Chapter 7 Family Life – Heat of the moment

The next morning, after that horrible night in December of 1973, I gathered together all my newspaper and magazine clippings of Carl with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and I sat down on the floor in my room, and one by one, I crumpled each of them into a ball. After a while, I had mounds of papers all around me. I recalled how I told Carl how I was collecting them and kept them in file folders. I put all the crumpled pieces in bags and put them in the trash.

It was sad for me when I went downstairs and sat at my drum set to see the near life-size poster of Carl’s face that I had taped on the wall. The Brain Salad Surgery album sleeve included a poster of the band members’ faces. I rose from my drum seat, went over to it, and I removed it. I didn’t want to play drums anymore; it only reminded me of him. He broke my heart; he ruined my love of drumming. He inspired me, but because he was so cruel, I had to quit.

From Brain Salad Surgery

I advertised to sell the drums, and a man answered the ad and arrived with his young son, and the boy was thrilled to have them. So some good came of it all.

After that awful incident with Carl, I left that world behind too. I felt like I ran away from one side of a wall of fame to the other side, although I loved meeting many fantastic musicians. As much as I loved music and felt a mysterious attachment to it, I gave up looking for a place in it all. I had no choice. I felt that my journey had been a sad waste of time. But what I didn’t know was that a music journey was continuing without my full knowledge, and it would take years for me to realize it.

Two years later, in 1975, I became employed by the Chrysler Corporation as a laborer. It was a small parts distribution center. At times I worked in the office, but I enjoyed working with the warehouse workers much more. It was twice the pay I was getting as a secretary, and it was a relatively easy job. I needed extra money to support myself, and it was more than enough to rent an apartment and buy all new furniture.

One guy that I worked with there seemed interesting, and he was nice looking, and I liked him, and he liked me. We got married in January of 1977, two years after we met. I took a detour from the music journey. I was 26 years old, and although the music was in my heart and soul, it was time for me to have a simple life.

Four months later, Emerson Lake & Palmer were back touring with an orchestra on The Works Tour. They played Detroit’s Cobo Hall on May 31st and June 1st. They hadn’t toured in three years, but I wasn’t interested in talking to Carl again. I told my husband a bit about him, and I said that he was a friend, but that he didn’t care for me at all. I was curious about what the band was up to musically, so I bought tickets to the show.

I believe it was the first show in Detroit at Cobo Hall that we went to, and we had nose bleed seats, but that didn’t matter to me. It felt strange sitting way up there, so far away from the stage, when at one time I was so very close to it all.

The songs they played were basically from the previous tour except for the new songs Pirates and C’est la vie. The orchestra was huge, and I wondered how the band could afford to pay for it all.

I remember very well during the song C’est la vie; at one point when Greg Lake was singing, it sounded like he sang “say Denise” instead of “C’est la vie.” It was bizarre and shocking, and I quickly turned to the lady next to me and asked, “What did he say?” No one knew what I meant by my question. I never forgot about it, but I didn’t think it meant anything.

In 1979 my son was born, and he is my old child. We were a low-income family at that time because of layoffs at the auto companies. The 1979 energy crisis led to the global recession of the early ’80s. It was a difficult time for many people. We lived in Detroit, in the home where I grew up. My parents enjoyed their retirement home in the wooded “Up North” area of Michigan. We were a happy family.

There wasn’t much music played in our home, and we didn’t have MTV as Detroit hadn’t acquired a cable company for several years. But, occasionally, I’d see something about music on other channels.

It was about 1982 that I saw the video and heard the new song “Heat of the moment” by the band ASIA and the musicians were Carl Palmer, John Wetton, Geoff Downes, and Steve Howe. I was happy for my old drummer friend, although he didn’t deserve that I would care about him anymore. I knew that disliking someone was a waste of energy, so I forgave him, but I didn’t forget what he did to me.

The first line of their first song, “I never meant to be so bad to you,” was like an apology. “Do you remember when we used to dance, and incidents arose from circumstance?” That reminded me of where we met on the dance floor and the strange circumstances that brought us together.

Some images in the video stood out to me, like the Mickey Mouse watches, like the one I wore. The man and woman in the video shown face to face talking to each other. Carl and I are the same height, and when we’d speak, we’d look into each other’s eyes. (On Asia’s second album is a song called “Eye to Eye.” And on the third album, in the song “Go,” are the lyrics “face to face.”)

