Monday, January 28, 2013

Chapter 32 The Test Of EST

Not only had my father been diagnosed with breast cancer and had the tumor removed about two years earlier, but now my mom had been diagnosed with the terrible disease too. I was was fortunate to be back home and have the chance to be there for her - for them. I sat up in my bed at night in my old room and wondered. I wondered what was going to happen when "Helter Skelter" was released in April. I wondered what my old friend and band-mate Chas was up to in Europe, but mostly I thought about my mom. I could always talk to her about anything and she would listen without judgement to all the crazy things I was going through and I hope I didn't worry her too much. But we would really talk things out and I felt understood and loved. She was the best! Now I felt it was my turn to listen to her. I think I did "good".
There was a general sadness and malaise around the house. My brother had just turned twenty and was going to school at UC Irvine and living on campus and my sister was hard at work as usual working for David Sheehan, who was the first movie/television show reviewer/interviewer on a daily local newscast. They would drop by once in a while and Susan I'm sure called every day, maybe Robbie every other day. Dad was moping around the house trying to put on a brave face, trying not to come off looking worried. It wasn't working. I was walking on eggshells hoping not to get in his way. 
One day after mom had been talking to a friend, probably Tina, she had convinced all of us to go through EST together. This is not Eastern Standard time but Erhard Seminar Training founded by Werner Erhard in 1971. If not for the fact that Helyn was so insistent, thinking it would be a great way to deal with her upcoming surgery and all the fears she had about cancer, we would have never been talked into it, especially not all three of us at once. 
EST was one of the more successful entrants into the human potential movement. Erhard and EST were known for training people to get "It", a concept taken from author, teacher and expert communicator, Alan Watts. At the time Erhard arrived in the Bay Area, Watts was teaching his version of Zen to small groups on his houseboat in Sausalito. Erhard, like Watts, would teach people to "Get It." Watts, however, did most of his teaching through books. His seminars were small. Erhard and his trainers would not teach through books, but in large hotel ballrooms and auditoriums to hundreds at a time. 
I'm not sure what I "got" other than learning a little bit about how I go about things - the hard way. There was a process in the training showing what it was like to be a salmon swimming upstream. It is better to go with the current, especially for us humans. It pointed out in very graphic ways what it was like to go through life against the grain and how it "works" when you go with the current. I guess back then I was a salmon, I still can be at times.
Another process they included was the one where you lie down on your back and imagine your body being filled up with a warm orange fluid. Then as the fluid reaches its capacity you picture all of your body parts releasing the fluid through little valves. You can start at the head and work your way down to the feet. It is really based on Zen and meditation to relax and quiet the body and the mind. But hey, it works.
Bernie Glassman says in his one of his books, row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. I can see that now but it is hard to apply it to daily life with all the stuff that happens. It does take practice and a lot of discipline. It is funny how life can get in the way of itself and we forget our purpose - our core self.  I used to get mad at myself for forgetting these things but now I am a little easier on old me. Don't get me wrong I still have major blow ups and the rage monster finds its way into my psyche, the only difference is now it doesn't last as long when I remember and put to use the tools of the trade.
I look back at that time now with mixed emotions. Sure I was upset and depressed about my own life, with problems that seemed insurmountable at the time. My mom and dad both had cancer, I was experiencing my first death of a friend and coworker and the death of a would-be love, my band had broken up and I was feeling alone and abandoned. The important thing to remember is, I was with my parents at a crucial time in our lives, and I hope I contributed in a positive way to our relationships. I hope they knew what they meant to me and what they meant to all that were close to me, and my undying love for them. Being a father now of three wonderful and amazing boys, I can see now how they must have felt about me. I am so fortunate we had that time to really connect as adults, as friends, as parent to son and son to parent.  Time is a fleeting thing but love that remains strong and true can outlast the test of it. If there was anything to "GET" I think that was "IT".

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chapter 31 - The Homecoming

It was the year of our bicentennial in America. The top movie of the year was "Taxi-Driver" and the number one song on Billboard's top 100 was "Silly Love Songs" by the yet to be knighted Sir James Paul McCartney, the one Beatle I never got to meet. Maybe someday? Back then meeting one's idols meant a lot more to me than it does now. I've never met Dylan and I am a bit hesitant about it knowing full well he could never live up to my expectations; it might be a let down. Nevertheless, back then I felt like a descendant, even though a very distant one, from the long and winding tribe of the "Grand Beatlessence". When I think about the interconnectiveness of all things in the universe, I still do.
Now our direct link to that connection, the behemoth man-child, Mal, was gone. I would go over to Larry's new apartment on Crescent Heights and Fountain sometimes to get away from the going's on at Oakhurst. It was a typical Blair place, with modern but simple decor furnished by the apartment complex company. It felt normalizing again to be jamming with him on clavinette, the one left over from the Bruce Golden years. Bruce was continuing to finance the band I assumed, but I decided after leaving the Courtney Manor apartments and the departure of Michael Kennedy, I was not taking another penny - so I never mentioned him, especially to Stephen. I felt that enough was enough and the band was generally defunct, although I knew Stephen would always keep a candle burning in the window of hope for the band. Larry was beginning to realize that it was time to move on as well, or maybe it was our time to connect without Stephen. Now I can see that things were just happening so quickly all the time, you just went with it. You may end up in some strange studio in the middle of the night when the red button is pressed. There was no time to stop the machine we were all caught up in. I felt like I needed a break from that machine after staying for two or three weeks on Larry's couch in West Hollywood. It was time to go back to the sanctuary.
Not only had my father been diagnosed with breast cancer and had the tumor removed about two years earlier, but now my mom had been diagnosed with the terrible disease too. I was was fortunate to be back home and have the chance to be there for her - for them. I sat up at night in my old room and wondered. I worried about my mom. I wondered what was going to happen when "Helter Skelter" was released in April. I wondered what my old friend and band-mate Chas was up to in Europe, but mostly I thought about my mom.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chapter 30 - The Fifth Beatle, Bonnie and The Blow

