Segarini – Heartache Tonight
We were sitting on the patio of Hamburger Hamlet…me and two guys I had run into over the last little while at the Whisky and other hang-outs on Sunset, as well as the front bar at the Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd. Good guys, fun loving, and could keep up with me shot for shot, beer for beer. We had met when both their duo, Long Branch Pennywhistle, and Rand Bishop and I, had worked on the soundtrack for a film called Vanishing Point
The three of us decided to write a song together, bought a case of beer, grabbed our guitars, and headed to the apartment of a girl they knew….
From “The Martha Reeves Incident” DBAWIS August 23rd 2012
Hey Glenn…where’s my 15 bucks?
L.A in the mid ‘60’s is difficult to explain to people who weren’t there. It was, (and I suppose, remains to this day), full of famous people…most of whom were not famous yet.
On any given night, for example, you could find locals playing acoustic guitars and singing in the parking lot at Ben Frank’s. Just guys you knew from around Sunset, usually familiar because you saw them at little clubs like The Brave New World, or any of the Cinnamon Cinders that were scattered throughout Southern California. Years later, of course, guys you knew as Jim, Mark, and Phil would turn out to be Jim, (now Roger), McGuinn, Mark Volman of The Turtles, and singer/songwriter P.F. Sloan. Who knew?
A guy who worked in a bank would become Harry Nilsson, the Detroit transplant I used to hang out with at the Troubadour and other bars turned out to be Glenn Frey, the cute little chick that used to sit across from me and wiggle her bare toes between my legs on my chair? Linda Ronstadt. The brooding kid who tore a swath through the resident groupies in Hollywood but wrote some amazing songs? Stephen Stills.
So yeah, you always knew a bunch of famous people, but they usually weren’t famous until long after you met them. That is really difficult to explain to friends years later, who think you’re dropping names, but in your reality, just telling a story about some guy you used to know that still owes you 15 bucks for a case of beer who happened to end up as an Eagle.
Hollywood back in the ’60s and early ’70s was a pretty magical place. Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, basically…a moveable feast of friendship, parties, and the music that would engage and enthral an entire generation. The guy passing the joint around next to you would be a Guitar God in less than 5 years, the girl who was wiggling her toes in your crotch under the table would become one of the most loved and respected singers of all time. The band you saw at a dive so spurious, it changed locations every few months, would end up being one of the most influential groups in existence, and a rag-tag group of musicians put together by a lunatic circus clown would captivate, then rule the L.A Basin, and whose members would go on to change the course of rock history individually and together.
But at the time…no one there knew any of this….
At least it wasn’t cancer.
Small recompense for losing someone like Glenn Frey, a Michigan boy who, like Dennis Wilson, personified the California of dreams and fantasies, the Paradise most everyone at the time wanted to migrate to and become a part of the state’s fabric, woven from dreams and desire, and hope and fantasy. Ground Zero for anyone who had a song in their heart and a hole in their wallet.
The Promised Land for long-haired hippies and their hot-bodied ladies, and the unscrupulous opportunists who saw the potential for being the right person for the wrong reason in an ocean of dreamers. Some managed to avoid the sharks. Some didn’t. Regardless, it was easily the most exciting, unpredictable, and addicting place on Earth.
After graduating from high school in 1966, Frey played for a while with the local band The Four of Us. After that, in 1967, he formed The Mushrooms and scored a coup by getting the already (locally) famous Bob Seger (another Detroit boy) to write their first single.
His budding friendship with Seger resulted in his first professional recording experience at age 19, playing acoustic guitar and singing background vocals on Seger’s Ramblin’, Gamblin’ Man. They remained good friends and occasional song writing partners from then on.
When he made the move to L.A shortly thereafter to follow his then-girlfriend, Joan Sliwin, who had already made the move, her sister, Alexandra Sliwin of Honey Ltd, a friend from his Detroit days, introduced Glenn to her current boyfriend, J.D Souther. Frey and J.D hit it off, and formed the duo Longbranch Pennywhistle and secured a record deal in 1969
At one point, J.D, Frey, and Jackson Browne all lived in the same apartment building. They must have listened closely to one another, they must have learned so much from one another. Three of the greatest American writers of popular song….
One of the habits we picked up in L.A was going to Doug Weston’s Troubadour every Monday night we could afford to and sit in the front bar at one of the big round tables and drink and kibbitz with whoever else performed the same ritual. Most Mondays were open mic nights and some featured the house band, Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids.
