Warning/NSFW: The content of this podcast is intended for a mature audience only. At times this content contains highly offensive language, sexual situations, violence, illicit drug use, criminal activity, and all around bad actors. If you have sensitive ears, this may not be a good fit for you.
Privacy: Names have been altered to protect the privacy of brands, individuals, musical acts, and establishments.
PODCAST SETTING LOCATION: Based in East Vancouver / SUBJECT: Musician with Agoraphobia
Randy Darling is meeting his father in East Vancouver at Fraser Street and East 41st. There is an unusual lack of pedestrians and the fresh air of fall fills his lungs. He fills his father in on the day’s news, and brings along a pin joint for medicinal purposes. His father doesn’t want any though because he prefers alcohol, cigarettes and microdosed cocaine, and expresses himself through body language. They talk about the wars, the right and the left, and how they are seemingly immune to it all.
Randy is reflecting on his difficult relationship with his father. He recalls how his father would often express his disapproval with fast, stinging blows from his belt. Randy cleans away the dirt, grass, and leaves on his father’s headstone to make his name visible to passers-by. Randy notices the sun is going down and the moon has already risen.
After he leaves the graveyard, he returns to his apartment, where he is surprised to find his roommates and old friends Angie and Evan over for a visit. Angie, Evan, and the Randy have stayed in touch ever since the flood and fire at the music store, and have been playing together and writing music. They have even started playing some gigs.
The band is offered the opportunity to open up for the major recording act, Her Pinkertons, at the PNE Amphitheater. Her Pinkertons was a Canadian band that had broken through the US radio market with some of their infectious songs. This was a big opportunity for the band, as any young band would have been eager to take their place.
They had enough material for a 45 minute set, but Randy had a secret – he had to self medicate in order to go down the block for groceries and be able to perform on stage.
They decided to practice in a dingy location near the railway tracks filled with sex workers, pimps, thieves, and drug dealers. There were a variety of bands present, ranging from metal to glam to classic rock and top 40 cover bands.
After the insanity Ola ended at the rehearsal building it’s time for the big gig opening up for Her Pinkertons. Randy tells the story to completion in the script below.
Randy enters the coffee shop located in East Vancouver…
June: Good morning, Darling.
Randy: Good morning, June.
Randy: For what?
June: Your niece told me you rode the bus by yourself.
Randy: Yeah, I went to see Dr. Joni.
June: That’s huge, Darling.
Randy: Can I use the back room, June? Maybe longer today, if that’s okay.
June: Take as long as you need. We have a surprise waiting for you back there.
Randy: Oh, okay.
Randy walks to the back of the coffee shop, opens the back room door, and starts introducing his story…
Hi there. My name is Randy Darling. I hope you are doing well. This story is about an eventful two weeks that altered the lives of my friends and myself. This one is longer than normal. I hope you enjoy it.
Randy begins the story…
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
It was a blue sky afternoon, so I smoked up some courage to go out and meet him at Fraser Street and east 41st. As I walked, I could hear the sounds of children in the playgrounds. Their squeals of glee echoed down the street, calling out to all forlorn ears – like some Pollyanna’s foghorn trying in vain to guide us all back home.
The fresh air of fall filled my lungs, and the leaves on the sidewalk were nearly all mine. The unusual lack of pedestrian eyes almost set me at ease. This exposure to the wild was turning out to be grand.
When I arrived, I settled into my usual spot. I filled him in on all the comings and goings of the day – the weather, the wars, the right and the left, and all the poor lemmings in between. As if we were somehow immune to it all. As if for that moment, we were better off than all the other orphans in the storm.
I brought along a nice little pin joint for medicinal purposes, but only for me. It was never really his thing. He preferred alcohol, cigarettes and microdosed coke, magic mushrooms on special occasions like carnival rides in August or camping on the islands.
