My Love/Hate Relationship with Liz Phair

The “love” part of my love/hate relationship with singer/songwriter/ Liz Phair is her music. She has amazing songs and I think her album “Exile in Guyville” is one of the best records ever made.

The “hate” part are the times I’ve tried to get her autograph.

The first time I ever attempted to get her autograph was a success. I was working in radio, and she was going into a competing radio station to do an interview. I drove down and waited in the parking lot. She got out of the car and was carrying some stuff as I approached. Now, I had read she was a bit shy and suffered from stage fright. That made me reluctant to really gush over her as much as I wanted. I brought my two favorite CDs of hers and asked if she’d sign them. She graciously did, and I said “I think the ‘Divorce Song’ is the best break-up song ever. I like it even better than Carole King’s ‘It’s Too Late’.”

She smiled and said, “Thank you! What a nice compliment.”

That night in concert she was amazing.

A year later she came to town. I brought only one CD for her to sign and it was during the sound-check before the show started. She walked out of the tour bus, looked at me, and said, “I really don’t have time right now.”

She looked angry. I simply responded, “Okay.”

After a bit of a pause, as she went towards the entrance, I told her, “I’m looking forward to the show tonight.”

She didn’t turn around.

I listened as they sound-checked, but left before she came back out.

That night, another great show. Afterwards, I was waiting by her tour bus with about 20 fans. She walked out and signed a few autographs. As she was signing my CD she said, “Hey, cool shirt!”

I was wearing an old Rolling Stones T-shirt (her album “Exile in Guyville” is a play on the Rolling Stones album “Exile on Main Street.”)

I started to say something about the Rolling Stones, and she walked away before I even finished my sentence. Oh well. At least my new CD was signed.

A few years later, she came back to town again. She released another CD and I had that, and the poster that was on the wall of the record store promoting it. At that time, she was dating her guitarist – a tall, good looking guy with lots of curly black hair.

When she got off her tour bus before the show, I asked if she’d sign the CD. She mumbled something under her breath and walked by me.

During the show that night, there was a power outage about 45 minutes into it. The crowd booed, as the band and sound guys all messed around with wires and soundboards on the stage. I went outside to smoke a cigar and talk to some friends. I was 10 minutes into my stogie when a woman came outside and said, “Don’t you guys realize Liz is back on stage? She’s just playing an acoustic guitar in the dark.”

We ran back inside (with me dropping my $8 cigar on the ground), and it was mesmerizing. This was before everyone had cell phones, and it was just a few flashlights from security that provided the light on her as she sang songs acoustically. After 30 minutes of that, the electricity was back on. Unlike when Dylan went electric to boos, we erupted in applause as she strapped on her white electric axe and went into “Supernova.”

After the show, at around 11:30, we were waiting by her bus. She walked out and said, “I don’t have time, guys. I have to put my baby to sleep.”

The next year when she came to town, I decided I was going to get her a gift. Since my favorite song (Divorce Song) contains a line “It’s true that I stole your lighter”…I had that engraved onto a Zippo lighter, with the other side having her name and one of the early logos she used on an album. It cost me a pretty penny, but hey – the amount of enjoyment I’ve gotten from her music over the years made it worth it.

Again, I showed up in the afternoon to try to catch her at the sound-check, before the big crowds would arrive. She came out of the bus and said she would sign my CD later. I was holding the lighter in my hand but didn’t have a chance to hand it over. I merely said,  “Okay, cool.”

After an hour, she came out with her boyfriend. She glanced over at me. I was probably 200 feet away. I didn’t want to rush over to them. I figured she’d come over. Well, her and her boyfriend started walking the opposite direction, towards one of the big malls in downtown San Diego. As I watched them walk farther and farther away, I wondered if I should go chase after her. Surely she’d sign the CD, and accept the gift. Yet I started feeling like that would be a stalker move.

I drove home, anxiously anticipating that nights concert and plotting how I’d give her the gift by the tour bus. As usual, it was great set of songs she performed.

During the show she talked about somebody recognizing her name at that mall. She said the sales clerk looked at her credit card and said, “Oh, Liz Phair…like the singer.”

Phair told us, “I’m not sure why she didn’t think it was me.”

Lionel Richie once told a similar story in concert. He said, “How come when people meet me, they always say my name with a question mark? It’s always ‘Lionel?’”

I don’t think celebrities realize, us regular folks aren’t expecting to run into them somewhere. So if you see an actor or singer you’re a fan of at the mall, you’ll just assume it’s a person that looks like them or has the same name.

Yet after the show, we never saw her and security was pushing people around and telling us to leave.

As my friends and I were walking to the car, I looked at the lighter. I thought perhaps I’d just keep it for myself, until I noticed something. They spelled the word lighter wrong. It said “Lightr.”

On the other side of the lighter, it said “Liz Fair.” I have no clue how they could’ve spelled it wrong, as I had written out exactly what it was supposed to say. I guess the lesson is – when having something engraved, check it carefully before they gift wrap it. Although this part of the story does help things end in a positive note. I took the lighter back the next day and they gave me a $50 refund.

Years later she came back for a show at a much smaller venue – the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. I was surprised to see she came out and signed autographs. I was without the lighter, and without anything for her to sign. Oh well. Maybe next time.    

Here are the lyrics to the “Divorce Song”…perhaps the best break-up song ever.

