Watching the SNL anniversary show, with the Belushi clips, brought to mind an encounter I had with him in NYC, before the Not Ready For Primetime Players burst into our consciousness. I was in Manhattan with a business partner, pitching some new r’n’b product to the labels, and one evening we dropped by a modest comedy club that was featuring a revue by the name of “The National Lampoon Show.” Many of the future SNL troupe were in the cast, including Gilda Radner, as I recall, but the shining light, already, was Belushi……until he broke out the Cocker bit, to which I took offence, Joe being an acquaintance of mine and a good lad.
It was an informal place, with no backstage to speak of, so, emboldened by certain substances, I wandered back to take issue with the Cocker bit. I button-holed him, and as soon as I started in he said ” Is that accent for real?” and immediately assumed a credible Fab Four voice as I berated him for what I considered, at the time, a cruel parody of Joe.
“No! No! You got it wrong….I love Joe Cocker. That’s why I do the bit!”
We had a drink and he went back for the second show. I hung around, as my biz partner was away for an early night. Another drink was had, the way you do, after the second show, and he and I strolled out into the Manhattan night.
We ended up in a bar somewhere in the West Village until the wee hours, in most stimulating and stimulated conversation lubricated by nectar and the occasional Peruvian moment. Mostly the conversation was about music. He was extremely knowledgeable, and liked that I was a Liverpool guy who’d moved to the American south to realize my dream of doing r’n’b and rock ‘n’roll in the cradle of the form. When we reeled out in companionable disarray, he made sure I got a taxi back to my hotel, and that was that.
When I first watched SNL, it was like…I know that fella…then a couple of shows in, he did the Cocker bit for the first time on national TV, and the rest, as they say, was history. I never ran into him again and never tried to connect through channels.
It was a one-off, a wonderful, cool one-off, when he was on the brink of so many things, good and bad. I hadn’t thought about that night in years, but last night’s show brought the memory back.
RIP, Belushi. RIP, Cocker…..yiz were made for each other!