Bonnie Yardum was beautiful, like a rose, but there were thorns attached and you had to be careful not to get pricked. She was the receptionist at ASCAP when Stephen and I strolled in off the street wanting to set up a meeting. There was a girl with a beauty mark on her left cheek on the back cover of Leon Russell's "Carney" songbook eating some cotton candy. That was Bonnie. She also appeared in a film in 1975 with Dean Stockwell and Russ Tamblyn, "WIn, Place or Steal" which also featured a small part by Johnny Haymer, my dad. Bonnie had two loves in her life that I can think of, one was her standard poodle, Buffy, and the other was heroin. 
There were so many people we knew that were abusing drugs in those days and many of them are not around to tell about it. hey, it was the seventies. Even though Silverspoon had a reputation of being a druggie band, the nucleus of what the band was Stephen, Larry and myself were what I would call "normies". Sure there was pot around all the time and Stephen and I had our fair share of joints or maybe some choice mushrooms once in a great while, and Larry, who never smoked, would dabble in this or that but it never ruled our day. We would never go out of our way to get high and escape, if anything we would do things to enhance our experience, which was usually music. Unfortunately that wasn't what it was like for Joey. He took to the much harder stuff which really concerned everyone else. Joey, as I said before, was one of these guys who could keep a straight face through any degree of intoxication. You would just never know if he was tripping his brains out or straight as an arrow. He never was around the band much when he was nodding. He was a perfect match for Bonnie, although the thought of them together made my blood boil. They would hide out in her apartment on Westbourne and I was jealous. I knew Bonnie had some terrible habits and I would be out of my mind to want that kind of thing in my life, but I cared for her deeply.
I think it was at a Halloween party at the end of 1975 Bonnie was hosting a nightclub on Rodeo drive called "The Daisy". This was the party where Larry would meet his future squeeze, Christa Helm. Christa was an enterprising actress and wanted to get into the music biz. She started working on her record with Frankie Crocker, the former New York and Miami DJ, the man credited with coining the radio term “urban contemporary". It would be later on in '76 when Larry and Stephen would move into the "red house" on Fountain near Kings Road in West Hollywood. That place gave me the creeps. I stayed away from it not only because it felt dark and evil, but also because of the banal and nauseating music that was coming out of it. Bad vibes, man.
I think right after the party at the Daisy was the time when I met Tommy. He used to hang out at that Chinese restaurant across the street from the Rainbow called Jimmy Wu's or something like that. Tommy looked exactly like Lee Marvin with a deviated septum from doing more than his fair share of cocaine. One night I was having dinner there with Bonnie and Tommy pulled up a chair. He said he recognized me as one of the guys hanging around Larry and Stephen at the Rainbow. I always thought I kept a fairly low profile but apparently not. He was going on in a hyper rant about how he knew this guy and that guy and was a good friend of Billy Preston's, the keyboardist extraordinaire who played with the Beatles and had a couple of hit singles in the mid 70's. Tommy did say that  Billy was going to appear at a party of a well-to-do friends house in the near future and we were all invited. 
The huge party in a mansion in Beverly Hills materialized because fortunately or unfortunately this friends parents were out of town. There were all sorts of people invited, not your typical Rainbow crowd, no,  these folks were the druggie types, the mafia dons with their diamond laced girlfriends. Big boobs, round asses co-mingling with greasy-haired pimped out dudes were everywhere. Then entered Billy with Tommy and the rest of his entourage. There he was, the so-called fifth Beatle,(although there were at least five or six other people who claimed this honor), Billy Preston in the house playing that Steinway grand in the living room. That wig on his head looked like it could have housed all sorts of unmentionable critters or vermin, it was huge. I'd never seen so much cocaine in my life on the coffee table. It was spread out over a large silver platter that had to be at least fifteen inches in diameter. The coke peaked up in a mountain that crested like a miniature ski slope covering nearly half the platter. 
While tuning up my J-200 in the corner, I had convinced Larry who was sitting with some gorgeous honey to sit down at the piano and play. He was a little intimidated but held it together and played the keys with Billy, one of his idols, watching. He started into "Flight of the Bumble Bee" written by Nikolai Rimsky- Korsakov. He was playing it faster than I had ever heard, then Billy jumped up off the leather couch and proceeded to play the high part. It was mind boggling and Larry was in piano heaven.
Joey got up from his perch at the bar and said, "Let's do some Spoon tunes". I was shocked that he took the initiative to sing in front of all these people but he was feeling good, real good. Stephen picked up his Martin D-28 and with Larry still at the keys we went into "She Is The Woman". I was watching Billy watching Larry's fingers and  he was smiling that little boy smile of his. I was also glancing over at Bonnie who was now sitting with Tommy attempting to level off that mound of coke on the table. I knew I could never be with a girl like that, even though she was gorgeous and sweet and had great intentions, her habit would prove to be too overwhelming for me. It just didn't seem that we were a good fit, although she did appeal to my more rebellious nature, but good sense would win out in the end, at least in our case, which really wasn't a case at all. Infatuation, I believe was what I would call it.
  Joey was on his game that night. He was hitting high notes in a full voice that were hard to sing in a falsetto and his pitch seemed to be spot on. The harmonies were tight and the place was rocking especially when Billy sat back down at the keys and jammed with us. We were so caught up in the magic of the moment nobody realized that people were starting to wander around the premises. There were people milling about the rooms upstairs which a definite no-no and it was starting to seem like another party that was going to get out of control. At least I knew the walls were well insulated and the music was basically acoustic so the police weren't going to show.
The next week we were invited up to Billy's horse ranch in Topanga Canyon where there was always something going on. That night Billy was playing the piano and there was this guy underneath playing with the pedals and drinking Old Grand Dad out of the bottle. Larry asked me if I knew who that drunk was and I said "Yeah, it's Joe Cocker, who crawled out from underneath his rock sat down on the piano bench next to Billy and sang a tipsy but heart-felt version of "You Are So Beautiful". Then the parents of the "friend" where the party had been the week before came back from vacation.
To this date nobody knows, or at least I don't think anybody knows who had stolen almost a hundred-thousand dollars worth of jewelry and other fine things from that mansion at the party the week before. Was it a set-up by Tommy? I know Bonnie was a part-time junkie but in my heart I knew it wasn't her. It couldn't have been Billy because he was in plain sight the whole night. I can't say the same thing for his entourage though. I dread in my darkest of thoughts to think that any member of the band or any people we knew from the scene were part of it. I don't remember if the police were ever called in because neither Stephen, Blair or I were ever questioned about anything. I think the owner of the house was trying to keep his name out of the paper for political reasons because nothing was ever mentioned about it again, and after a few weeks it was more or less forgotten. Even if they had questioned us, we would have nothing to say other than we were too busy being enamored by playing music with Billy Preston to notice anything else. We still had stars in our eyes, but now people were creeping into our inner circles that were not the most savory of characters and it was going to be a showdown, things were coming to an unsightly head and the bubble felt like it was about to burst.
Bonnie had moved into Mediterranean Village soon after that and was hanging around some red-headed dude that sold smack. I did my best to try and talk her out of seeing this guy because I knew he was bad news. It was March 31, 1976. I remember walking by her apartment and blew her a kiss as wish for her to have a happy twenty-seventh birthday the next day. She never celebrated that day, overdosing on heroin probably around the time I blew her that kiss. What a shame and a terrible waste of a life and I still think about her from time to time. 
Things were changing in a negative way and I had a sneaking suspicion that it was that movie "Helter Skelter" that had jinxed things. I hoped to God that I was wrong. Oh, I know it wouldn't have prevented Bonnie from her fate, but there were too many variables that seemed to be tearing at the seams of, and getting in the way of where we wanted to go, at least where I wanted to go. 
It was a few weeks later when Stephen and I had our blow up by the pool table and I would take out all my frustrations on a steel reinforced guitar case and then make my escape into the desert. In between the two events I would go back to the friendly confines of Oakhurst Drive at a time which would prove to be essential in my development as a human being. Life was happening all around me and it was all about me. Soon I would have to look it straight in the eye and deal with it on its own terms. It was time, as Stephen Stills so aptly put, "to do for the others".

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chapter 29 - Goodbye Mal

It was now the beginning of 1976 and the new year started off with an unfortunate series of bangs that I was not prepared for. I was back on Oakhurst Drive after my falling out with Stephen trying to recuperate from my little accident with a guitar case that really messed me up a lot more than I thought it would. I think it was Larry who called with with the news about Mal. 
I had not seen Mal in a few months and didn't realize how despondent he had become. I knew he was depressed about leaving his wife and kids behind, not to mention everything else he knew in England, to live in Los Angeles with Fran and her three year old daughter Jody, the former worked as an administrator at the famed Record Plant on Third street. Their place was a couple of blocks away on Fourth St. on the lower level of a duplex. Mal, as I said before, was a frustrated songwriter, and I think one of the reasons he liked to work with us was because we had shown an interest in his original material. Most of his songs were about retaining peace of mind and meditation and it was a shame that he didn't heed the message of his own lyric and stay quiet and serene. Behind the big, gentle teddy-bear of a facade, Mal had another, much darker side that he tried to keep hidden.
On the fifth of January Mal's depression had hit its pinnacle. He was nearing the completion of his auto-biography with John Hoernie that was to be named "Living The Beatles Legend", and as I heard the story back then, Mal had ingested a large amount of valium and was upstairs in his office/ memorabilia room. This room housed some of Mal's prized possessions, his cowboy gun collection, his Elvis stuff, and of course, meaningful letters and photographs of the "boys", his boys that shaped the better part of his life. I don't know what prompted those unfortunate series of events which le d to his final episode, his last stand, on that horrible Monday evening. They say that Fran had felt threatened by Mal's destructive behavior and called his friend and co author, John to try and talk Mal out of his locked studio. He was inside twirling his cowboy air-rifle, Here is what it says in Wikipedia about it: "Evans picked up a 30.30 air rifle. Hoernie struggled with Evans, but Evans, being much stronger, held onto the weapon. Hughes then phoned the police and told them that Evans was confused, had a rifle, and was on valium. Four policemen arrived and three of them, David D. Krempa, Robert E. Brannon and Lieutenant Higbie, went up to the bedroom. They later reported that as soon as Evans saw the three policemen he pointed a rifle at them. The officers repeatedly told Evans to put down the rifle (which they did not know at the time was an air rifle) but Evans constantly refused. The police fired six shots, four hitting Evans, killing him instantly."

