The Blues Brothers: The Lost Tales, part 2
Response to the first entry has been sufficiently strong enough to warrant another chapter. The movie starts with Jake getting out of prison, but it only vaguely mentions how he got there in the first place. The novelization goes into stunning detail as to how the act went down. This section immediately follows the one that I posted last time. I was hoping to (and hope to in the future) be able to give this out in smaller, bite-sized morsels. However, this whole episode spans over several of the paperback's yellowing pages. I just didn't feel right denying any portion of this to you, my readers. Without further ado, more from the lost archives of Jake and Elwood:
The husky man fixed the thin black tie around his neck, tightening it with a grimace. He put on the baggy black suit jacket (matching his baggy black suit pants) and set the narrow-brimmed black porkpie on his head. He scowled into the dressing room mirror, smacking a fist into his opposite palm for effect. His eyes glinted even through his black Ray-Ban 50-22 G15 shades.
Suddenly Otis Redding's "I Can't Turn You Loose" rattled the dressing room door, mean brassy horns battling a thunderous rhythm section for soul supremacy. The big man smiled into the mirror. Sitting on a couch, a taller, thinner, but identically dressed man attached one loop of a pair of handcuffs to a black briefcase. There was a knock on the door.
"You're on, boys. Jesus, they're going nuts out there."
The thinner man slapped on the other end of the handcuffs around his wrist. "You ready?" he asked. His voice sounded like a cop's. The big man put a stick of Wrigley's into his mouth and picked up a long gold chain with a key on the end of it. He twirled it in a smooth, flashing circle.
From outside, the annouincer's excited baritone rose above the charging band. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen." The crowd screamed as one voice.
"Thank you. Thank you. Now please join me in a warm Rose Room welcome for the band of Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues -- The Blues Brothers."
The roar rattled a water glass in their dressing room. Jake Blues smiled his hustler's smile. "C'mon, Elwood." One eyebrow arched above his midnight shades as he hissed the strangely familiar words, "It's showtime."
A white spot hit the two bluesmen as they reached the raised parquet stage, Jake casually whipping his gold key chain, Elwood dead serious, the sinister briefcase locked to his wrist. Two thousand people rushed the stage. Jake calmly took the key and unfastened the cuff on his brother's wrist. Elwood, in turn, unlocked his case, reached in and pulled out a microphone and a gleaming Special 20 Blues Harp. He held it before the crowd like a splinter from the Cross as the band kicked into "Hey, Bartender."
The audience knows them by heart; grown women squeal and men bellow as each one's favorite band member takes a turn at a solo: Donald "Duck" Dunn, orange halo of hair and curved pipe glowing above his bass; Willie "Too Big" hall riding the back beat; Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, slick as a Saturday night, bending those Memphis riffs till his Strat smoked; Matt "Guitar" Murphy, angelilc smile and muscular blues; Murphy "Murph" Dunne, keyboard man of a thousand fingers; and Lou "Blue Lou" Marini, Tom "Bones" Malone, and Alan "Mr. Fabulous" Rubin, the blues horns, firing like a finely tuned soul engine.
This was a band to testify to, a band to pray for. In an age when music, raw and alive, had been eaten by machines, when computers duplicated any sound a engineer could conceive, these boys were the last hope. They had crawled out of their day jobs clutching their axes and following the dream Jake held beore them -- that the people still wanted real music.
The Blues Brothers Band wasn't just in it for the gold. Nobody drives all day, plays all night, and hits the highway again at dawn for thirty-seven dollars and change. They had chugged enough beef grease and bad fries to wear out new assholes. They'd slept under bridges, in the Bluesmobile, and ten in a single bed. And even though they would surely deny it, they did it for the music.
For two years now they had toured nonstop, crisscrossing the Steel Belt like funk evangelists, playing everything from pool halls to gay bars -- anyplace and anybody who would listen. Those boys stormed onstage until even the cold Midwestern skies thundered back. Joliet Jake, the true believer, and silent Elwood spoke through their music, and finally the people followed.
Tonight was the first taste of payoff. Even if it was only the Falls Hotel in Falls End, Wisconsin, it was still a big room with spotlights. The end zone was really in sight, and after the gig the band partied like winners.
"Hey, son, you gonna drink that shit or piss in it?" Duck yelled across the suite to Murph Dunne. Murph, unfortunately, couldn't answer. Slumped against the bathroom door, a bottle of Johnny Walker Red dangling dangerously from his hand, his beautiful paisley vest odorous and stained beyond reclaiming, he was lucky he could breathe. The bathroom door opened and abruptly hurled Murph face forward onto a sleeping blond room-service waitress. The Colonel looked at his handiwork and smiled. "Nine ball in the side pocket," he drawled. The Colonel grabbed the bottle of Johnny Walker and picked his way toward Duck. Even though dawn lit the room with its ugly gray light, he still stepped on fellow bluesmen, the floor being thickly carpeted with bodies and bottles.
