The following story is an outtake from Decibel’s Top 100 Tours of All Time Special Issue. To read more stories and view the list in its entirety, you can purchase a copy of the issue here.
Many, if not most, Decibel readers know the story of the 2012 UK bus crash that cut the Yellow & Green Tour short, prompted Matt Maggioni and Allen Blickle’s departure from Baroness, and left John Baizley looking at months of recovery and therapy. Many of you also know about the band’s triumphant return and tour reboot less than a year later. What you probably don’t know is that the guitarist and frontman came very close to not making it back to active duty–maybe not ever. What follows, in his words, is Baizley’s story:
Shortly after I’d gotten out of the wheelchair, I’d figured out that I could jog for exercise. My physical therapist felt that it would really hustle my recovery along and was pretty adamant that I do that every day.
It was about two weeks out from the first show of the tour–the one at Union Transfer in Philly–maybe closer to a week. I’m not exactly sure. Everybody in the band was in town to rehearse. I went out for a little jog in this pleasant little neighborhood in suburban Philadelphia before we were scheduled to meet up.
It was a pretty dreary day–hazy, misty, rainy, cold, wet–maybe not so good for jogs, but perfect for rehearsing. I had a regular route and knew the neighborhood well, knew that people there were very well-behaved and that it was a quiet place where you hardly ever even saw cars in motion.
I get to this four-way stop sign and keep running. I’m a pedestrian, there’s a pedestrian lane and a stop sign at each corner, so I figure I’m safe. I’m already in the street when I see a car off to my right, moving perpendicularly in my direction. Again, I’m so used to this route that I’m used to people stopping at this intersection, so I just think nothing of it. Then my periphery becomes very much in front of me and I see that the car has not stopped at all and is, in fact, running the stop sign.
I can’t stop because I’m running on slippery pavement. He can’t stop because he doesn’t even see me until he makes eye contact with me when we’re, like, 10 or 15 feet away from each other. When he sees me, instead of putting on the brake, he has this weird reaction, stomps on the accelerator, and I hear his motor rev as he roars toward me.
I’m like, okay, this is happening again; definitely don’t need this today. I knew instinctively that if I didn’t leave the ground, the car was going to crush my legs. So I jump up in the air, tuck my body up, turn to the side that wasn’t damaged, broken and still recovering, and I completely total that guy’s car.
I land on the hood, completely shattering the windshield. The hood gets a big, me-shaped dent in it and I go flying for maybe 15 feet, then just skid along the road for a while. I remember getting up off the pavement. Everything is wet just like it was at my last accident and I’m just drenched in blood– just a giant road rash.
I kinda have this sense that I wasn’t severely injured. I’m like, this is a familiar place, a familiar feeling, but I don’t think anything is broken. When I realize that such was the case and that I’m more or less intact, I start seeing red. I’m like, this guy really put a damper on my day. I start aggressively walking to the car and this tiny, frail, older guy gets out of his newly totaled vehicle and he’s crying, really remorseful, just wants to be friends, wants a hug. I’m just trying to wrestle with my anger, and the fact that the accident happened at such an inopportune time and I’m going to be late for practice.
After doing my best to reassure the guy, I go up to the neighbors’ yard. They knew what had happened. I mean, I’m covered in blood, there’s glass all over the street, this little old man is sobbing inconsolably behind me. We’re on the porch and I ask if they saw the accident. They were like, “We didn’t see the actual accident because our hedge is so high, but we did see your body flying over it and we heard you hit the ground, so we knew that you were injured. Are you all right? You look terrible.”
I looked at my reflection in the window and saw that I kinda had this wet Freddy Kruger thing going on. I’m like, “Nah, I’m okay.” “Do you want to call the police,” they ask. “What about an ambulance? You look like you need one.”
I’m like, “I really don’t need an ambulance but I guess we should call the police.” So we do that. And then I had to call my wife. She’s like, “You’re on a run: why the hell are you calling me?” I’m like, “You gotta come pick me up. I don’t even wanna talk about it.” She’s like, “Nonononono–what happened?” I’m like, “Well– I just got hit by a car.”
She gives me sort of a “not a funny joke, John; what’s really going on” chuckle and I’m like, “No– I really got hit. Please don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s fine. It’s all good. Nothing broken. I just don’t feel well enough to walk home.”
My wife goes into the other room and tells the guys in the band and they were like, “There’s no way.” She’s like, “No, it happened. He’s hurt, but apparently not too badly.”
She picks me up. I get back to the house ready to rehearse. After eight months of recovery from really being hurt, I feel like this is nothing. I walk into the room and get this mixture of horror–from Nick and Sebastian, who are probably wondering how given so little time, I could manage to get in so much trouble–and from Pete, anger, because he’s probably thinking I could have been more careful.
I’m like, “Guys, it’s okay. It hurts, but I’m fine. Nothing’s broken. Let’s just get on with it.”
Ultimately, in a weird way it was funny. In part because of what had happened before, in part because of the timing. Nobody was expecting to say, “John, you look like a giant fucking scab. Are you sure you’re going to be able to play today?”
I just cleaned up a little and off we went to the rehearsal space. It was then that I decided I was invincible.