Start off the New Year’s Eve celebration with the eclectic sounds of this critically acclaimed LP.
Click here for the live stream http://www.kcsb.org/webcast/
Start off the New Year’s Eve celebration with the eclectic sounds of this critically acclaimed LP.
Click here for the live stream http://www.kcsb.org/webcast/
I originally envisioned the album as simply a vehicle to showcase some original songs. Then in 2011, I wrote ‘Song in the Night’,a swirling, psychedelic tune with lyrics that dealt with the song’s own creation, a very circular idea. Musically, it projects a heady sense of motion and the passing of time (My mother once told me. ‘Life is a blink of an eye.’). I took a line from the chorus – ‘Dancing with the moment…’ as a theme to pull the entire LP together. The tracks came to represent the myriad thoughts and emotions experienced through the course of day (or a life): joy, sadness, yearning, disappointment, hope, love, lust…
Having wrapped up the musical side of the project, with all the tracks mixed, mastered and ready to go, my son, Bryan and I set our focus on finding a visual image to compliment the sonic. I racked my brain to come up with a few ideas. Alas, I am no painter. My ideas were too literal, too representational . A dancer precariously perched atop a shaky pedestal, was one example. When I suggested them to Bryan, he gave me a ‘Come on… Really?’ look. ‘How would you actually do that?’ he asked. He thought it should be more abstract. Going through his original photos, he found a shot taken through the windshield of a moving car on a rainy night. I then sat and watched with amazement as he manipulated the image into its glorious eye-popping result. I love it! It perfectly fits my idea of motion and time, and it’s beautiful. Check it out.
On August 6, 2014, Danny Faragher and son Bryan, along with Shervin Ahdout, and Alex Echevaria shot video footage for ‘Too Much Pressure’, a song featured on the soon to be released album – ‘Dancing with the Moment’. Here are Danny’s impressions of the experience.
I woke up earlier than I’d planned. Had I even slept? I lay in bed while my mind scrolled through the day’s agenda. It was Sunday, the one day that I allow myself the luxury of sleeping in, and my body was tired. It would have been wise to try to catch a few more winks, but I had a video to shoot, and my brain was just too active. I could feel the clock ticking. I swung my legs off the bed and rose to my feet. Owe! I felt a pain. Glancing down, I was shocked to see that the little toe on my right foot was purplish in color and swollen as a sausage. The night before, In my haste to get things ready, I had stubbed it badly, perhaps even dislocating it. Canceling the shoot, however, was out of the question. It had been difficult enough to set a window of time that worked for everyone involved, and we’d already rescheduled twice. I’d just have to bite the bullet and deal with it.
After a shave, shower, coffee, and breakfast – I learned long ago not to jump into the day on an empty stomach – I dashed off to pick up my son, Bryan. He and I had been creative partners for the last seven years, working together in the studio on my now completed album, Dancing with the Moment. The two of us had already shot a couple of videos for two of the original songs – The Sad Man, and Song in the Night. Now we were focusing on Too Much Pressure, a funky tune with a soulful vocal and a message in the lyric. We both felt that the track was an important one and wanted to create a video that captured its excitement. We’d brainstormed and come up with a bold idea. As I had played most of the instruments on the recording, Bryan thought it would be cool to have me visually make up the band by combining individual shots into a composite. We could also feature close-ups of each character. To assure a professional look, we’d approached a videographer friend of his, Shervin Ahdout. who had a lot of experience both as a cameraman, and as a lighting tech. Shervin’s input had already been invaluable, and the three of us had mapped out a basic course to follow. Also coming to the shoot to offer his help was Alec Echevaria, a piano student of mine. Alec, too, was a videographer, and had, along with Bryan, had a hand in the writing of the song, so it was fitting that he be involved.
Upon arriving back at my place, Bryan and I began loading the truck, checking off each item on the list: musical instruments, amps ,mic and stand, props, costumes, hats, etc. It was a lot of stuff, and a lot of things to keep track of. I always have a nagging feeling that I’m forgetting something. it was a good thing the location was nearby. For our film site I had chosen the concert room at West Valley Music Center in West Hills, where I teach music five days a week. The owner, Jeff Gold, was more than cool. When I’d asked him if I could rent the space, he’d waved me off, saying – ‘Nah, Don’t worry about it. I don’t need anything for it. Knock yourself out!’
The store is in a little strip mall that lies at the foot of a wooded hill. Just beyond is the kick off point for a hiking trail that winds into the Santa Monica Mountains. The August sky above was unusually dark, and as we unloaded the gear, a few big drops began to fall to the asphalt . Although it would shower off and on throughout the day, luckily for us the threatened downpour was never to materialize.
After a few minutes, Shervin arrived with camera and lighting equipment. He and my son greeted one another as they always had – ‘homey to ‘homey’ – with a ritual that included bumping fists. ‘Hey, Bryan.’ he said.
Looking respectfully my way, he extended a hand. ‘Hello, Mr. Faragher.’ he said, addressing me with an old world courtesy and formality. Shervin and Bryan had met as sixth graders not long after the former’s family had emigrated from Iran. Shervin is intelligent, soft spoken, and to the point. When he speaks, it’s because he has something definite to say. I respected his opinion and had a lot of confidence in his ability.
A few minutes later Alec pulled up. The young man, in his mid twenties had been studying with me since he was about seventeen. He’s smart, talented, and artistically curious. I admire him. I introduced him to Shervin, and the two of them were soon conversing in film speak. This was a relief. One never knows if two people are going to or hit it off or rub the wrong way.
There was a lot to do before we could begin. Dozens of rental instruments, a few pieces of furniture, and a wall of hanging pictures had to be removed before we could open a space to set up. The fact that there was so much grunt work to do was a good thing. Keeping busy helped to calm my pre-performance jitters, and keep my mind clear of doubting, and second guessing.
I was to play eight different characters, and that meant eight complete and separate costumes , including shoes and hats. My wife, Jeanne Harriott, is a professional set costumer. When I’d run my ideas past her she had given her stamp of approval. ‘Sounds like you’ve got it under control.’ she’d said, This did wonders for my confidence. I’d always loved wearing costumes (After a third grade Thanksgiving play, I was loath to stop wearing my Pilgrim attire), so it was going to be fun. At the same time, I knew that the process had to be quick and smooth. Having observed Jeannie working on projects, I knew how important it was to be organized. She’d gotten me a clothes rack, which I set up in the office. It would help immensely.
As for make-up, I couldn’t afford a professional, so I was on my own. I’d learned the basics of applying make-up when I was acting in a theater production, so I wasn’t completely at sea. If I had it to do over again, however, I would be sure to bring a good sized magnifying mirror with built in lighting. As it was, I had only a little traveling kit shaving mirror, and the light in the room was far too dim to see properly. I told myself I’d just have to do my best, and pray I didn’t come out looking like Bozo.
Meanwhile, Shervin and Alec were setting up for the first shot -an intro scene which occurs before the song kicks off. This was chosen not for chronological reasons, but because they wanted to take advantage of the sunlight coming through the blinds. In this scene I am dressed as a janitor sweeping the floor dressed in coveralls – an older man forced by circumstance to take on menial work. Bryan is playing a roadie who is busy winding a cable. He accidentally bumps the table and causes a drum machine to begin playing a funky groove. The two characters look at each other for a moment, then smile and start moving to the beat until the track kicks in. We are then transported to a parallel world in which the janitor becomes each member of the band, and the roadie turns into a D.J. creating the drum and percussion tracks. At the end of the song the carriage turns back into a pumpkin and the two characters return to their chores. We were going to shoot both the intro and the outro.
Bryan and I both spent long stretches of time standing in place as Shervin and Alec tweaked the lighting and camera angle of each shot.
