Frank Gutch Jr: Jim Colegrove— Chapter Four: The Big Apple; Don’t Be Afraid to Pogo Punk Doc Premieres in L.A.; Fotheringay— All Boxed Up and Nowhere to Go (But Up, Finally); plus Notes…..
The last we looked in on Jim Colegrove, he asked the question which consumes every artist, musical and otherwise— …where would the world be without dreamers? The question ended Part Three of his story as being told through this column at which point Colegrove and band were headed to New York to grab that fabled brass ring dangled by the record labels of the time. If you recall, drummer N.D. Smart II who was supposed to be the band’s drummer, opted for a gig with The Remains, who had scored a leg of The Beatles’ tour. But Smart was there when the band arrived after a long car trip.
If you want to read the first three chapters, and I recommend that you do just for the names involved— Gene Pitney, Bobby Vee, The Shangri-Las, to name only a few— here are the links:
But to get back to the story, Smart was awaiting the band in NYC when they arrived.
We drove all night and got to New York the next day, Colegrove said. It had been six years since I’d last been in the city but I still remembered the stale coffee smell which permeated the air. The city seemed as awesome as ever. We followed N.D.’s directions to The Gorham Hotel and found him in his his room with his girlfriend, Joanne Sidwell. She was then a student at Wellesley and was getting ready to head back to school. They gave us a warm welcome and we smoked some dope and rapped. (Ed Note: That meant “talked” back in the olden days, youngsters) After getting something to eat, N.D. told us to spend the night in the room. He wanted us to talk with his friend John Kurland before we went ahead with the Randell-Linzer deal. (See Chapter Three)
The next day, we met with Kurland at his office. He was a publicist and handled some of the stars of the day: The Mamas and Papas, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, Millie Perkins, Carolyn Hester, and Barry & The Remains. He had a strong relationship with the Raiders and had gotten The Remains their deal with Columbia (Records). N.D. had obviously talked with Kurland about the band and Kurland was interested and wanted to hear us play. He showed concern about the Randell-Linzer deal and expounded on the ups and downs of the proposed arrangement. He seemed to think that we should reconsider and back out of it. I, on the other hand, was concerned and upset by the reaction from the other members of the band. Everyone wanted to quash the deal in favor of the possibility of working with Kurland. Of course, I was the one who would have to contact them, calling off the session. I have often looked back at it and wondered what would have happened if…..
After taking some Compoz, I calmed down and made the call. It was very weird. I knew that it would be more involved, that there would be reactions and aftershocks. I just had to prepare myself as best I could.
It started with a call from Jeff Franklin. He said he would be up the next day so we could talk things through. No use, I told him, but he came anyway. When he came, the talk was intense. He finally gave me one last out. He said that if I attended the recording session, all bets were still on. After all, he explained, I was the singer and the guitar player and the session could be built around me. What good would it be without the band, I asked. What good? I was wavering but finally said no. I’m with the band, I told him, and that was that. We were going another direction.
Jeff was furious and rightly so. He was particularly pissed at N.D., never having gotten over the what happened during the Little Mickey‘s days. Jeff told me that if we did any recording in NYC, there would be legal action. We ended up talking with Kurland’s lawyers about various worst case scenarios. The decision was made to stay in New York, Kurland getting us a survival gig, with N.D. rejoining the band.
New York at that time had a number of discos. Kurland got us a gig at a club on the west side called The Scene, owned by an eccentric fellow named Steve Paul, who reputedly “never came down.” It was in a cellar and the stomping grounds for some of New York’s finest including Mayor John Lindsey and many of Andy Warhol‘s crowd. The usual local musicians also hung around. There was a very powerful Black folk singer named Val Pringle who sang there.
It was also the home of a very unusual singer going by the name of Tiny Tim. Tim would come into the club carrying a shopping bag with two ukuleles and some other odd items. He played both right- and left-handed, which seemed to work well with his personality. He also carried around a bottle of Elizabeth Arden hand lotion and would say “In every garden, it’s Elizabeth Arden” as he rubbed the lotion into his hands. He looked exactly as he did a couple of years later when he became a big star. He loved to talk about music and was very knowledgeable on the subject, especially crooners from the twenties and thirties.
