Monday, February 25, 2013

Chapter 36 - Out Of Aptos

It was now Sunday, June 5, 1976. Stephen and I got right down to work and our singing was starting to sound a lot better. We played music all day while waiting for Steve and Alan to show up and composed a song list for this makeshift band to perform. By seven o'clock that evening the rest of the so-called band showed up with a new keyboardist who had brought up a Fender Rhodes and rehearsal began a half an hour later.
The phone rang in the kitchen and it was Larry calling from Sausalito saying that Kathy, Yadi and Richie had gone back to LA because Richie couldn't find a place to stay in San Francisco, his home town. Larry had remained there with Bambi and they were staying with a friend of his named John who lived in Marin County in a place with a 360 degree view. He could see the fog rising over the bay revealing the top of the bronze beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge. He had visited to the Record Plant up there and ran into Bill Halverson and Gary Kellgren (co-owner of the studio). He described the studio in detail saying that they had it built where you could play right in the control room, a design that would be used in future studios. Kellgren was ahead of his time. He had the singers performing on raised podiums and the piano was hung from wires that hovered ten feet off the ground. Larry said it looked insane but sounded great. It was dubbed The Pit was a 140-square-foot, acoustically dead room that had the engineer's controls sunk 10 feet into the foundation of the building, this pit surrounded on all sides by a ground level area intended for the musicians. Its appearance was futuristic, with bright maroon plush carpet on the floors, walls, ceiling, and stairs. Psychedelic murals and embroidery added to the visual atmosphere. There were no windows between the control room and the main studio area, previously considered a fundamental method of sound separation; instead, there was a partial cowling circling the control pit, also carpeted.
The quirkiness of the studio extended in many directions; for transporting musicians, Stone owned a limousine with the custom license plate DEDUCT, while Kellgren kept a purple Rolls-Royce displaying GREED on the license plate. This was the same Rolls that Jon Gries drove to Tower Records to purchase the Beach Boys record "Don't Worry Baby" in 1974. As in Los Angeles, the studio contained a jacuzzi, but Sausalito's conference room had a waterbed for a floor. For the musicians' meals, there were chefs ready to cook organic food, and for their sleeping quarters there were two guesthouses next to each other, five minutes away in Mill Valley. In back there was a basketball hoop, and in the nearby harbor a speedboat was kept ready. The studio obtained industrial-grade nitrous—oxide pure, not mixed with oxygen as it is for dental anesthesia—from a local chemical supply company under the pretext that the gas was critical to the recording process, and fresh tanks were delivered weekly. Gas masks hung from the ceiling for those who wished to get intoxicated on "laughing gas". Al Kooper wrote that during the few days that he was helping Nils Lofgren lay down tracks for the album "Cry Tough". Kooper was so taken with the novel drug experience that he wheeled one of the tanks around and kept it next to him for refreshment between takes. He breathed in so much of it that acid collected in his stomach, aggravating his ulcers, and for a few days he was too sick to work. Kooper said that the studio's fun with nitrous oxide was stopped forever when a friend of Kellgren's was found dead from asphyxia under one of the tanks, the tube still in his mouth.
Gary said he was building a replica the the Saucalito studio in his house in the Hollywood Hills and he had invited Larry to help build it. In return he was promised to get studio work as a keyboardist and would also try to get Richie a job as an engineer. Larry was back in the hustle and bustle of LA again while Stephen, Rick and I remained in Aptos trying to get this new band together. 
I found out that Carl Faust was an ex-con who was given the opportunity to run this halfway house as a condition of his parole. he told us of how he had fatally stabbed this guy who was sleeping with his "old lady" while he was high on LSD. Another resident of the mansion was this guy named Don, who told me he had murdered two people and had once shared a cell with Charlie Manson. That night I slept on one arm of the "L shaped" couch while Don slept on the other arm. Needless to say I didn't get a whole lot of sleep that night and I came down with a mother of a cold. 
Things were getting very bleak now because the phone was turned off as well as all the power at the mansion. It was time to get the hell out of Dodge, or Aptos as the case may be. We wanted to get back to LA because there was going to be a rebroadcast of "Helter Skelter" on TV and we wanted to be there so we could promote the band as well as having some credibility; not to mention we could probably get laid after bragging about our successes in the parking lot of the Rainbow Bar and Grille at 2 am. Stephen and Rick were in agreement, the only trouble was we only had about ten dollars in cash between the three of us. At this time Steve and his entourage had left the place and we had to find a way to get money to fill up the gas-guzzling Continental. I wasn't going to sell my guitar or anything like that but while rummaging through the desk in Carl's office I found a roll of stamps.