He never really was much of a talker. A man of action, you could say. He used body language to communicate his code. He expressed himself with glances and smiles, grimaces and scowls, and, oh, how I craved his wink.
My spirit would rise when he acknowledged my presence, and it filled my heart full when he showed his approval. And I always knew when he wasn’t pleased. His hands were fast and his belt would sting and burn. I recall vividly this particular meeting, as at one point I knelt down in tears, telling him how sorry I was for ruining everything.
If I had just been a little better, maybe he would have stayed home that night. Maybe he would have been in that car, wasted to the gills and raging inside. Maybe he would still be alive, and Mother would be happy again. And she would look at me the way she used to before he crashed into the sea.
I cleaned up my mess and his tiny headstone. I brushed away the leaves, the grass clippings, the bits of dirt and dust, leaving the engraving legible to all passersby. No epithet. No birth or death date. No heartfelt words of praise.
Just a name. Leland McDonald Darling.
As I started walking home, the sun had almost finished her show and was beginning to fade away. An anxious moon was waiting in the wings. He was up and eager to bring down the darkness on this cold rain town.
When I got back to the apartment, I got a happy surprise. My roommates Mark and Dan were there and Evan and Angie were over for a visit. Ever since those fateful days of the flood and the fire at the music store, Angie and Evan and I stayed in touch. We played on some demos together. Angie played keyboard tracks, I wrote lyrics and played guitar. My roommate Dan played drums. Evan had the highest vocal range, so he sang most of the leads and he engineered all of the recordings. The studio work eventually morphed into live work. We even played some original gigs in the Gastown clubs.
And to top it all off, Mark got in on the action as a soundman and roadie of sorts. Dan referred to him affectionately as Mohen, short for Mother Hen, which was an accurate moniker, I thought. He had a rusty old panel van for moving gear around town. He would set up the front end speakers, the mixing boards, the monitors and all the microphones. He even tuned the guitars using a vintage Con strobe tuner.
You name it, he had an eye and an ear for detail. He was all in.
As soon as I walked in the door, Angie broke the big news.
Angie: “Hey, Randy, I got some bad news and some good news. The bad news is my brother’s band just broke up and they can’t open up for Her Pinkertons next weekend. The good news is my brother convinced the promoter to let us back up the Pinkertons instead.”
Angie’s brother was in a promising new band from the neighborhood and they were on the verge of breaking out. They got some radio airplay and the writers of the Georgia Strait gave them a glowing review. Because of all this, a promoter asked them to back up the Pinkertons at the PNE Amphitheater.
Her Pinkertons was a major recording act from the Canadian prairies and on the Virgin Records label. They had broken through in the United States radio market with a couple of their infectious songs. Any young band would have given up their drummers ride arm to be the opening act for them.
Now, I mean that with all due respect to the drummers listening in. They’ll be the first to tell you, if sacrificing limbs guaranteed fame and fortune, the drummers would surely be the first ones to go under the knife. How do you think Dapper Fled made it big in the early 80s?
Then Evan chimed in.
Evan: “So what do you think, Randy? We could easily get it together. We have enough original material for a 45 minutes set. We’re almost airtight.”
And of course, I knew this was a huge opportunity for us all. But only Mark knew about my secret, that I had to self medicate just to go down the block for groceries, and that I had to be deeply baked to get up on stage, even in the smallest of clubs.
Mark looked at me with a deflated expression, let out a big sigh, and left the room. He knew it and I knew it. I had a problem and the gears of fate were already turning. We were going to play that gig.
But first we had to practice.
I always loved rehearsal far more than the actual gig.
This rehearsal location had 50 dingy rooms rented by the hour down by the railway tracks, far enough away from polite society to avoid noise complaints. And as you can well imagine, with any establishment where rooms can be rented by the hour, a whole lot of wild and weird went down. The carpetless hallways reeked of something unholy and low quality graffiti art covered the walls.
