Hall of Fame


I can hear voices in the distance. Some are low and easy and some are high and alive with a kind of youth and freedom I can barely remember. I can feel a steady bassline coming up through the couch I’m sleeping on and it’s thrumming through the warm leather that’s pressed against my cheek.

I feel something soft brush my face. I open my eyes. It’s dark in here and I like that.

“Oh… sleeping beauty!” There’s a cackle, as the voice breathes closer to my ear. “Thought I was gonna have to give you the kiss of life. Shame, shame, shame…”

Her voice is smooth and smoky, with hard London edges. My eyes flutter as her hair tickles across my skin again. She smells like whisky and menthol. Slowly, I raise my head.

The darkness is lifting now, as my eyes adjust. There’s a smoky haze hanging still in the air and I breathe it in with a warm sigh of nostalgia. My eyes slide slowly around the room, taking in the graffiti on the walls, the stuffing leaking from the couches and the trash and paraphernalia that covers the low coffee table in the middle of the floor. I feel my heart speed up as I turn my head, knowing what I’ll see even before my eyes squint and focus.

Billie Joe Must Die.

Red ink on peeling plaster.

Another cackle. I turn back to my companion on the couch, taking in her painted black eyes and the tattoos running up her slender arms. Her gap-toothed smile is wide and white and cold shock grips me somewhere in my stomach, as she grins around her cigarette. She giggles when my eyes widen.

“Alright, Darlin’?”

She reaches for the bottle of bourbon on the coffee table and brings it to her lips. I watch her throat tremble as she swallows, before she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and passes the bottle in my direction. I stare at her and she laughs again.

“You’re Amy.”

My voice comes out calm, calmer than I’ve felt in hours, and I’m not sure how that happens. Her eyes glint and she says nothing, until I speak again.

“You’re… dead.”

Her head falls back against the couch as she laughs again, then it drops forward against her knee.

“Fuckin’ ‘ell. I’m glad someone bloody well told me. Is that all that’s freaking you out, mate?”

I glance around the room again, then mutter out a “No.”

She giggles, noticing I haven’t started on the whisky and taking it from my hand again. My head feels heavy. I put a hand to my eyes, as I lean back into the couch next to her. Her body feels warm up against mine. Too real for a dream, though I suppose this is what this has to be.

Just a dream.

She props a roll-up between my lips and, lazily, holds out a light. I inhale and it catches, burning bright and slow, and I feel the last hardened shreds of anger leave my body as it warms me from the inside. My head lolls to the side and I watch her profile for a moment, feeling my skin tingle against hers. I want to run my fingers through her hair and feel that she’s real. I swallow around the joint, then take it out of my mouth. My exhalation forms a whisper.

“Do you know who I am?”

She taps the rim of the bottle against her lip and smirks at me sidelong.

“Yeah… ‘course. Thanks for the song, Gorgeous.”

“You’re welcome,” I smile, dizzy. “Y’know, Amy… you were fuckin’ incredible.”

“You’re a soppy fucker.”

Her words are hard but her eyes are soft. She plucks the joint from my mouth and puts it in her own.

“Used to listen to you, too, back in the day…” she murmurs, taking a drag. “’Fore you got all suited and booted. What the hell was that about?”

I smile. I guess I should feel hurt but, really, all I feel is that tingling calmness again and I manage a shrug as I look up at her.

“Gotta move with the times. Y’know…”

She snorts and takes another drink and I keep watching her.

There’s a guitar playing now, acoustic and gentle. I turn towards the sound, in the direction of the couch on the other side of the coffee table, where a guy is stretched out full-length. His fingers dance across the strings, picking out a rhythm with a reggae vibe that feels upbeat and easy. I’m still taking in the tattoos across his collarbone when Amy throws the joint at him. It hits him in the chest and he curses when it burns his shirtless skin. She laughs again and it makes me feel like laughing too.

“Yeah, that’s hella fuckin’ funny…” he grumbles, right before his lips close around the paper. His eyebrows knit into a frown, then rise when his gaze lands on me. “Oh… look’s like we got a visitor.”

He speaks with a lazy southern California drawl that feels warm and familiar.

“I know you,” he tells me.

He leans forward to tip his ash right onto the floor and I catch sight of the letters inked across his shoulder blades.

S… U… B… L… I… M… E.

“I know you, too.” I tell him. My voice comes out kind of hoarse.

Just a dream.

There’s a Dalmatian sleeping on the end of the couch, curled around his ankles. He reaches over to scratch its ears, then flops onto his back again. He puts the joint back into his mouth and inhales, deeply, before breathing a succession of perfect smoke rings into the heavy air.

“You got older,” he tells me, and I’m not sure how to reply to that because I sure as shit can’t say the same about him. He turns his head to look at me when I don’t reply. “You know where you are, man?”

My eyes flick around the room again and I get chills.

