Stink About Link

On Saturday, May 28, I went to see Link Wray at the Casbah. He's known mostly by older folks for his 1958 instrumental hit "Rumble." Younger people know him for the same song, included on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

I probably shouldn't complain -- he is "a legend," in his mid-70s, missing one lung -- but it was a bad concert. He didn't go onstage until almost midnight (luckily, a German band called the Satelliters opened the show with an amazing set). As Wray tried to play "Rumble," feedback rang through our ears for five minutes. When the song got going, his wife (onstage playing a tambourine) stepped on his guitar cord, which became unplugged. After minutes of trying to get the guitar working, his wife began yelling at the crowd for taking pictures. (I had been told by the bouncer at the door to put my camera back in my car.) She said her husband should make money from us buying pictures, that we shouldn't make money selling them. My friend wondered, "If she wants to make money, why are they not selling any merchandise?" I wondered how much money somebody could get for a cell-phone photo of Link Wray.

The feedback started again, and lots of people in the crowd had to cover their ears. We got an extended version of the song, which took up half an hour of the show. He got cooking when he did the Batman theme and "Run Chicken Run."

After an hour onstage, Wray left. Because the guitars were still humming, the audience waited for the expected encore. After 20 minutes, someone at the venue asked the young guy working for Wray if he would be coming back. The kid said, "Link is really tired, but I'll go see if he wants to come back." The kid came back a few minutes later and said, "He was paid $7500 to perform for an hour, which is what he did. You'll have to pay more if you want him to play more." Soon after, the house lights came on and the crowd booed.

As Wray's white van sped away, I thought back to an interview I read years ago in which he talked about record companies screwing him over. I then thought about the money he made for one hour of performing, figuring he got $3750 for his performance of "Rumble."

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