The song and video reminded me of my teenage ambitions. But I had all those things already, like marriage and a child. I remember trying to learn the words and singing along and dancing around the living room with my son. Once again, I put all those strange coincidences in the back of my mind, but I did think that the drumming on the song seemed very easy and something that I could play. That got me to thinking.

The all-girl band the Go Go’s were popular at that time, and I thought that perhaps I could have my own girls band. So I started back taking drum lessons at the local drum shop. I remembered everything that I had learned in previous years. My drum teacher was a Neil Peart fan, and I was learning some great drum patterns. I still had my copy of the first drum instruction book that Carmine Appice had written. He sent me the book in the mail. My girlfriend and I went to see Beck, Bogert and Appice in Toronto. I think it was 1974. She told Carmine that I played drums, and he took my name and address, and days later, his book arrived in the mail. “To Denise, hope this helps with your drumming,” and he signed his name. Years later, I gave it to my nephew, who was learning to play. I could play every drum pattern in that book, and it taught me four-way drumming independence.

After finishing up with one of my lessons, Bill Bruford was there at The Drum Shop, answering questions and signing autographs. I wanted to ask him something, so I asked a question about the matched grip vs. traditional grip. He said that the traditional grip was always awkward for him. Over the years, he’s played jazz beautifully with matched grip, so it wasn’t an issue for him. When I went to get his autograph, he asked me if I played, and I said “Yes.” He was very nice. He wasn’t in the band Yes at the time but played with them years later, and then he left that band for good in 1990.

I started a search in the want ads for female musicians and found a guitarist that was an excellent player. Then both of us found a bass player. We were a three-piece band just practicing in my basement. Somehow we came up with the band name The Brats. We didn’t have a singer, so I sang in the meantime and did my best Mick Jagger vocals. It wasn’t awkward at all, singing and playing drums. I didn’t even think about it. It was a lot of fun. The guitarist knew many rock songs. One of our favorites to play was the song by T. Rex, “Bang a Gong.” After several weeks we decided to play at a large club called Traxx in Detroit. On certain nights the club would allow local rock bands to play three songs using the house drums and PA system. We hired a temporary singer.

The drum riser was relatively high up on the stage. I wasn’t afraid but more excited. We played “Around and Around” by Chuck Berry, but in the style of The Rolling Stones, and I sang it. The next song was “Baba O’Reilly” by The Who. At the very beginning, the bass drum beater got stuck up my pant leg. I forgot to tape it down. I couldn’t play Keith Moon style very well, but I knew that the significant drum fill in the song had to be good. I worked on it all day before the show. I liked how it sounded. The last song was the Stray Cats “Rock this town.” The guitarist was excellent but setting the pace, and I couldn’t make her slow down, and it all ended up very fast. It was fun. After the show, when we sat down in the audience, many people were coming up to us and saying we sounded cool. A club owner who was scouting for bands asked us if we wanted to play at his club, and he gave us his business card.

A new vocalist and keyboard player joined our band, so we phoned up the club owner, and we were off on our next adventure at the Mustang Lounge. We were to play a few songs as the warm-up band.

Walking inside, I realized something wasn’t right. I asked our guitarist, “Which songs are we suppose to play in a country bar?” I thought she was joking when she laughed and said, “Old time rock and roll” by Bob Seger! I thought, what the hell?

It felt like I was in “The Blues Brothers” movie, and we should play the theme from “Rawhide.” I imagined being surrounded by chicken wire and people throwing beer bottles at us. They only played two kinds of music at the Mustang Lounge, country and western, but we were telling them we still like that old-time rock ‘n’ roll.

The audience was very kind and applauded. I had guys coming up to talk to me after our show. The shoe was on the other foot. I was the drummer, and I had fans. It was pretty cool.

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I was enjoying playing drums along with some of the Asia songs. I loved trying to play along to Genesis “Turn it on again.” Phil Collins is such a brilliant drummer. It seemed like 4/4 time, but what was I doing wrong? The timing changes to 5/4; I finally figured that out.

While playing along to an Asia tape, something about the lyrics seemed familiar again. I was angry, stopped playing, and went over to the cassette to see who wrote the songs. I found it strange that Carl Palmer didn’t write any of the songs. I thought, well, how do they seem to know so much? I brushed it all off again.

