“This band sucks, but you’re great!” She said, then kissed me. I continued playing.
excerpt “History of the Groove, drummer’s story”
Russell Buddy Helm
©2013 all rights reserved
“This band sucks, but you’re great!” She said, then kissed me. I continued playing.” I haven’t heard that in a while.” I responded. It was a typical beer bar on a typical Saturday night and I was playing the drumset with Francis and a group of his friends. A good looking girl was trying to dance as we chugged through some Allman Brothers songs; “One Way out’, “Southbound”, on and on. I didn’t like playing bars anymore; low lifes, loser musicians living the ‘blues’ lifestyle. At least the no smoking ban was in effect. If you want to be a musician, this is usually where you end up; selling beer with your music. I did it because I wanted to keep my chops up on the kit. It was like going to handball court and working out. I ignored everything and just felt good playing. I was playing well, I was having fun in the dingy ‘Brennan’s Pub’ in Venice, California. This girl was having a hard time though. She was trying to dance; just dance. The typical horny barfly creep kept hitting on her. She would move away, he would pursue her. Finally out of desperation to get away from the guy, she jumped up onto the stage, stepped around the idiot lead guitar poser, bopped up next to me as I sat on my drummer’s throne and told me her opinion of the band and of me. Then she leaned down over me and kissed me, very passionately, tongue down the throat, the whole thing. I kept the beat going. The guys in the band assumed I knew her. “What’s your name?” I asked above the din, as we banged on.
“Jenny.” she said as she stood there and bopped to the beat.
“That was my first girlfriend’s name.” I said making small talk, while hitting the accents on ZZ Tops, “Tush”. The rest of the band was in their alcohol induced fantasy state of stardom; performing in front of thousands of adoring fans in some grand festival. I was wondering what this girl was up to. She continued to stand next to me and dance while we went through the reportoire of the usual bar songs. The creep that had been harassing her still hovered at the edge of the stage but was looking less predatory now. He decided to give up and walked away. We finished the set, a few people were sober enough to clap and yell. When Jenny was sure that the stalker was gone, she hopped down off the stage and disappeared; no phone number, no, “See you later.” She just slipped out safely. As we loaded out I thought about this event and tried to make sense of it. It felt important. Jenny had to have a safe space, right away. So she jumped up onto the bandstand not because I was some bad ass guy, but because the beat was safe. It was the beat that she recognized as an eternally safe energy. I had witnessed this years earlier playing with Chuck Berry; he seemed so alive, even at his advanced age of forty six years old, and it was because the beat was keeping him young. I told myself back then to pay attention to this. It was important then, and even more important now. I finally spoke to Francis and the rest of the guys in the band,
“I am not going to do this anymore. So don’t call me and ask me.”
The guitar player was uncomprehending, “Whut? We got you some roadies.”
I had to explain it, “I am not going to play drums and get women to dance in an unsafe environment. Ever again. I learned from the greats about how to get women to dance, but there is no safe place for women to dance in our culture. So I am not going to put women in harm’s way any more. I am not playing clubs ever again.” I walked out.
“But yer thu groove king, Buddy!” I ignored their pleading and left that world behind.
There was a time when the music felt sacred. It lasted only a few years but it left an indelible impression on my soul. I decided to start writing again. I wanted to create the world that I wanted to live in. A world where it was safe for women to dance the sacred dance. I had boycotted writing years earlier when I had scared myself very badly by creating, or anticipating events that changed the world. ‘The Oracle’. I called it a novel but it was about my impressions while I was allowed into the inner sanctum of Sanford Research Institute in Palo Alto back in nineteen seventy five. My novel got to Simon and Schuster and they loved it. But the world events overtook the book and the book became real. There was the Jihad, the Islamic revolution, the Mahdi commanding the Muslim world to cleanse the infidels. It seemed unreal as I watched it on the six oclock news. I had written about it as fiction but now it was real. Had I created it? I had that experience with other writing. I asked Stewart, the author of ‘Rebel without a Cause’ screenplay and many other great movies. “Does a writer create reality or just pick up whats going to happen?”
“Both.” he said. “The red jacket is an example. I wrote the red jacket into the ‘rebel’ script as an afterthought. But after the movie came out, every kid had to have a red jacket.”
“I mean, do you create something out of thin air. Like a jihad revolution or…”
“I don’t know.” he answered diplomatically. I had my suspicions. I knew that manifesting or conjuring with the drum was as old as time itself. I had written a novel about a young psychic kid raised in the South who ended up at SRI involved in a remote viewing project ending with the Islamic revolution. I was so scared I didn’t let Simon & Schuster publish it. I stopped writing. I didn’t want to manifest anything that terrible again and I didn’t want the spooks on my tail again wanting to use me as a psychic spy. But now, this was different. I knew the world that I wanted to create. It was important for our culture that this new world emerge. If the women were not safe to dance in ecstatic sacred dance, then that creative energy would turn bitter, and our culture would not survive. It would be a world that was safe for the sacred dance. I knew what I would call it: “Let the Goddess Dance”.
Our culture was doomed unless we could create a safe space for the sacred, sensual, spiritual dance. It was not about sex. It was about joyous prayer with a groove that was danceable; non aggressive, nurturing, creative, inclusive of all people, and magical. I started to see young people banging on djembes. The impulse was there in the zeigeist but without direction it would go the way of most music in this culture; merely commercials for selling alcohol. This was important enough to come out of the closet as a writer and get to work. The book and the CD evolved quickly as we held drumming meditation workshops three times a week in the store on Montana Avenue. People from all walks of life came in and contributed their insights. I knew I was on the right track. The universe was enabling this process. All I had to do was keep the groove going. After each workshop I sat down at the first generation of laptop computer and pecked out my insights from that night’s session. It became a book quickly.