‘Now you know why there are stand-ins.’ Shervin remarked. ‘If you were big stars, you’d be back in your trailers with your groupies.’
We all laughed. It brought to mind the old adage about the experience of shooting a film – Hurry up and wait! Indeed we did a lot of standing and waiting as Shervin and Alec did the hurrying. Ultimately, though, in between those tedious periods would come the moment of truth - the instant when the clapper snaps, ‘Speeding!’ is shouted, and one has to summon the actor inside. This rapid tandem from left brain to right brain can come as a shock to the uninitiated. It’s suddenness can leave a person feeling like the proverbial deer in the headlights. It took a few times to begin to feel comfortable.
‘This time I’d like you to wait two beats before you react.’ Shervin directed.
Ah, yes… react naturally, as you would in life. Such a simple thing, but so difficult to achieve. Just as in music or any other art, you don’t think about what you’re doing, you just do it. We did multiple takes on a number of shots – Bryan and I together, the two of us separately, long shots, close-ups, over the shoulder, etc. - until we reached the point where Shervin felt he had the right footage in the can.
After this experience, the four of us were exhausted and hungry. Time for lunch break. I looked at the clock. God, had it really taken that long? We hadn’t even started to film the actual song sequences yet. This was going to be a race against the clock. I could feel the time beating with each throb of my toe.
After a lunch of foot long sandwiches, we were ready to roll, starting with the lead singer. I changed into a nice shirt with vertical strips and black jeans. Simple but slick.. My toe smarted a bit when I crammed my right foot into the pointed shoe.
About a week prior I had bought a high quality camera with the intention of using it on the shoot. A lot of time could be saved by shooting with two cameras simultaneously. Shervin removed it from the box, inserted a battery and a card. and attached it to the shoulder mount. When he turned on the camera, however, it refused to go into video mode. He handed it to Alec, who gave it a college try, but It was no dice. The camera stubbornly refused to cooperate..
‘Mr. Murphy makes his entrance.’ Shervin said, referring to Murphy’s Law. ‘Were’ going to have to continue without it.’
My heart sank. I knew that the stationary camera could not be moved until every character was shot, otherwise a composite would not work. That meant we would have to film all the characters in the full body shot, then remove the camera from the sticks to film the close ups. I would have to put on and take off each costume twice, more than doubling the time.
While we were processing this unwanted detour, Bryan suddenly announced – ‘ I got it to work!
‘Wow, no kidding? How did you do it?’
‘I just kept trying things. Shutting it off and restarting.’
‘Bryan saves the day!’ I shouted.
I felt a sudden rush of elation. I was ready to sing. ‘Okay,’ I exclaimed. ‘ Let’s do it!’
We ran through the song.
‘I’m just getting warmed up. I said. ‘ Let’s run it again.
On the second take I began to settle into my element, grabbing the mic for effect, gesturing , and most importantly, feeling and believing the words I was singing…
Too much. Too much pressure
All around, all around ,
All around, all around…
Now the rich and greedy keep goin’ to town
While the rest of us – just movin’ on down
Empty pockets and empty dreams
Where’s my chance to make the scene?
When we got to the section where the harmonica solos, I started moving my feet. Dancing for me has always meant liberation and expression. Now, some folks may believe that men of a certain age shouldn’t dance, they should play golf. But all my life I’ve loved to move, and I’m not ready to stop, yet. Just give me fifteen minutes, and a four by four area of hardwood floor where I can kick off my shoes and slide my feet, and I’m in seventh heaven.
As I came out of the break down and into the last verse, I braved a pivot spin and pulled it off. Lord, I was feeling good, truly dancing with the moment, and I let myself really get down as the piano took over.
‘Those J.B. moves are great’ Alec said, ‘but it would be cool to see you come out from behind the mic stand so we can get a better view of your feet.’
‘Okay,’ I agreed. ‘Let’s take another one from the breakdown.’
I jumped into the shot. By the end I felt as if I’d sprinted a 440. Tired, but energized. The lead was by far the most important shot. It was satisfying to know I had a good performance in the can. I was just starting to hit my stride, and wished I could do another half dozen takes, but I knew that time was flying by and we had to press on. Over the next five hours or so we filmed another eight characters: the harmonica player, Bryan’s ultra cool DJ, the guitarist, bassist, pianist, trombonist, sax player, and cornetist.
By the time we’d filmed the last shot (me with silver cornet, wearing my Peppermint Trolley band jacket), packed the equipment, and returned objects to their place, we were into the wee hours. We’d worked a fourteen hour day. I knew that the next day I would be useless, a zombie, and that I would have to deal with the injured toe. Right then I just wanted to savor the moment. The four of us hugged. We had worked well as a team. For me it had been a demanding but gratifying experience. Now it would be up to Bryan to work his magic in the editing room. I had every confidence in his ability to do just that.
Gary Schneider, host of the show, Open Mynd Excursion (Luxuria Music, Wednesday, 9:00 – 11:00 pm PST) delights listeners each week by playing a recording drawn from his vast collection of radio air checks.Recently he featured an air check from June 5, 1968 of Boss Radio KHJ, in which the Peppermint Trolley Company’s hit “Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind” was aired.(approximately 15 minutes in) The DJ was L.A. radio legend, the Real Don Steele. The artists on the program represent a myriad of styles, from the Fifth Dimension to Cream. from the Stones to Tiny Tim. It is a fascinating time capsule in sound.
Click play below to listen to this blast from the past:
Courtesy of Gary Schneider of Luxuriamusic.com
Back in the sixties 93 KHJ was king of the L. A. airwaves They were the biggest, baddest top forty station on the West Coast. If your record got played on Boss Radio, you had a very large foot in the door. That this giant would put our little ol’ 45 on their playlist was was like manna from heavden.
We had recorded “Baby, You Come Rollin’…” in November of 1967, and the single was released early in ’68. Though we believed in the record – it was heartfelt, honest, and catchy as hell – It hadn’t caused much of a stir, and by May we had all but given up on it. In the meantime, we were living in a rat infested band house in Silver Lake. In spite of being poverty stricken and undernourished, we’d managed to maintain a creative regimen of writing, arranging, and rehearsing new material with the intention and hope of releasing an LP. Our manager/producer , Dan Dalton tried selling ACTA president, Kenny Myers on the idea, but Myers, being an old school record man, was reluctant. I remember sitting in Dalton’s tiny office, when Dan got the call from Myers that nixed the idea. Talk about feeling dejected, it looked like the end of the line for the Trolley. Then something strange happened, something out of a feel-good fantasy movie. The phone rang again a couple of minutes later. It was Myers,once more, but this time he was eager to green light the album. Why? It seems that , just like its title, “Baby You Come Rollin’ Across my Mind” had been quietly rolling from region to region over the past four months, gradually picking up steam. It was a number one hit in Louisville, Kentucky. Bill Drake, the top forty consultant with an uncanny knack for picking hits, had fallen in love with the record. To a number of stations located in major cities, Drake’s word was gospel; they trusted him implicitly. KHJ was putting our single into rotation as of that very night, and not only was Boss Radio jumping on the record, so was the entire Drake Chain.
