A long time ago, I played bass in a multi-talentless rock band. The best thing I can say about my playing is that I wasn’t as bad as Joe, the drummer.
Everybody but Joe was aware of our stinkitude, so for a good chunk of our existence we didn’t play outside of the singer’s basement. And when you don’t play out, you don’t need a name. But one night in late 1991 we screwed up and accepted an invite to play at a restaurant in a strip mall in Laurel. So, we needed to call ourselves something. We didn’t know much about the town except that it was the place where George Wallace was shot, and everybody but Joe agreed we were the worst thing to hit town since the shooter, Arthur Bremer.
Thus, the Bremers were born.
I’m thinking of this today because the guy who shot Wallace (and the guy who put “Saturday Night Special” into the national lexicon and became the model for Travis Bickel of Taxi Driver) has just been paroled after 35 years in the slammer.
That Laurel gig went horribly: I’ve tried to black out most of it, but I can’t shake the vision of a rotund couple in flannel sitting up against the stage looking as if they smelled something awful all the way through our stab at Aerosmith’s version of “Train Kept a Rollin’.” But, if you take a name, you’ve gotta play out, so the Bremers burdened local audiences for several years with occasional shows at the Grog and Tankard, the Wisconsin Avenue club that back then would let anybody willing to get ripped off play.
The highlight of our career came at a benefit for homeless people in Alexandria, for which our manager (looking back, I don’t know how we got a manager) made up for the nonprofit gigs at the Grog by demanding, and getting, a payday of $250. That’s not only serious money for local rock and roll, but also more than all the donations the charity sponsoring the event took in.
I think I own the only proof that the Bremers ever existed, in the form of at least one rehearsal tape lying around here somewhere. Now that Arthur Bremer’s getting out, I better find that cassette and destroy it. No jury that ever heard us play would convict the guy for hunting down every Bremer for what we did in his name. Joe, wherever he is, should be particularly concerned.
And while all these years later I feel guilty about taking money from the homeless and embarrassed about the ugly racket we made for too long, I gotta say: As band names go, “The Bremers” still makes me smile.