This weekend marks the anniversary of a significant event in my young life. In August 1972 my rock group, the Band of Angels (originally known as The Berries, which I mentioned in a previous post), was performing a weekend gig at the Flying Jib, a legendary rock club in Redondo Beach, California.
The Jib was a step up in quality from the half-empty beer bars we had just played in the San Fernando Valley. (On a slow night in the Valley we would record our first set on our trusty Teac reel-to-reel tape recorder then play the tape over our PA system instead of performing live for our second set, just to see if people noticed. They didn't.)
But a Saturday night at the Jib was different and we rose to the occasion, showcasing original tunes in front of a packed audience that was enthusiastic, appreciative, and thoroughly hammered.
We were occasionally distracted during our performance by a faint odor of burning plastic behind the stage, but the nightclub staff poked around the area and assured us there was no problem. We finished the night strong, then headed-out to join the obligatory post-gig Bacchanalian revelry, looking forward to our final show the following night.
But when we awoke Sunday afternoon we got the sobering news that the Jib had burned down in the early hours of the morning—along with our equipment. Apparently an electrical fire had started behind the stage, which quickly turned into a conflagration. All that was left of my new natural-wood Ludwig drum set was charred hardware and four melted cymbals in Dali-esque forms.
The band regrouped after the fire, borrowed equipment from other bands, and survived for six more months—before finally calling it quits. We eventually collected from the Jib three years later after an expensive lawsuit and jury trial (we even got haircuts for the occasion, a truly desperate move), but the victory was bittersweet because we had all moved onto new bands by then.
Yet the story doesn't end there.
A few years back the original bass player in the band, Mark Paladino (now a successful LA record producer and studio owner), confided to me that shortly after he was fired from the band—six months before the fire—he was understandably upset and wanted to get even.
One night he performed a voodoo ritual that he learned from his Russian grandmother (a likable lady, but a closet pyromaniac). He set fire to a carefully constructed angel icon (symbolic of the Band of Angels) to signify his fervent intent to see his former band go up in smoke.
A few months later his wish came to literal fruition! Not surprisingly, Mark was distraught by the occult, telepyric forces he had apparently unleashed and never said a word about it to anyone until he finally broke his thirty-year silence. (To show my appreciation for his honesty I plan to invoice him for my drum kit.)
Sadly for Mark, this potent ritual he conducted in 1972 was both the beginning and the end of a bright and promising career in voodoo operations. (This is not to be confused with the well-accepted business practice of voodoo accounting.) As a pyrotechnic visionary, Mark went into early retirement.
One of the take-away lessons from this is that we must learn to nurture and support the creative types in our midst. In fact, as colleague Tom Peters often points out, we need to recruit more of the "freaks and geeks" for our business teams and learn from their non-traditional approaches.
I think we can all agree that, properly channeled, Mark's outside-the-box thinking, innovative problem-resolution approach, and instinctive ability to apply the principles of "creative destruction" in his organization would be welcome in any competitive business environment today
But the more specific lesson here is to remember that tried-and-true corporate imperative still taught in business schools everywhere (and still featured in most HR manuals): Explore all available options before firing disgruntled employees who possess demonic, telekinetic powers.