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Blues Brothers: Jake and Elwood's Secret Life

Page 5 of 5

Some critics have noted that the Blues Brothers' musical direction and their decision to record their debut LP live at the Universal Amphitheatre in L.A. bespeak a vitality and an unabashed sense of fun that is currently in short supply. Although their show consists entirely of a roundup of R&B and blues oldies, each was picked and refurbished with genuine enthusiasm. And sometimes their feelings for the music run still deeper. Stax/Volt veterans Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn say that it was a special thrill to resurrect some of their vintage material; the night before the band left for their nine-night stand in Los Angeles, Cropper listened to some Otis Redding records for the first time since Redding's death, Steve's eyes welling up with emotion at the sound of his old boss' searing vocals.

As a band, the Blues Brothers are a delight. As a musical force they are merely a friendly reminder of some great music that in recent years has largely been ignored or forgotten. There's more to popular music than the "preprogrammed electronic disco" Elwood disdains, and the Blues Brothers remind us of this fact with humor and spirit.

I wander upstairs for what proves to be a fascinating conversation with Dan Aykroyd, but feel a little badly because Joliet Jake had vowed earlier that we would have a last chat. I've come to realize that the positive energy emanating from the Blues Brothers is something of an elixir in these jaded times, and I'm pissed off I won't be getting another hit of it.

Wrung out and kinda bummed, I decide to drown my already sodden sorrows sometime around 4:30 a.m. by swigging from various bottles of champagne being passed around the mansion, and soon discover my depression is being cemented by an unexpected dose of acid. Cursing myself for forgetting what Bill Graham had advised earlier ("Don't eat or drink anything being passed around tonight if you don't want to trip"), I race around the house in mounting terror. Luckily, I collide with Cynthia Bowman, the pretty national publicity director for the Starship, who commandeers Michael Klenfner's waiting limousine and sternly instructs the bewildered chauffeur to take me back to the nearby Miyako Hotel, posthaste.

Grateful for the assistance, I lean out the window to thank her as the car pulls away from the curb and look up to see that her face has become a hideous kaleidoscope. I'm jolted speechless; I've never done acid before and the sight scares me out of my wits.

After a seemingly endless excursion through predawn San Francisco – during which I momentarily became convinced that the driver is a horned demon taking me, willy-nilly, down into the Stygian depths of hell – I find myself sitting outside the comforting Oriental familiarity of the Miyako. Somehow I make it to the suite on the thirteenth floor that I'm sharing with Miami.

"Fuck me dead!" I rage as he opens the door. "I got dosed by some low-life scuzz at the Blues Brothers party and now I'm tripping straight out of my skull."

Miami's jaw drops and he leads me in gingerly, telling me to lay down and try to remain calm while he makes a phone call. I am too distracted by the colorful streams of insects surging up the room's melting walls to get a fix on his telephone conversation, but minutes later the door swings wide and in strides a formidable slice of reality, John Belushi and his wife, Judy Jacklin.

To make a long story short, the Belushis, with whom I have only an acquaintance, stay with me for hours, John assuming a comforting bedside manner as we shoot the shit until I am exhausted enough to doze off with the help of Valium; his kindness reminding me of one additional thing every hapless hambone should have in this life: a couple of unexpected friends.

I never do see the Black Rhino again that weekend but I remember Belushi smiling at the tail end of my trip when I mentioned Joliet Jake's latest disappearance. "Aw, don't worry about it; I think you should have these," he said soothingly, placing something dark and gleaming upon the night table as I drifted into sleep.

When I wake up late that afternoon my head is full of questions. Squinting about, trying to get my bearings, the first thing I see is the San Francisco skyline reflected in a shiny object lying just across from my head.

I blink and realize that it's the gift I was given the night before . . . Jake's spare pair of Foster Grants.

This story is from the February 22nd, 1979 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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