We became the house band at The Scene and Kurland decided we should change our name (Thee Rubber Band) to something more marketable, more hip. He suggested The Hobbits, from the novel by Tolkien. We thoiught that would be a direct copy of a name, so we changed the spelling and became The Hobbitts. We played for an event called The Groupie Chasers Ball sponsored by one of Warhol’s stars, Baby Jame Holtzer. The crowd was full of somebodies like members of The Young Rascals and The Lovin’ Spoonful. We were in Heaven. This must be it, we thought. It was only a matter of time and a recording session, and that was in the works too!
We were eventually booked into the same Columbia Studio where The Remains did their LP and recorded some tunes. We were not impressed by the results. It just didn’t sound right. After analyzing the situation, Kurland suggested that we might go into a smaller studio and booked us some time at Talentmasters in mid-town. I had written a song titled “Better Than a Letter” which was about my long-distance relationship with Bobbie Fritz. I wrote the song in the midst of an interlude wioth a hip young dancer named Betty who escorted me around town introducing me to musicians and poets such as Moondog, who used to stand in his Viking outfit on Sixth Avenue and sell his poetry.
Anyway, I had that one song and N.D. had written a song called “Tweed’s Chicken Inn” that he had written about a place he used to go with Barry Tashian. We decided to work on those two songs during the session.
We went into Talentmasters and met the sound engineer, a guy named Chris Huston, who happened to be from Liverpool. He had played in an English band known as The Undertakers. I remembered reading about them in a Look Magazine article on British Invasion groups. They were one of the early Liverpool bands, pre-dating The Beatles. In fact, John Lennon and Chris were schoolmates and he had a great scrapbook of pictures and posters of shows with The Beatles opening for The Undertakers. He was a great help in the studio. We got the songs down and were very happy with the results.
We continued playing The Scene and became very popular with the crowd. We received our cabaret cards (everyone had to have one if they played NYC clubs, they said— even Sinatra) and started attending parties with the in-crowd. Time passed and all of a sudden, it was October.
Things began to get weird. Steve Paul, the owner of the club, began riding the members of the band. N.D. took some LSD and tossed his burgundy sneakers out of the hotel window and Mike Flaherty had to face active duty in the Navy. He wanted out and asked Kurland to find him a doctor to help. He did and the doctor said that when Mike went in to be inducted, they would not take him. In order for this to happen, though, he had to return to his original induction center which was back in Dayton. Four of the guys piled into a rented car and headed back to Ohio. In fourteen hours, they were back home.
When plans go south, they have a tendency to really go south and that is what happened here. The Navy decided they were taking Flaherty, no matter what, so the band found themselves without a bass player. They could replace him, but Colegrove had his worries. The band had a chemistry and he doubted that changing personnel could keep that going. They made it to Brooklyn just fine, but things were weird.
We had moved into a four-room apartment, explained Colegrove. One bedroom, kitchen, dining room and living room. The six of us were supposed to live and rehearse there. Thye guy who leased us the apartment said it was okay with him if we lived and rehearsed there. He liked rock & roll. We used the dining room as our rehearsal space. The bedroom was for N.D. because Joanne would be coming to visit him regularly. The rest of us slept in sleeping bags on the floor. Bob Brane had an Army cot and slept in the small hallway which connected the living room and dining room. We had a small stereo and two LPs by The Mamas & The Papas. As far as I could tell, we were the only white people in the neighborhood. This, then, was the scene that our new bass player, Fred Leverton, was cast into.
Fred played the next night with us at The Scene. Everyone was glad we were back, the band sounded fine and worked well with Fred. It seemed possible that we could recover from the loss of Mike. That night, we returned to our Brooklyn mansion and broke out the pot. Fred seemed to be enjoying himself and as the night wore on, we dropped off to bed, one by one. When we woke up, we noticed that Fred wasn’t there.
