Once upon a time in the west IV an Epilogue

Rick morphed into executive producer by funding what we couldn’t scam. He funded a lot. We scammed a lot. Two prongs.

Prong three of the trident was our ability. What we knew how to do. The three of us. Me & Al, Rick and the band.

Not just demos, we were here to make a record.

Once those first five days were spent, it was a logistical clusterfuck to get ten broke musicians from Denver to LA, on schedule to do overdubs, track another song or participate in some mixes inside a tiny window we swindled for nothing or next to nothing. Part of the prongs were A&M’s a&r department. Suhy, Whittaker, and father and son Anderle.

More often than not Rick made it work.

His other contributions ended up being huge.

A sharp motherfucker my buddy Rick. A marketing savant. He devised black window boxes with an orange background, sourced them, and we spent a few nights mounting CDs and a six inch glass bong inside each one with twist ties and rubber bands.

Individually addressed, one box went to every A&R rep in town. The greater Los Angeles area. Delivery split among Alex, Rick and I. Rick paid for every move we made.

They loved it. They adored the record and they were smitten with the packaging. Almost more enthusiasm for the window boxes than the record. We’d made an impression. More than a handful wanted to see them live.

Cover art was a flashlight shown through the bass player’s ball sack. Abstract, but once you understood what you were looking at, there was no mistake. The record was called “S.A.C.”

Not three chords and hair.

Plenty of chords and hair. Accomplished musicians with more or less the same thing in mind. Not the least of which was pushing an envelope. I didn’t always recognize the envelope they were so furious about. I always ended up seeing it though.

It is a brilliant record. I am as proud of it as I am of anything I’ve done. Alex Reed of course, is a genius.

The studio rats liked it.

When I see them, they mention it and I smile.

It wasn’t wrong place and it wasn’t wrong time. Many understood the genius of the band. The powers that were simply had no idea what to do with them. It wasn’t a band that was going to break on pop radio or MTV. They were all so confused. The contemporary paradigm wasn’t a fit for these guys.

Punk rock was gathering steam.

We got that. It would have to be done the old fashioned way. Tour support and getting them on the right bill. The band had to establish a live presence in LA. They were rockstars in Denver and Fort Collins. I visited them there, it was impossible for me to buy a drink within a hundred mile radius. They could do that here.

Wherever they took a stage, it was like this, “We’re The Psychodelic Zombiez, we’re from Denver Colorado and we’re not here to fuck around”. I never saw them fail to win a crowd. Seattle, Lake Tahoe or LA. One night in Denver, the first night of school, they packed an airplane hangar. I was there.

My own nephew walked in on them doing bong rips before taking the stage in Tahoe one day about a century ago. He was five or six. He told everyone his name and walked back out the door. A memory both vivid and fond. Hysterically funny. Yes, he was expelled from a parochial high school in his senior year.

They had successfuly manifested the cult of their personality. If given the chance, they could do it here in LA. With time and reason. I’m guessing there wasn’t enough of either of those.

Then. This tale is past tense.

Mitch B. from MCA gave us money to try and make something into a three and a half minute single. I got the call when I was home for Christmas. Rick, Al and I were pretty fucking excited.

A fool’s errand.

Mitch used to have his secretary call us at the studio to schedule an appointment to rip from the elaborate waterpipe Rick had donated. We’d ride through the backlots and sets of Universal City in his convertible, out of our fucking trees, when suddenly we were cutting to the front of the line for the Back To the Future ride at Universal as many times as we wanted.

We did rough mixes one night in B. The entire band took acid and ended up stealing the keys to famous people’s cars and rearranging them according to some hallucinogenic ideal. I just about shit my pants when I found out what they’d been up to. Then again, it was five in the morning and I was still on my first beer. None of us slept for a day or two.

So, Mitch sent Al and I to Denver, we spent the better part of a week in rehearsal. Can’t remember why, but Al wasn’t able to be with me in the studio. I always hated being in a new control room with out him. Was Xantipa pregnant? I was with him through the time his mom died. This is where I’m a dick. I don’t remember.

The best I was gonna do without Al was fifty percent. I’d convinced myself it would be fine because I had no choice.

I’d do well to remember half the musical and production stuff. Particularly in this context, it was all about arrangement. Song structure. Kinda dangerous if I only retain my ideas. Al’s specialty, his territory. I was barely able to keep up with him, there was no way I could do what he did.

There were ten other guys in the same room. I couldn’t be counted on to remember it all. They ended up acquitting themselves with discipline at the very least. I don’t recall any of us being particularly inspired.

It may have been a disaster. I barely recall. So odd to have Alex by my side in a strange place for a week and not have him in the control room. Dav (saxes, flutes and the like) got terrifyingly sick. He played his parts and was a complete warrior but left the control room for the emergency room. That spooked us.

My assistant was this kid named Jeremy, I doubt to this day he was on my side. He had sharp edges like he thought we were playing chess and he had me cornered. I didn’t like him. He was smart but he had his own agenda. He left the taste of carpet in my mouth. I think he had stupid hair.

It was ridiculously cold and we spent a night at Koony’s smoking pot, drinking and watching “Trinity And Beyond”. It’s only the coolest atomic bomb movie ever. Moscow Symphony Orchestra baby.

I was unable to make it my bitch. It spat me out. I believe I failed.

The Fish visited me. We ended up backstage in Boulder at some Samples show. Al and I had done a mix for them.

It didn’t take long. They went kerplooey.

Koony (most mature member), looked me in the eye a season before and asked me if I thought they’d fall apart if they didn’t come to LA. I told him yes and pointed out that they were on the rocks already. He scoffed.

I’ll never be happy about being right.

We believed they could come the rest of the way. All of us. They’d never appear on tabloid television.

We were sure they could make a profound musical contribution while selling records and packing houses. Too good for us to discount the idea. I knew we didn’t have an arena band on our hands but we did have extraordinary talent by the handful.

In the end, we all fell down.

But we made a shit hot record. Great recording, awesome performances.

It did happen to be, one of a few straws too many, on the back of the proverbial camel. I’m no longer in the business of dreams. Now I sell tangibles.

Drinks for my friends.

3 Responses to “Once upon a time in the west IV an Epilogue”

  • Stravingus:

    The record is shit-hot, brother.
    Much appreciation for the effort.

    This story opened wounds that I thought had long-since healed. Funny how the mind is a time machine.

    I quit trying to sell records too. Now I write string quartets (which might sell a CD to my mom) and conduct a hip hop orchestra (that will never do anything outside of L.A.).

    Years later, I finally got to conduct in A, before they remodeled it and fucked it up.

    That Zombiez ride was pretty fun, though. I’ll always be grateful for what Rick, Alex and you were able to pull off.

    Thanks, brother.

  • admin:

    Thanks G.
    The mind is a time machine and I’m lucky enough to be grateful for it.

    I’d like to hear some some quartet stuff.

    What did you conduct in A? You didn’t call me as a Jedi?

    You are more than welcome, brother.

  • Kunimooney:

    Great series of essays Michael! You for sure captured the spirit of the band in these! One correction though… It was Doody’s scrotum not Chevy’s 🙂

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