"My hair looks pretty good here, right?" asked Paul as he stood before the poster of his band, Exxtreem Exxsitement, "Yeah? Good hair?"
Tony looked up at the poster but said nothing. Posters: Music promotion, old school, baby!
Guerrilla Marketing, they called it in the old days. In the days before the web and buying Instagram followers and all that.
And, by God, it worked in the old days, so why not now?
Exxtreem Exxsitement was a tribute band to all of the 80s hair bands (thus, Paul's concern about his hair). And just like the hair bands of the 80s who would plaster the Sunset Strip with posters for their gigs at The Whisky and The Roxy, so too did Paul and his band plaster their city streets with posters of their tribute to that music.
Sure a band would have to use a more modern internet marketing tactic if they are, say, in Boise and they want to reach music fans in San Diego. But for local promotion, posters could still be an effective music marketing strategy. Get more local fans to come hear your music live.
Which was why Paul was so excited about plastering the neighborhood around the club with 1,000 copies of his face.
Paul's teenaged companion Tony did not reply to Paul's question of hair quality. Tony merely scanned up and down the darkened street worriedly. He couldn't be sure, but he had thought that he had heard a police siren nearby.
Cops? Oh man…
The two young musicians had just finished plastering a dozen posters along a row of boards outside a construction site. They had finished this little piece or anarchic music promotion and Tony was now more than ready to leave.
There were four of them out that night, split up into two teams of two. Dressed in black and roaming the after-midnight streets of the city. They were silent as assassins in the night. Musical Ninjas armed only with posters and glue.
"I asked you a question man," Paul repeated.
"Whatever," said Tony as he glanced over his shoulder.
"Whatever? Whatever? What the hell do you mean 'whatever?' We spent a hell of a lot of money on these posters — like, most of our marketing budget. My hair had better look good. Damn good."
"Yeah it looks good," Tony replied without making eye contact, "This is a great promotion. Your music is great. Your hair is great. But we've gotta go now."
Paul made no move to move. Instead, he scanned the multiple images of himself and his bandmates which now adorned the wall. Paul was vain, no doubt about that. Yet though he was not nearly as good-looking as his imagination saw himself he could play a mean guitar solo.
Which was good enough for the fans of Exxtreem Exxsitement. A mean guitar solo was exactly what they wanted in their music.
Paul now surveyed the entire wall, receiving a definite satisfaction out of seeing his portrait repeated over and again for half a block. He sighed with contentment, completely ignoring the paranoia of his friend.
Tony had gathered up the glue, brushes and extra posters and he was now more than ready for the two of them to get moving. It was the middle of the night and they had just committed a crime — granted, plastering the town with posters was a fairly minor crime, but a crime nonetheless.
And when you've committed a crime, hanging around admiring the evidence didn't strike Tony as the most intelligent thing on the planet. "Let's go," he said nervously.
"Would you relax? You're still a minor. You've got nothing to worry about," said Paul.
"Yes I do."
"But I'm 22," Paul continued, "So if anybody should be worried, it should be me. But do I look worried?"
"Do I look worried?" Paul repeated.
"All right. So you've got nothing to worry about."
"Yes I do."
Paul just laughed and smiled at his friend. He thought rather condescendingly that with Tony's lack of nerve, the kid would never get anywhere in this world.
"What have you got to worry about?" Paul asked, "If the cops catch you at something what happens to you? I'll tell you what happens to you: they call your mom and dad. Big deal."
"It is a big deal. You know what my mom would do to me if she got a call from the cops?"
"Send you to bed without any cookies? Dude, relax all right? I do this all the time. This is how you market a band. It has always been the way that you market a band. Postering is the essence of music marketing."
This did not set Tony at ease. He continued to rock back and forth nervously, with Paul's nonchalance merely making his own paranoia all the worse.
"Now look at this poster," Paul continued, "this is a thing of beauty. Don't you think they're cool posters? I mean, I do have a few issues with the graphic design, but me and the guys look great!" Paul pointed to himself in the photo, "Look at me. Tell me, don't I look good in that picture?"
"I don't know."
"Don't worry, I'm not asking you in a homosexual fashion or anything. I'm not trying to hit on you. I'm just asking if you agree that I look good in this poster. All right?"
"Took an hour to get my hair to look right," Paul continued, "I hate my hair. But I do look good in this poster. Don't you think?"
"If I tell you that you look good, can we please leave?" Tony pleaded.
"What do you mean by that?"
Tony was exasperated. He cried, "What do I mean by what?"
"What do you mean by 'if I tell you that you look good.' That sounds to me like you don't really think so, but you're willing to say it.
"You look good."
"No, no, no," Paul said, shaking his head, "Too late for that. You've already shown that you don't think so, you can't say that you do now."
"Really. You look great."
"Really. No, you don't think so. So tell me what's on your mind."
"What's on my mind is that I don't want to go to jail for hanging up your stupid music posters!"
"Stupid?" said Paul as he turned to meet Tony's eyes, "My posters are stupid?"
"That's not what I meant."
"Well that's what you said," replied Paul with a somewhat exaggerated expression of hurt. "Do you know how much these posters cost? Five hundred bucks! These damn things cost five hundred bucks. I didn't pay for them, Sarah did — she likes our music that much — and that's a hell of a lot of money to be shelling out in marketing and promotion costs just to have somebody say that they're stupid."
"I didn't mean that."
"Well, what did you mean?"
"Can we go somewhere else and talk about this?" Tony pleaded once more.
"No. You tell me right now what's wrong with it."
