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Opening Act

Tonight Wrecking Crew. And Eddie Hodge. The sign was cheap ass and tacky, the same quality as those removable numbers on a gas station post. Eddie Hodge looked up at the sign and smiled. Cheap ass and tacky was just his cup of tea.

Eddie was the laziest musician on the planet. He was fine with the $50 and unlimited bar tab he was getting. The fact that he was getting that much was part and parcel of his not really giving a shit one way or the other. Because, despite his best efforts, Eddie had lucked into the underbelly of rock and roll stardom.

Eddie Hodge was a one hit wonder.

And he had always made it plain that he would only play that hit. Thank God for ‘Rockin’ Rumble’! All 2:24 of it. On a long night, he could usually bullshit his way through the song and be out the door in under five minutes. If he was feeling generous, he might throw the audience a bone with a bit of history. Then it would be five minutes on the nose.

Eddie walked through the side door of the dive bar. It had a name but Eddie didn’t care enough to ask or to look up at what was most certainly a raggedy assed sign. Eddie knew the score. He was the opening act, the raw meat for a bunch of rowdy drunks who were waiting for the cover band headliner.

Eddie walked through the darkened postage stamp of the dive and up to the bar where a sullen biker looking chick, all tats and leather, was washing out glasses.

“I’m Eddie Hodge.”

The chick was not impressed. But she knew who he was and reached under the bar, brought out an envelope and slid it across the bar. Eddie opened it. Two twenties and a ten. Time to start the tab.

“What do you have that’s cold?”

She didn’t look up. “Bud.”

Eddie played along.


“Bud,” she growled, finding more interest in a clouded glass than Eddie.

“Okay. Make it a Bud.”

Eddie nursed his beer off in a corner as the club began to fill up and the Buds began to flow. They were loud, the f bomb seemed the only word they knew He sized them up wearily; high school dropouts, minimum wage flunkies, dead end lives, Republicans…His kind of people.

Over the din, a totally disinterested voice through a distorted sound system said. “For your listening pleasure, Eddie Hodge.” A smattering of applause, a couple of very loud farts and a belch to rattle the rafters greeted Eddie as he sauntered onto the stage, beat up six string in hand. Eddie stared off into the lion’s den.

“Name’s Eddie Hodge,” he drawled into a mike positioned face high. “I had a big hit some 40 years ago called ‘Rockin’ Rumble.’ ”

“Never heard of it! Fuck you! Play ‘Free Bird!”

Eddie smiled. His kind of people. Which is why he determined that they would appreciate the whole sad story of ‘Rockin’ Rumble’. He remembered it like it was only yesterday.

Long hot day of saying ‘Do you want fries with that?’ Bored. Drunk. Pick up my pawn shop guitar and begin strumming the only two chords I know. Thinking ‘What if I mixed ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Dirty Water together?’ What if I throw in some lyrics; oh something like ‘You’re so hot baby/Give it to me baby/ uh, uh, baby/?

“Yeah ‘Wild Thing’ motherfucker! Play it! And don’t forget ‘Free Bird’!”

Eddie smiled. Now where was I?

Oh yeah. Neighborhood scumbag offers to pay for a recording and put a grand in my pocket. Just a hoot of course. All I had to do was sign this little old contract. Cut to the chase. Song gets picked up by a radio station, then another, then another. Before I knew it ‘Rockin’ Rumble’ was top 20 on the national charts. Of course I had signed all the rights away and about the time the single had sold a hundred thousand copies, was being covered by a lot of garage bands and some scraggly ass wannabe folkie named Manson, I was already back pulling double shifts at Mickey D’s.”

“Man! You’re a fucking moron!”

“Not telling me something I don’t already know.”

