One day, after coming back safe, sound and shirtless from Vegas, Robin Stewart, Stephen and I were in Licorice Pizza, a record store on Sunset and San Vincente, browsing through records we couldn't afford to buy (not many musicians can) when we saw a tall, skinny brown-haired dude behind the counter who looked a little familiar to me. Remember how I said that everyone stacks the deck when recalling the past? Well, Robin claims she said the following to the pale skinned cashier (Stephen says he said it): We had just bought a Rolling Stone magazine and the guy behind the counter asked if there were anything else he could help us with. She said, “Hey, you don’t know anybody that plays bass and sings real high, do you?” The dude smiled his cocky grin and said, “Yeah ME.” He said his name was Doug and he told us he lived right down the street with his girlfriend Judy. He played a Gibson Eb-3 bass, just like the one Jack Bruce played in “Cream”, and he had a Revox two track tape recorder so we could tape our practices. I said he would be a great addition to Silverspoon if he wanted to join but he would have to be vetted by the rest of the band. I knew Stephen would have no problem with Doug—it was Larry I was worried about. My suspicions about Larry proved to be correct and even though he complained about Doug’s bass playing not being in the pocket, he admitted that his vocals were great and would be a fine replacement for Joey who was out there somewhere in motorcycle gangland with all the accoutrements that go along with the biker lifestyle.
We started a new incarnation of Silverspoon called “The Doves” with me, Stephen. Larry, Doug, Chas and Terry Rae on drums—it was a really good combination and Stephen was over the moon about how it sounded when we blended together in three part harmony—sometimes even four parts. We got a gig at the Central (which is now called The Viper Room) on Sunset two doors down from Licorice Pizza, and it proved to be the only performance we ever did together.
Doug and I were becoming fast friends and one day he and I drove out in his British racing green Triumph GT – 6 to purchase a Vox Super Beatle amplifier from an ad he saw in The Recycler. I told him that I doubted an amp so big would fit inside his two seat sports car but he said, “Sure it will Jimmy, I've gotten much larger things in the back. The seat folds down.”
Robin was becoming great friends with Judy too, and we spent many lovely days and nights on the white carpeted living room playing Scrabble and Dictionary (a game where you would look up an obscure word and try to guess its meaning) and painting watercolors. Judy was a fantastic cook and would make these gourmet dishes for us. One thing that always bothered me though was Doug’s fastidiousness. He always made us take off our shoes before we entered his and Judy’s humble abode— which usually revealed my holy socks. If I would have had to take of my pants I’m sure it would have also revealed my holy underwear as well. I remember one watercolor Doug painted of me playing guitar and he named it, Rock out with Hamish. I wish I still had that painting— I wish I still had a lot of things from that era. Because we spent so much time with Doug and Judy, Robin and I decided to move out of Detroit Street and find a place closer to town. We found a nice one bedroom with slanted ceilings and off-white carpets (you didn't have to take your shoes off) on Clark, right across the street from the Whisky and from Doug and Judy. The four of us were inseparable.
A few years before Robin and I were together, she used to date a drummer named Bruce, a guy I had seen around who had a pretty good reputation but was a bit of an egomaniac. I had seen some pictures of them together in her photo album and I used to tease her about him all the time, especially when we got in one of our rare fights. I would don a long scarf and prance around the room pretending to be Bruce. It really pissed her off which made me happy because it indicated I was doing a good job impersonating him.
Well Doug did join Silverspoon in ’77, but he had ideas of his own. I knew he was as much, or even more of a Beatle freak as I was, and he had this concept for his own band that would be modeled after the Early Beatles. He got a group of guys together by holding auditions and general word of mouth. He had decided on a guitar player named Burton, who looked more like an accountant or a chess enthusiast then a musician, a Marc Bolan look-alike bass player named Prescott and Bruce, my old nemesis on drums.
It was almost 1978 now and Doug had sold his GT-6 and his father, living near Detroit, matched the three grand to invest in his project. He needed a demo recorded and I suggested Richie Moore as engineer who was living near San Francisco with his girlfriend Annie. He agreed that Richie was a genius and would give the demos that little extra Beatle touch. Richie, who looked like a choirboy with his medium length wavy, red hair and freckles and Poindexter glasses that were held together with white surgical tape, was flown down to L.A. to commandeer the control room board. Doug had asked Robin and I to keep an eye on him knowing full well of his history with drug abuse, especially downers. It’s funny, when Richie was up north and with Annie he could steer clear of the drugs—but not in L.A. I remembered that Al and Mary lived a block away and still sold Quaaludes by the barrel. It was our job to keep him straight and it would prove to be a daunting task.
One day when I was out rehearsing or writing with Stephen, Robin was flying solo. Richie had asked her if he could go down to the Catholic Church in West Hollywood and she honored his request even thought he was staggeringly high on something. She thought it was like an AA thing for him, or something, so she drove him down there and he stumbled out of her car into the church with her following closely behind like he was a dog without a leash in an Alpo factory. Robin watched as Richie went over to light a candle while a priest was watching Richie falling over and almost knocking all the candles off the shelf. Richie was wearing a wristband from a hospital so Robin explained to the priest how he wasn’t high, but was suffering from asthma or something like that. She thought she saw him picking something up from a candleholder but couldn’t be sure. When she drove him back to the apartment on Clark, she noticed that he was completely stoned out of his mind like he had taken more Quaaludes. She found out later that Al and Mary had made a drop and left the drugs for him in the candleholder at the church. The timing had to be precise—remember there were no cell phones in those days but Richie, as I said, was a genius especially when it came to scoring drugs.
He did manage to stay straight enough to record Doug and his band at John Thomas Studios in North Hollywood and the tapes were great. One of the songs on the tape was a song Doug had written with Burton about a girl he knew (who was his main groupie), by this time he had broken up, or was in the process of breaking up with Judy. The song sounded like a complete rip off of Spencer Davis’ hit “Gimme Some Lovin’” and I told him that. That’s when quoted Picasso and said, “Jimmy the good ones borrow but the great one’s steal.” The song later became a huge hit called “My Sharona” and the band was “The Knack.”
They did a showcase after the tapes were finished at Casablanca’s sound stage in Hollywood. They had a keyboard player who didn’t fit their image with long hair and such, while all of their hair styles were early Beatles style. After the showcase, he asked me to join the band to replace the out of sync keyboardist and I agreed—even though I knew Doug would never let me co-write or perform any of my originals with The Knack. I performed their first real gig with them at the Whiskey on June 1, 1978 and it was amazing. The next gig was at the Troubador a few weeks later. I never got along with Bruce Gary, the drummer, and it was ironic being in a band with someone I had been making fun of just a few months earlier. Bruce had it in for me because I was now singing the parts he used to sing and felt that the band didn’t need a keyboard player—The Beatles didn’t have a keyboardist and Doug was swayed by his salesmanship. I got a phone call from Doug a few days later and he told me they decided to continue as a four piece band. I was fired. I don’t think I spoke to Doug for several months after that, knowing they were going to be huge, and again I was left holding the bag; the fifth wheel on a four-wheeler. We did re-connect later after the band’s debut album went gold and I was in the process of recording my own solo project at Electra Records with Chuck Fiore and Beau Segal. Doug Fieger was an enigma who had succumbed to the pressures of the rock and roll world by getting into drugs and alcohol. He did get sober and stayed that way for over twenty years until his untimely death from brain cancer on Valentine’s Day of 2010 at the age of 57. I still look back with fondness on those amazing days. I miss him terribly. He had the knack.