That night we heard our record played on the radio. A few days later we were appearing on television. By June 5, the date of this air check, we were still holding our own among such classics as Sunshine of Your Love, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, and Mrs. Robinson. It’s sad and eerie knowing now that tragedy was about to strike. On the following night of June 6, having wrapped up a recording session at Moonglow Studios (probably for the album cut, Put Your Burden Down), we heard the heartbreaking news over the car radio that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. To quote Dickens – ‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
It‘s New Year’s Day, 1980. The opening fanfare of a new decade finds Danny ill in bed, adrift and rudderless. Here is a a small testament to the resilience of the human spirit…
An angry Santa Ana was whistling through the overgrown mulberry tree. I could hear the branches whip and scrape violently against the house. The dry, stifling air seemed to invade through every crack and crevice, engulfing all in its suffocating presence. My scalp tingled with static electricity as I tossed and turned on the bed. There was just no getting comfortable: My back was sweaty, my head hurt, and I was semi-delirious with fever. I could hear nothing with my infected right ear, and my swollen throat was only capable of an occasional moan or sigh. I lay in my jockey shorts with the sheets peeled back, feeling hot and bothered as the sunlight sliced through the blinds and over my sick body.
‘A Happy fucking New Year!’ I mumbled sarcastically to myself.
The small black and white TV which sat on the dresser was broadcasting yet another bowl game. I couldn’t muster enough strength to get up and turn the station. In my prone position I’d watched the myriad helmeted crews bash into one another. It all seemed so pointless, so absurd. The realization that millions of people had an emotional stake in this exercise made me feel all the more isolated. Still … I watched, waiting perhaps for that breath of fresh air, the long pass. I did love to watch the ball sail down the field and fall safely into the cradling arms of a man running like the wind. The play served to break the brutal monotony and claustrophobia of a game I otherwise hated.
A new decade was dawning. Nineteen-eighty. It felt strange to shape the sound.
It’s just an arbitrary number. Why do we place such importance on these things? Do you think this goddamned wind, which will still be blowing long after we have disappeared, knows or gives a shit?
It dawned on me that this would be the first year since 1960 that I wasn’t a member of a band. I let my memory scroll back in time nearly twenty years to when I was a thirteen -year-old. My family had just moved from Long Beach to Redlands, and I was a new kid in town. Kennedy had been elected president, and the hope and optimism of the time was contagious. Bursting with new-found energy, I’d succeeded in putting into action a dream I’d nurtured for three years – I started my own band. It was the beginning of a musical thread that was to continue through two decades and six different groups. The Faragher Brothers, the final ensemble, had officially broken up this last Thanksgiving day,.
Where do I go from here? I wondered.
Many of my contemporaries had completed their education and were settling in to their careers; my career was ending. I was thirty-two, married with two children, and had no visible prospects on the horizon.
Suddenly a strong gust of wind bore down on the house, shaking the windows with impunity, as if to remind me of my humble place in the scheme of things. When the force subsided, I raised my arms to stretch, flexing my fingers – fingers that were half numb from repetitive work . Patches of gooey down still adhered to their tips, the residual of countless hours spent crafting feather jewelry and roach clips. For several years I’d been supplementing the music income by selling my wares to head shops, hair salons, and hip clothing stores. Production was slow and tedious. Sweatshop work. I’d spent many a night seated at my garage work bench burning the midnight oil with feathers flying and the pungent scent of glue in my nostrils. In fact, it was the act of pushing myself to fill a huge order for Christmas that had gotten me ill. I thought of Bobby Darin’s song about the little girl who succumbs to the cold in a tenement house.
‘Artificial flowers… artificial flowers….fashioned from Annie’s despair.’
The whoosh of the wind and the noise of the stadium crowd on the television seemed to merge into a common stream of white sound. My eyelids grew heavy and I began to feel I was body surfing that stream. The ride accelerated and soon I was rushing through a twisting tunnel… down… down…deeper and deeper…
I found myself sitting in the garage fashioning jewelry. Instead of feathers, however, I was attempting to use palm fronds. They were huge and unwieldy, but I just had to get this order made. I kept trying. I gradually became acutely aware of the wind picking up outside. I could feel it was building to a crescendo. Suddenly there was a crashing sound as the roof flew off, and the fronds took flight, disappearing into the blue…
I awoke with a startle. The room was dark. The silhouette of a tree branch danced on the moonlit wall as the wind continued to blow. On the TV screen the news was showing a photo of the Ayatollah Khomeini. To me he looked like a bearded Sean Connery, though sans the twinkle in the eye. ‘Oh, yes,’ I remembered – ‘the Iran Hostage Crisis.’ This stressful stand-off was bringing out ugliness and intolerance from all quarters. It felt like we were moving backwards. I clenched my fists.
What a fucked up world!
With my clear left ear, I detected a faint sound of music coming from our daughter’s room down the hall. She had her radio tuned to KROQ. I recognized the song. It was a cover of the Johnny Rivers tune, Secret Agent Man, sung in a robotic monotone. I identified the sound as Devo. The band was a part of the new movement – labeled Punk, New Wave, or whatever moniker some self-proclaimed prophet of pop wanted to call it – which was considered to be the epitome of post modern chic. Personally, I found the choked throat singing of Devo or David Byrne of Talking Heads to be the equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard. Oh, I’d tried to dig it, as my younger brothers had, but to me it was a case of the Emperor’s Clothes. This trend seemed more defined by what it wasn’t than what it was. Yes, I was aware that it was purposely meant to be ironic and detached. I just didn’t give a shit. I was too warm blooded, and this music just left me cold. For me there had to be a visceral connection, an emotional spark. Wit and irony on top of that I could buy.
I gave out a sigh as the mechanical thumping droned on. Eventually the beat seemed to lead me on a pathway down into the rabbit hole and back to a dream world…
My Brothers and I were getting ready to play at the Hollywood Bowl. We were on in five minutes. Where was my Hammond organ? Oh God, it was up in the seats! I realized I would have to play from up there. How would I plug in? I started running up the aisle. Though I was sprinting in leaps and bounds and huffing and puffing, I didn’t seem to be gaining any ground. I could hear my brother counting off – ‘One… a-two…a-one , two, three…’
I woke up in a cold sweat with my heart racing. Upon realizing it was only a dream, I uttered a laugh of relief, and began singing the old Jimmy Clanton tune in a gravelly timbre. – ‘Just a dream, just a dream’. My panic subsided. The perspiration served to cool me down. I began to reflect on the past year…
1979 had started off with such promise (My God, Israel and Egypt were even talking about peace!). We Faragher Brothers had a great album in the can and were contracted by Polydor to record another. We appeared on American Bandstand and shot a video. Then the bottom seemed to fall out of the music business; the album got lost in the shuffle. Sadly, the ties that had held the band together began to unravel. No longer did we trust one another. Although we did record one last LP, it was done with record company bottom liners breathing down our necks and with palpable tension in the studio. In November we’d gotten word that our contract would not be renewed. It was the end. All those years of work and sacrifice… all for naught. It was over. A line from James Taylor’s Fire and Rain rolled through my mind…
‘Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.’
It was over.
I realized that for the past month I had been in denial about my reality. Now the stark truth hit me hard. It just broke my heart! Without warning I found myself crying. At first, a lone drop here and there, but soon the tears began to pour. There in my dark, sick isolation I wept unabashedly, grieving both the loss of my musical career, and the tear in the familial fabric. Gradually the sobs began to taper off. I could hear the washing machine agitating on the service porch. The steady rocking lulled me and I drifted into sleep once again.
I dreamed I was in my folk’s Victorian era house in Redlands.