Although this sounds accurate and in accord with the story, I seem to remember Mal had other guns, his favorite being that colt 45 with the white and black handles. He would try to out-draw John Wayne whenever an old "Duke" western would come on the television. I never heard of any struggle with his co-author, I heard that Mal was despondent and playing with his gun collection and was very high on valium. He was at the top of the stairs twirling the said weapon in his drug induced stupor, when they told him to drop the gun. He said, and I vividly remember these words as they were told to me on the next day, "You'll have to blow me away." They did. 
I don't know why we never went to the funeral, being too out of the loop now to be informed where and when it would be, or frozen with too much shock to actually get around to checking it out. It's sad to report that the Beatles never made it either. It was said that none of the Beatles were in the habit of attending funerals. Another theory is, they may not have been able to get away from their schedules to attend, or may not have wanted to risk bumping into each other at Mal's service. (There were still some hard feelings between them, with their business partnership's dissolution the year before.) Harry Nillson was there. I found out later he had Mal’s body cremated, and a small ceremony was held in Los Angeles on January 7. His ashes got lost in the mail on the way back to England and were eventually recovered and returned to his family. Right after this John Lennon instituted his bullet proof vest campaign and donated a large sum of cash to the New York City police department along with Harry (Nillson) who continued his work on gun control for the rest of his life. I wish that John had been wearing a bullet proof vest on that tragic night of December the eighth four years later.
Paul said when asked about Mal’s death, “Mal was a big lovable bear of of a roadie; he’d go over the top occasionally, but we all knew him and never had any problems. Had I been there I would have been able to say, ‘Mal, don’t be silly.’ In fact, any of his friends could have talked him out of it without any sweat, because he was not a nutter.” Later, George recounted, “[Mal] loved his job, he was brilliant, and I often regret that he got killed. Right to this day I keep thinking, ‘Mal, where are you?’ 
I guess I must have called Stephen and Blair and we all commiserated somewhere together but I don't remember. It wouldn't be long though until I would make my escape into the desert from extreme cabin fever when I felt I had nothing left to lose. Alone in Palm Springs on my self imposed retreat, I would have a message waiting for me at  Haymer House on Oakhurst Drive; written on a scrap piece of paper on the round kitchen table, waiting there for my eventual call home.

Chapter 28- Dark Horses

Chapter 28- Dark Horses

There was this French gentleman, Daniel, who had a luxury apartment in West Hollywood and a very pretty French wife. He was interested in producing a piece of music written in a stream of conciousness mode by the two younger Spoons. I don't know if they were trying to branch out on their own to see what they could come up with musically or if they were intentionally trying to block me from the project but it hurt me nonetheless. It was a reminder of what growing up in a home with two other siblings. Sometimes they would gang up against me, not maliciously, but still trying to gain an advantage or an upper hand. Maybe I was just being a bit paranoid thinking I was losing my grasp as a band member. Anyway, Stephen and Larry had written this quasi-classical instrumental piece they had dubbed "The May Symphony". They had recorded the piece on a cheap cassette player and then went into fly-by-night recording studio to have the track transferred to an acetate. An acetate was a temporary vinyl record that would only be good for ten or twenty plays and then it would be rendered useless. After Daniel heard the music in all of its scratchy glory, he decided to financially back the two of them. As Blair recalls, "Daniel had set up appointments for us to find an apartment and was willing to pay our rent. In the lobby of an apartment building on, or just off Sunset in West Hollywood, Stephen was reading a comic book left out on a table in the foyer." This was the same kind of behavior I was familiar with and it reminded me of his antics at the Rainbow the night I was introduced to John Lennon. When Blair had urged Stephen to put down the comic book and try to take things seriously, after all they were on thin ice with Daniel as it was, he continued reading. I'm sure it was a long day and nerves were being tested but Daniel had reached his limit and told Stephen to forget the whole thing and he walked out. I guess it was more important for Stephen to maintain his rock star image by not conforming to the pleas of the business establishment instead of realizing that he hadn't earned it yet. Daniel was gone and Stephen was still in the high back chair reading his little book thinking he was acting in a movie. This was no movie, which infuriated Larry who finally left the building, back to Rainbow probably to drown his sorrows with a few shots of Jack Daniel's along with a pack Marlboro red, as he used to say, "Roll the the Bow and smoke a bro'".
This would be a behavior that Stephen would develop and intensify over the years that put me off and was driving a nail in the coffin of the band. I know we all supplied our own nails that were intruding into the resting place, the crumbling tomb known as Silverspoon and I was definitely no exception to that rule. Yes we were talented, and had gobs of potential but had not, in my opinion and in the opinion of others, earned the right to behave like that. We were not God's gift to the universe and by no means were we the saviors of the world, the same world that brought "The Beatles" in to fruition. What was once funny and innocent was becoming old quickly and I had glimpses of future catastrophe on the horizon. This is about the time when his OCD (obsessive compulsion disorder) started in. Even though his immediate surroundings became more and more unkempt and his fingernails were always dirtier than mine, he started using rubbing alcohol and wiping everything before and after he came in contact with it. Doorknobs, coffee cups, guitars, you name it, he was wiping it off. I really didn't mind that so much because the smell reminded me of vodka, and made me thirsty for a screwdriver or a vodka and tonic. At this point in my life alcohol wasn't as big a problem as it would prove to be later, but that is a whole 'nother story. Yes, I was hurt and offended that because I was still on the edge of the cliff, Stephen and Larry were hanging on a limb by their fingernails and the former had just about let go of the branch.
This was first time I had seriously considered going solo, but I needed help. I needed a promoter being the type of person that hated to blow his own horn, thinking the music should speak for itself. Unfortunately one has to be in the right position or place for people to hear the songs. That's where I thought BJ would come in. Whenever I got frustrated with the Spoon, and I was now feeling like I was nearing the end of my rope, I would escape to Malibu beach. BJ was house sitting for Denny Cordell who was one of the founders of Shelter Records' beach house. He had met Denny through his association with Evelyn, the other girl from Doheny Towers we met with Pam Norman. You might remember her from an earlier chapter in 1972 in the story of the "Red Cake". Anyway, Evelyn ended up marrying Denny a few years later and BJ was still on their good side.  This was just after the summer of 75, I remember this because the movie, Jaws had just come out, and after seeing it I was scared to go into the ocean. BJ and I would just sit there roasting on the sand with our funky acoustics in our hands afraid to go in the ocean thinking that a shark might be lurking in those dark waters. I kept hearing those low throbbing notes, da da dum dum da da dum dum reverberating in my skull and I had visions of a great white invading the shores of Malibu. How stupid was that?
Just before this time BJ was rehearsing his band at the A&M studios on the lot at La Brea near Sunset and I was asked to play guitar. There being a lull in the Spoon activities at this time, I could participate without any problems or guilt that would be dumped on me by my mates. BJ had borrowed the PA system from Billy Joel and I was playing my newly acquired Gibson J-200 which I had traded for my Martin D-18 and $600 at West LA Music. As I said before, BJ was a positive thinker, maybe a bit delusional but he was positive I could get that guitar. I didn't have more than forty dollars in my bank account when I asked BJ how in the world I can write a check for six hundred bucks. He told me not to worry because he would cover the check the next day when money would arrive from Philadelphia. I felt horrible and when the phone calls started coming in, first from the bank and second from the music store. I knew it was going to be awkward. BJ kept assuring me the money would be there soon, but time had run out. I had to crawl back to the sanctity and security of mom and dad with my tail between my legs and tell them the truth about my dilemma, but first I would receive a lecture from Johnny on honesty and integrity that lasted more than two hours. I sat there and took it all. I deserved every caustic tone and grumble in his stern scoldings. I was devastated, and felt taken advantage of but I didn't want to incriminate BJ who I still felt loyal to. I truly believe that he believed the money was going to come in but, as it so often happens, Murphy's law kicks in and things get delayed for no apparent reason. I should have known better, I see that now, but I wanted that blonde guitar with the with the white poppies etched into that black pickguard. As fate would have it I ended up selling the guitar after the airport baggage handlers didn't handle it so well on an ill fated trip to Detroit in 1985. The headstock snapped off after being flung into the belly of the aircraft or some other mishap. Although Art Valdez did an exemplary job fixing it, I sold it on Ebay for $1800 in 1999.
Back at A&M in the sound stage I was sitting on a stool next to my cousin, Bobby Graff, who had come down from Detroit to visit his Uncle Johnny and Aunt Helyn, not to mention his cousin's Susan, Jimmy and Robbie. After living in LA for some time a person can get a little jaded with fame and celebrity. Movie stars and rock stars seemed to line the streets of Hollywood and could be seen at exclusive restaurants and venues. You never know when one might appear, even at the cleaners or the grocery store. While I was playing my guitar on that stool I noticed that Bobby's jaw had dropped and his eyes were like saucers. He leaned over to me and whispered in my ear that Quincy Jones was sitting in a chair not more than three feet away watching me play. I was amazed. I wasn't playing anything spectacular, or so I thought, and couldn't believe that such a master of music was interested in my playing. Maybe he thought that I sucked but his expression didn't convey that, "no, he was digging it!" my cousin reassured me. I was proud that he got to witness that scene and would report back to the folks in Detroit that his cousin Jimmy was on his way to the big-time.
The A&M lot was now home to Dark Horse Records owned and operated by the ex-Beatle, George Harrison. A few days earlier, Stephen and Larry had seen him in the courtyard below from their vantage point on the second floor. They were hanging around having meeting with people like Alan McDougal, an English fellow of high regard, who with Terry Doran were friends with Mal Evans. One day while BJ was in the rehearsal room I went searching the lot to see if George might be around. What would I say to him if I saw him anyway? I looked in the offices at Dark Horse and saw posters of him and the band he was working with called "Splinter", but no George. I went back into the rehearsal room and picked up my guitar again when nature called and I had to go to the bathroom. I told BJ I would be right back and headed into the main lavatory in the middle of the lot. I had to go badly so I aggressively pushed the door open. That is when I heard a cry of pain coming from inside. When I looked behind the door I couldn't believe what I saw. It was him, George Harrison rubbing his elbow and grimacing in pain. I had injured my favorite guitarist in the world by flinging the door open when he was standing behind it trying to exit. It was synchronicity, as Sting would say, at it's worst. On second thought it could have been a lot worse. After a minute (probably only a few seconds) I apologized profusely to him. "Oh my God, I am sorry, I didn't know you were there." He replied in his thick Liverpudlian accent. " Oh that's all right. How could you know anyone was there?" Talk about timing, there was one of my heroes standing in front of me but I had to piss like a racehorse. I should have just sucked it up and talked him him some more but nature has a way of dictating things that we can not control. I sure miss George, he was the coolest and most spiritual of all the Beatles. I am glad that I did get to meet him but I wish it were under different circumstances.

