Introduction to Camper Van Beethoven’s “The Long Plastic Hallway”
As told by David Lowery, September 10, 2009, El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, California
I apologize if you’ve heard this story before, but I sort of have to tell it because it takes place in Los Angeles.
A long time, I think it was maybe 1981 or something like that, some of us were in another band in Santa Cruz called Box O’ Laffs. One summer, the guitarist got a job working down in Pasadena. And at some point during the summer he began to phone us and tell us that he’d been hanging out with the percussionist from Talking Heads, and that we were going to get to open for The Talking Heads when they came to L.A. to play.
This seemed improbable to us as well. However, he kept calling and insisting that it actually was going to happen. Eventually the day approached when we were going to have to leave and drive down here and decide that we were going to play with The Talking Heads or not.
So we started driving down here. Meanwhile we’d been calling and, like, asking, “Well, how much do we get? You know, how come we’re not in the advertisements?” You know, we just had all these questions, whatever.
Anyway, we get to Pasadena about, I don’t know, about midnight or 1:00 in the morning, or whatever. And we go over to find where our guitarist is supposedly living, but he’s not actually living there, he’s living someplace else. I think it’s kind like of this offshoot of Highland Park. And we show up there. It’s not exactly a crack house, but you could say that it was like a crack home, or something like that. It was sort of nice.
But anyway, and he’s living there with the percussionist from The Talking Heads, who now has quotation marks around his name. So hoping against all hope, we start pestering this guy. “What time do we play?” “How come we’re not in the advertisements?” “How long do we get to play?” “How much do we get paid?” We’re going on like this, and the guy’s getting more and more frustrated with us as it goes along. And clearly, clearly we’re not getting it. And finally he says, “Man, I am not talking about that show. That show is the fake show. The real show is on a flying saucer above Los Angeles after that show.”
Four hundred miles in the back of a pick-up truck.
The thing was, he was absolutely right. We did play on a flying saucer with The Talking Heads above Los Angeles, and this is the song that tells the story.