I walked into the long rectangular living room with the high ceiling. In front of me, my parents sat facing the other way; my father in his easy chair, reading the paper; my mother in the family rocker, darning socks and watching television. I smiled. My heart warmed at the sight of these two beloved people. I made an about face and tip toed to the family piano which sat in the room’s near end. I reached my fingers down to the keys and struck a beautiful chord. ‘ It all began here.’ I said to myself. I turned to the right and walked through the large entry way and into the foyer. The staircase angled directly in front of me. To the right of that was a small paneled area in back of the floor furnace grate. I noticed a rosette in the corner of the panel. In its center was a rosewood button. Curious, I just had to touch it. I rubbed my finger over its smooth surface. It felt springy, so I pushed it. Suddenly the wall opened inwardly, exposing a secret room . I marveled. ‘Hey, I didn’t know this was here?’ The room was lit by candle light. I gave a spin to a huge globe of the earth and watched as the continents rotated. In the warm glow I could see shelves filled with wonderful objects – leather bound volumes from the Nineteenth Century, musical manuscripts, ancient maps of vellum, bronze sculptures…. Beneath the bookcase were six dark walnut drawers. I opened one and removed an oblong case. Inside was a rosewood recorder nestled in velvet lining. I fit the two segments of the instrument together , and set the flats of my fingers against the holes. It felt magical in my hands. I raised it to my mouth and blew a gentle stream of air. Out came a melody that was both sorrowful and sweet. My head swayed as the music filled the room….
When I awoke, the lamp was on and the TV was broadcasting an episode of Happy Days. On the sitcom, Richie was setting up a joke for the Fonz, who swiftly delivered the punch line to audience laughter. Both the wind and my fever had subsided. The lilting melody from the dream was still wafting through my brain and I was filled with an overwhelming sense of well being. I became aware of three beautiful pair of brown eyes looking in from the doorway.
‘How are you feeling?’ my wife, Jeanne, asked. “You look like you’ve been through the wringer.”
‘Better.’ I responded.
Deena, our fourteen -year-old, was holding her baby brother, Bryan, in her arms. He laughed as she bounced him playfully. “Hey, Bry-Bry…” she coaxed. – “say ‘Get well, Papa!’ ” He giggled some more.
“Do you need anything?” Jeanne asked
“Just some water.”
Deena grabbed Bryan’s hand and moved it in waving motion. “Bye, bye! We love you!” she said in sing song tone.
“I know. I love you ,too.”
The words replayed in my mind – I love you, too.
Love…. I pondered the ‘L’ word.
‘Faith, hope, and love abide; these three, but the greatest of these is love.’
The words of Paul that I had been required to memorize at nine years of age to receive my allowance now breathed with life on my lips.
Perhaps my faith, and hope were running a little dry at the moment, but like an underground stream , my love was still flowing freely. Indeed, I loved and was loved in return. This was just as true as the reality of my strained circumstances. Within my core I knew that this realization would be enough to get me through the rough days ahead.
Love, and Family… I pondered the word, this other ‘F’ word. I realized that for me it was and always had been about family. I was fortunate to have been raised in a loving one, and as a result, I viewed my relationship with the world as being a member of the largest of all families – the Family of Humankind.
I sensed that I was at a crossroads. The direction my future would take was entirely up to me. It would be so easy to choose the path of bitterness and cynicism, and to become someone who pisses and moans about the world having passed them by. I knew that wasn’t me. I recognized that life, by nature, is about change, and to resist change is to stop growing. In essence, it is to die a slow death. I vowed I would travel the other path. There would no doubt be surprises and challenges behind every bend, but… hey, I’d always had a resilient streak in me. I felt eager to get back on my feet and work my way down the road.
As for music. Though I would have to put my artistic career on the back burner for a while, not for a moment would I ever stop singing, or stop dreaming. Are you crazy? It was an integral part of who I was.
I would eventually rebound. I would reinvent myself. I would reach out and explore different genres. I didn’t need to be a star. I just wanted to become the best I could be.
As I lay there, the melody that filled the secret room continued to play within my mind, filling my heart with love and a generosity of spirit. My siblings and I were destined to veer off in different directions, but we would always share the familial bond and I knew that one day we would once again be close. Every fiber of my being still vibrated with the sound of the rosewood recorder. Energized and optimistic, I could feel the healing process commencing.
Happy New Year! I cried.
‘Hey, maybe I’ll even give Devo another listen.’
We’re projecting a May release for my album, Dancing with the Moment. I am really excited that after the years of hard work, the goal line is in sight.
With two jobs, and keeping up with household demands, finding time to tie up all the loose ends is sometimes difficult. “Life’s what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” as John Lennon so wisely put it. If I may digress… this has been the month of broken things. The garage door, the washing machine, the kitchen faucet. On a Friday evening, after having purchased a new washer (In the nick of time! I was down to my last pair of jockeys!), and installing a new door, we were kicking back with a sigh of relief, watching TV, secure in the knowledge that things were on the mend, when suddenly around 11:15 we were startled by a huge whooshing sound. My wife peered out the kitchen window. “Oh, my God!” she said. “Look at this.” The ash tree in front had cracked and split, dropping a thirty foot limb down into the street and onto the drive way. It was still attached at the break and looked like a monster’s gigantic arm reaching down to paw at the asphalt. There we were until 1:30 with saw and ax trying to clear enough space to back the car out. On the following Sunday I sharpened my blade, and proceeded to chop in the afternoon sun. I ‘d been at it, doing my Abe Lincoln thing, for about a half hour when a good neighbor, Hamid, with power saw in hand, came to lend a hand. In about forty-five minutes, we’d completed the task. It’s things like this that renew one’s faith in humanity.
We are currently shooting videos for three of the album’s songs. The process is new and fresh to me. Although way back in 1968 the Peppermint Trolley Company filmed a 16 mm movie short of “Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind” for Acta Records (Wish I had a copy), and in 1979 we Faragher Brothers shot two videos for Polydor – Stay the Night and Open Your Eyes, In both cases we were simply the subjects, and our role was passive. Now I am involved conceptually from the get go. Using a visual media to complement or enhance the music is new territory for me, and a challenge, but it is a challenge I welcome.
I’m working with several young guys – my son Bryan, and two of his friends. Wow, I remember when they were kids, and I would pick them up from middle school, or drive them to Magic Mountain. Now they are men with knowledge and experience who are helping me attempt to create magic. We are striving to produce videos that are artistic and interesting on the limited budget available to us.
Two weeks ago I performed at the Cowboy Palace in Chatsworth alongside songwriter and good friend, Samantha Elin. The occasion was a benefit for Bob Gothar, a great guitarist and wonderful guy who also happens to be Samantha’s boyfriend. Bob is recuperating from serious injuries sustained in a bad car accident. Sam and I performed a couple of tunes we co wrote – As the Night Wore on and Heartache Diet. Listen to As the Night Wore On here - – Bob played on this track as well as my tune, Pacific Blue which appears on ‘Dancing...’
We have posted a video honoring my former band mate, friend, and fellow activist, Patrick McClure. The video, edited by Bryan Faragher, features a clip of all five of us Peppermint Trolley/Bones Brothers together in 2008. With the loss of Patrick these clips become all the more poignant. It’s still hard to believe he is gone. He lives through the beautiful songs he left behind for us.
In 2008 we five members of the bands- the Peppermint Trolley Company, and Bones - Jimmy Faragher, Greg Tornquist, Casey Cunningham, Patrick McClure, and myself, Danny Faragher (We affectionately refer to ourselves as Bones Brothers) were reunited. It was the first time in thirty-five years. Though the decades had passed, our friendship bond, based on a unique shared experience was as strong as ever. Oh what a joyous occasion It was! We played and sang Jimmy’s beautiful tune – Harmony from the album – Waitin’ Here. Little did we know that it would be the last time we would stand together. In March of this year we lost Patrick. Here are some moments from that day caught on tape combined with some rare photographs compiled and edited by Bryan Faragher into this touching video, a moving tribute to Bones Brother Patrick McClure. Our thanks to Michael McClure for supplying many of the superb photographs.
