Melissa Etheridge was on the Howard Stern Show this week. She played a new song, and her break out hit (To the general public) “Come To My Window”. I’m sorry I didn’t catch the name of the the new track, but I don’t claim to be a professional writer-nor do I have a team of interns to research and look up my data. I will say this- Both performances were spot-on. No~taking the low road-I.E.: Singers that drop to the lower octave to squeak by in an early AM performance, or a song they could nail 20 years ago and still trying to recreate the magic.
Howard and his staff were equally blown away, and asked her the question. “How do you do it all these years later?”
Her reply, “I take care of myself. I go to bed, no partying, warm up, etc”
So, I was reminded of my brush with Melissa Etheridge. I think it was 1994, maybe 1993. This was in the midst of her breakout album Yes I Am. Bob & Tom were still relatively a local radio station at this point. They may have been syndicated to a handful of regional stations. Bob & Tom would hold their annual Live Day show, a live broadcast from an Indianapolis recording studio. They would set up a band, soundcheck during the commercial breaks, and have the band play the 2-3 hits from their repertoire. I was traveling with the Push Down & Turn crew. On Thursday night we played a gig in Louisville. Which meant at 3 am we would hit the road and make the 2.25 hour drive back north to Indy to make the 6 am load in to the studio on Friday. Well, after drinking all night, the only thing to do is stay up in the van and just make a day, or night of it.
You can imagine what the six 22 year old grunge mongers probably looked, and smelled like. As Dawn broke in Indy and the heat and humidity of the Indiana summer crept up on us, we were none for the worse. So we get our shit together, park in the myriad of real tour buses flanking the parking lot, and got to work. There was a lot of waiting around. As with any “opening act” A LOT. Usually this meant more drinking. I don’t remember what happened here but I think we were sipping coffee with whiskey.
Fast forward to the lineup. There was a band called the Lemonheads, whose lead singer was dealing with his heroin addiction. This left him in a private room cuddling with his girlfriend only to be interrupted every few minutes by another lost soul trying to find the bathroom-control room-dressing room-production office. I was one of the fucktards that opened the door and interrupted his melancholy sulking to be the dodger of the dagger shot from his eyes. To refresh your memory, his named rhymed with Devin Mando.
We all knew that Melissa Etheridge was one of the most anticipated performers of the morning. We’d heard she was there but there was no sighting. About this time I decided to use the restroom. Both unisex bathrooms were occupied. So I waited. suddenly the door opens and it’s her. We locked eyes, I was stunned. #1, she’s short. (I’m 6’2-no Larry Bird by any means but I’m taller than most women so when one is 5ft 1inch they seem really short to me) #2, She had a great smile. As a 22 y.o. lad, you really take this for-granted until you get older. I just politely stepped out of her way, not sure what to say, she gave me a polite “Hello!” Ok, not a big deal but you don’t expect the door to open with a multi-platinum selling artist to come out and smile at you.
Fast forward a little bit to her performance. The control room of the studio was generally full of people all morning. Those of us that were not interested, or wanted to smoke, would sit outside and listen to the broadcast on the truck’s FM radio. Suddenly, we knew Melissa was coming on and we all gravitated to the control room. It was here when I saw her with her Ovation, a cable and a mic. No band, no back up singers. I’m usually not too enthused about a solo artist with acoustic guitar. I like drums. I like someone driving the bus. Kinda like the recording of Come To My Window. It may have been her studio drummer Mauricio Fritz Lewak, and later, her live drummer Kenny Aronoff, but I like a band with a good drummer. BUT….I can tell you, she did probably 3 songs, by herself, at 8 in the AM. That control room was full of the who’s-who of the local Indy music scene, national recording artists and the radio executives. They’ve all seen it before, but the room was stunned silence. She probably did the three “hits” from Yes I Am, or maybe 1 older song, but she NAILED them. I was instantly a fan. Her voice was absolutely perfect.