It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Part XXXVIII

It was Thursday, December 18, 1986.

It had been almost a month since I met the rest of my band. Things had clicked famously. The three brothers had been playing in bands together for years, so they were pretty tight. So when we got together and actually started playing – in the basement of a duplex on 24th at Hennepin in the Wedge – things really took off.

After the radio interview, I’d worn a groove in the carpet at William’s Uptown Bar, where Larry Sahagian – who’d made the mistake of being my guest on the Mitch Berg Show that late night a few weeks ago – was the booker.  Finally, perhaps as much to be rid of me as anything, he booked us to play.  We’d debut on Sunday, December 28.

Right before my show.

No matter.  I could do it all.  Besides – we had bigger things to worry about.

Like picking a name.

And getting some posters out.

And learning an hour’s worth of music, while we were at it.

We started practicing in late November; three nights a week, Tuesday through Thursday (the bass player worked Mondays, and who really wanted to practice on the weekends?).  The first few weeks of practice with any band you enjoy playing with are like the first few weeks of a really fun relatiionship; you just can’t stop, you want to spend all your free time at it.  So we did; I’d head over to practice after I got done with the Vogel Show in the evening (I’d haul my guitar to work), we’d start at seven, and play until ten or so (and usually later, since the neighbors on the top floor of the squalid duplex usually were too high to care).

Coming up with music was easy; I had demo tapes for about four dozen songs I’d written; I managed to sell the guys on a solid couple dozen of them.  The other guitar player, Nick, the oldest of the brothers, had four or five of his own.  It only took 10 or 12 songs to play a set (you only got about an hour if you were an opener anyway), so we were fixed.

But getting people to show up?  On a Sunday?  Another entire story.

As to the name…

I’d never been in a band where selecting a name was anyting other than a complete donnybrook.  Egos were involved; creative people were getting doused in each others’ creative juices.

The four of us spent an hour or so after several practices tossing out names.

“The Joseph Stalin Band!”

“The Head of Alfredo Garcia!”

“Couch Beautiful Shriek…”

“The Turning Cookies!”

And on and on and on.

We were getting to the point where we had to do something to start publicizing the gig.  It was Thursday night.  I walked into the basement – which always smelled very faintly of natural gas, probably from some not-entirely-sealed pipe somewhere – and set my guitar case on an unused clothes dryer…

…and saw a notepad covered with scribbled notes in the various brothers’ hands.  At least one of the brothers had been putting band names in the notebook; I noticed a few names that had come and gone over the past few days.  One note read, tersely…

Tenant’s Union”

I broke up laughing.  “Perfect!”

“Huh?” asked Will, the drummer.

I expounded briefly on how I loved the name “Tenant’s Union”.  They all cocked their eyes…

…and agreed, although with a few rolled eyes.

Thenceforth, we were “Tenant’s Union”.

It took me the better part of a year to learn why they seemed so quizzical;  the note had nothing to do with naming the band.  The guys were literally going to call the Tenant’s Union on their slumlord landlord.

But no matter.  We had a gig to get ready for.

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