An hour passed and we thought that maybe Fred had gone out for food or cigarettes. As time passed, we thought maybe he might be in trouble. A few hours later, we worried not only about Fred but the fact that we might be out a bass player again. We had to make the gig at The Scene. Our only hope was for Phil to play the bass pedals on the organ. Phil was unaccustomed to it, but it was better than nothing and we made it through the night.
The next day, N.D. got on the phone and finally found Fred, back in Dayton. He told N.D. that he was not prepared for the New York experience. He knew that if he told N.D. about his feelings, N.D. would talk him into staying. This was his logic for leaving in the middle of the night. The bottom line was that we were still looking for a bass player.
During this time, N.D. took his pre-induction physical for the Army and was rejected. N.D. had prepared very well for this and we were happy that the military was not going to grab another one of us.
N.D. had a friend in NYC by the name of Kenny Behm who played keyboards in a band called Marvin’s Circus. Kenny knew of a bass player but said he wasn’t all that good, but had the best drug connections in the area. The band tried him out, found that he wasn’t all that good, but worked him hard so that he was good enough. His name was Glen Nemhauser and he became the next member of the band. After all, he did have a beautiful bass— a Framus, just like the one Bill Wyman played.
Glen’s musical ability aside, he was an interesting guy, Colegrove remembers. He knew everyone in the Village and took us to see The Fugs at The Player’s Theater on MacDougal Street. The Fugs were a socio-political performance group which used rock music as a medium. They were actually writers Ken Sanders an d Tuli Kupferberg who made up two-thirds of the group. Tuli was a beatnik who wrote for The East Village Other, an alternative to The Village Voice. The Fugs did songs like “Kill For Peace,” “I Feel Like Homemade Shit,” “I Couldn’t Get High” and other songs you’ve probably never heard of.
Glen kept us supplied with marijuana and speed. Things seemed to be okay, but then it changed again.
It was now brisk overcoat weather in November. For some obscure reason we lost our gig at The Scene. Kurland promised he would find us another gig but first he had to take a trip to Europe. Meanwhile, he said, we could get some relief money from his office while he was gone. We did, however, have to babysit his two bulldogs while he was away. At this point, things began to go downhill quickly.
We tried to rehearse new music but were overwhelmed by the inertia of not working. The money wasn’t enough to go around. We survived on peanut butter and Ritz crackers. Individuals began closely guarding their supplies of food and shoplifting was now not out of the question.
We kept the bulldogs in the kitchen. If they weren’t walked regularly, they would make deposits on the kitchen floor. We began staying up all night watching TV and there were days when we never saw the sun. Whenever we went out on the street, we carried the pistol. Phil couldn’t afford cigarettes and began rolling dried leaves from the backyard. We conned a gay clerk at Smiler’s on 7th Avenue into giving us sandwiches in the hope that he would score with Bob. We called him The Happy Ranger since he always referred to us as Rangers. Looking around, we knew we had hit bottom.
N.D. played a gig with Barry Tashian so he could raise some money for the group. We heard of possibilities for a gig here or there but nothing broke for us. We played at the Night Owl Cafe in the village but they thought that we would make people want to dance as opposed to the listening crowd they catered to, so they wouldn’t hire us. What the hell was wrong with dancing, anyway? While it is true that an audience can just listen to you play and dig you and show respect, but my philosophy is if they ain’t dancing, something’s wrong!
Kurland finally returned from Europe and said he had finally lined up an audition with Lou Adler, the producer of The Mamas & The Papas. They were playing Carnegie Hall that month and John said if Lou liked the band he would make arrangements to get us out to California to do some recording. This was a 180-degree turnaround. Our hopes lifted and we got together to start to work toward the audition.
We decided to hold the audition at Talentmaster studios. That day, we set up our equipment and waited. Finally, Lou Adler and (surprise!) John and Michelle Phillips walked in. Nerves began to tighten. Lou, John, Michelle and John Kurland sat in chairs less than ten feet from us. I had first thought the audition would be with Lou in the booth and the band in the studio in front of microphones. Kurland thought it best if Lou saw us live and got the feeling of the group. He thought that was our strength. We performed as best we could under the circumstances.