Chapter 27 - Eye to Eye

Chapter 27 - Eye to Eye

While we were waiting the release of Helter Skelter, Rick had decided to go on the road with some guy named Steve, another singer/songwriter from Oregon. It was back to square one again with Michael Kennedy leaving so abruptly and now no drummer, which was another thorn in our sides especially for Stephen. He seemed to take it the hardest and had thoughts of, God forbid, going out on the road with them. Although we felt Rick did an admirable job on the soundtrack, Larry and I really felt here nor there about his leaving. The most important thing now was to get tight as a unit, write some more songs, hit songs, with hooks and great lyrics and audition another drummer. 
I really felt that between Stephen and I we had the guitar parts covered. All he had to do was learn them which may sound simple enough but Stephen is another case entirely. He never plays the same thing twice. Sometimes it is completely brilliant or other times, it is out there somewhere in the ozone. It was completely frustrating and sometimes I felt like swinging my guitar at him, which I never did but it felt so close I could see it like a movie in my head. Thank God I have the ability to see that movie to its conclusion in a matter of seconds and then decide what action to take. 
It was a lot harder for me to control my temper then  and I did lose it sometimes, but usually the only one I ended up hurting was myself. I punched a lot of doors in my time and one time I got so mad at Stephen, instead of blinding him with a pool cue in the club house at Mediterranean Village, I smashed my fists into my 1964 Rickenbacker 12 string case, which was steel reinforced, and subsequently tore the ligaments in both of my wrists. I guess I was a bit masochistic in those days, I still have those tendencies but I really don't like to watch that movie now and turn them off before the end. I don't know why I felt so responsible for the band's lack of success. Maybe it was because I wrote most of the songs, some with Stephen and less with Larry, or maybe because I was the second lead singer after Joey and my voice was not as good it should have been as Jon Marr would remind me on more than one occasion. It could have my undying loyalty to a bunch of misfits, my cohorts in music, BJ and the main one, myself of course.
There was one time at the Rainbow. I was a bit drunk on my usual, Bicardi 151 and coke and Larry had his usual Jack Daniel's straight up. We were playing this game of one-upmanship with our cigarettes - who could take it the longest with the lit end of the cigarette on the back of the hand. I won and had the scars on my hands to prove it. I think they have faded now or only blended in to the lines and cracks with which time has branded them.
It was that confrontation with Stephen in the lounge at "The Village" that was the last straw. Larry wasn't living there anymore but a fellow musician and songwriter named Bobby Bruce had an apartment on the first floor adjacent to Cynthia St. He lived there with his dark haired beauty of a girlfriend and soon to be wife, PJ Russomano. We did a lot of demos over in that apartment and I think this was one of the night where Stephen and I were playing the latest and most intense version of the blame game.
Nothing was happening with the band. Joey was doing his usual escape act and disappeared somewhere into his dark abyss. Stephen had to relegate to someone the blame for all the debacles and mishaps in our relatively short-lived musical career, and this time it was me. I was being attacked by another crazy Scorpio and it was not pretty. All this was happening while we were playing a game of eight ball on the pool table. Larry was witnessing all of this and stayed back, giving us our space to finally resolve our differences, which I guess were many by this time. It was a real bitch-fest. He had his pool cue aimed at my left eye and mine was pointed at his right eye. I don't think he was wearing his glasses at the time. It was a Mexican standoff. There was a palpable tension in the room that seemed to last forever. That's when I turned my body to the south wall where my guitar case was leaning up against and attacked it. Punching furiously at that case for what seemed like an hour but was probably only a minute or so I had broken both of my wrists. I then went outside to the swimming pool in pain. The only thing I could think to do was jump in. I did, with my black velvet pants and long leather coat and it did help for awhile, until I couldn't take it anymore and took a bus west down Sunset Blvd. to the UCLA emergency room where I was informed, as I said before, that it wasn't broken only the ligaments that were torn, which is still a big deal and can take even longer to heal. I still feel it when in rains and a bit of arthritis has set in which is a reminder, and a not so pleasant one, of the past. I don't think Stephen and I spoke to each for for a few months after that. the band was officially broken up and I went back to the sanctity of Oakhurst Drive again to recuperate with my tail between my legs and my wrists wrapped in ace bandages.

