I sit alone in a corner of a crowded bar. No one seems to notice me as I sit staring at my whiskey glass. Nobody sees the pain on my face as the jukebox play the song “The Way It Used to be”. That song really follows me at any bar I go. Whenever I go, it seems to be played. There is no thing that will make me forget from the memories it brings back. I was once a bass guitarist with one of the world’s most successful band, The Doodly Blues (The Doodies). Now, in our 27th year, we are on another sell-out world tour and record sales have earned $300 million. That song is just one of many hits that have made each member of the band a millionaire, with private jets and luxury homes. Me, the name is Denver Yamaguchi, sitting, cherishing a drink in a shabby bar, knows that I was the man who threw it all away. I can only blame myself.
In our early years, I had been the founder member of the group, and our first years were exciting. From being a local band, we had become one of the newest new groups around. My life has moved into the fast lane. When The Doodies went on tour with the Beatles, it seemed that I was never in the same place for more than a few hours. The band would land in London in the middle of the night, take forty minutes’ sleep and then spend twelve hours preparing for a TV show. It was hard for all of us, but I found it almost impossible. The trouble was I was the only married member of the band. I also had a son, and I would fly back from abroad to be with my family if only for a couple of hours. Then I would be back on the road, to the fantastic, sparkling life of a rock star. Trying to live in two different worlds at once became a real stress. Things came to a head when the band recorded a version of a blues number called “Go Now”. It became an instant hit. Sarah, my wife, had just given birth to another boy named Paul, after out Beatle friend. However, the hit song meant more recording and more touring, and more time away from my family. I began to struggle about my future; surely, it was the best to get out now, while we were still at the top? Surely, the only way now could be down. Sarah was the other factor. She was stuck at home reading stories about the band’s wild parties, most of which were true, and it was getting to her. Cynthia Lennon (John’s wife) used to compare notes with her and Sarah would then give me a bad time. Finally, sitting in my London flat one day, listening to “Go Now”, I made the decision I felt sorry ever since. To quit the band. The next day I said goodbye to the people and walked out of the London recording studios an ex-rock star.
For the first few months later, life was great. I had a chance to enjoy my family for the first time. Money was no problem. With The Doodly Blues, I had been drawing $1000 a week just as pocket money, a wealth in those days. I had a nice place. My troubles were over. However, in less than twelve months, the money had run out. Bills began to mount up and we moved into a smaller flat, but that was not enough. Finally, I realized I would have to go back to work. I could not reenter the music world. My place in the band had been filled, and, besides, I had been out of the fame for a year, an ever and a day in the fast-moving pop scene. In desperation, I turned to a skill I learned when I left school at fifteen: carpentry. The day I started back at work as a carpenter was the darkest of his life. My brother had fixed me up with a job renovating an inn. At the end of the day, I hiked half a mile down the road in the pouring rain to the bus stop. Standing there, soaked, it seemed impossible to me that I had ever been with the band. “My God, what have I done?” I thought. “To think a year ago I was playing to 60 000 fans at London …” My despair was compounded the following year, when Sarah and I split up. The boys, Lee and Paul, stayed with me while I struggled to “make ends meet”.
The band did not fade into obscurity as I had forecast. Instead, The Doodies went from strength to strength with a succession of hits and albums. Today, I had earns about $2000 a week and lives with my elderly brother in London. I find it hard to forget that we could so easily be living in a Hollywood mansion. “Every day I hear something they did on the radio,” I admit. “And every time I ask myself: What if?” There is some relief for me in the way my boys have turned out, Lee, 27, is managing director of a successful graphic design company, and Paul, 25, and runs his own meat company. I said, “I suppose having an old man who turned his back on fortune must have encouraged them on.”
The group has not forgotten about me; I see them whenever they play in London. I am always invited backstage and there is lots of hugging and pats on my back. We get on so well. In some ways, nothing has changed because we really are the same people. The biggest difference is that afterwards they fly back to Florida in private jets, and I catch the bus back to London.