"You are a true saint, Steve," Duck said as the friends sat down to breakfast.
"You seen Jake or Elwood?" Steve asked, taking a hit. "I wanna congratulate them on this weekend. It felt real nice."
Duck reached for the bottle, nodding. "Last I saw Elwood, he was riding up and down the elevator, singin' 'Got My Mojo Workin'.'"
Steve nodded along, unsurprised.
"An' ol' Jake, that boy was floatin' around the heated pool with his clothes on. He had these two fine cheerleaders from Falls End High holdin' 'im up. They was making bubbles with their mouths."
Steve smiled. "As long as they're okay."
The door suddenly swung open and Willie Hall, an enorous blonde Midwestern Viking woman under each arm, screamed into the alcohol haze, "Boys an' girls, now ain't 'Too Big' too much?"-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
It had to be the Penguin. Only Sister Mary Stigmata could hit so hard, so fast. Elwood curled into a protective fetal ball, but still the kicks came, shuddering painfully through his whole hung-over body. He tried to open his eyes... really tried, but there was a faulty transistor blocking his brain's command. Elwood felt two hands shaking him violently. Thank God for that, because it shook open his eyes. His pupils recoiled from the harsh fluorescent light as he focused on the outraged, hulking shape of Bill Halvorsen, general manager of the Falls Hotel.
Elwood's right hand hurt lke hell. He looked up and noticed it dangling above him -- handcuffed to the railing. "Jesus," he marvelled aloud. "I'm handcuffed to the fucking elevator railing."
Halvorsen smiled like he had a mouthful of bile. "Nice guess, Mr. Wizard. Now where the hell's your big brother? Do you know that your band ran up a three-thousand-dollar room service bill this weekend? Shit, someone with a Southern accent drank five hundred dollars worth of my Napoleon brandy alone!"
Elwood drew himself up with all the dignity available to a man handcuffed to an elevator, and said, "Sir, we have several band members with Southern accents -- Bones, Duck -- "
"I'm not finished, El-wood," Halvorsen interrupted. "I haven't gotten to the two thousand dollars in fire and water damage. That's right, Mr. Blues, your boys wrote their names in various liquors and colognes in my third-floor hallway and then lit them. I'm sure it made a pretty fire -- " Halvorsen's face was dangerously red, the veins in his neck bulging like hydraullic cables -- "but it also destroyed my carpets and set off the sprinkler system, which flooded the entire floor."
"Sir," Elwood said, standing up shakily as the elevator hit the second floor. "Sir, my brother and I will be glad to pay -- "
"I'm not finished, Blues." Halvorsen took a menacing step closer, and Elwood felt like a monarch butterfly pinned to velvet. "My night man said he saw my... my daughters swimming nude with that pig brother of yours! They are sixteen years old... do you know what that means?"
"We've reached my floor," Elwood said as the door opened. He leapt for them, only to come flying back in a hancuffed heap.
Halvorsen put his swollen face inches from Elwood's and shrieked, "You are dead men!"-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Jake washed his face with his sunglasses on. "How did I know they were his daughters? They didn't look anything like the swine. And besides, they told me--"
"Sure, fine, Jake. I don't care. But what about the nine grand?" Elwood pleaded. "That's all the money we made this weekend. We promised the band we'd cover their expenses and pay them."
Jake took handfuls of paper towels from the dispenser and dried himself. "Jesus, those boys don't know the meaning of the word moderation. But hell, I promised, I gave my word, and this band is built on trust and loyalty." Jake threw the soggy towels into the sink. "Besides, if I don't pay 'em, they'll leave."
"Exactly." Elwood nodded, proud of his brother's moral compass.
"So, Mr. Dick Tracy Junior, where are we gonna find five thousand dollars?"
"How 'bout we enter the Colonel in a big-stakes pool game?"
"On what? Put up your year's supply of white bread as collateral?"
"Christ," Elwood spat, hurt. "I was just thinkin' out loud."
"I know, I'm sorry, pal," Jake consoled. "It's just I'm under a lotta pressure here."
A horn honked from outside.
"Shit. That'll be them," Jake said, quickly polishing his shades. "Just be cool an' dummy up. I'll think of somethin'."