Chapter 26 - Michael's Abrupt Departure

The band was rehearsing at some sound stage, probably SIR, after the soundtrack was done trying to infuse Michael with all the Spoonisms we could. It was sounding great to me and I thought we finally had a band that was cohesive with everybody covering their parts. This was the most proficient I had ever seen Stephen play, even his bass playing was great. Two by two the entourage made their appearances at the studio. Larry's girlfriend Cynthia, dressed in those Palm Springs high heels and tight black pants with that Farrah Faucett blonde hair flying all over the place, would be there a lot. She seemed to have taken an interest in Michael, but I thought nothing of it. Larry and Cynthia were having troubles at the time and I think she was trying to make him jealous.
There was one time when Larry had gotten into another fight with her and she left her apartment with some other guy to Laguna or someplace like that more than two hours from LA. Actually it was less that 50 miles but with LA traffic it always took more than 2 hours, unless you left in the middle of the night. Blair was so livid that he hitched a ride to her apartment in the valley from West Hollywood and then after noticing the sliding glass door of her balcony was left open, he let himself in waiting for her return, hopefully with this other guy. It would be poetic, he thought. He climbed into the upper shelf closet above her tv in the bedroom, where one usually would store blankets, sheets and so-forth. He was there for the duration. He thought for sure she was bluffing and would be back after closing time but it was way after that now. His eyes began to close and he was soon fast asleep. In the morning Cynthia had come home alone and heard breathing sounds coming from the shelf closet. He was discovered, busted, and then she kicked him in the shins with those lethal high heels that he said "hurt like shit," and he was shown the door, a door he had been so familiar with. 
Soon after that we had another rehearsal but Michael wasn't there yet. It was unusual for him to be over an hour late and we were all starting to get a bit worried.
Then the phone rang and Larry answered it. It was Michael saying, "I can't come to the rehearsal today, I married Cynthia." Larry said, "Alright cool, but come to the rehearsal," and Michael goes, "I can't, I have to leave the band." Larry was a ghost when he hung up that receiver but tried his best to look unaffected. We looked at him and asked what was wrong. " He quit the band." Stephen and I looked at each other in disbelief. "What! Why?" we shouted simultaneously. Larry continued "Oh yeah, he married Cynthia."
Now Michael and Cynthia were living in a one bedroom apartment together on Barrington south of Wilshire. I was determined to find out why he did what he did, not only did he marry Larry's girlfriend, he broke up the band and left me high and dry with the two bedroom apartment on Hollywood Blvd. I convinced Larry that we should go there unannounced and see what was what for both of our sakes. So one morning I borrowed my mom's Mercedes and we drove out to West LA to have a little sit down. Michael came to the door and stepped outside. We all went out to the Mercedes and I climbed into the drivers seat, Larry was next to me and Michael was in the back. Larry turned around to face him and Michael said, "Your head just disappeared." Larry said, Do I have anything to do with this or what?" He only repeated, "No, man, your head just completely disappeared." Larry looked at me and I at him. After a few minutes of this we knew nothing was going to get resolved. That would be the last time I ever saw Michael James Kennedy in the flesh. He eventually went back to New York to square things with his old girlfriend, coincidentally enough, was named Robin and then he was off to Philadelphia to look for a condo to buy with Cynthia from money she had gotten from selling her yellow split window Corvette Sting Ray. I don't think Cynthia ever made it to Philly, in fact she never left the west coast. The marriage was annulled after only three weeks.
A few months later Larry ran into Cynthia at a party. He walked up to her and he said, "Hey" and she said, "hey" back. He asked inquisitively without any bravado or malice, "Why did you marry Michael?" She smiled that toothy smile, shook her big blonde hair and said nonchalantly, "To hurt you." Larry asked if it was worth it and she didn't react. She had lost everything and he knew what her answer would be.
Michael would get back together with his Robin (it's nice to know that she was the stand by your man kind of girl) and stay in Philadelphia where he formed the heavy metal, Zeppelin influenced band, "Horsepower", who would appear in the Rock Encyclopedia. He would remind me of that fact after he blamed Silverspoon for his shot a being the guitar player for the Rolling Stones. We did communicate by telephone over the years and by the early past of the millennium we were sending "tapes" and later CD's through the mail. I would take an idea of his and work it into a song structure and over-dub my vocals and various other instruments that I play. Michael's guitar part was screaming on the track we later named "Jalalabad". a song written about the second Iraqi conflict. The song was actually sold to a local Philadelphia record company called D Music and can be heard on their website. It can also be heard On Stephen's website called "The Dinosaurs". 
We wrote three songs together, "I Had A Dream", "Standing" and the afore mentioned "Jalalabad" and that was it. I am still saddened by his untimely death on Nov. 18, 2006 from esophageal cancer. That was the same day my father died from a sarcoma of the lungs in 1989. It really was an abrupt departure, for both of them.

Chapter 25 - More Apple Dreams

These were different times now and the music itself was beginning to change. Glitter and glam still had its roots firmly planted in rock but the music was starting to gravitate toward more of a moronic, hypnotic dance beat with four on the floor. The first record I heard that I liked in that vein was Jive Talking by the Bee Gees in early 1975. BJ, who was now the main DJ at the crows nest upstairs at the Rainbow, would play that record until the grooves wore so thin you could almost see right through it. Of course there were other records making their way to the forefront like: The Hustle by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony, but we already had an introduction to disco music with Isaac Hayes and Barry White as early as 1971. Let's not forget the Hues Corporation's Rock the Boat and Kung Fu Fighting by Biddu and Carl Douglas. Thank God for bands like The Eagles and ELO and of course I was following all the solo efforts of The Beatles with a passionate devotion
We were determined not to let, what we hoped would be a brief distraction in the music, get in the way of what we wanted to accomplish. It has always been my creed; to play the music I like and eventually if I still like it most people will like it too. Simple enough?
One record that really spoke to me was John Lennon's Walls and Bridges album. I remember living this record as if it was speaking to me personally especially the track, # 9 Dream. It still is speaking. "Was it a dream, was it all a dream?". When I walked into a bank on Santa Monica Blvd. and San Vincente, all I could see was the Steel and Glass. So much happened in that square mile from Santa Monica to Sunset, from Larrabee to La Cienega.
Stephen was at his usual haunt, The Old World, with his girlfriend, Robin, and his ring was still on his finger but for how long nobody knew. Stephen noticed that the genius, George Martin, was sitting having breakfast with a small group of people. He must have been gawking and whispering to Robin like a little girl at a Justin Beiber concert. I say must have, because I would have acted the same way, This is George Martin, the Beatles producer and arranger and the perfect mentor for Silverspoon, now that Mal Evans, a non-producer had left the project.
Robin wondered what Stephen was carrying on about and asked, "Who is that man y'all are whispering about?" Being from New Orleans, she had a lovely Southern drawl that seemed to cascade off her full ruby lips. Robin was and is, a girl who could always get what she wanted, especially with men. She did land a major spread in Penthouse magazine and the ripe old age of seventeen. She might have been eighteen. Anyway, after it was explained to her who that man actually was, she said, "I'll be right back, sugar, don't let that man leave." She walked across Holloway where there was an old hippie bookstore that sold cosmic and wonderful little knickknacks I think it was called Book Soup, established in 1975 and, to my amazement, it is still there. When she saw the would-be gift, she knew it would be perfect. She had it boxed up and when she returned to the restaurant with a small gift-wrapped package under her arm, he was still there eating his breakfast. After placing her coat on back on the coat-rack she approached Mr. Martin with the present in hand. Stephen was in shock and awe of her gentle persuasions, but could see that he was smiling and talking to her. He invites her to sit down and she is pointing over to the motley young lad at the table with whom she was just having her repast. As it turns out, George Martin had given her his personal address to correspond with, and a promise he would listen to the tapes that she would be sending. He opened of the package and it was a beautiful crystal apple. Very clever girl, eh?
Stephen noticed that Mr. Martin was getting up to leave, so he got up from his table, walked over and introduced himself saying, "Hello Mr. Martin my name is Stephen Gries and I have a band called Silverspoon that was being produced by Mal Evans. I also did the charts for a John Lennon song on the recent Keith Moon solo record called "Two Sides Of The Moon". I was wondering if you would consider producing our group?" George obviously felt awkward being approached by yet another musician trying to sell his wares for probably the millionth time. He replied, "I terribly sorry but I won't be able to even listen to your recording for another two years, I'm very busy, but what is the name of your band? If you want to send it out I will most likely listen to it then." Stephen extended his hand and Mr. Martin extended his. They connected. He then got up from his wooden chair and in less than a minute was gone.
Unfortunately, this was at the near end of Robin and Stephen's volatile relationship and they had another huge fight. This could have been the last straw in the camel's empty hump or something like that, but they broke up and the tapes were never sent out. I wish I would have been there, but there is no guarantee that I would have made sure this precious information was secured. I did find out much later, after the group had been long broken up, that she still had the letter from Mr. Martin tucked away in her valise in some storage facility, making claims that it was not too late to send him a tape of the band, even though nobody has tape machines any more and George Martin is well in his eighties and partially, if not completely deaf. Can you see a behavioral pattern here? Another opportunity squandered. I was beginning to feel that too many chances were being blown and there may not be anymore coming our way. I was not giving up yet, though I was getting close to the end of my rope and that rope had been greased and I was slipping down into the abyss of rock and roll obscurity.

