Who Listens to The Watchmen (or, Sometimes You DO Have Too Much Free Time)

There are some things you never talk about to other people because you’re sure they’ll think you’re a freak. Often, when you finally do admit to it, you find that everyone does it, just nobody talks about it out of fear. I am hoping this is one of those things, as otherwise it has the potential to be the second-most embarrassing thing I could ever post here.

When I was talking about my mix tape, Love Eats Dirt, from June, 1987, I explained why “The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley was on it:

Finally, there’s “The Boys of Summer” which is something of a joke, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing some eye-rolling. Rob and I had come up with an imaginary band called The F.B.I. (the main personages thereof being himself and I) and had decided on a bunch of songs that “they” had done. This was one of them. So yes, it’s on here as representative of “The F.B.I.” instead of Don Henley, but we still dug the song enough to swipe it as “our” own.

(The full story of why this band was called “The F.B.I.” would be the first-most embarrassing thing I could post here.)

So yes, Rob and I had this imaginary band. And I don’t know about him, but I developed that imaginary band a lot. I tweaked the mythology, changed it, and expanded on it.

A few years after we invented The F.B.I. I was dating a girl who lived four hours away from me and spent a lot of time driving between Baton Rouge and Natchitoches. I spent this time doing three things: speeding, listening to music (this was probably the golden age of new music for me), and working that music into the band’s story. I also developed this “story” by doing interviews with myself. It’s not the craziest or dumbest thing ever done in Central Louisiana, believe me. It grew and developed into a full-scale epic, and I’ll tell you a little bit about that now.

First, “The F.B.I.” were written out. They inspired what came after but were eventually discarded. Instead, the story begins with “Lost Dog”.

Lost Dog is a band that consisted of me, Rob, and two others. (Rob is already implicated in all this, and I’m sorry for that, but I’ll leave out all the other real people who populated this universe because they didn’t ask and don’t deserve to be associated with any of this.) I’m lead guitar and singer, and I write most of the songs (naturally — this is my fantasy, of course) Rob was keyboards and there were bass guitar and drums.

In the mythology the premiere New Orleans band, Jet Screamer (this was an actual band at the time this would have been taking place) had left for elsewhere to make it big, leaving a sort of void in the pop music scene. Lost Dog benefits from this by partnering with an all-girls band, Odd Fellows Rest (again, a real band at the time, and I think actually all girls, though not the ones I populated this one with.) Lost Dog/OFR shows were a staple of the New Orleans music scene and both bands got way popular.

The turning point is when Lost Dog scored a show at Tipitina’s during Jazz Fest (I don’t know why Odd Fellow’s Rest wasn’t involved). That got the attention of a rep from Avatar Records, who was impressed. (In my narrative, it’s hard for a rock band from New Orleans to break out because everyone just goes there for jazz and blues.) He offered them a deal, and that’s when things get interesting.

The band don’t sign to the label, they break up.

This offer brings out some bad blood in the band, and a lot of underlying creative differences. They argue about the offer, can’t come to an agreement, and instead dissolve.

For me, though, it doesn’t end there. Soon afterwards I put together another band, this time with five members (another guitarist is added because I guess one was needed?) This band is called…”The Watchmen” (yes, named after the comic, of course). The keyboardist isn’t available right away, so we start working on some guitar-based songs. Liking where it’s going, I decide to put together a demo and send it to the Avatar Records guy. He thinks it’s worth a gamble and The Watchmen are born.

Let’s talk about the actual music. For Lost Dog, I swiped a lot of jangle- and power-pop stuff. No actual R.E.M., but a lot of things of that ilk. Guadalcanal Diary, Material Issue, Pursuit of Happiness, Uncle Green, that sort of thing.

The Watchmen’s first album is, essentially, Psychocandy by the Jesus and Mary Chain. Their second album is culled largely from Shriekback’s Oil and Gold and Big Night Music albums, and yes, that’s a huge difference. They’re all over the map, musically, because why not. Later albums swipe from R.E.M., more Jesus and Mary Chain, and Ultra Vivid Scene. Briefly I also swiped from Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode but I didn’t like those parts and eventually retconned them out. (There was also a sub-plot involving “Pro-Gen (Move Any Mountain)” by The Shamen which was too dopey even for me and also got retconned out.) I paid back these bands by saying that while The Watchmen were doing these things of theirs, they were doing even better stuff, so it’s all fair.

How popular were The Watchmen? You’ll be shocked to find out they were pretty high up there! Not U2 or Pixies up there, but doing okay! And me, I got a lot of invites to do guest spots with other artists.

Even when I (the real me) kind of lost interest in the band that too could get worked into the story. Eventually the band settles down and while it never actively broke up, it’s on an extended hiatus. My character did a side project, “Moonpatrol”, which rips off early Shriekback songs.

I won’t go into detail, but there’s a lot of supporting cast, mostly based on people I know. I even know how it all turns out for most of them (everyone gets a pretty happy ending, mine is of course the best.)

It’s been a while since I really worked on the imaginary band (though not as long as it might should have been) so it’s out of date, but every now and then when I’m driving back from game night I’ll think about The Watchmen and Where They Should Be Now and what I might want to add to their discography. It’s kind of like an old friend made up of bits of old friends, but in a way that isn’t creepy. Well, not too creepy.

NOTE: I started and erased this post about fifty times before finally just powering through and writing it. I don’t know what’s weirder: the material itself or how uncomfortable I seem to be with talking about it.

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