Friday, 11 September 2015 20:36

Bad Company at SIU

Written by 
Bad Company at SIU Carbondale. Bad Company at SIU Carbondale.

The note caught my eye. Written on a piece of notebook paper pinned to a cork board was a request. "Ride wanted to Bad Company show at Carbondale. Will pay for gas." Standing outside the massive cafeteria at Southeast Missouri State University, I jotted the number down and called the girl. Her name has long faded from my memory, but on that day, I found a new friend that I'll call "Betty."

A week or so later on a beautiful September day, I met her and two other women along for the ride. We took off and crossed the Mississippi and onto Highway 51. From there the road snaked through hills and curves as we headed north for Carbondale. Along the way, the leaves on the trees glistened, casting their shadows across the highway. Riding shotgun, my friend lit a joint and we passed it around. Everything mellowed as I kept the car between 50 and 60 mph on the twisted highway through the long canopy of forest. At the crest of a hill, everything changed. Within a split-second, a large object flew up from the side of the road then the windshield went dark. I clenched the wheel and ducked slightly while the piercing screams from three females hit my ears as fast as that bird hit the glass. Perhaps it was the sound of the car that startled the turkey on the side of the road. With its large wingspan, the turkey had almost completely covered my windshield. As fast as it appeared, it was gone. With my heartbeat racing, I managed to catch one last glimpse of a potential Thanksgiving meal in my rearview mirror. Feathers floated through the air as the bird momentarily stayed aloft before spiraling off the side of the road. Instant buzzkill. As the sunlight began to fade, the fun was only beginning.

Although we didn't know at the time, Bad Company was on a farewell tour to support their last decent album with the original lineup. "Desolation Angels." It was a great show, yet all I remember was the drum solo. Yes, the soulful voice of Paul Rodgers was one of the finest rock singers of the 1970s, but I can't remember much of anything besides Simon Kirke's laser sticks. That's right… drumsticks that lasers shot out of sending thin strands of light bouncing all over the ceiling of the hall. The effect split the darkness of the concert hall with shafts of Skittle-like colors. It was mesmerizing and ultimately wound up closing the show.

After the concert, we were wiped. We went back to the car and I looked at the map I had of Missouri. You might be thinking I should have had a map of Illinois. I didn't. Not looking forward to hills and curves late at night, I decided to take Route 13 since the road looked like a straighter line on the map. As I kept driving along the two lane highway, small towns slowed the ride. None of the names appeared on the map and I figured that the Missouri map didn't list them since they were in Illinois. Continuing to drive, more villages came and went. Someone in the car inquired, "Are you sure you are going the right way?" "Sure," I answered. But with each town that appeared, my unease crept closer to panic. I could have been in Arkansas and wouldn't have known it. Thirty miles out, I decided I better stop and check at a gas station. It was getting past midnight when I got the news that I had gone the wrong way. The towns would have been on a Illinois map, but my map of Missouri didn't go that far east. After the anger of my passengers subsided, we rode home in silence. Fortunately that wasn't the last I would see of my new friend. I'll save that story for another day.