Chapter 24 - Helter Skelter Summer Swelter

All the charts were written and the date was set back at Burbank Studios, a place where Billy Goldenberg liked to use because of the enormous tracking room. It was like deja vu all over again, as the great Yogi Berra used to say, now being back at the same studio where we did our demos with BJ Taylor. We had two days to record and mix four songs, Piggies, Long, Long Long, Helter Skelter and Revolution by the Beatles. It was Rick Green on drums, Michael Kennedy on lead guitar and middle eight vocals on Piggies, Stephen on bass, guitar, synthesizer and vocals, Larry on piano and B-3 organ and synthesizer, Joey Hamilton on vocals and myself on acoustic guitars, bass and vocals. 
On the title song, Helter Skelter, I was playing a Fender Bass through an Ampeg B-15 amp. It was also recorded direct. On my left was Michael playing his 51 Broadcaster through a Vox AC30 with some kind of tape delay patched through it. I think Larry was on the B-3 organ in the back of the room and Stephen was in the booth with his Martin D-28. Joey was in another booth singing the work vocal. The red light was on and Doc Siegel, the engineer was calling the slate, Helter Skelter take one. It was crunch time. All the hours rehearsing, all the times scuffling on the street, all the marbles were on the table and the tape began to roll. It all came down to this moment. 
Through the plate glass window in the control room I could see a few pretty female faces. Some of the girls from the movie had come down off the set and were listening to us. After a few takes we took a break and listened to the playback and decided we needed a little more energy infused into the music. Nancy Wolfe, one of the actresses who played the part of Sexy Sadie came out into the large wooden tracking room and started dancing and shaking her thick black hair to the beat. I was jumping up and down in rhythm with her, well as much rhythm as a Jewish kid could have, and that was the take we kept. Joey sang his ass off and I overdubbed a harmony vocal a sixth below Joey. it's too bad Rick and Joey missed all the sexy shaking and carrying on in the room being imprisoned in their isolation booths.
On Long, Long, Long, Stephen sang a soft lilting vocal in a semi-falsetto. Larry played a string synthesizer made by Hohner, I think. I do remember it sounding very high and haunting adding to the mystical madness that permeated the general feeling of the movie. Joey added a high part and I think Michael played bass and I added the acoustic, my J-200 guitar capoed up on the third fret. This is all very technical, but I'm sure some of you will understand and appreciate it. Rick was solid and soft on the skins.
it was around two in the afternoon and it was time for a lunch break. We didn't have Miguel around this time with his Jeep to go out exploring the back sets of Burbank Studios, a place where many a hit movie was filmed. No, we had to behave ourselves, being on a short leash after the Record Plant fiasco. I knew we couldn't get into much trouble at the commissary on the lot, but we did manage to flag down a couple of starlets and invite them back to the recording studio, especially for the next track which was Revolution. This the the song where I got to scream my head off and do my best John Lennon. I wasn't interested in impersonating him, quite the opposite. I was more interested in having the same type of intensity if I could manage to conjure it up. The instrumentation was almost identical to that of Helter Skelter, except I was playing my acoustic and just giving a tracking vocal in low volume planning on overdubbing it later. I wanted to be able to concentrate on both fully so I felt the best thing was to do them separately.
The track came together quickly and my vocal was manic  and crazy enough to be good, at least I thought so and there seemed to be agreement among those present. The last track was Piggies with Joey back on lead vocals except for the middle eight which was promised to Michael. Larry was playing a harpsichord part on the keys. When we were running it down Larry was playing this very Baroque part with a tinkly little trill. He stopped playing in a bit of confusion and spoke into the microphone to the booth. "Hey Billy, do you still want me to play the trill?" Billy Goldenberg pressed the talk back button and answered back, "No, the trill is gone." We all broke out laughing uncontrollably because B.B. King's recent hit song was called 'The Thrill Is Gone". The trill might have been gone but the thrill certainly wasn't.
All the overdubs and mixing was done on the second day and that was it. We did the best job we could and felt that nothing was left on the table. A few weeks later Larry, Stephen and I were bussed down to the Paramount Ranch in Agoura as actors in the movie. We all played the parts of Manson family members, Stephen was Steve Grogan, Larry was Clem and I was some no-name without a movie credit. I had to be over a hundred degrees one day and I was dressed up in thick jeans with a lined jean jacket. I was sweating my ass off. I am usually not one for the heat anyway but this was almost unbearable. Ah yes, the things we suffer through for our art and for show business. The most intense moment was seeing Steve Railsback, the actor who played Charles Manson, being pulled up out of a dingy basement by the police. The insane stare that was captured by his close up still sends shivers up and down my spine. We were all proud to be apart of the most watched made for television movie ever filmed but had no idea that within six months Tom Gries would drop dead of a heart attack while playing tennis. Soon after that Mal Evans would be shot and killed by the LAPD and a year after that Keith Moon would overdose on taking too much antabuse, a drug given to prohibit the desire to drink alcohol. But for now, it seemed we were on top of the world.