I was intimidated by Michelle more than anything. She was beautiful. When we had made it through our tunes, everyone was very cordial and polite and said thank you and left. Kurland said he would talk with us later. So we tore down the equipment and got ready to load out. I wasn’t satisfied with the audition. There had been neither a PA nor lighting and I felt the presentation had been a little overstated. I was resigned to an “I’m sorry but you’re just not what we’re looking for right now” response. As we were loading the truck, the phone rang. It was Kurland. Lou liked us, he said, enough to bring us to L.A. to work on some recordings. Not only that, we would be playing the after-concert party for The Mamas and Papas’ Carnegie Hall show! It seemed our luck had changed.
The after-concert party was held in the Outrigger Room of The El Macambo Club. It was attended by a slew of New York musicians, including Zal Yanovsky and Joe Butler of The Lovin’ Spoonful. We had a jam session and Zal and Denny Doherty sat in. The whole affair was covered by Flip! Magazine, which published a two-page layout on the party with our picture included (in the April 1967 issue). The story included the comment “… so impressed Lou Adler that he may soon produce their first album.” So much for gossip.
It was the last time we played New York. Our next stop was Ohio, on the way to the West Coast. We had decided to return home and play there until it was time to head for California. The Remains had broken up and Kurland wanted us to do a gig they had booked at an Ohio college in December. We played the gig and waited. We sent Glen back to NYC and approached Jim Wooten to play bass. He agreed, but could not make the trip to California. We started to make other plans when rioting broke out on Sunset Strip. They closed down the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. That was the club Lou was going to book us into in January. The deal got shaky and then blew up. To this day, I am still not sure if we had a gig scheduled in L.A. or not. It may have just been a line we were handed to get us out of town.
And there we were— back at square one going into the new year— 1967.
Sometimes, I guess, you miss a chance by a few minutes or a few miles. But if it wasn’t meant to be… Just to let you know, there is a lot more to come. Colegrove has hardly started to warm up his fingers. Chapter Five is just around the corner. Stay tuned.
Los Angeles, Mark the Date!
This Thursday, March 26th, Don’t Be Afraid to Pogo will blast its way onto the screen of The Vista Theater in that fair city, screening for the first time scenes from the golden era era of Punk, SoCal-style. Chris Ashford at Wondercap Records found a string of sources for pictures and footage of bands like The D.I.’s, The Controllers, The Gears, Skull Control and others who fought the good fight in a city more known for its unbridled acceptance of everything mainstream. It wasn’t pretty, but Punk was not pretty, a reflection of the stagnant-to-them music scene and, in many cases, political and social, as well. This screening will be the first of what could become a series, dependent upon crowd numbers, of course.
I had left Southern California by the time the Punks made their move, but while in San Diego, helped set the stage for that city’s first punk concert. I remember the fragments trying to come together, the bands and the fans banding together in an attempt to create something more to their liking. In SD, The Zeros, The Dils, and The Hitmakers spearheaded the movement, forcing their ways, so to speak, into the public consciousness. I knew L.A. had their bands too, but having been divorced from that scene, I had little info and no reason to search for any. My future was in Seattle, though I barely knew it at the time, where I traded the aforementioned bands and scene for a completely different world involving everything from folk-rock (Danny O’Keefe, Reilly & Maloney, Jim Page) to country rock (Lance Romance, Skyboys, etc) to jazz (Jeff Lorber and a long string of artists who helped build the ECM roster) to plain old bar bands, Jr. Cadillac being king.
Chris Ashford kept me apprised, as he had when we worked together in L.A. on everything surf and surf-punk related. He not only lived it as fan but built a record label around it— at first, What? Records, then Iloki, then Wondercap, each change a move in a slightly different direction. I was constantly updated on Agent Orange and The Halibuts and even Dick Dale, with whom Chris had an in. The Germs. Jan & Dean. Like I said, the guy is a fan.
So I was not surprised when he mentioned a documentary. I don’t think he had had an real experience with film other than supplying music for other projects, but he dove in head first and came up with something which will be worth seeing. It’s happening, you know, from the documentary on Big Star to those on Canadian rock to Joe Nick Patoski‘s I am sure excellent overview of the life and times of Texas legend Doug Sahm, which bent a number of heads during this year’s recently concluded SXSW. Eric Rife is working on a film not unlike Pogo on the San Diego Scene.
