October 29 was the birthday of Denny Laine, founding member of The Moody Blues and full-fledged member of the early, vintage Wings band featuring Paul & Linda McCartney. Yes, the man formerly known as Brian Frederick Arthur Hines, was born on that day in 1944…and while he was playing at the Cutting Room in New York four years ago, he found out that his ex wife, Jo Jo Laine, had passed away…on his birthday.
If you don’t believe in coincidences from the other side, keep in mind that Jo Jo certainly did…so there’s a charming kind of irony in that her persona is now indelibly linked to her husband in a way in which he couldn’t possibly have imagined. But that was our Jo Jo….she had a way of dropping one liners and things that would keep you intrigued….clearly, even after she passed through this veil of tears.
The night I met Jo Jo Laine – in the summer of 1986 – I was business partners with the late Jimmy Miller, one of the greatest record producers of all time. A few weeks or maybe a month before we all met I had found a yellow envelope with little red hearts all over it at our Miller’s Music Office P.O. box. The card was from England and addressed to “Jimmy Miller.” Mr. Miller happened to be sitting in my car at the Woburn Post Office the day it arrived, and he was totally delighted to receive the correspondence.
“Who is “Jo Jo Laine” I asked?
Jimmy smiled saying “Jo Jo Laine is the ex-wife of Moody Blues founder Denny Laine. Carole Price (the ex-wife of Rolling Stones’ horn player Jim Price) says that Jo Jo is outrageous – and that we have to meet! She says we’re two of a kind!” So the anticipation to meet the rock princess was now very high. Heck, Jack Bruce used to phone my house from Carol Price’s place looking for Jimmy – a thrill to hear the voice that made so many of my favorite Cream records. With Jack Bruce as an endorsement, any friend of Carol’s …was probably going to be a handful!
And now Madame Jo Jo was making her triumphant return to Boston, where she grew up.
The Limousine owned by our trusty pal Ed Bread picked Jimmy & I up for our ride into the city to meet the legendary Ms. Laine. Ed’s real name we’ll keep out of the story, but all the rock & rollers knew Ed was an “angel” who supported local music (i.e. financed demo tapes) from his very popular restaurant and limo business, thus he earned the nickname that stuck: Ed Bread. But Ed always personally drove us into Boston or New York and is an important part of the Jo Jo Laine story as we get deeper into the post-Wings days.
It was a magical night, Ed’s limousine delivering us to Lansdowne Street, a nightclub called AXIS, next to Avalon, across the street from the Red Sox famous home of Fenway Park. There was Jo Jo and her strange boyfriend who claimed he was a drummer for Chrissie Hynde & The Pretenders (more like he auditioned and didn’t make the cut), there I was with my friend Brian, a fellow who had recently gotten out of the army (and was also one of Ed’s limo drivers) and along with us was Brian’s shadow, I mean, his quote unquote girlfriend K…. (we’ll call her “Miss K”), a lovely girl who should’ve listened to the Buzzcocks sing about love in vain, “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?”
We were all congregating near “the green monster” – the big wall that protected the ballpark – when suddenly there was some mad woman shrieking in our direction. It was the ex-sister-in-law of a famous Boston guitarist who was walking down the street with Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys and she was in a furious rage at another famous person…it was real Twilight Zone stuff and as she walked up Lansdowne Street it was like a storm passing while we were all leaning against the limo…
There must’ve been something in the air as the night was to get even stranger in just a few moments. When we decided to all go back to my place and were getting back into the limousine the young lady we were with was shocked to see the love of her life was not coming along.
He ran off with a musician who saw us parked alongside the nightclub.
With Soldier Brian m.i.a. “Miss K” burst into an immediate torrent of tears.
The alleged girlfriend was crying her eyes out in the limousine – everyone in creation knowing that Brian was gay except for her. It is probably the most incredible case of denial ever put on record. Then came the suave but decadent man who created a Rolling Stones’ masterpiece, “Sympathy for The Devil”… and Lucifer’s spirit must’ve been invading the famous record producer as he began acting like he was consoling her, but in reality his pawing at the poor pretty thing … “Pardon me for being a dirty old man” he said as she was sobbing, and then blurted out…”but it’s HOPELESS with Brian”.
Well that set her off even more – imagine – some silver haired old Kenny Rogers-type (Miller looked very much like Kenny “The Gambler” Rogers at this point in time) hitting on a pretty young thing and verifying her worst thoughts! That it’s “HOPELESS” with Brian, who just took off with some hot jet-black haired young man in his car to do God knows what.
The young lady was like a female version of Lou Reed’s character Waldo Jaffers in “The Gift”, a fellow who fantasized that his girlfriend was with some Neanderthal “finally submitting to the final caresses of sexual oblivion.” Lou Reed might’ve written that two decades before – and perhaps played it at the very nightclub we stood in front of – the old Boston Tea Party, then named the Avalon/Axis complex – but Reed’s words were quite accurate: “It was more than the human mind could bear.” For her it WAS more than the mind could bear. The more Miller consoled her the more she burst into tears. We had to put up with this the entire ride 12 miles North.
When we got to my house in Woburn and Jo Jo arrived it was like a big party, except for the young lady – but even the disposition of a woman in love with a gay guy couldn’t erase the energy of three people who connected and would become very close friends over the next two years and more – Jimmy Miller, Joe Vig and Jo Jo Laine. I went through my monstrous record collection and found my copy of Denny Laine’s Warner Brothers release, “Ahhh Laine.” I handed it to Jo Jo, in the kitchen where we were all around the table. Jo Jo took the album, pulled it out of its cover, and kissed the innersleeve with her big and notoriously famous lipstick mark. She then wrote inside the lips: “Remember these? …You will.”
She got that right. That was the night I met Jo Jo Laine. It changed my life.
When we finally publish the book and you read it, it will change yours.
Rest in peace, Jo Jo. We can’t believe it’s been four years since your lively personality has left us.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.