Chapter 23 - Michael Kennedy

After the dust was settling from the Record Plant debacle, we were all at my place on Oakhurst around Christmas of 1974. BJ had played us a tape of his guitar player's old band called "Positron". Michael James Kennedy was the original guitar player in "Rock Island", a Philadelphia based rock and blues band with BJ Taylor singing lead vocals. There must have been some bad blood between the two because BJ never liked to talk much about him, but did admit he was a brilliant guitarist even though Michael had some personality traits that were a bit hard to deal with. The minute I heard that song on the tape, Look What a Fool You've Been, with a McCartney-esque  vocal and Harrison-like guitar solo, I knew that we had to get this guy in Silverspoon. The main problem was that Mike was in Philly and we were here in LA, dead broke.
It was now 1975 and after a non-eventful January, things were beginning to pick up. As fate would have it, Tom Gries just happened to have this little film he was directing called Helter Skelter which featured four songs by The Beatles. He also just happened to have a son who had a band that sounded a bit like the Fab Four themselves. When Stephen told us of this amazing opportunity we wanted to pinch ourselves, but in the back of my mind I felt that we shouldn't count our blessings too soon. It seemed that Tom had changed his mind about auditioning our band not wanting to be accused of nepotism. The final say was down to one man that was hired to write the score for the film, Billy Goldenberg.
Rick Green the original drummer, was back in the picture again and was back with a vengeance. We may have had our differences in the past but I have to admit, Rick was a born salesman. He could sell a hot fudge sundae to a diabetic or leather shoes to a Hindu. He set up a meeting with Mr. Goldenberg in the privacy of his Toluca Lake home and drove out there with Stephen in his white 1966 Lincoln Continental with the suicide doors. The car was so top heavy and in dire need of a tune up that it hardly made it over Mulholland. They had to get out and push the beast over the last rise and then cruised down Laurel Canyon in neutral until it hit Ventura.
Sitting in the living room of one of the greatest musical minds of television, Rick gave Billy the tape with You Hurt Me So and Shades of You. He was floored but was still able to pick up the phone on his way down and dialed Tom Gries. "We have got to use your boy's band for the movie Tom, unless you can come up with another band in the next two weeks that sound like The Beatles." He couldn't and didn't and we were in.
This was around the time when the band secured a financial backer in the person of Bruce Golden. Bruce is the older brother of Jon Golden who was a good friend of Stephen's younger brother, Jon Gries. Bruce was having some difficulties coping with reality and had spent most of the early seventies in and out of institutions. He was now living back home in his parents palatial mansion in Beverly Hills and was being encouraged to find something to do with his time and money and Silverspoon was more than happy to serve as his pet project. Now all the cards were falling into place and it was time to make that call to Philadelphia.
With a recording session already booked in Munich to record another album, Mick Taylor quit the Rolling Stones and they were actively looking for new guitar player.
Michael had just finished the Nicky Hopkins record, No More Changes, and was in line for an audition. He chose instead to accept an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles and play lead guitar for Silverspoon on the movie soundtrack and, as we all hoped, on our record.
BJ, going all out and well beyond the call of duty, hired a limousine to pick Michael up at LAX. In those days you could wait for arriving passengers at the gate and when we saw this skinny English-looking kid scuffling along in a long silk scarf wrapped around a black velvet jacket carrying two guitar cases, we knew it was him. Stephen and Robin had recently moved to an apartment in the Palm Plaza on the second floor. It was a one bedroom with a large living room that had a Mediterranean feel to it. The kitchen looked out to the south and you could see down Larrabee almost as far as The Village where all the magic started. if you walked 100 yards north up the hill you were on Sunset Blvd. near where Tower Records used to be. On the south side of Sunset where Holloway starts was a restaurant called the Old World. Every morning Stephen would have his typical breakfast there, two eggs over easy and home fried potatoes with coffee. Enough coffee to drown Juan Valdez. I would meet up with him some mornings and we would discuss the days activities and admire the scenery, especially the female anatomies that would surround us. Some mornings I would notice his gold ring would be missing from his finger. He explained that the concierge of the establishment was keeping it in the cash register until the tab was paid, which it usually was after a day or two by means of another advance from Bruce. Since Larry was more or less living on the couch at Stephen's while leisurely pursuing and perusing the area for a place of his own.
Michael stayed a couple of nights on the couch at Stephen and Robin's apartment at Palm Plaza but his nerves were starting to wear thin. Being a bit high maintenance, he took refuge in Wendy Villa's large walk-in closet on the third floor after dosing himself with valium trying to escape from the day to day soap opera downstairs. Michael and BJ had known Wendy from the late sixties in Greenwich Village all being part of the Rock Island crowd.
There was this couple Al and Mary, who lived down the hall on the second floor who were always high on Quaaludes, they even were giving it to their 12 year old son. This is probably where we met Richie Moore, the great doctor of musicology and recording engineering who was hiding and zoning out in their apartment. When Richie was a kid of twenty or so he had a job at Abbey Road Studios in London working with Geoff Emerick and was privy to some classic Beatle sessions (they all were classic in my opinion). Dr. Moore was famous or more likely infamous for his famous "nod-off" mix, where he would be fading the track as his face hit the console passed out to level zero just as the song ended. He always used to say that LA brought out the demons in him, but when he was in San Francisco with his lady Annie, it seemed to be no problem staying sober. Later on in 1978 I brought him down from the bay to record the demos for the Knack but that is a whole other story I will go into later.
Michael and I had many things in common but the one driving force in both of us was to desire to write and play music. We were determined to get the show on the road, so to speak, and play somewhere and we still didn't know if things were going to work out musically. Magic Wand Studios was rented out in Burbank and we drove out there in my mom's Mercedes with all the gear we could hold. Michael even brought the black Rickenbacker that was given to him by Nicky Hopkins who received it as a gift from John Lennon. Back then it wasn't that big a deal to have a famous guitar and play the hell out of it. Today that thing would be locked in a glass case and never see the light of day.
The instruments were all set up and we tuned. The minute we all hit that first A chord on "Floating On A Cloud" we knew. It was magic and I did everything I could to stop myself from bursting out with laughter. It felt and sounded that good. We then went over the four songs by "The Beatles". "Revolution", "Piggies". "Long, Long, Long" and "Helter Skelter" and we sorted out who would sing and play what. Michael didn't have the most powerful voice but insisted that he sing on something, so he was designated the middle eight in "Piggies" and I must say he did an exemplary job.
Larry in the meantime was still seeing Cynthia but they were beginning to have problems mostly over the green eyed monster of jealousy. Stephen and Robin were also having the same dilemma. It was getting contagious and I felt fortunate to be single at that time. All I wanted was to concentrate on doing the best job possible with the music, especially for the upcoming movie. It was a unanimous decision that Michael and I should share a place because we were both single, for now, and it might spur us on to writing some more rocked up songs because I already had my fair share of ballads. We found a two bedroom place at the Courtney Manor apartments, on the second floor of a two story stucco 1930's or 40's building on Hollywood Blvd. It was furnished in that Art Nouveau style, something that my Grandma Betty or Nanny would like. As for me, I didn't have to worry about schlepping all my furniture around which was minimal then, but as the years went on it began to pile up.
When he unpacked his guitar in the tweed case I saw that it was a 1951 Broadcaster and then he took the cover off the amp, it was a 1959 four-ten Bassman, the holy grail of guitar amplifiers. It sounded amazing even at low levels and I couldn't wait to get those puppies into the studio in a few weeks. Little did I know of the craziness and strange energy that would surround and engulf almost everyone involved with the movie Helter Skelter. There was a light and the end of the tunnel but the ensuing darkness would prove almost impenetrable before we stood a chance of reaching that glorious true light.

Chapter 22 - The Party 4

Back in LA now it seemed Mal had become more distant. Paul McCartney was in town and he was still his main guy to drive him around and tend to his needs. He was also getting involved in pre-production with a band called "Natural Gas" with Joey Molland from "Badfinger" and working on his book of memoirs called  "Living The Beatles' Legend",  so most of our sessions at the Plant were with Bob Merritt at the helm, which was all just as well. It was a learning experience for all of us.
With almost half of an album in the can it was time for Larry Gordon to make a deal for the band. How hard could it be with the Beatles road manager as a producer? But it was taking much longer than we thought it would, getting turned down left and right by all of the major labels. We kept reminding ourselves that the same thing happened to the Beatles in the early sixties. We needed something more I thought and I reverted back to the songwriter in myself figuring that a new hit song (at least a hit in my mind) would solve the problem. Stephen would blame Joey for not "putting out" enough on his lead vocals. Larry H. would blame all of us for the fact that we didn't have a good enough bass and drums. It went around and around like that for months, but that never stopped us from going to the Rainbow every night just to be where it appeared to all be happening, unless of course we were booked in the studio which was getting farther away and fewer. 
Back in the still friendly confines of Studio B at the Plant, you never know who would be popping their heads in after listening to Spoon melodies wafting out the door. One night Emitt Rhodes entered the room as we were attempting another mix of "You Hurt Me So". His self-titled debut album was released in 1970 and got as high as # 29 on the pop charts. Although it made me feel a bit self-conscious about our vocals, I was truly honored to be in the presence of such talent and what's more, he seemed to be enjoying what was coming out of the speakers. This guy was the closest thing vocally to Paul McCartney I had ever heard except for the lead singer of "Positron", a band that future Spoon, Michael Kennedy, played guitar with in the early seventies in Philadelphia. I wouldn't hear this tape for another month or two and it would be a life changer.
November came rolling in and with it was my 22nd birthday on the second. I knew it was going to be a doozy but I had no idea what a doozy it would prove to be. My old buddy, BJ was in charge of the invitation list of people to be invited to a party at the Record Plant, our little playground. But as it always turns out, the word got around and by seven o'clock that evening the place was mobbed with rock and rollers, groupies, you name it, they were there. By the way, if you were one of the afore mentioned, please let me know. I'm thinking Toni Bress and Laurie Bronstein were there along with the usual crowd. Dorian Lazerbeam with his trademark lightening bolt etched into the side of his jet black hair, and the slightly built super-geek Rodney Bingenheimer could also be seen. Even my favorite waitresses from The Rainbow, Eileen and Kathy showed up.
Of course there were paying customers in the studio, people like Bon Margouleff (pictured) and Malcolm Cecil who were one of the first synthesizer programmers on the planet. They were working on Stevie Wonder's album  "Fulfillingness' First Finale" and had also taken an interest in Silverspoon, especially Blair's contribution to the band. Jim Keltner had just finished another monster jam in the session dubbed as the "Too Many Cooks" debacle. Under the leadership of John Lennon, an all-star lineup performed an extended version of the blues song "Too Many Cooks (Spoil the Soup)", with Mick Jagger on lead vocals, Keltner on drums, Danny Kortchmar and Jesse Ed Davis on guitars, Al Kooper on keyboards, Bobby Keys playing tenor saxophone, Trevor Lawrence on baritone saxophone, Jack Bruce on bass and Harry Nilsson singing background vocals. Jagger was uncomfortable stretching to reach the top of his vocal range, and he grew unhappy with the progress being made on the song. Gary Kellgren told Jagger to "sit on it", ending the complaints. After sessions like these the staff at the Plant were used to strange goings on but things were about to get even stranger.
Now the hangers on started to arrive and we were getting worried that the joint was going to get wrecked. Fortunately for us that neither of the owners, Chris Stone or Gary Kellgren, were there that night. I still don't know how all of these folks got by the girl at the front desk because you had to be buzzed in to enter.
The Plant was kind of like a big party-house with its guest rooms in the back - one was a torture chamber and another was very dainty-like with white wicker furniture and flowery patters on the wallpaper. A real diva's quarters. As I mentioned before, Studio C was the size of an airplane hangar, but studio B was much cozier, more than half its size. Studio A (pictured) was smaller still. People were spilling out of one studio into the other and it was getting crazy.
Keith Moon showed up in his limousine chauffeured by his long time mate and driver, Dougal, who later wrote a book titled "Full Moon". Even though he never mentions Silverspoon its still a good read and an accurate tale of the madman himself. Keith asked if he could play something on one of our tracks and we sat him down in the control room to listen to "Shades of You". He jumped up out of his seat and said one word. "Timpani." He got on the phone and called Studio Instrument Rentals and in less than an hour twin timpani had arrived in studio B. Keith turned off all the lights in the room and all we could see was his silhouette glowing in the little light from the music stand. It was incredible, and when it was over we walked into the room and Bob turned on the lights and it was like a scene out of "Halloween" or some Vincent Price movie because the timpani were covered in blood. He was playing the damn things with his hands. The party went on all night long, as Lionel Richie would say, and before you know it the place was reaching its capacity. Drinks were spilled on the carpets and cigarette butts were flowing over the ashtrays.
As it turns out the girl at the front desk had given Larry some of that "green" substance I had taken a few weeks before and was a little too high. She neglected to mention that you were only supposed to snort a little bit, not more than you could put on the head of a pin, but in his haste he snorted the whole line, enough to put an elephant over the edge. He thought that a sauna would make him come back down to earth, but by the time he sat down on the wooden bench he was completely gone. Stephen had come into the studio to get me and together we had to talk him down. After a few glasses of water and a little time he began to come back to some sense of reality. Later on that night we left him alone with some Rainbow-ette for a little female companionship thinking he would be alright. Fifteen minutes later sparks were flying after she poured water on the electric sauna. I think the power even went off for awhile. People were running around the halls in a frenzy and pandemonium struck the engineers who tried to save or at least remember any work they had accomplished. The sauna was ruined and so was the free studio time at the Record Plant. It sure was fun while it lasted, but at much too high a cost for Silverspoon. Was this the beginning of the end? I didn't know for sure but one thing I did know, the times they were a changing.