We rubbed shoulders with all kinds there. The sex workers and the pimps, the recreational thieves, and of course, the ever-present drug dealers were at hand. And yes, there was some bad people too.
Now, I generally hate labeling musical acts, but for the cause of clarity and delivery, I’ll make an exception today. In this extremely loud and rumbling building, there were so called metal bands prevalent in Montreal and Los Angeles at the time.
There was the glam bands working hard on their LA covers. Then the classic rock bands and the top 40 cover bands. Then there was the so-called original bands blasting and burning their brains in a fever to become the next big thing. And last and least, according to the studio session players anyway, were the biker punks, many of which were not to be fucked with. They didn’t seem to play by anyone’s rules. Some of them looked and smelled like they lived under a bridge in a cardboard box, but the majority were just playing the role.
And then there was another ingredient in this rock and roll cauldron. It was the entourages.
Many of these groups had dedicated fans who would show up for the free live music, and easy access to the vice merchants. The bands would leave their rehearsal room doors open so their audience could take in the show.
And it was usually just fine. A real good time. You might even catch a live sex act in the elevator or in the stairwell when chemicals and passions collided.
We carried our gear into our room and set up. The plan was to run the same 45 minutes set four times in a row, right when we were having a break after the third run, we heard screaming and yelling. A shouting match had broken out down the hallway between a biker punk fan and a glam fan.
I could sense a dark vibe closing in around us.
Glam Fan: “Fuck you, skin head. I’m going to carve that swastika off your skull.”
Punk Fan: “Take a powder, drag queen, before I rearrange your pretty face.”
Glam Fan: “Can you back up your mouth with muscle? Bring it on or shut the fuck up.”
Punk Fan: “Take your pegging girlfriend home before we pull a train on both your asses.”
Then the fight got physical as their tribes jumped into the fray. It was a real shitstorm, with hair extensions, hair safety pins, Lee Press-On nails, leather jackets, stiletto heels, decorative shoulder chains, and beer bottles flying through the air. And this was a unisex affair. The biker punks and the punkettes against the glams and the girls.
Some of the band members came out of the rehearsal rooms to calm things down, but to no avail. And to make the moment even worse, greasy skid marks were honing in on Angie like a couple of hungry predators. Evan and I were doing our best to shield her from their gang raping eyes. It was like an evil vibe that swallowed up the entire building.
The fight in the hallway intensified when the biker punk pulled out a knife. And just when the rage and the insanity was about to elevate even higher, an enormous ear piercing bang stopped everyone in their tracks.
Then out of the shadows came a scar faced figure holding a gun. He wore dirty 1950s Converse style runners, a green bomber jacket and faded rip jeans. It was Ola. Dan and I shot looks at each other as if to say, what the fuck?
And we could see a strange look of guilt come over Mark’s face. When Ola walked past our rehearsal room, he winked in our direction, saying…
Ola: “Hey there, rock stars.”
He walked straight up to the knife wielding punk with a swastika tattoo, pressed the barrel of his gun on the tattoo and snarled…
Ola: “Adolf Hitler never played guitar or asshole. Drop that knife before I stick it up your ass.”
Randy: The punk dropped the knife and took two steps back with his hands in the air.
Ola: “Good. Now the rest of you dumb motherfuckers move along before somebody really gets hurt.”
They all scattered and ran down the hallway in terror, tripping over each other to get through the door and down the stairwell. All except the two greasy skid marks. One of them had a deadness in his eyes, a look of pure evil that I’ll never forget.
Ola grinned and walked up to him so close their noses were almost touching.
Ola: “I know you’re a kind scumbag. You’re so far gone you’re begging for a bullet in the head, but I’m not going to do that for you tonight.”
Then Ola head butted him with a frightening force. A level of violence I had never seen, not even from the hardest club bouncers on Granville. Blood came gushing out of the man’s nose.
Ola: “Ah, for fuck sakes. We got a bleeder.”
Ola yelled as he started shoving the man down the hall.
