by Chris Doyle

Yes, it’s true. I have a big fat wallet. But it isn’t fat because of money.

It’s fat because I save just about anything that might potentially one day have a use. But, as has been pointed out to me by several friends and acquaintances, not to mention the reality show “Clean Sweep”, saving everything has its disadvantages. So, a few weeks ago I decided to mend my ways, and clean out my wallet. Starting in the back, I removed a miniaturized copy of an expired passport, a few tattered business cards, and then I found a little slip of paper, on which was written the following:

Distant
Stone
Love Temple
Wasteland
Esmeralda.

This was puzzling. It was in my handwriting. It didn’t make sense as a sentence. I didn’t know anyone named Esmeralda, except Samantha’s aunt on Bewitched. But then it dawned on me.

The Unruly Jades.

You’ve probably never heard of the Unruly Jades. Similarly, you have probably never heard of the Droners, Steppin’ Out, the Page 3 Girls, 2-Blue, or Clamp. These are all bands I played in when I lived in Washington, DC, way back in the early nineteen hundred and nineties. For all you kids, that’s before the Internet.

Now you may ask “what kind of a name is the Unruly Jades?” And that’s what I said when I met them, I think after a gig by Clamp, and it is a phrase from Shakespeare, which basically means hard to manage horses, although back then “Jade” was also meant a woman. Anyway, it was certainly better than “Clamp”. So I agreed to rehearse with them.

The first thing that impressed me about the UJ’s is that we met in a recording studio, not somebody’s garage or basement. Mark, the bass player, was a solid, laid-back, very nice guy. Terry on lead guitar, was a thin, brooding, well I won’t say genius, but he did his share of brooding, and then some. And he had a lot of ear piercings. And then there was Maryanne, the lead singer, a petite woman who wore eyeliner like Chrissie Hynde.

Anne Marie and Terry wrote most of the songs together, with Terry generally supplying the guitar parts and Maryanne the lyrics. And they were prolific – at the first few rehearsals they came in with about fifteen completed songs, neatly written out on sheet music. That was a nice change from the free-form jams I had been exposed to in some of my other bands.

Anne Marie told me and Mark that although Terry and Anne Marie used to “date”, now they were just friends and song-writers. And whatever they were doing worked: the songs just kept on coming. This was helped by the fact that Terry had moved into an apartment just across the hall from Maryanne’s. So, it was a rare rehearsal where a few new songs had not been composed and were ready to flesh out in the studio. The lyrics for these songs were all heartfelt; the guitar parts generally fluid and creative; and the bass and drum parts were, need I say it, rock-solid. Which only left one piece – the vocals.

I am as a rule hesitant to criticize singers. If somebody wants to sing, they should sing, and they shouldn’t feel self-conscious about it. I’m all with Karen Carpenter that you shouldn’t worry if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear. But Karen Carpenter could sing, and, if you want to be the lead singer in a band, you should have some kind of singing chops. So, Maryanne – let’s just say she had some issues with pitch. Tone, too. And rhythm. But mostly pitch. The band was playing in a traditional Western 8-note scale, and she sounded like she was working with some version of an Eastern pentatonic scale, as sung by a cat. A cat mourning some terrible loss, with limited vocal range. But she tried, and we had enough songs, and enough confidence that we could work through any vocal issues in the studio, that after a few months we decided to make a demo CD of 5 songs. A CD. In nineteen hundred and ninety-three. When girls thought Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson were dreamy, and not scary. That was a pretty big deal, I thought.

So, we all took a vote, and came up with a list of songs to record. And they were, you guessed it: Distant, Stone, Love Temple, Industrial Wasteland, and Esmeralda. I wrote the songs down, placed them in my wallet, and then I was off to South America for a short vacation, fully expecting to record the CD when I got back.

But, it never happened. The joke goes, how do you know a band is about to break up? When the drummer says, “when are we going to record my songs?” And Stone was my song. But that’s not the reason the Unruly Jades broke up.

When I got back home, I got a call from Mark. Maryanne had called him, crying. This was nothing new, since she generally cried at least once per rehearsal. No, she was crying because, well, she and Terry did not just used to “date”. They had been married, and were now divorced. And while I was away, Terry had given her an ultimatum: either she would get back together with him, or he would quit the band.

At the time I was indignant. I felt betrayed because Maryanne and Terry had basically lied to me and Mark, and now Terry was holding the band hostage in a last-ditch effort to reclaim their relationship. So, Mark and I decided to quit the UJ’s and to form the infamous Page 3 girls.

So, that was end of the band. Had you asked me at the time, I guess I would have said that the story of the Unruly Jades was one of deception, and the catastrophic results of trying to manipulate people to achieve your own ends. But, thinking back, without any of the resentment I felt when the band broke up, I see that it is really a love story. Terry and Maryanne got divorced, but Terry still loved her. He loved her so much that he came up with a clever scheme to spend the maximum time possible with her: to write songs and be in a band together. I guess Anne Marie was flattered by the attention, or maybe she really did want to sing. But still, Terry should have known that his efforts were doomed.

After the band broke up, I looked again at Maryanne’s lyrics, and they came across in a whole new light. Songs like Cool Pose, in which the singer criticizes her lover’s aloofness; Roller Coaster, in which the singer describes her up and down relationship with her lover, with the refrain “What if I let Go”; Starving (for affection), in which the singer is, you guessed it, starving for affection; or, Distant, which made the final CD list, in which the singer feels disconnected from her lover, with the line: “Coldness leave your whole body numb with the doubt you’ll trust again”. Ouch.

Notwithstanding, I’m sure Terry thought that given enough time together it was a cinch that Maryanne would eventually come around. But I can only imagine the dynamic of their song-writing sessions:

“Hey, Maryanne, let’s rehearse a song at your place”

“OK, let’s do ‘We’ll never get back together again, you cold, unfeeling, bastard”

“Great”.

But still, he tried, and they wrote dozens of songs. I’m not sure what ever happened to them, but I think Maryanne eventually married someone else.

Now, earlier I had confessed to being a pack rat. And one of the advantages to being a pack rat is that you keep things that most people would throw away. So, when I was writing this story, I looked around in my garage, and actually found a rehearsal tape of the Unruly Jades. And my old Walkman to play it on.

SFX: [play a short segment of Maryanne’s voice cracking]

Terry loved Maryanne so much, that he was willing to make that his lead singer.

That is love. Maybe a scary, stalky, infatuated kind of love, but love all the same.

So, that is the tale from my big fat wallet, which turned out to be a love story.

Happy Holidays, everybody.

END