Early EAGLES’ Flight? /”31 Raszynska Place”
Huge ad in last Sunday’s New York Times announcing early ticket sales for Eagles’ “SUMMER 2010” concert June 10 at the Meadowlands Stadium in NJ.
I’m tired of hearing myself repeat that it’s been 40, 45, 50 years since such and such happened right in my face. And that I wasn’t “present” for it, as they say in some well-known 12-step programs.
Jason Odd’s going to get back to me with stuff I never learned about Longbranch Pennywhistle, Glenn Frey’s band with John-David Souther long before the Eagles gleamed in anyone’s eyes. LBPW were our label-mates in 1967-8 at Amos Records, Jimmy Bowen’s doomed marque where Mike Post, who later became the most successful TV theme writer in history—try Law and Order, Hill Street Blues, LA Law, NYPD Blue, Rockford Files, Magnum PI for starters—was producer of record ‘til….but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
What’s part of this one is that Glenn and John-David were Amos’ and Post’s poster-boys for clean living clear-minded music-making, the Carpenters’ Carpenters, proof positive of Charlie Parker’s dictum that you didn’t need to get high to be musically creative, and that heads were losers. Glenn and John-David didn’t seem to be disabusing them of the notion. Business is business, esp. in the record business.
Anyway, I guess it was late ’67, after Mike had “discovered” us at the Whiskey a Go Go, that my Evergreen Blueshoes partner, singer/bassist Skip Battin, later of Byrds fame, and I sat in Post’s “writing room” on, I think, Moorpark Blvd in Encino (read ”upper-middle-class” San Fernando Valley) pushing Mike to get high with us.
Mike was a Baptist preacher on steroids when it came to drugs. Not only did he not use dry goods (he drank like a fish, but only to keep up—or down—with the Bowen crowd), he was pretty much down on anyone who did. Which would make someone who knew beaded, bearded and usually-bombed Skip and me wonder what Post was doing with us. But that was just the point: we were his house freaks. His token flower children. His counterculture ticket out of the “Tune in, turn on, drop out” black hole that anyone over thirty and/or unliberated was automatically dropped into.
So, finding ourselves in the same record stable, let alone Mike Post’s home, with plastic and prissy hippies Frey and Souther was a real nudge-nudge, wink-wink between Skip and me and the paisley dragons we traveled with.
We thought—and just look at how dead-on our opinions were— Frey’s and Souther’s music was like fairies dancing on stardust compared to the storming and stomping around of grizzlies like Hendrix, the Stones, Beatles and Dead. LBPW seemed like a Hollywood version of Simon & Garfunkel, but with better coifs, billowier shirts and sleeves, and probably better headshots, for all my partner and I knew. We almost asked to see their mood rings.
Anyway, Post, Skip and I had a kind of good-natured routine-cum-battle about substances, with Skip and me touting frequent abuse and Post promising to cancel our contract with Amos the instant we were busted. I half-remember one of the exchanges from the nite I’m going to tell you about.
“I don’t want you douchebags using your one phone call on me some nite when I’m at Jimmy’s and Keely’s,” Post had said. He was very protective of his boss and in absolute awe of Ms. Smith.
“Is she still seeing him?” Skip asked.
“They’re married, asshole,” Mike said
“Gee, that’s not what she’s been telling me,” said Skip. His hobby had become baiting Post.
Now Mike got serious: “Listen, faggot, if you were half the stud Jimmy Bowen is you’d blah blah, etc., etc.” Good-natured stuff, like I said.
See, Post felt his other blockbuster act, i.e., squeaky-clean Breathwaite Moneypenny, or whatever their name was, would more than redress the imbalance the reprobates of Evergreen Blueshoes (btw, Jason, a Kim Fowley-inflicted name) visited on the Amos roster.
Anyway, there was one nite when things got kind of jammed up chez Post, pre-production-wise, as a result of Mike trying to force some sort of marriage between the Blueshoes and Pennywhistles, two groups that could have been considered the Rock n’ Roll equivalent of oil and water. It was a disaster from the beginning.
“What the fuck kind of chord is that?” I asked John-David about some sort of airy-fairy, Sandy Bull-type open-stringed concoction he and Glenn had come up with.