At that point, both of the men ran down the stairwell and out into the night.
Ola turned around, put his gun in his belt and started walking back the way he came.
When he passed us, we were huddled in our rehearsal room.
Ola: “Carry on, rock stars.”
Then, as quick as he came, he was gone.
Now, just like Dan and I thought that night, you’re probably wondering what in THE fuck was Ola doing there?
Unbeknownst to me, Dan, Evan and Angie, Mark had arranged to have Ola keep an eye on us whenever we rehearsed in that building. Just fucking great. We had a lunatic for a chaperone lurking in the darkness and stalking our every move.
It turned out Mark had befriended Ola far more than we thought, and it all made perfect sense. Only a pseudo Christian would be stupid enough to make a deal with the devil. Don’t get me wrong, we loved Mark and I was the one who initially came up with the idea – the dumb idea of playing on Ola’s ego.
But Mark had taken it way too far. We saw Mark helping Ola work on his car, and they would hang out having cigarettes in the back alley. I mean, it’s one thing to be friendly with a criminal mind in a bid for protection – like a “be my friend or else” extortion agreement, but it’s another thing when you’re chumming up to madness.
I should have known something was awry when I saw Mark hand a bottle of whiskey through Ola’s door.
Now, at this stage of the story, my dear listener, you might not agree with my concern. You might see Ola as a true blue antihero. But that wasn’t how it felt at the time.
That night was the first and only time I ever heard a high caliber handgun fired inside a confined space. The explosion pierces your ears so violently, it stuns you. And if that wasn’t frightening enough, seeing that same weapon pressed into a person’s forehead was horrific. And during the incident, Ola was as calm as could be. He enjoyed every second of his absolute control and the terror he was inflicting.
He confirmed for me what I believed the first time I met him. He was armed and dangerous and quite insane. We tore down our gear as fast as we could, then we headed back home.
It was the day of the big gig when we arrived at the amphitheater for sound check. The Pinkerton’s road manager told us where to put all the gear and we did as we were told. At this point, my pre-gig butterflies were already on the move.
From the stage of the amphitheater, you could see the ferris wheel and the roller coaster of the PNE looming over the audience bleachers. From the audience side, you could see the North Shore Mountains behind the stage with an almost perfect blue sky and zero wind. I sat down in the highest row of the bleachers to feel the warmth of the sun on my face. As I took in this magnificent view a chill ran up my spine, knowing I would soon be facing 7000 people on that stage. But I wouldn’t be alone, I thought, my friends would be there with me.
Not long after and the Pinkertons showed up. They ran some mic checks, played a song, made some monitor adjustments and kept playing until the front end crew gave them the thumbs up. Then it was our turn. Their roadies were lightning fast and generous. They even tuned Dan’s drums for him. We were told to play a song so the crew could dial us in, and that was unnerving.
There was so much room on that stage, it felt like we were lost in space compared to the clubs. Too much distance between us. In the clubs Dan’s kick drum was close enough the air pumping out of it would move my pant leg when he really leaned into it. With that, along with Evan’s bass guitar, it was easy to stay in time, or in the pocket, as some call it, but on the big stages, you’re at the mercy of the monitor mix.
They got the mix done and the front end crew said they were good to go. It was time to go rest up and get ready for the show. When the time came, Angie gave me a ride back to the amphitheater and we got backstage an hour before we were supposed to go on. Mark and Dan were picking up Evan in the van and planning to arrive shortly.
The butterflies I had during soundcheck had now transformed into bats of terror. I could feel them circling above me, preparing for their swarm of doom. I knew it was time to bring out the reinforcements. I told Angie I was off to find a washroom and ducked off backstage for a toke and a Benzo.
To my surprise, the drummer from Her Pinkertons was there. He was in mid puff. I said, “Great minds…I was just coming out for the same”, as I reached into my pocket. He smiled casually and said…
Don: “Here, have some of mine. It’s already going.”
