Sunday, February 24, 2008
Sunset Blvd. and Clark 1965
There was a new feeling in the air. It was different from when I had been in LA in 64. It was partly due to the wave of British bands sweeping across America, but there was something else, something completely new about the atmosphere around the Sunset Strip and West Hollywood.
I began to notice that people were more open and friendly than they had been in 64. There seemed to be a genuine interest and level of acceptance between people on the street who were strangers. Instead of just ignoring each other, they actually were taking time to stop and communicate. Petty differences seemed obsolete, while curiosity in and about others, seemed to be taking the lead.
You could quite literally walk outside, not knowing anyone, walk from Sunset and La Cienega to Sunset and Clark, where the Whiskey A Go Go was, and have a whole new set of friends. Really! It was a trip! And words like trip, groovy, right on, it's boss, far out, etc., were all being born out of this new sense of community. It was happening in a lot of places all over the country, but it would be a while before everyone knew how powerful and wide spread this social movement really was.
The world was being changed, right before my eyes. LSD was something I started hearing about as soon as I got out on the streets. Rumor was that you could find God on this stuff and alter your consciousness for the better. Almost immediately, I forgot about my losses and began to assemble a new personality, mixing the British pop scene, where I had just been, with newer elements of the psychedelic world springing up around me.
Color and design began popping up everywhere. Peace signs were a new and powerful reminder to people, that a war was going on, and the country was taking sides for and against it. "Make Love Not War" was one of the best slogans I have ever heard in my life, and was something 10's of thousands of young and not so young people practiced religiously, myself included.
A new phenomenon called "Hippies" began appearing everywhere. Young people, who thought dancing to good music, smoking weed, and making love, far out classed the typical get a haircut, a job, and join the army generation. These two factors would eventually clash violently, on Sunset Blvd., in and around Pandora's Box and The Fifth Estate, which were roughly located at Sunset and Crescent Heights Blvd., about a year or so later.
Everywhere I went, people were talking about music and new groups that sprung up like flowers out of the pavement. You could get some people together and just make a tape and walk in to countless record labels in Hollywood and get the damn thing released as a record. It was fantastic! Up at the Whiskey A Go Go, Johnny Rivers was doing live afternoon shows and killing em.
This would soon give way to bands like The Byrds. But I don't want to lose sight of my own story here, because just before this new wave of bands came ploughing through LA, there was a transition period. In between Johnny Rivers and The Byrds, I had begun to meet a lot of people, and one of those was a girl named Pam Burns. I don't recall how exactly we met, we just met. That was the way of it then, you just ran into people everywhere and got to know each other, it happened all the time.
Pam worked at Mira Records, a company that was started by Randy Wood, who at one time had been president of Vee Jay Records. He had offices on Sunset Blvd, west of the Whiskey and Pam was one of his personal secretaries. Pam liked me a lot and learned about my past quickly. She remembered the Billboard ads and asked me where I'd disappeared to. I told her the story and she couldn't understand how someone like me had just come along and then just vanished more or less.
I told her that I didn't know either, but that's what had happened and here I was with not a goddamn thing to show for it and no work. I played a lot of songs for her, so she knew I could write and sing and wasn't just some over hyped no talent ass hole. She said she wanted to talk to Randy Wood about me and see if she could get him to give me a shot at working on this project of his, that had run into contractual problems with an artist he'd recorded an album with named Chris Ducey. I told her thanks and to let me know if anything came up.
I still remember that moment like it was yesterday. Staring at my suit case and guitar case, wishing I didn't have to lug them around, but having no place to leave them. So there we were, me and the 2 cases. I stared at the blacktop, covering Ben Franks parking lot, thinking about how warm it was compared to London. I was over dressed for Southern California, but couldn't do anything about that either.
If I took off my suit coat, I still had to carry it, or keep and eye on it, so it just seemed easier to leave it on. For the last year and a half I had stood on stages in front of thousands of people, been on television in two different countries, hobnobbed with the rich and famous, been written about, photographed, and recorded. Now, I was just alone, standing in a parking lot with nowhere to go.
It was a moment that froze in time, when you realize clearly, that there are, and will be, no guarantees about anything. I was yanked out of my dreamworld, literally, by the sound of a girl's voice asking, "Bobby?" I turned in the direction of her voice and tried to figure out who it was. To this day I cannot remember her name. I am sorry, she may have saved my life, at the least, she certainly made it easier.
I didn't recognize her, but she knew me. "Yeah," I said, "it's me." "Wow you look great," she announced. "Like one of the damn Beatles," she said. "Thanks, I just got back from London." I replied. "What were you doing there?" she asked. "Making records with Mick Jagger." I said. She stared at me like I was from mars, trying to incorporate what I had just dropped into the conversation. "Really," she responded, not too sure I was telling the truth, "What was that like?"
"It was OK I guess, but it didn't really work out too well." She had no idea of what I was talking about. "So what are you doing here in the parking lot? Why didn't you go inside?" She asked. "I just got here, just a little while ago." I said, "I was trying to figure out what to do." "Well where are you staying, are you here in town?" she asked. "I don't know." I said. "I don't have any place to stay." She looked straight at me and said, "My girlfriend and I have an apartment just a couple of blocks from here, you can stay on our couch if you want?" I still remember the relief I felt when she said that, like a boulder had been lifted off me. One problem solved! "Yeah, I answered, that would be great if, are you sure it's ok?" "Sure it's ok, my room mate will love you."
This moment in my life proved to be the beginning of how I would live in Hollywood and the surrounding area for the next 20 years. It was the women of Southern California that saved my ass, literally, over and over again. I lived with them, I loved them, I fought with them, I got loaded with them, and every other "with them" you can think of. If it were not for them, I would be dead, period.
I bonded with so many different women in those 20 years, that it would be close to impossible to recall or remember each one of them. But as far as I can tell, not one of them ever hated me and there are none that I ever remember hating. To the contrary. I am still coming across many of them, because I am writing this, and because of the internet in general. Some of them, from 30 and 40 years ago. They tell me stories, send pictures they still have, and all kinds of wonderful things. For this, I am extremely grateful and happy. I'm sure the possibility still looms large, that I have yet to encounter some, who may not hold me in high regard. This too, I will accept willingly.
After settling in on the couch for a day and having a place to stash my stuff, I hit the streets. I had to get out and get something going. I was used to having a plan and then acting on it. If no one was looking for me, then I'd go look for them. If no one knew who I was, and they didn't, then I'd tell them. It was like what I used to do, before Tony Alamo found me. Just get out and circulate, like me and Danny Whitten, Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina used to do. Find out where the action was and go there and stay there.