The following events took place between August of 1993 and April of 1994. Had these events unfolded in a slightly different manner, it’s possible that few people outside the world of cycling enthusiasts might know the name Lance Armstrong. Conversely, more people outside of my living room might know mine.
During the late summer of 1993, I was fulfilling my duties as the buyer for a large record store, trolling through a new release catalog for Polygram when a then-unknown singer’s forthcoming album caught my eye. The album’s list of guest musicians was an impressive collection whose names I recognized even as the most noteworthy credit of the singer herself had been as a backup singer for Michael Jackson in the waning days of his pre-pariah period. Curious, I requested an advance copy from my label rep.
Days later, my request had been granted and, one morning before heading to work, I gave it a listen over a breakfast of Pop-Tarts and leftover pizza. It was pleasant enough, if unspectacular. I trudged to work.
Now, in this record store we did our best to avoid interaction with the customers. There was one exception which was when we found the customer to have aesthetic appeal to our individual sex, gender, and/or orientation. As it would happen, the same day I perused my advance copy of the unknown singer, I noticed a rather fetching lass approach the store counter, midriff bared and possessing the belly of a goddess.
As I rang up her purchases, I deftly made conversation in a most rico-suave fashion. She handed me a credit card and I noticed her name. With the cool of a cat burglar, I said, “You’re Sheryl Crow.” Inside, I nodded my head and thought “smooooooth” as I added, “I was listening to an advance copy of your album this morning.”
Sheryl and I chatted for a bit about the record and the musicians on it and she was gone. The record was released a month or so later and, initially, sold modestly. It should have been the end of the story, but, like a late-night commercial for Ginsu knives, there’s more.
Fast forward six months. Sheryl Crow is starting to get airplay for the song All I Wanna Do. Nothing major yet, but she’d snagged a gig as the opening act for Crowded House. My then-girlfriend and I had tickets. I generally don’t speak of ex-girlfriends, but, for perspective, the kindest nickname she had among my friends was Fire Bush. Most of her monikers were more in the line of a friend who simply referred to her as Evil (i.e. “So, are you still dating Evil?”).
So, the Fire Bush and I arrive in time to catch the end of Sheryl’s set. Waiting for Crowded House to take the stage, my rep from Sheryl’s label came up to us at the bar. He wanted me to do him a favor and come backstage to hang so that he has someone from one of his accounts. Backstage is usually not what it’s cracked up to be, but there is often free food and drink.
Standing backstage, munching on cocktail weenies and having a beverage, Fire Bush and I stayed out of the fray which is mostly a mixture of egomaniacs and sycophants. From across the room, I see Sheryl. She kept glancing over at me, much to the chagrin of Fire Bush. This continued for 10-15 minutes, ratcheting up the tension between Fire Bush and myself (and, as our relationship was already headed for cinders by this point, there’s no shortage of awkwardness).
Finally, Sheryl made her way over. “I’ve been trying to figure out where I know you from,” she said, taking my hand. I refreshed her memory while simultaneously trying to figure out if I concentrated hard enough whether I could make Fire Bush spontaneously combust. I dismissed the idea as too distracting and likely a buzz kill for everyone but me.
Sheryl smiled. “Yeah. I knew that I knew you,” she said. “Do you know that you are the first person ever to recognize me in public?”
I replied with my usual savoir faire and unmitigated charm, mumbling something like, “Yeah? Huh.”
My mind did mental calculations with the precision of the Casio calculator I’d had in third grade. The first person to recognize her in public? Surely I held a special place in her heart, one which no one else could ever supplant. Such a distinction could certainly be parlayed into a positive response to the query “Would you like to have a drink?” Experience had taught me that “a drink” could lead to several drinks and several drinks could lead to…well, most likely nothing more than a hangover and an opportunity to embarrass myself in front of Sheryl Crow. But, nothing ventured, nothing lost. All she wanted to do is have some fun. Right?
But, I was shackled to Fire Bush. And, furthermore, Fire Bush was enraged, having introduced herself as “his girlfriend.” The only thing going up in flames was me.
But, Crowded House was phenomenal, so here’s a quartet of personal favorites from them.