I took the roll of stamps to a local bank in Aptos where they gave me face value which was a whopping thirteen dollars (stamps in 1976 were 13 cents). It was enough to fill the tank of that beastly Lincoln as gas prices then were about sixty cents a gallon. I was feeling a lot better when we headed out of town to visit Stephen's father, Chick Adamick who still lived in Carmel, less than a hundred miles away. We stayed there for a few hours but I was getting anxious to get back to LA. Chick gave us another twenty bucks and we thought it would be just enough to make it back home. While coasting down the perilous hill at the grapevine on Highway 5, the needle was on empty. We finally got to Oakhurst Drive on mere fumes then I went in the house and borrowed another twenty from my mom and gave it to Rick for gas. Sanctuary at last.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chapter 35 - Doppleganger

Saturday Morning June 4, 1976

Kathy V. and Yadi, Stuart Collins' wife, arrived in Aptos with Jon Marr around ten that morning and it seemed that West Hollywood had followed us up to Santa Cruz. There were immediate tensions between the visiting city-dwellers and the local country folk (the residents of the halfway house), but feelings began to escalate when Kathy V. mistakenly walked into Carl and his wife's (whose name was also Cathy) bedroom. We all heard yelling and screaming coming from one of the seven rooms upstairs and I knew things had gotten off on the wrong foot. 
So I grabbed my guitar and went outside to the deep forested area in the back of the mansion with Stephen to work on some new song ideas, but Yadi had followed me out there. She kept asking me to play a new song I had written called "Everything's Gonna Be Fine" not once, not twice but at least three times. I was beginning to hate that damn song. The whole point was to have Stephen practice his vocal and guitar parts, not Yadi. I had given up on getting anything accomplished musically at that point, so I ventured out deeper into the woods, sat down on a sunny patch of grass and began to meditate. Stephen and Jon Marr had convinced me to come back to the fold and before too long we were sitting in the forest playing acoustic guitars and singing Buffalo Springfield and Byrds songs when it started.
  Jon went back into the house and had decided to hitch back to LA by himself while Kathy and Yadi were going to drive up to San Francisco. Bambi Byrens, who had driven her Mercedes up to Aptos the night before, was leaving for Saucalito and Larry decided to tag along with her. As usual it all seemed funny to me and I was making a mockery of the situation by singing some cynical and apropos song,"I'm A One-man Band" by "The Who", with a tambourine around my neck playing that old J-200. Stephen was bitching at Larry, telling him that he would never talk to him again if he abandoned us there in the half-way house. I really don't blame Larry for leaving because the piano was so god-awfully out of tune it was unbearable to listen to. Before he left, Larry made me promise to try and get Stephen to play music. It was my mission, should I decide to accept, to get him to focus on the songs. It could be like it was before, just the two of us. That's really how the whole spoon thing started out in the first place. Pat (remember her) had also left for San Francisco a few minutes later after complaining that Rick was putting the moves on her. So all in all, seven people had evacuated the  mansion in less than an hour.
There was a knock at the door the being the closest one to it, I answered it. It was that friend of Rick's, Steve with a guitar in his hand. He came inside, sat down by the fire and opened his guitar case. I was taken aback when he pulled out a blonde Gibson J-200, almost an exact mate of the one I had sitting in the corner of the now much less populated living room. Steve came off as this really aggressive type with the clipped tones of a western drawl. I listened while he played a few of his songs, I think I even picked up my guitar and jammed along
as Rick was tapped on the coffee table with his sticks. Stephen, now feeling a bit more optimistic, suggested we all go into the music room where the drums were set up. That was fine with me, since my mission was to get his head back into the music, any music. 
Steve, when he sang sounded a lot like a red-neck Jose Feliciano mixed in with The Ohio Players. Soul and Gunk meets funk, sgunk or better yet, skunk. After the jam we went back by the fire and started talking. Because I was into astrology and numerology and all that jazz, I asked him when he was born. He said "November the second, nineteen hundred and fifty-two", the same as mine. Was this guy my doppleganger? We didn't really look alike but maybe there was a similar determination in the eyes. Three Scorpios in the room with a Leo (Rick), anything could happen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chapter 34 - Aptos


While driving up the 101 "Fly Robin Fly" by Silver Convention was blasting on the radio and it was apropos since Stephen's Robin had flown the proverbial coupe again. He was depressed and devastated by her habitual departures but this time he was almost comatose. I knew it was going to take some doing to get him back on the same page as the rest of us. In fact, I can't remember a time since the days at the Record Plant since any of us were on that same page but maybe, I hoped, things would be different now.