Chapter 21 - The Beat Goes On

pictured - John Marshall Battjes

  Meanwhile back on planet Earth, Joey was still part of things when he absolutely needed to be, otherwise he  could not be found. Most of the time he spent chasing the elusive dragon, something to make him feel whole or whatever it was that gave him a sense of individuality. It really was a shame because he had a heart the size of a Mac truck but his demons proved too strong and won out in the end. Nevertheless, when it was time to record at the Plant we were all there with bells on, even Joey. While Miguel was playing drums for his mother, Rosemary and pursuing his father's trade of acting and  Chas was warming his hands by some English country fire, we were pounding the sunny streets of Los Angeles looking high and low for a new bass player and drummer. There was this drummer we all knew from the Rainbow named John Marshall Battjes, who looked a lot like a Cajun pirate with his long black hair, mustache and golden earring. He liked to be called Marshall but I couldn't help still calling him John. The year before he had come over to Oakhurst Drive in his Ford Econoline van and noticed that Mick Jagger dressed in white clam digger pants and blue and gold Hawaiian shirt was walking down the path of the duplex right next door. While I was waiting outside on the front lawn, Marshall screeched the van to a halt, jumped out of the car yelling, "Hey Mick, what's going on?" I was a little embarrassed he had the moxie to run right up to him like that, even though I had met Mick myself a year or two earlier at Sunset Sounds. I always felt that famous people ought to be given their space, especially in a private setting such as this. I stood along side the two of them and listened to Marshall go on about how he had met the illustrious Mr. Jagger before in this, or that place. I must have smiled uncomfortably, thinking how we were taking up the time of such a busy man when Mick unexpectedly returned the smile. I noticed he had what appeared to be a diamond in his front tooth. Seeing the light from the late morning sun glisten off that jewel was hypnotizing me and it was difficult to focus on anything else. I don't think I said more than a "Hello Mick" or a "How, you doing, man."
After fond farewells, we got back in the van and headed out to Palm Springs looking for trouble. We ended up spending time with George Gobel's (famous comedian and entertainer from the 50's) daughter who had an enormous stucco retreat in the desert with a nice pool. Once again, as it happened so many times in my life, someone else got lucky while I got a tan.
Marshall was invited to play drums on some tracks in the studio while I played bass. Larry played piano and Stephen sang a beautiful song they wrote called "Angelique" It was very classically influenced and spoke of tales of aulde England and a man who came to be with his love by way of a time machine. Very Wellsian. 
At this time I never really knew if Jon Marr was in the band or not. Stephen insisted that we needed better vocals and Jon is a "natural singer" which I was not and he did have and amazing blend for harmonies, especially with Joey. Either your a singer or a stylist and I was the latter. What makes all the difference is swagger and I had plenty of that. Jon, not so much, down deep I think he suffered with a bad case of good old stage fright, or visa-versa. Joey was a whole different story, but it all came down to confidence and belief in yourself.
   We did cut this great track called "Here I Am" with Marshall on drums, I played bass, Larry on the 88's then later Stephen and I overdubbed a couple of dueling Fender guitars at the end of the song. There were these very lame lyrics in the verses but the chorus' were solid, especially these great back up parts, the "tell me, tell me's," that Jon and I sang at the tag. At one point, in the beginning of the vocal overdub recording, we were singing on separate Neumann U-87 microphones and Bob Merritt was getting some interference, some kind of a conflict in the sound. He couldn't figure it out what it was but I thought it may be the conflict in personalities causing the disturbance. We ended up singing the part into my mic which eliminated the problem. There was a giant pipe organ in studio C, the kind you might see at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York. It was a monster with more stops and presets than you could ever know what to do with. Bob managed to get us a few hours in that sanctimonious chamber to have Blair overdub a pipe organ part. This I think was the greatest among the many contributions he ever donated to the cause, that part was brilliant emanating reed and bell sounds that gave it that "Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band" vibe, years before he would cut the song "Hungry Heart". The overall sound was a cross between Derrick and the Dominoes, Badfinger and the Boss, but unfortunately the verses were never fixed and the only mix that survives is an instrumental with the "tell me, tell me's" backup part at the end.
Now it was the middle of October and more than just the leaves were changing. There was a pretty buck-toothed blonde that Larry knew, Candace, who seemed to have more money than sense. She offered to send him to New York to attend Peter Gries' wedding to Louise Clark. It was going to be an upscale event by the banks of the Hudson River, real Sleepy Hollow territory. 
I felt left out again. Being the middle child I had experience with this. When I was about six or seven my dad was in my room with my sister, brother and me putting together a bed. Trying to make a game out of it he suggested we all think of our favorite western hero. He knew how much I loved the old westerns, my two main heroes were Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Robbie blurted out, "I'm Daniel Boone," then Susan shouted, "I'm Davy Crockett." Left without a hero to claim I said, "I'm not playing". This is a recurring fault in my life that I have tried to conquer but it may be too deeply ingrained.
I didn't want to be the odd man out. Candace, who saw me brooding and pacing around the floor, asked what was the matter. I told her the truth, I wanted to go but didn't have more than fifty bucks to my name and I wasn't about to hock my 54 Sratocaster, serial number 0535, for a wedding. "Oh Jimmy," she said, "that's no problem. I'll buy you a ticket." I felt guilty as hell. This was Larry's girl or whatever she was to him, not mine. How could I pay her back in any reasonable time? So times being what they were, I accepted her kind gift. I figured time away from LA would give us all some perspective, maybe write to a different beat, new influences, besides it would be fun.
   The red and orange leaves on the Hudson were beautiful as I kept imagining a headless horseman to gallup through the procession at any minute. There is nothing like a trip to the Big Apple, my hometown, to spark up one's enthusiasm, and I was in full throttle now. In the city, in every restaurant, every club, we were singing. Even Larry started to show some confidence in his voice. For the first time in my life I felt I was part of something bigger than myself. Even though I wasn't Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett, I was becoming something. Was it part of what we hoped would be the next big thing in music? Who knew? I was glad to be living in these times that were so alive. We couldn't wait to get back to LA and finish our record but there were a few bumps in the road about to come up that would change things for Silverspoon again.