I Remember Long Ago
It was the spring of 1967. A whirlwind of change was in there air. The art scene, music in particular, was exploding with creativity. Conversely, the war in Vietnam continued its steady escalation, and the draft hung over young males’ heads like a sword of Damocles. Having become increasingly distressed by the conflict, and committed in my opposition, I planned and carried out a one-man anti-war protest at the school I was attending. San Bernardino Valley College was a very conservative campus, and as I stood on the walkway with homemade placard in hand, very few students offered any words of encouragement. Most were apathetic, and an angry few met my demonstration with outright contempt and hostility. Some were even confrontational, yelling point blank in my face – the spittle flying. I was feeling truly alone in my forlorn folly when I was approached by a guy with an easy going manner. The eyes behind the wire rimmed glasses were intelligent, inquisitive, and friendly. He introduced himself. His name was Patrick McClure. Right away he let me know that he was in solidarity with what I was doing. As we became engrossed in conversation, the act of chatting served to break the tension.
“Fuckin’ commie lover!” a passerby shouted, extending a middle finger.
The insult was like water off a duck’s back. I was otherwise engaged – thank-you much!
My friendship with Patrick appeared like an oasis in a vast wasteland, and In the weeks that followed, we became fast buddies. I learned that he and his family had moved to Redlands from Santa Cruz, and that they lived just several blocks from my folks. In addition to similar political views, we also shared a passion for music. Being from the Bay Area, he was much more exposed to the San Francisco scene. He had a copy of the Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow. I remember lying on the floor in his room, listening to the record, marveling at the sound which seemed to encapsulate the spirit of the time. He’d figured out and could play Embryonic Journey on acoustic guitar. I could see that he liked to tinker with music: Take it apart, analyze it, understand it. I admired this immensely. We also hung out at my little pad in Riverside where I introduced him to my brothers and friends. We jammed, talked, and, I’m embarrassed to say, even tried smoking banana peels, getting nothing but headaches and charred throats for our trouble.
I discovered that Patrick not only talked the talk – he walked the walk. In June, he was with us to share the beautiful experience that was the Monterey Pop Festival, and one week later stood alongside my brothers and me as the police mounted their vicious attack at Century Plaza. These seminal events served to strengthen the bonds. We developed a strong sense of knowing we had each other’s backs.
A Lazy Summer Day
My brother Jimmy and I had a recording contract as the Peppermint Trolley Company, and had brought our friend Casey Cunningham into our group to play drums. In July, our single, A Lazy Summer Day, was getting some airplay locally and our manager booked us on a concert as the opening act for Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin at the Kaiser Dome in San Bernardino. We needed a guitarist, quick, fast, and in a hurry, and asked Patrick to join the band. To our delight, he agreed. Pat’s parents and siblings were out of town so we holed up in his house and woodshed like crazy for a week straight, managing to put together a set of perhaps eight or nine songs. Try as we may, there was just no hiding the fact that we were green. I know that it was difficult for me, so I can’t imagine how daunting a task it must have been for Pat. To have never even played in a band before, and to be suddenly thrust on stage in front of five thousand kids is a scary proposition. That takes balls – or naiveté… or both! (read more at the Peppermint Trolley Company bio)
On the night of the concert, we managed to complete a very jittery performance that was largely held together by Casey’s solid drumming. I’m sure we were dreadful, but at least we’d gotten through it and survived. To top off an absurd night, Big Brother was a no show. The promoter, a program director of a local radio station, pleaded with us to get back on stage. We replied that we had no more material worked up, that we’d shot our wad, and weren’t eager to repeat the experience. By serendipity, some musician buddies of ours, a band, were in the audience at the time and took the stage to perform some covers. This appeased the crowd somewhat, but then our friends began cracking smart ass jokes about the incompetence of the radio station. As a result, the promoter, who was livid, dropped our record from the play list.
A few weeks later we opened for the Buffalo Springfield at the Swing Auditorium. This time the headliner showed up! I felt a little better about our performance, but knew we were no great shakes as an act. Shortly after this we made the move to Los Angeles. There is a photo of the four of us posing in front of Casey’s Chevy van. The picture was taken in Redlands just minutes before we took off. We look like babes in the wood.
Sadness Within Your Eyes
No sooner had we settled into the Silver Lake rental house, when our manager landed us a featured spot as a hippie band on the Beverly Hillbillies. There we were on the tube all decked out in whatever silly wigs and mismatched apparel the Paramount costume department could find. It was a kick, and we made a little cash, but there was always that nagging feeling that we needed to get to work and come up with some new material to keep it all rolling. Patrick was pretty disciplined about sticking with a musical idea and developing it until it was a completed song. Jimmy has spoken about how much he was influenced as a songwriter by Pat’s dogged example. I recall our trying to work up a couple of his tunes, but deciding they weren’t quite right for the band.
In October, Patrick shocked us all by announcing he was leaving the group to get married. Shortly after this Greg Tornquist joined to take over the guitar slot. Sounds like the end of the story, doesn’t it? The irony is that Pat would have much more creative input to the PTC after he left than before. He continued to be a frequent presence at the band house, and both he and Jimmy began what was to be a creative surge. The first collaborative effort was Pat’s Song – a beautiful and deceptively simple melody. Jimmy, after being frustrated with his first attempts to put words to it, decided to write the lyric about Pat’s leaving. It was a perfect match. The result was both sophisticated and poignant.
You don’t have to tell me. I already know.
Sadness within your eyes says it’s time to go.
Many more tunes were to follow. I still carry the image in my head of Patrick and Jimmy sitting in the living room , guitars in hand, facing each other as a new song came to life. Patrick would be involved in the writing of seven of the band’s nine original songs on the1968 Peppermint Trolley Company album.
Pat wasn’t one to come up with a chord progression first and write a melody over it.He would start with a fragment of a melocic idea, and let everything ripple out from that center, exploring different chord progressions and key modulations along the way It was a process that seemed to be driven equally by emotion and intellect. The result was something interesting, but always honest, and straight from the heart.
Sunrise was penned solely by Pat. It is a song that spoke to me, and which I had the good fortune to sing lead on. Years later he provided the back story of its creation. He’d been up north dealing with the draft, and had driven back through the night. Just before dawn he pulled off to the side of the road, grabbed his guitar, opened the back door of his bread truck, and sat there strumming as the sun rose. The words and music came simultaneously, and the song was completed within minutes.
Today let me down but I know that the sun will shine.
These lyrics bear the imprint of a McClure song: Sad, but always hopeful. In my opinion these tunes are timeless. In a just world they would be recognized as the musical gems they are.
Pat also became a good guitar player. I think his strongest suit was acoustic finger picking, and a lot of his songs were based around this style. He was floored by Mason Williams’ Classical Gas when he heard it on the radio, and after figuring the song out, he went on to compose his own piece in the same style (I wish I had a recording of it). A finger picker, yes, but he also grew as an electric player and became proficient in the blues slide style. In 1972 he became the fifth member of Bones (Same band, different name). The Waitin’ Here album features some great guitar licks by both Greg and Pat. The cut, Harmony, features the duo of Greg on acoustic, and Pat on electric slide backing Jimmy’s haunting lead. It is a beautiful example of Bones’ ballad sound. (Read more at the Bones Bio)
Patrick also played electric guitar on several tracks of the Faragher Brothers first album – the ‘Yellow Album’ This was a completely different style - R&B and soul – but he’s right in the pocket, scratching out solid and exciting rhythm on tunes like Best Years of My Life. (Read more at the Faragher Brothers Bio).
I deeply regret that after the mid Seventies we fell out of touch. One thinks – “Oh there’ll always be time to reconnect.” – but time melts away. Thanks to his brother Michael we got in touch with each other about seven years ago and began corresponding via email.Patrick mailed me a CD of original songs. I loved it! As a songwriter he still had the goods. In 2008 the five of us Bones brothers were reunited for Greg’s wedding where we performed Harmony. Sadly, it was to be the last time we would all be together.