And when I asked for a separate room

It was late at night, and we'd been driving since noon.
But if I'd known how that would sound to you
I would have stayed in your bed for the rest of my life
Just to prove I was right
That it's harder to be friends than lovers
And you shouldn't try to mix the two
'Cause if you do it and you're still unhappy
Then you know that the problem is you.
And it's true that I stole your lighter
And it's also true that I lost the map
But when you said that I wasn't worth talking to
I had to take your word on that.
But if you'd known how that would sound to me
You would have taken it back
And boxed it up and buried it in the ground
Boxed it up and buried it in the ground
Boxed it up and buried it in the ground
Burned it up and thrown it away.

You put in my hands a loaded gun
And then told me not to fire it.
When you did the things you said were up to me
And then accused me of trying to f**k it up.

But you've never been a waste of my time
It's never been a drag
So take a deep breath and count back from ten
And maybe you'll be alright.

And the license said you had to stick around until I was dead
But if you're tired of looking at my face, I guess I already am.
But you've never been a waste of my time
It's never been a drag
So take a deep breath and count back from ten
And maybe you'll be alright

Views: 1069

Tags: Carole King, Divorce Song, Exile in Guyville, Lionel Richie, Liz Phair, Rolling Stones

Comment by Robert Babb on January 28, 2014 at 7:20am

Josh! very entertaining! It is something that certain celebrities are nice one minute the next complete opposites. Maybe her boyfriend may think you are his competition lol!

Comment by Carlos on January 30, 2014 at 1:25pm
Ummm getting a lighter made? She thinks you're a psycho!!!
Also she's a nobody
Comment by Josh Board on January 30, 2014 at 5:24pm

Carlos, you're wrong on two counts. First, I never gave her the lighter. She never even saw it, so she doesn't think anything about it. Second, she's certainly not a nobody. I own a thousand albums and CDs, worked in radio for 8 years, and know almost everything about music -- and she's one of my favorites. So even if she played gigs for 10 fans in each city, she'd be something to me. And really, isn't that all that matters? We get autographs from people we are fans of, right? Whether that's some second string QB on the Green Bay Packers, or a singer/songwriter you might not be familiar with. Now, that being said...I believe her album "Exile in Guyville" was in Rolling Stone magazines list of top female albums of all time (and rightly so!).

Comment by Carlos on January 30, 2014 at 5:26pm
Never heard of her. And only nobody's play at small venues.
Okay, I read the story and I think you're a weirdo. Who does that?
She probably saw you all those times and got sick of you. No offense but calm down
Comment by Josh Board on January 30, 2014 at 5:30pm sound like the weirdo. Lots of people play small venues. The same venue I'm talking about at two of these attempts, is where Lou Reed and Iggy Pop played (to less people than Phair had). Have you heard of Reed and Iggy? Go back to drooling over MJ and leave these threads/comments for the music fans.

Comment by Carlos on January 30, 2014 at 5:32pm
You know they are normal people right? I'm sure if she saw that lighter she would have been FREAKED!!!
Calm down
Comment by Josh Board on January 30, 2014 at 5:40pm

Okay, okay. I'm calm now. But seriously...people give gifts. It's not unheard of, man.

Comment by Jeffery Kite on February 2, 2014 at 9:34am

In 100%, total, complete defense of Josh, yes, people do give little gifts or trinkets to some of their favorite celebrities. I know I have. Was getting an autograph of Jay Howell, member of the 1988 World Series champion Dodgers team, and as I went through my baseball cards to see which one I wanted to get signed, I came across one that had a nice little bio about his wife and kids on the back. As I got to the table and secured his autograph, I showed him this card, and the nice little bio about his family on the back, and said, "I bet your family doesn't know they have their own baseball card, do they?" Jay replied, "Hey, look at that! I had no idea myself." I asked him if he would like to have this card, and he surprisingly said, "Really?" I said, "Yeah, man. It's all yours." His smile was as big and bright as the sun that day, and he quietly said, "Thank you," as he shook my hand. That's just ONE story of MANY times I have given extra cards to an athlete, either in person on through the mail. I invariably most always get a kind word of thanks, as this really shows the person signing the autographs that you are a collector that admires their work, accomplishments, feats, etc., and are not just some scuzz bucket trying to later make a dollar off them. I know a guy who had several things he wanted Baseball Hall of Famer Don Sutton to autograph one day before he made the radio call for that day's Braves game. He asked Mr. Sutton to sign some photos, cards, and a few other things, and then presented Mr. Sutton  with about a half dozen brand new, Dodger blue, golf shirts, because he knew that Mr. Sutton loves to play golf. Mr. Sutton was so thankful, and now signs anything else that guy brings up. A small little gift sometimes can go a long way. So it's not unheard of Carlos, just uncommon. And you know what else is uncommon now a days, people saying "Thank you," after getting an autograph. And the defense for Josh Board now rests. :)

Comment by Erich Jerozal on February 2, 2014 at 10:12am

Carlos whats the deal man.  People have favorite people....yours as we can see is not Liz Phair.   One of Josh`s favorite people is Liz Phair. 

Let it be at that.  No reason to dis anyone because that is what they like to collect. 

What a D    ouche    Bag   Move man. 

Comment by Xwiesy on February 2, 2014 at 10:19am
I've had friendships with some of the best in person signers in the world- and gifts are not out of the ordinary. In fact, some celebrities even ask for copies of the photos they sign as gifts. One friend handed a photo to Jodie Foster to sign and she told him next time to bring a copy so she could give it to her mother! He did just that and she wrote a little note on another photo thanking him! Josh isn't weird, in fact, he brings an incredibly real experience to this board and I appreciate the blog posts.


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