please feel free to pitch in). Given the over-documented world we live in today, it's astonishing to me how few pictures and ephemera remain from that time. Given my love of photography, it's even more surprising that I didn't document this part of our lives better than we did. I have been able to dig up a couple of my (incomplete) booking calendars from those years along with a couple of flyers and club calendars, but a lot of this is coming from a memory fuzzed by many millions of missing brain cells sacrificed over the years to the God of Hops. Those of you who were there, please feel free to fill in the blanks.
This is also not some tell-all on the seamy side of rock and roll. First of all there's not much of that for me to tell - for the most part the people we hosted, served and worked with were remarkably wonderful, down-to-earth people and the few that left a bad taste in my mouth were likely going through a tough time or off their meds so with a couple of decades of distance between then and now, they're best ignored. From that perspective maybe it was a little boring but that was the beauty of it - for most of the people we met, be they performers or audience, it wasn't about stardom or making money - it was about the music. And drinking and sex, of course. I mean, c'mon!
Finally, this is in no way a complete history of Rhythm Alley - it existed before me and it existed (albeit very briefly) after we sold it, but this is our story (me, Jeannette and RA), not its story.
I’ll be posting an episode a day for the next couple of weeks - hope you enjoy.