“I’m in the back room at Gilman.” I leave a pause, and Amy fills it with a giggle that disappears into the neck of the whisky bottle halfway through. “… the way it used to be.”

Amy starts singing a song I don’t recognise in a voice that feels like it’s smoothing all my rough edges out and then her head drops onto my shoulder and her song turns into a question.

“How in the world did you end up here?”

“I don’t know,” I tell her and, really, I’m not sure I care either. “Y’know, I’ve had kind of a fucked-up night to tell the truth.”

“Everyone who rocks up here has had a fucked-up night, Kid.”

The endearment feels awkward on the end of his sentence, as I take in the youthful tan to his skin and his fresh-faced good looks. Then I remember he used to be older than I was.

Bradley Nowell never made it to thirty.

“Well… I didn’t have one like that in a while. Kind of zoned out on stage in front of a few million people. Smashed some shit up. Fuckin’ assholes. I can’t fuckin’ stand it, y’know, I really can’t.”

I start to think about chaos again, about the sound of the stagehands yelling in my ear and the audience laughing like they think I count this as a good fucking time. I think about splintered maple wood and about my manager looking pissed as all hell. I realise that nobody here understands what I’m talking about.

Bradley stares at me like Adrienne did, which means he thinks I’ve lost my God damn mind. Then he shakes his head.

“A few million people? Fuck off.”

“So, y’know, alright…” I roll my eyes and drop my head back on the couch next to Amy’s. “I was on TV. Fuck if I know how many people were watching. Who the fuck cares. I’m probably already going viral on Youtube so all the fucking media weasels can crow about another rockstar losing his fucking mind.”

Bradley rubs his eye with the heel of his palm and then throws me the joint.

“Hold the phone…” he murmurs, like I’m not explaining myself clearly or something. Like he has any idea what Youtube is. “You were on TV in front of millions of people? You little punk-asses?”

“Oh, yeah, they got well famous, this lot…” Amy fills him in, dragging lazily on the joint and then waving it in the air, “He’s fuckin’ loaded, Bradley, you wouldn’t catch him playing a dump like this anymore.”

She looks at me and her eyes twinkle. She’s teasing. I sigh.

“The old gang hate me…” I murmur. The words feel heavy as they come out of my mouth, like they’ve been sitting in my stomach weighing me down for too long.

The Dalmation lifts his head and yawns, then goes back to sleep again. Bradley shrugs, patting his head.

“Fuck ‘em…” he tells me. “Like they wouldn’t have done the same? What are you supposed to do, give up your shot at a better life just so some assholes can paint a circle of salt around their fuckin’ scene and choose who gets inside? The fame thing’s hard, man, but… seems like kids here used to love you. Look how many other kids you reached when you signed that piece of goddamn paper. What artist don’t want that?”

I let his words roll around in my head for a moment, as Amy puts the joint back in my mouth.

“You still got that little fucker with the green hair playing drums for you?” Bradley asks, raising an eyebrow.

I grin as I exhale.

“Yep…. That little fucker turns forty this year.”

“Holy smokes…” He claps a hand to his forehead.

“I think he’s pretty pissed at me tonight.”

Amy rolls her eyes.

“Ugh, forget it, Babe. So you lost your fucking temper in front of a load of corporate arses… no one’s gonna care. It’s probably the punkest thing you’ve done in years.”

“Thanks, Honey, that helps a lot.” I pull the bottle from her hand and take a long swig before I have time to think about chaos again. I close my eyes as it warms me from the inside, just like I knew it would. I wonder how I ever thought I could give this up. The empty bottle drops from my fingers to the floor and I press my hands to my eyes.

I think about our bookmobile. I think about playing shows in my friend Marlon’s garage. I think about smoking dope and watching MTV and then I think about Milton Keynes. I think about black shirts and red ties and I think about Broadway. That makes me think about Michael. I realise I miss him. I think about him calling me an inspiration and then I think about being a role model. I think about thirty-five songs and I think about sixty-four cities. I think about Rolling Stone and then I think about sleep. I feel something pulling in my stomach again and it tries to force its way up into my chest.

I try to cough it up but it won’t come out.

Amy is singing again, as she pulls my hands away from my face and presses a shot glass to my lips. I throw it back and grimace as the liquid washes me clean. Bradley’s rolling up again, humming gently as he spreads skunk along the paper and then picks a baggie of white powder up off of the coffee table. He rubs some onto his gums, then sprinkles a pinch of it into his joint. I watch him bring it to his lips to lick the edge and then roll it between his fingers. He lights it before he passes it to me.

“Here ya go, Kid. If you’re gonna fall off the wagon, you might as well do it in style with fuckin’ backflips and pyro.”

My eyes trail the track marks on his arms as I take it from his fingers and he sees me looking. He frowns, defensively, as I take my first drag. I close my eyes and enjoy a few moments of euphoria before Bradley brings me back into the room again with a soft murmur.