"Christ..." Tony trailed off in frustration. He looked Paul in the eyes and realized that this guy was not going to move until he got an answer. This left Tony with two choices: leave without Paul, or answer him. "Okay," said Tony, "it's not the poster as such."
"So what is it 'as such?'"
"You know I like your music. I think it's great. I really do. Or I wouldn't be out here helping you with this crazy 'promotion' thing."
"But you guys wear too much makeup."
"You wear too much makeup. You look like girls."
Paul again laughed, "You still don't get it do you? Rock and roll is about image, man. Music is image. This," he said as he pointed to his poster, "This is what sells. Strong image. That's everything in the music biz."
Tony replied, "You never saw Bob Dylan wearing mascara."
"Bob Dylan? Bob Dylan? You're comparing me to Bob Dylan? The guy can't even sing and you're comparing me to him?"
"Hey," said Tony defensively, "Bob Dylan is one of the greatest songwriters and musicians..."
"Oh save it," Paul interrupted, "I don't even want to talk about Bob Dylan. Besides that was a different time. Just playing an acoustic guitar and singing out of your nose was enough way back then. Today it's different. There's competition. You need an image. And this is it. We look hot!"
"Music," said Tony with surprising firmness, "should be about music. You should make good music. What you wear shouldn't enter into it. At all."
Paul was surprised that his friend had spoken up for himself in that way. Perhaps there was hope for the guy after all.
Though it didn't change Paul's opinion about "image" one bit.
"You're so naive," said Paul from the vast wisdom of his 22 years. "So naive. One day you'll have to grow up and face the realities of this world. The realities of the music industry. And the reality of the music industry is image."
Tony was about to reply to this, when he happened to glance up and see a police car slowly round the corner.
Tony's heart went into his throat at the sight of the police car. He lifted a feeble hand to point.
Paul, obviously puzzled by this display, turned around to see just what in the world was causing this reaction. Calmly, his gaze followed Tony's finger to where the police car, still a good way up the street, approached them.
However, the sight of the police car didn't seem to fill Paul with fear.
Paul calmly turned back toward Tony and smiled mischievously. For one of those moments that seems to hang in the air like hours, the two merely stared at one another — Paul grinning and Tony worrying.
Then it was Paul who acted. He calmly raised his right hand up before Tony's face; he wiggled his fingers in a delicate wave; then quickly turned and ran, leaving Tony standing on the sidewalk with the glue and posters.
As Tony turned in panic, he saw Paul running toward a nearby alley, laughing hysterically.
As Tony ran after him, he tried to hold onto his brushes and posters, but half of both spilled out upon the pavement as he went. He cursed and ran toward the alley, leaving a trail of glue splatters behind him.
The police cruiser continued at its slow pace for a few seconds more as the two dashed for the alley. The fact that the cruiser didn't immediately pursue them likely meant that the police hadn't noticed the two young men, perhaps wouldn't have noticed the two young men, had they not started running.
But the car's hesitation was only momentary. It suddenly leapt into life. The red lights blasted through the darkness and the siren let out a short "woooooop" sound which came across as unbelievably loud in those early morning hours.
As Tony entered the alley, he saw Paul waiting for him at the end. "Come on Tony!" he laughed, "Get your butt in gear!" He then turned and ran toward the street at the other end of the alley.
"Paul! Don't leave! Paul!"
"Move it. Move it. Move it!" Paul shouted through his laughter, "Chop chop! Hubba Hubba!"
"Wait Paul!" cried Tony and he dashed down the alley. His progress would have been much faster had he just abandoned the posters, but in his panic he clenched them tighter still. As he darted out of the alley, he saw the lights of the police car enter the alley behind him. "Shiiiiiiiiiit!" he cried.
Tony was on the street, looking around in panic when a pair of hands grabbed him and pulled him to the side.
Tony almost fainted on the spot. He saw the world start to spin a little and his head started to drift, he could feel himself slipping off of the planet, gliding away into some dreamland of escape. He was sliding away from himself.
Then the hands roughly pulled him around and he found himself facing Paul. Tony had assumed that the hands had belonged to the police who were pursuing him,. But no, it was Paul—giggling Paul—who now pulled him off of the street.
When he had a moment to look around, Tony realized that they were now inside the construction site upon whose barricades they had been hanging posters. Paul smiled and put a finger to his lips. "Shhhhh," he said.
As the two watched, the police car, lights awhirl, exited the alley. It then stopped.
Spotlights were shone all around.
Then the car simply moved on. It slowly crept away. Apparently a few young men hanging music posters was not a serious enough crime to expend a whole lot of manpower.
As the car rolled away, Paul could no longer contain his laughter. He heartily giggled as Tony, still in wide-eyed panic watched the car leaving.
"Look at your hands!" Paul said gleefully.
Tony looked down at his hands. They were quite visibly trembling. Glue from the open can was splashing everywhere and the posters had been so tightly clenched as to crumple them beyond usefulness.
With a start, Tony dropped everything and his hands flew up to his face. "Oh God!" he shrieked through his hands, "Oh God!"
"I just ran from the police. Jesus Christ! I just ran from the police!"
"Yep. You just ran from the police my friend," said Paul with a laugh.
"Don't make me do that again! Please Paul, please. Don't make me do that again."
"I won't make you do that again Tony."
"Don't make me do that again."
Paul reached up and pulled Tony's gluey hands from his now gluey face, wrapped his arm around Tony's shoulder and started walking toward home. "I won't make you do that again."
~ • ~