We pulled into Santa Cruz around eight am after not sleeping at all, no one did, and we all were a bit cranky. Driving through the mountainous terrain and finally up the winding dirt driveway we saw the Mangels' mansion looming in the distance. The house was built in 1888 by Claus Mangles, brother-in-law to Claus Spreckels (the sugar magnate). The house is virtually a copy of the Spreckels mansion. it is now a bed and breakfast, but then, I found out later, it was being used as a half-way house for recovering criminals and drug addicts. The head of the household was a man named Carl Faust, a bearded mountaineer about the size of a barn. The owner of the mansion was a man named Carl Marks. Namesakes for a Russian revolutionary and a dude that makes a pact with the devil. I felt that I had definitely arrived at the loony bin. Maybe this is where we belonged?
There were at least nine bedrooms but only two bathrooms with showers only. In the living room was a beautiful wood carved fireplace where the residents would congregate because there was no central heat, thank God it was June, but it was still very nippy. Rick had failed to mention that we would be sharing the house with these other people who were trying to find there way back to society at large. All Stephen, Larry and I wanted to do was practice and play or music and make another ditch attempt to get this crazy band back together in its next incarnation, whatever that was going to be.
Larry was not happy and complained about the living conditions, Richie slept most of the time trying to detox from his addictions, Stephen was confused, Rick was Rick, and I as usual was trying to make the best out of another strange situation. The next morning Stephen got a ride to Carmel to go visit his father, Chick Adamick, who still had that studio apartment two blocks from the beach behind the art gallery. He called it The Adamick Hilton. When Rick got back he said I could use the car to go to a yoga retreat in the mountains that one of the residents of the mansion, Arleta ( one of the councilors) had told me about. She would be staying up there overnight but I had no designs on her or spending another night out in the cold. I got to the retreat about two-thirty in the afternoon and immediately thrust myself into the activities that surrounded me. The first thing I did was a combination of Hatha Yoga and something else called Astang Yoga. It was so cleansing and out in the fresh air that I called it "Batha Yoga". The breathing exercises were helping my breath control, I thought, and soon I was among over two hundred people chanting, singing and playing all sorts of strange musical instruments. There were beautiful girls dancing in their diaphanous clothing and I hated to leave but I knew I had to get back in case somebody needed the car. 
By the time I had gotten back to the mansion everyone was pissed off at me for being away so long, besides I had all their clothes in that behemoth of a trunk. Their was a big party going on to raise money for the child care center where Kathy, Carl Faust's fifth wife, was working. I played a few songs on my Gibson J-200 with Rick and some bass player who shall remain nameless simply because I can't remember his name. The party went on past midnight and eventually Larry and Richie came back from "The Catalyst" after seeing the band Pablo Cruz.
Larry started in to his old routine about me wasting his time by being away all day and because of it he wasn't going to rehearse the next day. I think he was planning his getaway from the Mangles House and was using his covert way of shifting the blame to me so he could use it as an excuse to leave. It is amazing the things we used to do to promote our own agendas. I guess in a way we still do it. I was preparing myself for the next day's craziness but I don't think Stephen was at all.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Chapter 33 - Escape Into The Desert

May of 1976 was quickly waning now and the joys and pleasures of late spring and early summer were in the air. I was going stir-crazy and needed to get out of the sometimes friendly, other times restricting confines of Oakhurst Drive. I was almost tewnty-four and felt I should have my own place again even though Oakhurst had been a good time-out for me from the daily dramas that Silverspoon had to offer. The weather was beautiful so one morning bright and early before my parents were awake I compulsively decided to hitch-hike to Palm Springs with about ten dollars in my wallet. After leaving a note on the kitchen table, I ventured out with both wrists still wrapped in ace bandages. I got my first ride on Olympic  heading east. It took more than ten different rides to get to Pomona in Riverside County where I saw a freight train that seemed to be headed east meandering down the track. Just like in a Woody Guthrie song I hopped the train that got me past San Bernardino, maybe 15 or 20 miles closer to my destination. I felt like I was living in a Jack Kerouac novel. 
After climbing up out of a ravine past the train depot, I found myself walking on the north side of the freeway when I looked down and there was a dirty brown wallet trying to hide among the rocks and other debris that lay along the roadside. When I picked it up and dusted it off I opened it and saw that it belonged to some Vietnamese kid. Actually the first thing I did was check the money compartment and found a hundred and ten dollars stuffed inside. I remember feeling guilty about taking the money but I was broke and desperate and I thought it would come in handy, especially if I needed to take a bus to get back home. It seemed like providence, fate, at least that was my rationale. I did leave the wallet on top of a post on the side of the freeway so it could be easily recovered without the money of course. I knew that in time I would pay back this loan in some cosmic way that the universe would dish out. 