You could tell he was a young man with an old soul and a lot on his mind. He spoke fast and precisely and he looked you straight in the eye. He passed me a small wooden pipe then reached out to shake my hand.
Don: “Hi, my name is Donn. Thanks for coming aboard. I caught some of your sound check earlier. Good stuff.”
While this was encouraging, and surprising coming from him. He didn’t seem to possess a shred of rock and roll ego. I’ve met third-rate ukulele players on Davie Street with more bravado.
I said, “Thanks, man, for the kind words and the puff. I really appreciate it. This is my first time playing a venue this large.”
Don: “Don’t worry. Just pretend you’re still in the basement with your buddies and focus on the fun. The rest will fall into place.”
Great advice, I thought. I handed back his pipe and went to find Angie.
I caught up with Angie outside the dressing room. She was in her new stage clothes now. A skintight leather outfit and high heels. She was almost unrecognizable. She usually wore glasses, hair tied back, no makeup, baggy clothes and sensible shoes. Just what you would expect of a highly trained concert pianist in the trenches of academia.
It was 30 minutes to showtime, and Evan and Dan still weren’t there. Angie was starting to worry, and I was petrified. I swallowed yet another Benzo, hoping that might calm me down. At this point, I was so pilled up that I rattled. (John Mellor wrote that).
The amphitheater was almost full now, and the chatter of the crowd was growing. The roadies and techs were buzzing around, and there was a serious charge in the air. Then Angie said…
Angie: “Where is Evan and Dan? We’re on in five minutes.”
The lead stage tech came up and asked if we could play something with just the two of us. We were in panic mode now. Angie didn’t sing lead, and she didn’t know any of my acoustic songs on her keyboards.
Angie: “Randy, you can do it. Do a couple of those story songs you wrote.”
The monitor tech picked up his walkie talkie and ran the idea past the front end crew. They were all in agreement I would be going up alone. Then all of a sudden, I felt dizzy and distorted. A flood of panic was ripping through my body, and it felt like I was being sucked into a black hole.
My vision began to flicker in and out, and then the lights all went out.
I came to hearing a familiar voice fading in and out.
Frank White: “Ya a duppy conqueror, not a panty waste. Wake up now, brother and feel irie. He’ll be fine. He’s coming around. Snap out of it, brother. You just saw the minny minny. Nobody gives a shit about the opening act.”
Randy: It was Frank White giving me his wise words and support. Him and his wife had backstage passes, and they were just coming to wish us luck before I fainted.
Frank White: “None of this matters, bro. The crowd, they can wait. They all brain dead nimrods anyway. Come on outside with me and get some fresh air. You don’t need this mumu gig dibby dibby crap. Irie”
Angie and Frank helped me up, and I followed them outside the dressing room. I asked if Evan and Dan had showed up yet, and they shook their heads no. Don came over to check out the situation.
Don: “If you’re up for it, Randy, we’re all ready for you. Just a couple of songs would be cool and we can take it from there.”
Then Angie added her words of support and that was just enough to give me strength. Well, that and the Benzos and the weed were in full bloom. I walked up on stage and strapped on my guitar. Then the crowd swelled up. Obviously, they mistook me from the main attraction.
My hands were shaking as I checked my guitar settings. I strummed an open C chord to check for tuning and the lights came up. It was all so surreal. It felt like I was out of my body looking down on it all. Vancouver City, 7000 people and yours truly facing them alone.
I leaned into the mic. This one is called Crashers on the North Shore Side.
Randy sings folk acoustic guitar song: “There’s a crasher on the North Shore side. Bring a bottle, you’ll get in. From St. George’s to Marine drive you can hear the music clear across town. Take the transit – be a martyr, keep the faith it’s running late. I’ll be walking across the water on that dirty Lions Gate.”