“Hey, man… it was hard back then. I never thought folks would wanna buy my records, fuck, I thought it was always gonna be backyard parties down in Long Beach, Dude. I was the leader, man, if I wasn’t wild n’ crazy no fucker would listen. Sometimes it was hard to be that guy I am on stage… sometimes I needed something that would bring that guy out. You think I meant for this to happen? You think I wanted my band to find me like that? I didn’t know I wasn’t going to wake up that day. I got a baby, man.”

My exhalation is shaky.

“I got kids too,” I tell him. “My son, Joey, he’s in a band…”

I trail off as I pass the joint to Amy and she thanks me with a pat to my head. I watch her eyes close as she takes a hit, the crack affording her a few, precious moments of rapture before it snatches them away again.

Cocaine is a cruel mistress.

“Why’d you go?” I ask her, and she turns and looks at me like she doesn’t know whether to cry or punch my lights out. “I thought you quit all this shit.”

Amy laughs again but it’s a different kind of laugh to before. A mocking kind of laugh, filled with bitterness and scorn.

“Yeah, well… you must have been the only one. What was the fucking point, everyone decided I was always gonna be a fuckin’ no hoper junkie. You know what its like waking up to see the papers laughing at you every day? You think you have it bad? Fuck off. You don’t have any fuckin’ idea. You think it helped me, being clean? I just lost the only thing I had left.”

I swallow and look down at my hands. Somehow, I feel like this was my fault.

“I wish I would’ve met you before.”

“Why, so you could save me?” She laughs again, but it’s gentler this time. “Fuck it. It was my time.”

I shake my head, then put it in my hands.

“You’re twenty-fucking-seven, Amy.”

I glance up as another figure slinks into the haze. He lays his hand, affectionately, on the top of Amy’s head as he passes her, then perches on the edge of the third couch, the one I didn’t notice anybody use yet. My head is still buzzing and it takes a few moments for him to come into focus as I take him in from the feet up.

He’s wearing motorcycle boots with drainpipe jeans tucked into them. The denim is frayed and torn in places but that’s nothing compared to his shirt, which is ripped to all hell. My eyes travel up his skinny frame as he pours himself a drink and lights a cigarette and I feel my breath catch when I reach his face, which is sullen and brooding beneath his mess of spiky dark hair.

He catches me staring and stares right back, his eyes hard.

“When the fuck did Grandad show up?”

Bradley glances between us, nervously, and his dog yawns again.

“S’alright, Sid, man… think Billie’s just passin’ through.”

Sid. When I was fifteen, his face was stuck up on the back of my bedroom door.

Just a dream.

Sid sucks on his cigarette and looks at me again. He’s wearing a padlock around his neck and it hangs against the scratches on his chest.

“Billie who?”

“Uh… Billie Joe,” I tell him, and I have to cough my name out because it gets stuck halfway. “Armstrong.”

“He’s the lead singer of Green Day, Sid Babe….” Amy explains, with a patient sigh.

Sid shrugs, a little disdainfully.

“Never ‘eard of you, mate. What the fuck you doin’ ‘ere?”

Amy breaks into another round of raucous laughter and I have to smile.

“Ole’ Billie here blew out on stage tonight,” she answers for me. “He’s having a hard time in his head. Touring can be hard, y’know?”

I frown. I open my mouth to tell her that it’s more complicated than that, it’s more complicated than touring being hard but something stops me and I don’t end up saying anything at all. Maybe Amy’s right. Maybe none of us are any more complicated than that. Maybe we just like to think that we are.

“Touring ain’t hard,” Sid spits, “Who’s making it hard? You get to spend your life fuckin’… shaggin’ birds and playin’ music. Fuck everyone else. Fuck ‘em. It’s your band, yeah? Do what the hell it is you want to do. You want to smoke crack all night long and fuckin’ smash shit up, yeah? Go for it. They want to come and see you or what? Christ. Don’t let some fuckin’ suits boss you around.”

I struggle into a sitting position and rest my head in my hand again as Sid’s gruff, slurred Cockney tirade settles in the air. I want to tell him that touring clubs as a twenty-one year old is a little different to touring arenas at forty with wives, children and an industry reputation trailing after you. I decide I won’t bother because, honestly, I don’t feel like getting into an argument with the little shit.

Sid opens the tin box that’s sitting on the coffee table and takes out a dirty-looking piece of rag. I swallow, as he wraps it around his bicep, then pulls it tight and reaches for the box again. When he takes out the needle I look the other way because, now he’s sitting right in front of me, Sid Vicious doesn’t look a lot older than Joey and that almost makes me cry.

We’re all quiet while Sid takes his hit. Bradley is playing his guitar again and it sounds sweet and soulful and Amy’s head is resting on my shoulder so that the scent of her hair fills up all my senses.

