Just in time for Halloween comes a story so disturbing and frightening that it may not be suitable for some of our younger readers. This is the chilling story of “The Pants That Feed Us…”
Once upon a time, in a band not too long ago, there was a pair of pants…
Picture if you will a pair of pants. The pants were Levi blue jeans I suppose. It was hard to tell. You really didn’t want to get that close. These pants were thread-bare and worn to the point of barely qualifying as a pair of pants. These pants were never washed or mended in any way. They were much more worn than just having holes in the knees; they would be lucky to be that intact. Strings of white fringe hung like decorations on a military uniform down both legs of the pants. These pants smelled like a skunk and had a texture more like the oily skin of a small mammal. Not unlike a ferret without it’s fur. The word musk comes to mind. One time I was on the tour bus and opened the bathroom door and the pants were hanging there. I was overwhelmed by an odor that smelled like somebody combined an ass with a skunk and then killed and field dressed it in the bus bathroom.
These pants belonged to Dave Pirner (singer/songwriter for Soul Asylum). He wore them at every show. He sweated in them to the point they were dripping wet. I have searched the dictionary and thesaurus for just the right word to describe these pants, and here are just a few of the many words to describe them: foul-smelling, stinking, reeking, fetid, malodorous,pungent, rank, noxious, mephitic; off, gamy, high; musty, STINKY!
You really had to experience them up close and in person to appreciate them. They were so ragged that Dave had to wear boxer shorts with them to keep from showing off his meat and two veggies. One would find them in the most bizarre places. You could be in the dressing room looking for bottled water under the deli table and find them there. The smell would hit you before you actually made eye contact with them. Dave wore them on the 1993 Rolling Stone cover. They are actually held together not by cotton fibers but funk, body oil and sweat.
Curious about the pants I asked Bill Sullivan (the band’s tour manager) what was up with Dave’s pants. It was his job to keep up with the pants and he did an excellent job in doing so. He pulled me into a corner and spoke in whispered tones. He said to me, “Joey, those are THE PANTS THAT FEED US!”
I didn’t understand. “The pants that feed us?” I said.
He came closer as if to tell me something of great importance. “Without those pants the show wouldn’t go on. Dave performs in those pants every night. All the little girls expect to see those pants. Thus, they truly are “The Pants That Feed Us.”
“Oh, I see, without the pants there will be no show. No shows mean we have to stop being rock stars. Gentlemen…we have to protect our phony boloney jobs and “The Pants That Feed Us” at all costs!”
I was first introduced to “The Pants That Feed Us” in 1993. They miraculously, held together by pure funk, lasted through 1993 and 1994. I could swear that after everyone was asleep on the bus that “The Pants That Feed Us” would roam the hall and lounges of the bus looking for another gig to play. By this time the pants had a preternatural aura around them and I could swear I smelled the faint smell of gasoline sometimes.
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Spring of 1995 saw the band tour Europe before embarking on a headlining tour of America in support of their new record “Let Your Dim Light Shine.” We had spent about a year in the studio recording it. We were tired of the studio and eager to play the new record live. We released a single, “Misery” and it was climbing the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. We played Germany, France, Spain, and The UK.
One day, we found ourselves in Amsterdam playing a show at the Paradiso. We paid a visit to The Bulldog and played the parts of the ugly Americans who can’t tolerate the good weed. Oh yes, add to “The Pants That Feed Us” the odor of serious skunkweed. We played a fun, bordering on stupid show that night. We were stoned and Dave was telling jokes like he’s Shecky Green to a Dutch audience that wasn’t in on the joke. We finished the show and took two vans back to the Amsterdam Hilton…
It had to happen. It was long overdue. Perhaps we should have paid more attention. The events of that night will be forever unclear. Not unlike the JFK assassination; there were conflicting versions of what went down. I will do my best to recount what I remember.
We arrived at the hotel after the gig. I had the room next to Dave. Bill was down the hall. We had been at the hotel for about twenty minutes when I hear a commotion and Bill Sullivan’s voice in the hall. I opened my door and took a peek out. There is smoke coming from Dave’s room Bill was talking excitedly to an employee, apparently trying to talk him out of calling the fire department. I can hear water running in Dave’s bathroom, and the smell of burnt hair and skunk permeated the air. I walk out into the hall and into Dave’s room. Dave was frantic and wearing a hotel supplied robe. I follow the sound of water running and turn the corner into Dave’s bathroom and had to do a double take at what I saw. “The Pants That Feed Us” were on fire, and not only on fire but burning underwater! The water seemed to be fueling the fire. Like sulfur in water “The Pants That Feed Us” smoked and burned. The pants were so evil and soaked with sweat, body oil and dope that they couldn’t be extinguished! It took fifteen minutes for them to stop smoking. For a while they would seem to go out; only to flame up again and again when the water was turned off…like they were refusing to die!
I can only speculate from the different accounts of what I think happened prior to the flaming and subsequent demise of “The Pants That Feed Us.” Here it goes: Dave arrived at his room still wet and sweaty from the gig. He gets undressed and lays “The Pants That Feed Us” over a lamp to dry. He goes about his business not paying any attention to the pants over the lamp. Perhaps he makes a phone call to his girlfriend. At some point “The Pants That Feed Us” must have begun to smolder and smoke a bit. Dave is still oblivious to this (Dave is kind of like that. I’d been in the band for five years and was talking about my kids one day, and Dave looked up and said that he didn’t know that I was a father), and keeps on doing what he’s doing. Changing his shirt perhaps? Then, suddenly the pants burst into flames scaring the shit out of Dave! There was evidence that he used one of those wooden hotel hangers to get the pants from the lamp to the bathtub. There was evidence that the lampshade caught on fire as well. Smoke was everywhere. The hanger was in the bathtub along with the remains of “The Pants That Feed Us.” He probably tried to beat the fire out with the hanger. At some point, he called Bill Sullivan for help. Bill came to Dave’s room and calms him down, puts out the fire (for good) and explains to the hotel manager what has transpired. He probably slipped the hotel manager 100 krone for his trouble.
Don’t be sad, people. “The Pants That Feed Us” had a good run. They are in a better place now. I don’t know how they were disposed of, but I’m sure it involved some kind of ceremony. Nobody talked about it afterward. It was like it never happened. Sometimes I can get a whiff of some odor today and have a “The Pants That Feed Us” flashback. God bless “The Pants That Feed Us”!