First off this story is in no way on earth intended to tarnish the name of Dave Gilbert. I have to tell the tale of the breakup of the New Order as it really happened. I loved Dave. I still love him, I will always love him. May he rest in peace.
The stage is set. We have booked The Starwood Club for a showcase performance for Mercury Records. This deal is all but done. All we have to do is play an average set tonight and the ink goes on the contract. Damn we are all feeling pretty excited and I have the butterflies...
Van Halen is set to open for us. They used to play the Starwood as often as NO. Cool club. They put on a blistering show. The audience is now pumped, sweaty and ready, The Mercury suits are in the audience with Neil Merriwether our second producer.
Only one thing missing... Dave.
It is getting to be about that time to go on stage and do it. Still no Dave. OMG, now what? We reassure ourselves not to worry he’ll show up any minute now. You know we have an impending sense of disaster beginning to forment but no one is brave enough to say it, to jinx it. We patiently wait…
Well it’s ten minutes past due stage time and yes, finally Dave strolls into the dressing room with 2 girls, one on each arm. He is wearing his wrap around Blues Brothers shades. He is oddly quiet and is not speaking to anyone. Strange…
We gather Mr. Gilbert and single file it to the stage. Big response from the audience, our loyal fans are all here tonight. It’s the big one alright.
We break into our first tune, I think it was the Doors “Break On Through To The Other Side”, and Dave misses his intro cue to start the first verse. Hmmmm…
Dave is standing stage front, middle, and he still does not sing! He just stands there. Ron (Asheton) turns to me with this big question mark “Whaaa” look on his face and I just shrugged my shoulders.
Still not singing. Ron gives me the guitar neck up & down signal to end the tune. I do a quickie snare fill in and we end the song. We immediately go into the second tune (don’t remember it) and by this time Dave is standing behind me and the drums to my right.
It is time for the vocal and once again no Dave. I turn around and smack him pretty damn hard on his arm with a drumstick and shout, ”SING DAMMIT SING!!” “WTF is wrong with you?” He is just staring straight ahead and vibrating.
I am aghast to say the least. Ron gives the cue to end this song now. The boys huddle up around the the drum set and we decide to tell the audience that we are experiencing some equipment problems and to hang tight with us.
We break into the Beatles, “She Was Just Seventeen”, which Jimmy and Ray sung. Dave still vibrating and staring with the shades still on behind me. I already know what the problem is. Those girls were prostitutes, they kidnapped poor Dave. Maybe the tension of the whole ordeal got to him. I know in my heart it was not intentional, but he got started (drugs) and most likely could not stop.
I once went to a clinic every day in Royal Oak, MI right after the Five broke up. I needed to get a daily dose of methadone, and in two months I was free and clear. I got the nurse fired for cutting back my dosage so quickly. The program was supposed to be for six months at $40 per visit. My father saved my life. He diligently drove me to and fro every single day. Thanks Dad...
Back to the action onstage. We told the audience to please give us ten minutes to fix the equipment problem. We scooted to the dressing room. I went up to Dave and tore off his sunglasses to check his eyes, and my suspicion was confirmed. I ask him, “Are you okay? Dave, tell me what is going on?” I screamed at him, "What is your problem man!" "Talk to me!”
Hypothetically one could assume he might have chosen the wrong time to party a tad too hearty. That was it, there was no going back onstage. Not tonight anyway. That was terribly simple.
A bit of a ruckus then ensued and darn it, right on cue, in walks Merriwether with the head of Mercury A&R and asks “What seems to be the problem here?” Ron takes him aside and explains the whole miserable dilemma.
A band just died. We can’t finish the show. Dave sang 95% of our material because he was such a great singer, and that was it. Done. Two years of struggle down the drain. No record deal. No fame. No fortune. No touring. No recording. No career. Obviously we proceeded to get very drunk that night.
There was no way to patch this up. Dave was let go. Our only option was to start from scratch with a new singer but everyone was pretty much out of gas. Drained. That was not going to happen for NO.
I grabbed my Fibes drum set, drove a driveaway car back home to my mom & dad's to settle into the basement once again at 28 years old. Broken hearted, angry, resentful, and broke.
The moral of this story is your serenity as a human being is directly inversely proportional to your level of expectations. High expectations, low serenity. Low expectations , higher serenity. You never know when that pitcher called life is gonna throw you a knuckleball when your expecting a curve ball.
Six months later, I got a call from Johnny Bee, drummer extraordinaire with Mitch Ryder, among many others, and he is calling for the scoop on Dave Gilbert. They are forming a band called the “Rockets” and they need a lead singer. “Tell me about Dave. He inquires. I tell him that he is a fabulous singer and a sweetheart of a man, just keep him clean and you got a diamond. John thanks me and Dave joined the Rockets. The rest is history. The band became successful with a couple of hits.
Dave Gilbert 1951-2001 RIP
Ray Gunn later worked with me as my foreman helping me to run an animatronic factory with 22 employees that built and installed Disney like six foot tall animated robot musicians for Major Magic’s All Star Pizza Review family entertainment center. It was like Showbiz and Chuck E. Cheese ( There is another post coming on that gig. That was the best “day job” I ever had in my life.)
What I learned from this whole episode of my life is that all bands, save a few, break up eventually. They fall victim to drug and alcohol abuse, relationship problems, needing a day job to make the money to pay the bills.
So they quit and get a job that pays. Life in the music business is tentative on a good day. It is incredibly difficult to keep any band together. Personality clicks form. Arguments ensue. I could list the myriad of challenges but you get the picture. As a friend of mine once said, “The center never holds.”
I still have a little pain left inside over that breakup. We were a damn fine band and we had a shot. Life marches on doesn’t it? Don’t fear the reaper. Live your life to the hilt. God bless Ron and Dave.