Mind you, the music took place in the showroom through double doors to the right of the bar which opened up into a spacious balcony, main room and stage, intimate, yet giving off the impression of a concert hall. A wonderful room, both aesthetically and sound-wise. We weren’t usually there for the music on Mondays…just drinks and conversation, but occasionally one or two of us would get up and yodel a tune or two and amuse our less impaired compatriots.
One night, a minor earthquake occurred and the overhead lamps swung lazily back and forth like they were used to this almost daily diversion and it was expected of them, while the glasses hanging over the bar rattled and tinkled and made everyone present wonder for just a split second if this one was the “Big One” that had been touted by every Kreskin and Dixon as far back as I can remember.
It wasn’t…even though there began a loud pounding on the front wall we were next to, followed by a head sticking in through an open transom.
“You guys feel that?”
Head disappears…beat…front door flies open, and a mad man on a motorcycle rides into the bar.
Drunk or high.
…and according to the bartender, not the first time he has entered the bar on a motorcycle.
Other nights, when he was ready to go home, John Boylan would wait by the tracks that ran down the center of Santa Monica Blvd, and catch the 2:00 am freight to Beverly Hills, which started just one block west of the Troub. We would stand on the sidewalk out in front and watch him leap onto the train as it slowly passed by. It became ritual to lay down on the tracks when leaving the bar in honour of John, and also because…you know…drunk.
The apartment wasn’t far off the strip, and we arrived there shortly after leaving the Hamburger Hamlet…the one that was on Sunset at the opposite end of the block where the Whisky, The Galaxy, and the London Fog all stood just steps away from one another.
The Byrds, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield and Iron Butterfly (the house band at the Galaxy), all playing for, at most, a 2 dollar cover…in a little bars…on just one block. .like Queen Street in Toronto RIGHT NOW.
We were ushered into the girl’s bedroom (I have no idea why…maybe she just didn’t want us to dirty up her living room) and opened the first 3 beers of the song writing exercise. Then the second three…then the third.
When I left, Glenn (or was it J.D or was it both of them) were rolling around on the bed with the owner of the apartment.
No song got written, but there were great stories and it was really good beer.
And now here we are again.
Scrolling through our Newsfeeds on Facebook, Some of us angry, some of us with tears in our eyes, and some of us clicking on every Eagles song that someone has posted whether it was written or co-written by Glenn, and feeling a little more lonely, a little more pain, a little more old.
Some of us are heartbroken, some of us are questioning the meaning (if there is one) of losing so many pop culture icons in what seems to be a never ending housecleaning by whatever force controls the universe, and some of us are rolling our eyes over what must surely appear to be yet another over reaction to the death of someone hardly any of us even met, let alone knew.
We mourn for different reasons…but mostly, we mourn for the loss of one of our peers, one who deserved a longer life just for how much joy and pleasure his music brought into our lives, and the music that will go unwritten and unheard, and under scoring that, we mourn yet another sign of our own mortality, our own brief stay in Hotel California, our own inescapable fate.
To quote one of the other icons lost too early and too young, no one here gets out alive.
Bowie was indeed a loss of some magnitude, but personally, this man, and the music he made, impacted me more than I can say. One half of a song writing team as powerful and amazing to me as Lennon/McCartney, Hall and Oates, and Bacharach/David, Henley and Frey wrote the poetry of the California we dream about. They captured perfectly what only the Mamas and Papas, Turtles, and Byrds, alluded to.
The Eagles were and are one of the best groups I have ever seen live, with a catalogue of songs unrivalled by all but a very few…and yet the hate heaped on them throughout their career was legendary, they were held up as an example of corporate rock, maudlin music, and not ‘rock’ at all. …and those haters will be out in force for the next little while, some saying good riddance, but more jumping on the bandwagon to shower love on someone who was loathed by them in life, but made popular by his demise. People who have never given a thought to those we lose until they are gone are legion…and they will be the ones putting up the biggest hits, the most well known songs, while thos of us who truly loved them may post a favourite or two, and sit alone or with a likeminded partner, and listen at home. Glenn Frey wrote great songs and sang wonderfully. He lived a life of rock and roll and whatever he did was and is his business, but you can bet the dirt, rumours, and gossip will be showing up. …and that is sad, because, really…we all have lives that could have been lived better, or differently, and so what? Not many of us will leave a legacy like Glenn Frey’s…not many at all.
It hurts to think that there will not be any more from him. And like this co-write so deftly described the pain of the tragedy of the world’s inability to respect and love one another, tonight it describes what many of us feel. A hole in the world left by a man who filled his part of it with music that I hope will endure long after we are all dust.
Segarini’s column appears when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s Amore
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Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record