He fought valiantly for years to beat the odds in his battle with cancer. I believe he fought so hard because he loved life so dearly. It was inspiring to hear family and friends testify to his loving and unique character at the event celebrating his life. He was a wonderful brother, father, friend and colleague. He possessed an artistic soul, a keen intellect, and a generous spirit. He was also a man of action, a man who loved biking, playing baseball and soccer, and traveling the world. In short, he was a renaissance man.
I look at a photo of Pat and I see a person who engages the camera, just as he engaged the world – with confidence, energy, and curiosity. Someone who is comfortable in his own skin. Someone who is able to reconcile the yin and yang of being both a realist and an optimist.
I thank my lucky stars that he approached me that spring day so many years ago. He was a friend, band mate, and fellow activist. Oh how we sang the good song and fought the good fight. We were young artists driven by the creative urge, and the world was our oyster. How I cherish those memories. How I will miss him. He was a brother, and I loved the man.
On the Waitin’ Here LP there is a song written and sung by Pat. It’s called More or Less. It has become my favorite cut from the record. The tune hearkens back to that Northern California sound of the mid to late sixties. It begins with a fingered guitar weaving a woodsy spell followed by Greg’s mystical flute part answering the call before Patrick enters to sing the simple and direct words that say so much.
Love in life is all I want
Not a car or a restaurant
And so I love you more each day
You help me find my way
The rain will fall upon the land
No matter where you chose to stand
The sun will come again one day
To help us find our way
And it’s more or less as it seems
The broken hearts and the hopeful dreams
My question is – Will our dreams come true?
We are all stardust.
sometimes on a sleepless night
the elusive muse appears before me
and with seductive charm implores me
in sweet persuasion I can’t fight
she reaches out to extend the touch
of fingertips beneath my chin
and gently lifts my gaze to hers
to command with whisper – ‘Write’.
It had been a productive session. Now we could sit back and enjoy the fruit of our labors. The track rolled… Suddenly over the studio speakers voices rang out with joyous urgency – “Dancing with the moment, and the moment sets me free.” Bryan, his hands on the soundboard, turned to look over at me -
“I think we’re on to something!” he said.
My son is not given to throwing out such statements lightly, so when he speaks I pay attention. I closed my eyes and let the music swirl around me. Indeed, we were ‘on to something’ – something singular, something real. After a long process of writing, arranging, and recording, my tune, Song in the Night had come together as I had envisioned. How often in life does that happen? I felt as if I were flying.
This moment in the summer of 2010 infused energy into a project which had been on a slow burn for years. The song not only supplied the title to my album, it gave it shape and momentum.
Now, four years, and six songs further along, Dancing with the Moment is a wrap! It’s been recorded, mixed, and mastered, and the cover art will be finished in time for a spring release this year. The album’s launch will also be accompanied by several video releases for some of the songs. We are excited! It was a long time coming, but well worth the years of hard work. For me the album has been a labor of love. It’s supplied direction for my creativity, and given me the opportunity to work with Bryan. I will always cherish those hours spent ‘Burning the lamp through the night’.
Because my career has been varied, and my pallet broad, I initially felt some reluctance at attempting to put my songs into a single package. After all, we live in an age where music is pigeon-holed and stamped with the narrowest of labels. An artist is expected to describe their sound with one or two words. Rolling the idea over in my mind, I flashed back to 1967 when I would listen to underground FM radio. The DJ played it all, from hard rock to classical and everything in between – the Beatles, Joan Baez, Otis Redding, Brian Wilson, John Coltrane, Fred Neil, early Elvis, Bach, Satie.. . It was a trip! What a mix of sounds! I decided I wanted to create something comparable to that experience, and vowed to heedlessly trespass across genre lines.
Chaucer, Keats, and Willie Dixon
Echo in this crazy brain
Emily, Robert, Walt and Hank
O lustrous star! O lonesome train!
Frederick, Miles, Brian, and John
Good vibrations intertwined
Words and music coalesce
To form the soundscape of my mind
So if label we must, here’s a new moniker… Are you ready? Call it Retro Eclectic, i.e. Music that is both rooted and experimental. It is music that embraces modern recording techniques like electronic sounds and drum loops, while maintaining focus on the heart and soul of the song. It also crosses generational lines – a result in part from the collaboration with my son, a fantastic sound engineer who has also been composing exciting electronic music for years.
The title – Dancing with the Moment – can be taken three different ways. First, it signifies embracing the here and now (For that’s all we really have). Secondly, it means trying to keep one’s balance as life hurls the unexpected upon you (Sound familiar?). Lastly, it’s about those salient moments in life – epiphanies, or just being acutely aware of being alive – that dance in the memory. Many of the tunes on this album are about such moments and have a cinematic sensibility to them. My goal has been to put the listener right there in the scene with me, whether it’s about a glorious summer day at the beach (Pacific Blue), or being deep in the blues amidst a smoky night as the Santa Ana winds howl (Devil Wind Blues).
Memories race through my mind
The good and the bad, the happy the sad
Streaming again in my mind
Life is a blink of an eye
No sooner begun when it’s over and done
All in the blink of an eye
As time rushes by
D.F. – (from Song in the Night)
Over time the structure of the album has evolved into more than just a collection of tunes. It has taken shape as a whole piece. Each song unfolds to the next, as if on a journey that weaves through a day, or perhaps through a life. Throughout the creative process I have tried to stay honest, to keep it real. No posing. No pretensions. Nothing has been forced to fit into a preconceived notion. Rather, it has evovled organically. With the goal in mind of creating something real, I feel I have given a little piece of myself with every song- in the writing, arranging, singing and playing.
I believe those who are fans of the bands I was a part of – the Peppermint Trolley Company, Bones, the Faragher Brothers, and even the Mark V – will find something they really dig. something that speaks to them in Dancing with the Moment.. I’ve tried to carry on the lessons I learned from years in the studio – Come up with a good song (catchy and soulful melody with intelligent lyrics), create interesting arrangements (both instrumental and vocal), and feature solos that are concise and to the point.
The album will be available both as a CD copy, and as downloadable mp3. We will be offering free downloads of some of the tunes, so stay tuned.
For all those times when I’ve felt like a kid sitting at the back of the classroom with my hand perpetually raised, waiting to be called, I can say it is a sweet feeling to have siezed the moment ‘...to dance ‘neath the sun.’
A list of artist friends who contributed their talents to the making of Dancing with the Moment (I will sing your praises in the coming days):
Bryan Faragher, Tim Horrigan, Chris Blondal, Craig Copeland, Jane Getz, Simeon Pillich, Bob Tucker, Bob Gother, Davey Faragher, Jimmy Faragher, Pammy Armstrong, Matt Tucciaroni, Pete McCrea, Donna Deussen, Karen Schnurr, Jody Mortara
It’s November of 1971. Danny, Jimmy, Greg, and Casey – ‘Bones” – are getting ready to play for a gathering of Hollywood elites for the first AFI Film Festival. The gig turns almost surreal in a most unexpected way. For Danny, issues arise concerning image, performance and staying true to oneself.
We were gathered in back of the stage behind a wall of speaker cabinets. I sat on the left rear corner of the riser behind a P.A. column, facing the back of the hall. We’d already done our sound check, playing to a sea of linen covered tables as young men and women, attired in black slacks and white shirts, scrambled to set out the dinner ware and flower arrangements. The amplifiers were now switched on ‘standby’, their backsides illuminated by the warm glow of power tubes. The horn on my Leslie speaker circled steadily. It brought to mind a ball player pin wheeling his bat as he waited for the first pitch. I turned my head to the left to look at my band mates. Greg, his head wrapped in earphones, sat slumped over his black Les Paul guitar as his fingers pulled and hammered the strings. God, he was diligent! My brother Jimmy, the group’s main lead singer and songwriter, held the top end of a ball point pen to his mouth, deep in thought,before scribbling some words on a piece of paper. He was mapping out a set. Our drummer, the ever cagey Casey Cunningham, stood with drumsticks in hand, laughing and kibitzing with Skip, our new manager.