Randy narrating over song:
When I made it to the first chorus, my deep sense of fear was replaced by euphoria. To my amazement, this rock and roll crowd was actually taking it in. It felt like I was finally home. It seemed like for the first time in my life, everything made sense. For that brief moment, I feared nothing. I was in auto mode. It was effortless.
Randy sings a folk acoustic song for the crowd: “We swore we both were born black eyed. Two kids crashing on the North Shore side, two kids casing out the wild divide, two kids crashing on the north Shore side.”
Randy: Before I had a chance to go into the next song, a heckler in the front row yelled out.
Heckler #1: “You suck!”
Randy: Then another heckler joined in.
Heckler #2: “Get off the stage, loser!”
Randy: Then I heard booing.
[crowd booing noises]
I turned around looking for Angie and Frank. They could see the look of desperation in my eyes. I was still standing at the mic, frozen and numb, when Don suddenly came up behind me.
Don: “That wasn’t so bad, now, was it? It went over, man. Here, let me help you.”
Randy: Don gently turned me around in the right direction as he signaled Frank and Angie over to me.
Angie: “It was great, Randy. It really worked. Just take my arm. It’s going to be okay.”
They led me off the stage and sat me down on a road case, stage right. The roadies were whizzing around me, getting the stage ready for the Pinkertons. As one of them flew by me. He got my attention by casually raising his eyebrows and pointing out my crotch, saying…
Roadie: “Flying low bud.”
Perfect. My humiliation was now public and complete.
As I watched the Pinkertons slam out their hits to the adoring crowd, I could hear Frank’s voice in a loop in my head…
Frank White: “Ya a duppy conqueror, not a pantie waste.”
What the fuck does that mean, anyway?
When the show was over, me, Angie, Frank and his wife had a drink with the Pinkertons. I sheepishly thanked their drummer Don for his kindness and said good night.
On the way back to the apartment in Angie’s car, we both vented on the mysterious disappearance of our bandmates. It was like they vanished off the terra firma. She dropped me off and headed home. She had a piano recital the next morning.
Not long after, Dan hobbled in the door. He was really banged up, bruised and thoroughly devastated. He told me Evan and Mark were hospitalized with serious injuries. They were in a five car pile up on their way to the amphitheater, and only Dan was wearing his seatbelt. Mark had a broken hip, and Evan had several broken bones and a head injury.
Dan was lucky to get away with just cuts and bruises. I was relieved when he told me that doctors expected full recoveries for all of them.
I stayed up with him for a while. He grinned when I told him I fainted backstage, and he laughed out loud when I told him I froze on stage. His laughter cheered us both up for a brief moment. Then his painkillers kicked in and he fell into a deep sleep. I got him off to bed and stepped outside for my bedtime toke.
There was a backstreet go-getter in the alley, rummaging through the garbage bins for bottles and cans.
I breathed out a big sigh of relief. It was good to be back where I belonged.
With the orphans in the storm.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
You can hear Randy open the backroom door, then Randy’s footsteps as he walks to the front of the coffee shop approaching June at the front counter…
Randy: I love the new chair and microphone, June. I can’t thank you all enough.
June: Of course, darling. You have a fantastic day.
Randy: You too, June.
The bell rings on the entrance door as Randy leaves. You can hear street noises of East Vancouver. Cars, buses, people talking, and Randy’s footsteps as he walks away…
Sound fades away to silence.
Ending notice from young women with a strong Australian accent: You’ve been listening to the Randy Darling podcast. To get the backstory on young and old Randy, June, the coffee shop, locations and answers to frequently asked questions, visit www.randydarling.com.
VOICE ACTORS & GUESTS
DON (EP 04)
by Allan Isaacson & Andrea Irving
2nd Heckler (EP 04)
ROADIE (EP 04)
Robert Downey Jr.
1st Heckler (EP 04)
COMPOSERS & PLAYERS
All genre composition
Mixing & Mastering
All genre composition
with a focus on
All genre composition
with a focus on