BY REVEREND WUPASS
I arrived in Berlin after a blurry week in Amsterdam. It took two days of miscommunication with our booker and a crash(ed) course of german at the train station to get here. I’m lying on the sidewalk, feeling like Death’s younger brother. I look up and there is this man with long flaming red hair staring back at me. He nods his head and says in a thick bavarian accent, “you look terrible man, but I know what you need.” He pulls me up and throws his arm over my shoulder and leads me to the bar across the street. “My name is Harry Cotello and I am your tour driver.” (Oh, yeah, that’s why I’m here — not just to get fucked up every night, but to play music and get fucked up every night.) By the time we go through a case of beer I’d learned that besides being a very jovial guy, Harry had never been a tour driver before. Usually he was on tour himself he told me, but he was now at a creative crossroads and he hadn’t gigged in a while. He got married and he needed to make some cash. I came to find out later Harry was a semi-famous rock’n’roll guitarist. He had been a working musician for 22 years. He toured America, from which he wrote a popular book and brought back a beautiful, immaculate 1978 Chevy stepvan. Lush shag carpeting everywhere, captains chairs, multiple beverage holders. We were stylin’ — especially next to the cold, skinny, stripped down Eurovans. We literally turned heads as we drove through the continent.
Harry handled everything. He knew the clubs, the bookers, and the bartenders. He dealt with the cops and the border guards. We heard all kinds of stories about “Harry the Knife.” “I am called the Knife because my guitar playing cuts through everything and Cotello is Italian for knife.” We usually slept through the day while Harry drove. But it did not take us long to figure out that it was taking us an awfully long time to get to the gigs — and we’re on the fuckin’ Autobahn, the place where TV stars and wanna-be race car drivers go to die in incredible displays of speed (a couple of aftermaths we did see). I woke up to find not only the Porches and the Benzes passing us but the Yugos and mopeds as well. You see Harry had a theory: If he drove 45-50 mph he would keep his engine, with the impossible-to-find-parts, running smooth. We asked nice, then prodded, poked fun at, and emasculated him. But he only seemed to drive slower. Over the next month we developed a mantra of “Fahren, Spiel, Schlafen” — Drive, Play, Sleep. We arrived at each club later and later. There was no time for sightseeing or enjoying Europe. “There was only the road” — Harry said this many times. I began to think that Harry no longer loved music, he no longer loved his wife. He lived for the road and his Chevy van. And I thought — that’s okay by me... his last great romance.
The tour itself was going amazingly well. There were good crowds and great response. We met a lot of new fans and friends. Harry stayed throughout each performance and critiqued it by saying it was, “Perfekt” or “Super-Perfekt.” But as the weeks rolled on, tensions grew. Harry changed. In the beginning he seemed like some sort of Ubermensch. I never saw him eat more than a piece of bread each day. He ALWAYS had a beer in his hand, yet seemed to be terminally sober.
Suddenly he stopped shaving. Then he stopped bathing. Then he stopped changing his clothes. He looked haggard and wild. He mumbled and sweated alot. We’d been all through Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and Austria. By the time we got to the Czech Republic, Harry had stopped talking altogether. Harry had never been to Czech before. He didn’t speak the language. He seemed scared. He was no longer ‘The Man’. At that point we started handling our own arrangements. Then one night in the beautiful town of Tabor it finally happened. Harry got drunk. He was ordering absynthe. He was laughing and joking. All was perfekt again... for a few hours. Then he started hitting on our friends and hosts. He got onerous, ornery, and ugly. The next day he came walking out of the field he passed out in. He walked right up to us and demanded a bonus. We had already paid him for his job and we were just hoping to break even. We tried to explain this to him. “No, $400 Deutchmark more or it will be a long way back to the Frankfurt airport.” Well, it did not take long for us to come to a consensual “fuck you.” Harry apparently did not expect this response. He thought he had us. He suddenly had a look of regret on his face. But he had too much pride to back down now, so he marched off and got into his gorgeous brown Chevy van and sped off.
Our friends were more than happy to help us through the last leg of the trip. No one spoke German or English at the Tabor station. We got extremely lucky and guessed right as to which train to take. (Our German was okay, but alas, our Czech was not.) All and all, I still liked Harry. So, after awhile of being back in the States, I contacted the booker and got around to asking about Harry. The booker said that Harry, his guitar, and his dazzling 1978 Chevy stepvan had disappeared.
PICTURED ABOVE: (Top to Bottom) The Rev. Wupass, a happy German and Harry. Harry’s Chevy.