I loved these guys. We’d been together for four years, the first year as the Peppermint Trolley Company and the following three as Bones. We were tight – both as a band and as friends. Through the good times and the bad times we’d had each other’s backs. Yea, we were survivors. The previous year we’d sequestered ourselves in a Marin County pad intent on wood shedding until we found our own sound. In January we’d moved back down to L.A. and right away, people had begun to take notice and respond. It was exciting to see fans lining up at the local clubs, and to be wooed by record companies and managers. The pace had accelerated palpably. Oh what a heady few months it had been!
In April, we’d moved into a house high on a bluff in Malibu. The view of the blue Pacific through the large bay window was spectacular. On our first day in the place we saw a whale surface, dive and surface again as it stitched a pathway northward. That spring held some of the happiest moments of my life. It was just the four us – gigging nearly every night (still schlepping our own equipment), rehearsing every day, and making the rent payments. Our lives were totally immersed in the music.
By summer, we’d tossed the dice, made our choices, and signed on the dotted lines. We had a record deal, a production deal, a publishing deal, and a management deal. A lot of our future now lay in other people’s hands. We knocked on wood and held our breath.
Chasing the Dream
It was now November and no longer was it just the core of the band living in the Malibu house. We’d taken on two school buddies, Ron and Billy as a road crew, and brought in a P.A. guy, Bill, and his assistant, Bruce. On top of that, Jimmy and Greg had each fallen in love with a woman who had a small child, and their girlfriends and the kids had now become part of the household. Casey’s ‘on-again-off-again’ relationship with his high school sweetheart was ‘on-again’ , bringing another female face to the mix. In addition, we usually had a house guest or two… or three, and many friends who frequently popped in. Don’t get me wrong. For the most part, it was an amiable bunch of people, and there was a lot of mirth to go around, but I missed the simplicity and singleness of purpose that we had known.
An inevitable feeling of transition hung in the air. It’s funny how we can chase after the future while at the same time fearing what it will bring. I sensed that a fork in the road lay ahead. My brother had recently written a song that expressed what I know we all felt.
Changes comin’! I don’t know if they’re good or bad.. Changes comin’! Make you happy or make you sad.
Skip glanced at his watch. A glint of light reflected off his upturned wrist and caught my eye. Pueblo Indian jewelry was very much in vogue with the counter culture at the time, and his watch band was a fine specimen of stamped silver and inlaid turquoise. He was also sporting several turquoise rings on his fingers.
“They should be arriving any minute.” he said.
We were expecting a crowd of people to be coming from Grauman’s Chinese Theater across the boulevard where they’d been attending the AFI Film Festival’s first ever screening. It was a movie called “The Last Picture Show”. Skip had been at the theater and seen most of the flick before ducking out early.
“It’s really cool.” he said. “It takes place in this West Texas town and they use a lot of old Hank Williams recordings in it.”
“Wow! ” I said.
“Yea. I know you guys like Hank. You’d dig it.”
Jimmy broke into song. - ‘Hey, good lookin’. Wha-t ‘cha got cookin’?’
Greg and I joined in with harmony, “How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me.”
Skip laughed. He wasn’t your typical music biz guy. Oh yea, he was smart and savvy. He’d come up through the William Morris Agency. But he didn’t have the edginess that so many of these guys seemed to thrive on. I don’t think I’d ever seen him get riled or lose his cool. He was pretty mellow, and with his beard and long hair he looked more like a hippie than a high powered manager.
” I was just telling Casey, ” he said. “we’re working on lining up a short tour for the band in December. Concerts and club dates. Mostly in the Midwest, including a big concert extravaganza in Indianapolis with Alice Cooper, Canned Heat , of course, and Dr .John the Night Tripper.”
“Yea,” Casey added. “Apparently Alice remembers us from when we opened for him at U.C.L.A. and digs the band.”
“We know we remember him!” Jimmy responded.
“Yea, it’s hard to forget a guy in drag kicking a doll’s head into the twenty-fifth row!” I said.
We all laughed.
The idea of Rock as theater had been bantered about by music critics for years, going back to the Doors and Jim Morrison. Now, bands like Alice Cooper ,and Iggie and the Stooges were making their mark. Although I was cool and open minded about the concept, I knew that the four of us came from a different place. For us it was all about letting the spirit move us, being in the moment, and above all – being real. We were counter culture cats at heart who hated phoniness. We’d performed pro bono at so many peace rallies, sometimes putting ourselves in precarious situations because we believed in the cause. After walking away from our record contract as the Peppermint Trolley we’d vowed never to ‘sell out’. At the same time, in order to keep the creative train rolling, we needed to be commercially successful, which required our dealing with the phony Hollywood music biz scene. It was a dichotomy, and a confusing situation to be in.
Skip continued – “We’ll start spreadin’ the word about the band.”
“Bones hits the road, Jack!” Greg exclaimed.
“And don’t you come back no more, no more…” Casey answered.
Suddenly I heard laughter, and a rustle of fabric wafting in through the open door at the front of the hall. I peered through a gap between two speaker cabinets and saw people beginning to trickle in. They were elegantly dressed – men in tux’s and women in evening gowns. I ran a finger nervously over the embroidery on my vest, stared down at my feet, and wiggled my naked toes. How was it that I’d started performing barefoot? I couldn’t recall, but the bare feet, along with a wide flat brimmed hat had become part of my stage persona. What’s wrong with this picture? I mumbled to myself.
We were to play for about a half hour as the dinner guests were served cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. It occurred to me that the Mark Five, Jimmy’s and my old prom band from high school would be a more appropriate match for this event, providing some nice non-threatening dinner music.
“Hey, Jimmy,” I shouted.” Shall we open with Moon River?”
He laughed. “No, I think … um… I Left my Heart in San Francisco.”
“Hey, don’t sweat it.” Skip said “They knew who you were when they hired you. Just go on and do the show you always do.”
Filling the Void
We took our places on stage. Greg, stage right, me, stage left and J.P. in the center. Jimmy turned to make eye contact with me, then turned to Greg, and finally to Casey in back. “One, two , three…” he counted, bobbing the neck of his bass. We all entered on the one and off we went with a blast of sound. The song -Honey Baby- which could best be described as rock n’ soul hoedown music, was a number guaranteed to get crowds up and dancing at venues like the Topanga Corral. It was our standard opener. After the four bar intro, Jimmy snuck up to the mic.
“Well, I don’t know why these other women have to treat me low down dirty.” he sang.
I turned my head to face the tables and my eyes began sweeping over the crowd. I liked to work the audience, engage them. Some faces looked a little shocked or perplexed by our performance, while others seemed to dig it. I noticed a smiling young woman bobbing her head to the beat. That was reassuring. I recognized a few actors I’d always admired. There sat Lee J. Cobb, and Gregory Peck, and, oh wow, there was Bette Davis.
“Honey Baby! Oh, Honey Baby. . .”
Jimmy finished the chorus and gave me a nod as he stepped back from the microphone. I pulled out some of the Hammond’s upper draw bars, switched the Leslie to tremolo and swept the palm of my left hand up the organ’s keys in an aggressive glissando that climbed to a wicked right hand flare. I bent at the knees and stamped my feet as the phrases poured through the circuitry from brain to keyboard, some driven by yearning and others by rage. When the solo reached its climax I leaned my head back and gave out a wild cat scream. Casey played a ’round-the-horn fill and Greg picked up where I’d left off.