The two brothers walked out into the gray Illinois sunset. The lights at the Clark gas station were just going on. The station, right off the highway, was jammed with cars; the pump jockeys scurried hysterically, sorcerer's apprentices trying to service the mob. Off to one side, a battered blue '58 Cadilac with manta-ray fins idled noisily.
"Well well, if it's not the two hottest bandleaders since Sonny and Cher," Alan "Mr. Fabulous" Rubin applauded from the Caddy's front seat. The rest of the band joined him. After the cheers died, Alan jumped out and opened the door. "So, my captain, where do we dine in Chicago? I believe a celebration is in order. Many cases of fine champagne... If you will allow me to suggest --"
"Sure, sure," Jake chuckled. "Soooo, you boys are pretty happy, huh?"
A shower of beer cans answered him.
Unfazed, he continued, "Thank you, thank you very much, gentlemen. Now, Elwood's gonna drop you off at the Stake Pit, a mother beautiful beef joint a few minutes away, and we'll both meet you there within the hour. Hey, all the brew you can drink!"
The band grew silent, wary. Willie Hall tilted up his visor and nailed Jake with a cold eye. "You fuckin' around wit' us again, Jake?"
Jake backed away, waves of shock and hurt crossing his face.
"Willie, I can't believe my ears... No, I don't want to ... We're brothers. How could I... Have I ever lied to you?" Quickly, he added, "Elwood and I have a meeting with a major promoter that I'd like to wrap up before we hit Chi town."
Elwood nodded in agreement, falling completely for Jake's line of bullshit.
"Now, off you go and don't drink too much before I get there, ha ha."
Elwood walked over to Jake as the band settled back in the car, properly chastised.
"So, Jake, when did you set up this meeting?"
"You frighten me, man. There's no fucking meeting," Jake whispered. "Be back here soon. I wanna hit this station before it closes at six."
"Hit the station? Jake, are you sure? That's armed robbery. You'll get a nickel, at least."
Jake stared deeply into his brother's Ray-Bans. "I promised the band, Elwood."
"Where you gonna get a gun at this hour?"
"We'll use that toll gun you got, the one that fires quarters into the toll booth. Shit, it looks like a real gun to me. That way no one'll get hurt. Don't worry, baby brother, I got it locked. You just hustle back."
Elwood walked to the Caddy, shaking his head and muttering unintelligibly. Jaek headed back to the bathroom to take a major tension dump.-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Traffic was as heavy as ever. The station sat blazing with neon and headlights.
"Jake, it's almost seven. the band's been drinkin' beer for two hours," Elwood whispered from their hiding place behind the men's room. "Christ, we'll have to rob a bank to buy the Stake Pit."
"I don't know what's wrong. They should have closed by now," Jake cocked the toll gun and pulled his hat lower over his shades. "I'm goin' in. You wait in the Bluesmobile an' keep the fucker idling."
The two brothers looked at each other, hesitating, on the edge.
Jake slapped his brother on the shoulder.
"See ya in a few minutes. Be cool."
Elwood watched his brother's solid body swagger to the brightly lit, glass-walled Clark's station. "Jake can handle himself," he thought. "He always handled himself."
Elwood ran to the Cadillac and turned on the ignition. Sluped in the front seat, he watched the robbery as if it were a drive-in movie.
The bulky man in the black suit and shades pulled the strange-looking gun on the old man next to the cash register. The old man sat frozen. The robber waved the gun around violently. The old man opened the register, grabbing handfuls of cash and sliding it across the counter.
"Good, good. Jake, you're beautiful. Now go!"
But the big man pointed the gun to a case of Valvoline stacked in the corner.
Elwood screamed, "Nooooo! Jake, we don't use Valvoline!"
And then, as if in a dream, the Illinois state trooper cruised almost silently into the picture. Even Elwood didn't see him until it was too late. The trooper pulled his revolver, curiously watching the bizarre tableau as Jake, cash falling out of his pockets, balanced the heavy case of oil.
Suddenly, Elwood saw -- and leaned hard on the horn. Jake jerked a look over, catching the cop as he ducked behind his patrol car and assumed a two-handed firing position.
Jake dropped the oil. Thinking quickly, he handed the gun to the palsied station owner and threw up his arms as if he were being held up.
The trooper laughed out loud as a stream of quarters bounced off the big man's white shirt.
Elwood, tears streaming from beneath his sunglasses, hit the slab at sixty and headed for Chicago.
The dream was over.
This tale was hinted at both in the movie and in the liner notes on the back of the Briefcase Full Of Blues album, but in the novel, the episode is given full treatment.