I took the girls in my band to see the band, Asia. It was at the outdoor venue Pine Knob music theatre. I could only get one good ticket in the pavilion for the third row, and we took turns using the seat. My band’s guitarist was a Steve Howe fan, so she watched him play his solo piece.

The seat was a few rows from the stage and about four seats from the end. We arrived early, and I sat down. Later I noticed that the roadies were still working on the stage. I saw the drums moved to the far left side, directly in front of where I was sitting. That was weird because usually, Carl’s drums are in the middle of the stage. Later in the show, I managed to stand alone right against the wall and have a better view. I wanted Carl to see me standing there, but I didn’t look the same at all with a short hairstyle.

Carl Palmer with Asia June 16, 1982 Pine Knob Music theatre. Photo given to me by my band member’s brother.

After the show, there were many fans at the hotel nearby. Rumors were going around that John Wetton was fired from the band. In the hotel lounge, John and Geoff Downes were sitting at the bar drinking. Steve Howe had his son on tour, and they were walking around. Steve was signing autographs. I wanted to tell Carl about my all-girl band, and I brought a cassette tape of us practicing. I almost ran right into him in the lobby, but a guy asked him for an autograph and got in the way. So I just walked by and said, “Hi Carl,” and he said, “Hi.” I don’t think he knew who I was. He didn’t want to mingle with fans like the rest of the band, so I figured he didn’t want to talk to anyone.

Sadly, I knew my band would only last a couple years, but it was fun. I had my family to take care of.

It was December 6, 1983, and the concert Asia in Asia in Budokan Tokyo was live via satellite on MTV and radio. I didn’t have MTV yet, so I listened to it on the radio. Greg Lake from ELP filled in for John Wetton. That was strange hearing Greg singing Asia songs.

The song “The Heat Goes On” is like part two of “Heat of the Moment” with the lyrics “You walk tall, got your head in the clouds” that described me, alright. Many of the songs sounded like my times being with Carl.

They played their song called “Eye to Eye,” written by Downes/Wetton. The song begins, “I don’t want to see your picture on a faded video,” I thought, well, I’m not in any video, so that settles that; they didn’t use me for any songs. I was glad of that.

But, what I didn’t know then was that I was in an Emerson, Lake & Palmer film from 1973. But how could a video be faded when music videos had just gone mainstream with MTV in 1982? Now a film, however, could be faded. Like the film I was in is faded. I didn’t find out I was in the Manticore film until I saw a bootleg copy in 1992.

Also, in the song “Eye to Eye” are the lyrics, “I don’t want to be a memory, just another Anglophile.” I thought the lyrics were “angle file.” It made more sense to me because I told Carl how I kept newspaper and magazine clippings of bands in file folders.

In 1988, Keith Emerson, Robert Berry, and Carl Palmer formed the band called 3. They released an album called To the Power of Three. It received negative reviews, but the single “Talkin’ Bout” reached number 9 on Mainstream rock charts.

They played at Harpos in Detroit; a small movie theatre converted into a concert theatre. I went with my husband, and we sat at a round table near the front of the stage. I figured Carl wouldn’t recognize me at all anyway. I looked so different with short curly hair; plus, it had been years since I ran away from him and his plan to show me in a false light with photos. I forgave somewhat, but never forgot about it. I knew he never cared for me, but I still cared for him a bit and even liked his drumming.

When they first came out to play, many people went up to the stage to wave, and so did I. There were a couple of guys who sat at our table, and I gave them an earful after having a few drinks. We all laughed when I told my Palmer stories. I didn’t mention that horrific night, though. I said that he’s not the macho guy that he seems to be at all. When a girl with the show started doing a sexy dance across the stage, we all started cracking up. I said, you know, that whole thing is just a cover-up. I guess a big part of me was still hurt.

When we got home, my husband said, “You know, Carl pointed his drumstick at you when you went up to the stage.” I still didn’t believe he recognized me, and I forgot about it.

(While writing, I was shocked to find that the date of that concert at Harpos in Detroit was on April 23, 1988, exactly 17 years after I had met Carl at the Eastown Theatre in Detroit)

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Up next…Chapter 8, “A Dangerous but Irresistible pastime.”