I lived for the expression that music and performing offered me. I didn’t have much of a personal life. My wife and I hadn’t lived together for two years. Although the marriage was in its last throes, I still clung desperately to the idea of being married. It seemed to stabilize me as I negotiated my way through an environment that was fluid and even chaotic at times. Oh, I’d tried playing the field, but a string of one-nighters with women I had little in common with had left me feeling hollow. Only music could fill the void.
” Cause I’ve got the strangest feeling , girl, I don’t believe you’d ever hurt me. . . ”
Up north I’d gotten into a disciplined regimen of stretching ,exercising, and eating healthy food. I was limber and fit – in the best shape of my life. I’d found myself experimenting with moving and dancing on stage, each night trying out something new and daring. It had gradually evolved into a routine. Lately, though, I feared I might be losing my mojo, that my performance was in danger of turning into shtick.
“Well I’ve been in love before but this love just ain’t like the last one.” Jimmy sang with conviction.
Hear No Evil
I checked out the tables directly in front of me. One face stood out. The man’s pale white skin was almost washed out by a shocking flash of bleach blond hair. His eyes were hidden behind sunglasses, but those dark lenses were focused on me like a laser beam. He began shaking his head with obvious disapproval. Unmistakably, it was Andy Warhol, the artist. “No…no…no.” his body language said, “This does not please me.”… “This cannot be allowed.”
Needless to say, it was a bit disconcerting. I felt like a fly in the ointment , a pimple on the Mona Lisa.
I didn’t know that much about Warhol. I remembered seeing him interviewed on television by Louis Lomax, the late pioneering African American journalist. He was frustratingly uncomfortable and reticent, allowing the women in his entourage to do most of the talking. When I was still in school my roommate had a copy of the Velvet Underground LP, which featured a Warhol rendering of a banana on the front cover and a photo of the artist’s face framed by a tambourine on the back. We’d listened to the record quite a bit, and I did dig the song – Heroine, which featured Lou Reed ‘s hypnotic, and intense monotone.
“Honey Baby!. . . ” We were in the last chorus heading toward the finish.
My eyes fell on Andy once again. In addition to shaking his head, he was now sticking his fingers in his ears to telegraph his displeasure, as if to tell all the world – “I refuse to listen to this”.
The ridiculous image of this guy plugging his ears with his fingers reminded me of the ‘Hear-no-evil monkey’. In my mind I could see a picture of his face in a Warhol style repeating panel. The idea made me chuckle. On an impish impulse, feeling I had nothing to lose, I smiled and gave him a wink.
Jimmy and I turned to look at each other and started laughing. We played another couple of tunes before Skip told us to wind it up. All the while Warhol stared at me, shaking his head and plugging his ears.
Backstage, we gathered around Skip. “You know,” he said with amusement. ” Warhol was threatening to leave the dinner if Danny didn’t get off the stage.”
“You’re kidding!” I said.
“No, honest to God.”
“We’ll never work in this town again.” Casey said in mock admonishment. “And It’s all your fault.”
” Yea, Danny! Why did you have to go and piss Andy off? Jimmy joined in.
“What’d I do?” I pleaded with palms up, suddenly feeling in the hot seat.
“Our career …” Casey piled on – “up in smoke.” He snapped his fingers.”Just like that!”
“You know what you should do?” Greg said.
“You should take a chair up on stage, sit there, and stare him down.”
We all began laughing.
“Maybe he’ll start pelting you with soup cans!” Casey added.
“Isn’t it interesting how quickly everyone wants to kiss Andy’s kiss.” I said.
Greg began shouting like a carnival barker. “This way, folks! Form a line! Okay, now down on your knees!”
“It’s like a little kid who threatens to take his ball and go home.” I declared. “What a jerk!”
“Think of it this way, Danny,” Jimmy said. “You’ve managed to be the focus of this little shit’s attention for a quarter of an hour or so. Do you know how many assholes would kill for that opportunity?”
I nodded and laughed. “Yea. Fuck him!”
All the while we’d been talking, Skip had been cutting lines of coke with a razor blade on the woofer speaker of the P.A. column. This business was hidden from general view by the tweeter which sat on top. He handed me a tightly rolled twenty dollar bill and said – “I think you should get the first toot.” Cocaine, new to us, seemed to be ubiquitous in the music biz in 1971. Everyone was doing it. So there we were snorting and partaking the illicit drug behind the PA speakers at a Hollywood gala. It was bizarro world!
Skip informed us that we would start playing again after the guests had finished dining. I felt hopped up and antsy. I couldn’t wait to get back on. But wait we did.
A Crowd Pleaser
After desert and coffee we again took the stage. I looked out. This time there was no shaking white head. No doubt, Warhol had probably been among the first to split. People were rising to their feet, many shuffling their way to other tables to say hello and schmooze. We’d only have time for one tune. Better cut to the chase. Jimmy called Potatoes., Although a throw-away as a musical piece, the instrumental was always a high energy crowd-pleaser.
An RMI piano sat atop my B3, and the tune was basically built around a funky left hand figure on this instrument. I kicked off with the left hand into. After another four with the band I began punching out the horn- like lead on the organ with my right hand. When we got through the head of the piece Jimmy, Greg, and Casey dropped down into a one chord killer groove as I danced to the front of the stage with a hand held mic. Strutting like a rooster, I began to deliver rhymes in the time-tested braggadocio tradition. After the vocal, I shouted ‘Watch me shake a tail feather!’ and tore into my wild, crazy legged dance. Steaming to a frenzy, I mounted the organ with my right foot positioned on the one inch ledge in front of the keyboard, and my left foot planted on top in the space next to the piano. I slipped a small piece of cardboard in between the organ keys to allow the chosen pitches to continue screaming as I played piano with my left hand. To the audience it gave the illusion that I was playing with my feet. On top of this I began to swivel my hips. I turned my head to caste a cocky glance out at the audience the way I’d seen Jerry Lee Lewis do. Instead of the multitudes Jerry Lee would encounter, however, there were perhaps a dozen or so people standing in front of the stage taking it in. The rest of the crowd had made an about-face to the exit. The room looked like a flood of dresses pouring out the door.
After I dismounted, we played the head one last time, and ended the song with an aggressively sustained chord. As the decibels rumbled, I climbed back up and on the closing hit leaped from my perch to land near the front of the stage. By now the room was nearly empty. The people who’d stayed gave us a small but heartfelt applause. As I stood there trying to catch my breath, a woman approached. I recognized her as an older character actress whom I’d seen many times in film and television. She took my hands in hers and looked directly into my eyes. Surprised by this warm and unexpected human connection I felt the tears begin to well.
“That was wonderful!” she said. “You… are a marvelous performer!”
Art work by Bryan Faragher
I was recently contacted by Bill Brown who was the sound man mentioned in the story. He writes…
I am hoping you remember me from long ago when we all shared the house in Malibu … (the house was slipping off the hill, empty swimming pool). I was the guy who had the sound system Bones used. I shared the front room with Casey Cunningham.I read some more of your website and saw myself mentioned ( Chasing the Dream) my assistant was Bruce Darling. We had Earmouth Sound, an off shoot of Bob Luly’s Solid Sound. I ended up going to work as a sound man for Earth Wind & Fire.
I have thought of you guys over the years; hope your brother is well. I remember a brief potential producer relationship with Richard Perry.Anyway, just reaching out…hope all is well!! Best for 2014!!
Incidentally, our two buddies who handled the equipment and busted their asses to make a Bones show possible were Ron Smith and Billy Funk.