So I’m in hell. Too pissed off to write another song. Too damned lazy to learn a few cover songs and try to turn some coin on the club circuit. So I’m dead and deader…Until 1982 when I get a call from a joker whose putting together a 60’s oldies show and wants me on board. I tell the cat I only know one song. Cat says that’s fine. Before I know it, I’m opening act on a 40 city tour of one hit wonders. Bands like The Balloon Farm, The Village Callers, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy (minus everybody but the original drummer.) The hotels sucked. The vans we drove in reeked of B.O. and frustration. Occasionally I’d snag some Cougar poon. Couldn’t complain about the hours. One five minute set a night. $100 a show. Hit that scene for a few years. And now…well here I am.”

“Hey fuck the sob story! Play the motherfucking song!”

Eddie obliged, strumming an A, then a D, then a A/D. Repeat until you’re seeing those two chords in your dreams. He sang the dumbass lyrics in a hoarse, labored croak that was easily drowned out by the crowd’s frenzy of f bombs, bodily functions and all around drunken, put down laughter.

Eddie mentally counted down the seconds until the end…10, 9, 8, 7, 6…He finished with a chunky guitar flurry and was done.

“Thank you and good night,” he said dryly as he turned to exit stage left.

“Hey motherfucker! Where do you think you’re going? Play something else!”

Eddie turned around to face the audience. This sort of thing happened once in a while and it could get ugly. “Hey guys. I told you ‘Rockin’ Rumble’ is the only song I know. I don’t know any covers! Now have a good night.”

“That’s bullshit!,” yelled one drunk from out of the darkness. “Everybody does covers.”

“I don’t,” responded Eddie as he inched toward the back of the stage.”You’ve heard the only song I’ve ever played.”

“Play ‘Free Bird’,” yelled another denizen of the dark. “Everybody knows ‘Free Bird’. A chant of “Free Bird, Free Bird” rumbled through the club. Eddie was like a deer caught in headlights as he stared into the din.

That’s when the beer bottles started flying.

Empty bottles of Bud whizzed past Eddie’s head, shattering against the back wall. Another exploded at his feet. Now Eddie was pissed. Another bottle was tossed underhand from somewhere in the dark. Eddie snagged the bottle in mid air and, with a screeching yell, his best vocal since the heyday of ‘Rockin’ Rumble’, he fired the bottle back into the crowd. …

Just as another bottle flew out of the back table and crashed into his forehead, slicing hard into skin and unleashing rivulets of blood that snaked down Eddie’s face and turned him into the ultimate rock monster. Eddie went to his knees, stunned. He could see the headlines now.


That’s when the cavalry stepped in. Sullen biker chick tossed a very dirty looking towel in his face. Two other leatheroids stepped in and began wailing on the crowd. Eddie staggered off the stage and passed the members of Wrecking Crew waiting by the exit. They offered compliments, saying that was the best gimmick they had seen since the 1993 Kiss tour.

Eddie said nothing but continued his stumble out the back exit, towel pressed hard against his forehead, attempting to staunch the blood flow. He found a trash can, turned it over and sat in silence as the aroma of beer, sweat and urine washed out the open bar door and over him. Eddie sat in silence for what seemed like a half hour.

Finally the blood stopped. He would need stitches but he would live.

But that throbbing at the back of his head. It was deadly, consistent, and, if he could get around the pain, it was a pretty good beat. Eddie laughed at the futility of it all. Once he stopped laughing, his head slowly began to bob and weave in time to the imagined rhythm. There was something in this. The more he thought about it, the more it felt like something.

Like rock and roll.

Eddie reached into his back pocket and pulled out the envelope containing the cash. Another pocket dive produced a piece of crap Bic pen. He stared at the envelope for a moment, put pen to paper and, shakily, started to write. After a moment he stopped, looked at what he had written, crossed out the part he didn’t like and wrote some more.

Everything hurt like a motherfucker but Eddie managed a wane smile. This was pretty good. Eddie continued to write on his perch behind the bar. When he ran out of envelope, he fished a ratty, beer soaked paper bag out of a nearby box and began to write on that.

Eddie Hodge had crossed over into the possibility of being a two hit wonder. And it felt good.


Marc Shapiro is a published book author, short story writer, comic book writer and poet. He does not take no for an answer.


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