Chris tells me there will be a short visit/Q&A with a few people involved in the punk scene at the time of the doc, though it will not be never-ending. Restrictions at the theater will give fans a short window, though. Remember, this is a first. From what I’ve seen, these turn out to be test runs. You may not see this documentary in the same form again. Let me know how it is. Again, it shows at The Vista Theater in Los Angeles on March 26th. 4473 Sunset Drive. 6:30 PM, sharp. Don’t be late.
Fotheringay: The Box Set (Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay) I Thought I Would Never See nor Hear…..
I’ve talked about Fotheringay before— in this column, even. They put out one album during their reign, on Island elsewhere, on A&M in the States. I’ve been through three copies— the first purchased at the House of Records in Eugene, the second at Eugene’s then powerhouse record store Chrystalship, the last in a used record shop in L.A. That last I picked up as a backup, a white-label; promo once owned by KABC-FM, and I am glad I did because the pristine copy I treasured and cared for so much was lost in the move from San Diego to Seattle. Now, if I could only learn to back up the computer.
I was not a real fan of Sandy Denny until Fotheringay hit my turntable. I had hear the songs she had recorded with The Strawbs and Fairport Convention and I liked them, but those bands seemed to use her sparingly and not always to best advantage. I mean, she had a really good voice, I knew that, but it wasn’t until I heard Fotheringay that I heard the real Sandy Denny. And it didn’t take more than a few seconds. The first time the needle dropped, Nothing More bored a hole in my consciousness which would never heal. It wasn’t the voice, but it was. Here was the Sandy Denny I had always heard about but had never heard. And here was a band I would try to sell people on for the rest of my life, for they were a band, make no mistake. A real band and not a conglomeration of musicians for their own sakes.
I think the thing which impressed me most was the balance of the voices and instruments. They all had chances to step out but rarely did during the original sessions. And when they did, it was for the sake of the song. Gerry Conway‘s driving drums on The Way I Feel, Pat Donaldson‘s harmony vocals and ever-present bass (he was quite exceptional for the time), Trevor Lucas‘s direction if it could be called that (his thumbprint is all over the album), Sandy’s voice, of course.
But after awhile, I realized that I was returning to the album for the guitar of Jerry Donahue. The album was released during a snowstorm of guitar, much of it good to excellent but also overpowering. Donahue was antidote to the stacks of Marshalls built on the sides of stages and used in the studios, his sound dependent more upon the guitar itself and Donahue’s fingers. The tones— oh, those tones! And the emotion emanating from those fingers. He made the guitar soar, he did, and it soared throughout that beautiful, beautiful album. It didn’t take long until I had memorized every nuance of not only Donahue’s solos, but his rhythm work— and if you have never listened close enough to hear the magic of a guitarist upstroking instead of downstroking a chord at just the right moment, you don’t know how to listen.
One problem I always had was getting people to listen to the music itself. When I was near a turntable with album in hand, it was no problem, but describing music even in the best and most understandable of terms have always left people looking askance. The fact that we can now access music through streaming services (which I absolutely hate) makes it easier. And you might want to do that when scoping out this box set because it is full of new songs and various versions of the old— original versions, demo versions, electric and acoustic versions. It won’t bother Fotheringay fans, of course, but for those new to the band, it could help. Here are notes I took while listening to the discs, one song at a time. Some of them, anyway.
The Sea (Demo Version)— You could call this the acoustic version because it is Sandy and guitar. That’s it. Denny fans will fall in love with this version. Her voice is beautiful and that is enough.
Winter Winds (Demo Version)— Sandy sounds almost a child as she counts down the beginning of this song— one, two, three, four in slight British accent. Again, the voice unadorned is excellent and makes this version worthy of inclusion.
The Way I Feel— They call this the “Original Version,” whatever that means. It is less electric than the album version though not much. The drums and guitars are toned down, the harmonies more constrained and it is worth hearing for that alone.