I hear the syringe drop back onto the table and I turn to look at Sid again. He’s stretched out on the couch now with those motorcycle boots crossed at the ankle and his arms stretched up behind his head. His eyes are closed and his face is peaceful. I wonder if he ever realised that the heroin ruled him the same way he thinks the suits are ruling me. I wonder if this is really what he wanted to do, or whether he let the high boss him around. Suddenly, he doesn’t seem like such an anarchist after all. I wish I could take him home so Adie could make him up a nice bed in the guestroom and I could fix him a decent breakfast. I wonder if he ever knew what it was like to have someone like Adie take care of him.

“Got a girl?” Sid murmurs, suddenly, as if he can read my mind. His voice is slurred and scratchy and his question comes out all in one breath.

“Got a wife,” I reply, with a sigh. “… She’s pretty badass.”

He nods, and Amy giggles. I know what she’s thinking. She’d have to be.

“I had a girl, too…” Sid tells me, “… she’s fuckin’ dead, though.”

It’s almost like he thinks we don’t know. Like Sid and Nancy didn’t write one of the most famously fucked-up love stories of all time.

“Yeah…” I mumble, taking another hit off Bradley’s joint because, fuck, it’s really fucking good. “…. Sorry, man…”

“I ain’t killed her you know,” he continues, lazily. “She was my baby, it was… it was forever, alright? I mean, it was my knife and everything, yeah, but… I ain’t meant for any of that to happen. Fuckin’ filth locked me up anyway though… still, ‘spose that got me clean.”

“What happened then, Sid, man?” Bradley asks, even though I suspect he’s heard this story a hundred times before.

Sid shrugs very slowly and closes his eyes again.

“Can’t remember. Got bailed eventually and my mum came and taken me home. She wanted to have a party, yeah? To celebrate. Fuckin’ celebrate. My baby was dead! I didn’t want to celebrate. I didn’t want to do nothing, you know, I just wanted everything to go away. Mum brought me some smack that first night– I think she just wanted me to feel better, you know? – Anyway, that was that. Fuck it all, I thought, I’m done with this shit. I’m done. Did you know I asked them to bury me next to her? In my note, I mean. They wouldn’t even do that for us. I fuckin’ loved her but they couldn’t even do that…”

Sid seems to drift into a sleep then and I stare down at the joint burning out between my fingers, feeling my eyes sting.

I think about Sid and Nancy. I think about anarchy. I think about Bradley trying to be something he isn’t. I think about pulling back the curtain on my tour bus and seeing Mike lying there and that hurts and then I think about brotherhood. I think about love. I wonder how Bradley’s baby grew up and that makes me think about my sons. I think about family. I wonder how Amy’s mom and dad are doing. I think about Adrienne. I remember how she screamed when I broke the mirror.

Amy takes the joint from my hand and I wipe at my eyes.

“Who’s going to write your song, Babe?” she asks me, very softly.

I shake my head because I don’t know how to answer any other way. I can feel that swelling in my chest again but, this time, when I reach for the bottle all I can see is Adrienne looking at me like I’ve lost my God damn mind.

Bradley stops playing and sits up. He crosses the space between us, and then pats me on the shoulder so that I look up and meet his grey eyes. He looks a little sad, but I suppose I’m doing a pretty good portrait of a pathetic loser right now.

He turns and signals with the hand that isn’t holding onto the guitar and I notice a burly security guy leaning against the far wall, for the first time. He looks at Bradley and nods.

“Good to meet you, Billie Joe,” Bradley tells me, squeezing my shoulder, “… Just remember… any time you want to come back, we’ll be here… because none of us is going anywhere.”

Amy leans closer to me and kisses my cheek. Her lips feel warm and cool all at the same time. I close my eyes as she whispers in my ear.

“I really did like my song, y’know. You should keep writing them.”

Someone grips the back of my shirt and my eyes spring open to see the security guy hauling me off the couch. I open my mouth to protest, as Amy blows me a kiss and Bradley raises his glass to me. Over on the couch, Sid gives me a lazy wave.

“Goodnight, Billie Joe Armstrong,” he mumbles.


Before I can even say another word, I’m being barrelled out of the room and down an old hallway I’ve walked before. One hand is twisted behind my back and I writhe against my assailant the same way I fought against Tre back in Vegas.

“Let go of me, you-”

The back doors swing open and I’m forced out into the night air, which feels cold against my face. I’m pushed, hard, from behind and then I’m falling, thrown down the concrete steps and onto the sidewalk hard enough to knock the air right out of me.

I groan, curling up small, watching the world turn sideways as I stare up at the door from my painful landing place on a Berkeley street that’s as familiar to me as my own.

The door bangs shut and then everything is quiet.

My head hurts.

I close my eyes and I wonder what the fuck is going to happen next.