This hitch-hiking was getting tiresome and I found out it was not all that it is cracked up to be as depicted in "On The Road". I finally made it to Palm Springs by about one o'clock in the afternoon and man it was blazing hot, over 100 degrees for sure. I then headed over to the nicest part of the Coachella Valley. It was Taquitz Canyon where I remembered from past journeys there was a little river and a nice waterfall at the end of the trail. Part of the 1937 Frank Capra movie "Lost Horizon" was filmed here. Originally named Pal hani kalet by Ca wis ke on ca, leader of the Fox Tribe who first settled here over 2000 years ago. This is a place of power. When you enter you are tired and weak, when you leave you are rejuvenated and energized. I was hoping it would be true.
I hear that now you have to pay a fee to get to see the falls but in those days it was free. a lot of things were that will cost you an arm and a leg now. It was a lot longer of a walk than I recalled and by the time I made it into the canyon the sun was starting to hide behind the large rocks in the west. I could hear the waterfall going strong from the snow that had melted from Mount San Jacinto. Burrowing my way through the rocks and Joshua trees I finally came to the waterfall, and it was well worth the strenuous hike. It was beginning to get cold and I was shivering in that poor excuse for a blue-jean jacket I was wearing. I did have enough money to get a cheap motel but I decided to tough it out and sleep in one of the caves if I could find one that wasn't occupied or too scary. There could be any sort of desert creature more than willing to interrupt my evening with a sting, bite or claw. 
I ended up cozying next to a big rock surrounded by bushes but the ground was hard and lumpy and I couldn't get comfortable. I think I only slept about one or two hours that night, most of the time I spent pacing back and forth trying not to freeze to death. I felt the hair on my arms starting freeze up and my nose was running like a fire hose. Every bone in my body felt tense and brittle and I thought I was going to die out there in the middle of nowhere. As soon as the first glimpse of light hit the sky in the east I scurried out of the canyon and took the five mile trek back to civilization.
It was now almost nine in the morning and the glorious sun felt warm and soothing. I was standing on North Palm Canyon with my face half-peeled off with a bottle of Boone's Farm wine in my hand ready to thumb a ride out of Palm Springs. I called the house back on Oakhurst for some reason to check in and my mom told me Larry was on the other line. I gave my mom the number of the phone booth where I was at and told her to have him call me back. So, I waited around for about ten minutes and finished off the rest of my wine. I knew that something was in the works. Synchronistically, the phone rang the same time I was thinking that thought. It was Larry. "Jimmy we all have decided to go to Santa Cruz and get the band back together. We're heading up there in Rick Green's Lincoln Continental later today." I said I would take the Greyhound bus and they could pick me up on their way out of town. I was only a three hour bus trip from Palm Springs to the downtown Los Angeles bus terminal that cost five dollars and sixty cents.
Arriving at the LA bus terminal around mid-afternoon, I waited about an hour for the Lincoln containing my old band mates but they never showed up. After calling Larry and Stephen with no answer, I took the RTD bus to Hollywood. I figured by the time I got there I would reach somebody on the phone when I arrived. On the bus I met a girl, Pat, around twenty with red hair and freckles who asked me if I knew the city pretty well. I said I had lived here almost eleven years so she attached herself to me like a barnacle on a sunken ship and we rode bus number 4 to the corner of San Vincente and Melrose together. She was lost and I was burned out and tired beyond my limits - not a great combination. All she wanted to do was get to, or near San Francisco, and I told her I would be heading up to Santa Cruz, about a hundred or so miles south of there, if I could ever catch up to my ride. I told her that if there was room I'm sure it would be alright for her to tag along.
At the Sun-Bee market on Sunset and Larrabee (hence the name) we ran into Traveling Travis, a fellow wandering minstrel who told us he had been living in a cave in Laurel Canyon for the past three years. Travis pulled out a joint and some liverwurst and crackers and we smoked behind the old Licorice Pizza record store on Sunset and Larrabee (the joint not the liverwurst). This is the same record store I would meet Doug Fieger behind the counter two years later. Sitting behind a dumpster, me with my sunburned face and Polaroid bag stuffed with my belongings, Pat with her Sacks Fifth avenue shopping bag and Travis with his joint, crackers and guitar, we sang some old Hank Williams and other songs about traveling and destitute women and it was soon time for us to move on. 
Finding the hitch-hiking down Doheny next to impossible, Pat and I decided to flag a taxi back home, which cost a whopping 2 dollars and seventy cents. We finally connected with my lost band of gypsies and Rick, Richie Moore, Stephen, Larry, Pat and myself left Oakhurst Drive around one thirty the next morning for regions unknown, at least unknown to me. Pat hardly said more than two words to any of the other five passenger in the car and gave me nothing more than a mere whisper or soft grumble all the way there. It was late and we were tired so I gave her a break. The important thing was we were getting out of the rat-race of LA and we were going to play music again. Things were looking up but little did I know that I would be heading out of the frying pan right into the fires of insanity again in Aptos, California.