Banks of the Nile (Alternate Take)— A slightly different version than the album. A bit more Sandy here and a bit less of the band.
Winter Winds (Alternate Take)— Less fleshed out, which is a good thing. Those vocals— oh, those vocals. Man, Sandy was something else.
An aside: There was a second album released, you know. Not during the life of the band but decades later. Fotheringay 2, I believe it was called, and I played hell to get my hands on a copy. New songs. Old band. Those tracks were recorded before Sandy allowed herself to be talked into going solo. I remember an article in Rolling Stone Magazine around 1973 in which she voiced regrets about leaving the band, saying something to the effect that that period was the best of her life. Perhaps it was because the band took pressure off of her. Perhaps it was because she was in love. All I know is that she was not all that happy about the career path she had taken from that point on.
John the Gun (From Fotheringay 2)— An English folk-rocker with attitude. First time through and I am smiling like the village idiot. Closer to rock than folk with a harder edge, especially on the guitar break. The sax solos caught me by surprise too.
Eppie Moray (F2)— An obviously Trevor Lucas-penned folk-rocker on which Trevor takes the lead on the first half, Sandy the next. I love Lucas. A step further after Lucas’s Ballad of Ned Kelly and Lucas & Denny’s Peace In the End on the first album.
Wild Mountain Thyme (F2)— Hard to beat Silly Wizard‘s version of Wild Mountain Thyme, but Fotheringay almost pulls it off.
Knights of the Road (F2)— My God! A full[-on rocker! I knew Lucas had rock and roll in his veins, but this is the first time I have heard him even try to pull it off. Sounds somewhat akin to Chicago’s Heartsfield. Unexpected.
Gypsy Davey (F2)— Didn’t Sandy do this song with Fairport? If she did, it wasn’t better than this. Worth it for the guitar/vocal break harmonies alone.
You get the idea. The album goes on from there— A short interview recorded by BBC Folk, songs recorded by BBC Folk One, a concert record live in Rotterdam, and more. Forty-eight tracks in all on four discs. And like I said, I have been waiting for it but thought I would never see it. You won’t see me buying very many box sets. I just can’t afford it. But the quarters and nickels I throw in my music can are beginning to add up. It won’t be long before I have this puppy in my caring hands.
The story of Sandy Denny is not wholly a good one. While I won’t go into detail here, her life ended tragically. I didn’t know until I did research for this Fotheringay piece. I wish I hadn’t read it. Sandy, since the release of Fotheringay, has held a special place in my heart. She deserved so much better and I believe had a lot more to give. Sometimes, though, life has other plans. Thanks the gods life left us with these recordings. One of the few box sets I will ever own.
Notes… I have a handful of people I rely on to keep me a bit ahead of the pack (which isn’t all that hard when the pack is comprised of Beatles and Led Zeppelin freaks). A good year ago, Dan Phelps, who was then beginning work on a project for one Claire Holley, have me a heads up. I’m anxious to work with her, he said. She has a raft of songs way above the norm. Later, while working on the sessions, he said things were going amazingly well and that the album was going to be way above the norm. Well, she is readying the album for release now. Here is a trailer for Time in the Middle. Listen closely to the music behind the talking. I hear three songs which have me salivating. But you say you know something about music. Here. You decide.
In this week’s it’s-about-goddamn-time category, the winner is down-under’s Bill Jackson who is finally letting the moths out of his vaults. Two tracks— Try b/w Somebody’s Darlin’— which you can listen to by clicking here. I love this guy!
Last week, I went on a rant about bands tossed aside by fans. Among them was a band from Des Moines called Bright Giant. Imagine my surprise when that band’s Will Locker pointed to another musician of consequence from the area, Nella Thomas. Thomas has a five-song EP in the works after which she has plans for a single (double-sided, we hope). Her first song just showed up on the Net and is a beauty. Just in case this puppy won’t embed, you can access it by clicking here. If it will, just click on the (hopefully) embedded video below.
I wish the world had allowed ladies to plug in back in the old days. It would have changed the whole face of today’s music.
Frank’s column appears every Tuesday
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“Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”