Note: Originally written February 5, 2019
Recently my husband, Ben, and I went to see a little bit of Gen X music history with Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel in London. Happily we found out they are not just living in the past. A great 80’s band with a lot of recognizable hits, the guys are on tour to support their latest effort.
The production of the new album, Dance Underwater, was actually crowdfunded. This proving not only can an “old” dog learn new tricks but there were plenty of fans who wanted to see those tricks. On the album, GLJ continues to combine the new with the old as they balance their classic sound, a mix of goth, rock and pop with sentiments and moods of the modern day. What you get is a sound that is current and fresh but with a touch of soothing nostalgia. The album is good and the band is still relevant.
But this passage is not about GLJ’s new album. It’s about me. (haha) Well, it’s about me and how I came to know the band. I don’t know how I missed them growing up. They were in my favorite genre. I definitely remember the name and a couple of the songs but somehow I missed out on being a fan. That is until 10 years ago when I met the band and got to know their music. Better late than never.
Touring drummer, Joel Patterson, is one of the kindest guys you will ever meet. He was friends with a group of friends I hung out with sometimes in the Hollywood rock scene. He never had a bad word to say about anyone (even when everyone else did) and would always make you feel comfortable. Nowadays when he’s not on the road he’s traveling or spending time in his peaceful home at Joshua Tree, California.
Guitarist and co-founding member James Stevenson has also been a member of bands such as The Cult, The Alarm and Gen X. Over the past 10 years, I have hung out with him backstage, had dinner with him and mutual friends at Mexican restaurants in LA and drank with him in London until the pub closed down. He never remembers me. This was true again Saturday night as I said hello to him backstage. At least this time he looked at me like he thought I was familiar. To be fair, he’s a very nice guy and he does meet a lot of people all the time. He’s always friendly especially when I remind him that we met back when he had a crush on my friend. I always did want to see those two end up together. Of course that would mean more of me teasing him about not remembering me.
Of the three, the story of how Jay Aston and I met is probably the most interesting. I met the singer at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Not to be confused with the Rainbow Room in New York City, the Rainbow has been the rock n roll mecca since the 1970’s. Throughout the decades, everyone from Led Zeppelin to Guns n Roses, Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson have made it their regular bar at one point or another. Apart from the celebrities, the crowd was made up of tourists and regulars. The regulars were mostly musicians trying to make it in Hollywood and those who loved metal. They could be found there in their spandex, leather, chains, spikes and tight jeans drinking themselves into oblivion every night of the week. The people-watching was every bit as good as the music the bar played.
Surprisingly, for as dive-y as the place is, they have good food. The menu has a lot of options ranging from cheap but tasty pizzas all the way to lobster and steak. The night I met Jay we were both meeting the same group of people for dinner. The planner of the night was a girl named Angel. A talented Microsoft employee by day, rocker chick by night, Angel is also the niece of one of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins, and an interesting person in general. We all sat together in a corner booth all night drinking. When the bar closed, Jay and I swapped numbers and agreed to go out sometime.
No Love Connection
A few nights later we found ourselves on a date at a nicer restaurant on the Sunset Strip just a couple of blocks away from the Rainbow. Jay, who is a few years older than me mentioned that he was thinking about cutting back a lot on his drinking. He had been getting very drunk for many years and felt it was time to start slowing down. I didn’t mention this to him at the time but this did not work for me. I was still at the height of my rebellious years and in complete denial that the time would inevitably come for me to slow down as well. We each drank a glass of wine and talked for awhile. Then, we drank more wine. Then more. Then we went to the Rainbow and sat at the bar and drank until it closed again.
We talked about many things including our careers. At one point, I managed to get Gene Loves Jezebel confused with Johnny Hates Jazz and informed him that I loved the song ‘Shattered Dreams.’ Jay said, “I love that song too. It’s not one of mine though.” Oops. By this point I was drunk though and already saying hello to all the regulars and ordering another Bacardi & Diet Coke (my drink of choice back then). The night ended, we said goodbye and went our separate ways. In the morning, Jay sent me an email. He said he’d had a really nice time but that there had been no love connection and he’d like to be friends. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. So classy, he’d made a friend forever. If only all men were as honest as Jay. I wrote back and told him I absolutely would love to be friends with him. Since then we have hung out in Los Angeles and London. In fact, he was one of the first and only people I knew when I moved to London.
Like many famed musicians, Jay has his story to tell. He and his identical twin brother, Michael, founded Gene Loves Jezebel back in 1980. Over the next 10 years they had many hits including ‘Motion of Love’, ‘Desire’ and ‘Jealous’. Unfortunately, the brothers were the original Liam and Noel Gallagher (of Oasis) and couldn’t get along. Michael left the band and Jay continued on with the rest of the original members. When I met Jay, he and the band were in the midst of a legal battle with Michael in part over the name. As it stands now there are two versions of the band aptly referred to as Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel and Michael Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel. Not ideal but they seem to be making it work.
This past Saturday night, while Ben and I were at the O2 Academy in Islington watching the Jay Aston version, one of my best friends in LA was at The Troubador in Hollywood watching the Michael version. I know I am biased but the Jay Aston version is every bit as good as they were in their heyday. Michael’s version is merely a good tribute band. It only stands to reason though as all of the original members are still with Jay. Sorry BFF in LA!!
Needless to say, Ben and I enjoyed the show. The venue was packed with people singing along to all of their old favorites as well as songs from the brand new album. The new songs were every bit as good thus proving that Gene Loves Jezebel, solid members of Generation X, are still relevant. Jay is completely sober these days and it appears to have only made him better. I like to think I have matured as well; heavy drinking and late-night bar hopping pretty much a thing of the past. I do still love a good rock concert.
Our generation may have reached middle age but we are not like those that came before us. I say this all the time. We are still out there singing at concerts, dancing into the night, creating great things and living our lives just as we did in our 20’s…only better. Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel is every bit a part of that. Their live shows and new album, Dance Underwater are proof. If like me you didn’t catch them back in the day, check them out now.