“Um,” said Glenn, looking back and forth between me, Post and his partner’s left hand on the guitar neck, “it’s an A minor ninth with an, um, open B, played down two frets.” He sounded almost hurt.
Skip didn’t miss a beat. “And you call US fags?” he said to Post.
It was pretty much downhill from there, but fortunately a short trip in hours, minutes and seconds. By ten o’clock we all knew it was a fiasco turning into a downer headed toward a bummer, and the ‘Shoes and ‘Whistles decided to pack up our axes and pack it in.
The four of us were just about at Mike’s front door when it occurred to Skip and/or me to whip a pre-rolled skinny-minny out of one of our buckskin pouches and feign lighting up. We both began ostentatiously slapping our pockets for a match, asking Mike if he had one and if he did would he join us in a toke when he found it?
He just gave us the finger. He had slipped into a dark place about not being able to “produce” our two bands into the super-group he’d wanted to. He’d been riding high lately on Classical Gas, the giant hit by Mason Williams he’d arranged, and if he didn’t own Hollywood right then he certainly had a lot of shares in it. We didn’t invite Glenn and John-David to join us, since it might have sullied their image with Mike.
Of course we didn’t light up. It was a ritual Mike and us ‘Shoes had gone thru several times before, and he’d let us know in no uncertain terms that his home was a drug-free zone. “Put it away or I’ll beat the shit out of both of you,” is the way I remember him putting it that nite.
Skip and I were out the door first and headed straight for the brand new van our new managers, Skip Taylor and John Hartman, had given us (yeah, “given;” as if band managers ever gave anything away), that was now parked in Mike’s apartment’s garage, where we could lock the door, close the windows and blow our minds in an airtight cloud-chamber of primo Mixoacan.
We couldn’t have been there more than two or three minutes, passing the joint back and forth, before we heard a knock on the passenger’s side window. Slowly we turned.
It was Glenn, with John-David right over his shoulder nervously looking up and down the street. Glenn mimed rolling down my window to me. I acted like I was so stoned I didn’t know what he meant, looking at him, then the joint, then Skip, than back at him with the pole-axed expression I reserved for this and every other time I smoked dope. Finally he knocked again. I rolled the window down a couple inches and stared vacantly at him.
“Hey, man,” he said, trying to sound casual, “wasn’t that weird up there? I mean, like Mike trying to force us together and everything? Bummer, y’know?”
“Yeah, bummer,” I said. ”We were really looking forward to working with you guys.”
“Yeah, us, too,” Glenn said, sniffing the air that oozed out of the slit at the top of the window. “So, um, how’re you guys doing, man? I mean, in there?” His eyes searched the inside of the van, as if there was something else there that might be going on.
“How do you mean, man?” I said, taking a handoff from skip and sucking on it loudly. I was really being a schmuck. (Btw, I still can’t believe we were never busted for dope in all the time the band was together. Rousted, yes, but never nailed).
“Uh, man,” he said, “I’m just saying it looks like you guys are really, um, grooving in there.”
“Right on,” said John-David, “really trippin’ out.”
I nodded dreamily, took another long and noisy toke on the reefer, blew the smoke out of the crack in the window as if Skip and I didn’t need any more in the van, thank you, and had to get rid of some. I said nothing.
“So,” said Glenn, “Post is really uptight, isn’t he? I mean, here he is a major lush, down on you guys for…I mean, you know, everyone’s entitled to, you know—“
“Do their own thing,” chimed in John-David.
“Yeah, do their own thing,” echoed Glenn. “I mean, if it’s not hurting anybody. You know, it’s not like smoking marijuana makes people go around sticking up Seven-Eleven stores. I think the pigs are way too much in—“
“So, what you’re saying is you wanna get high,” I said.
Silence. Then, both of them verbally falling over each other, “Well, you know…” “Just to see what it’s…” “Not enough to really get high, just…”
I don’t want to imply that Skip and I had anything to do with Glenn Frey’s or John-David Souther’s or the Eagles’ destinies as a result of what the four of us did for the next 45 minutes. I’m just saying it’s a good thing Mike Post hadn’t planned to go over to Jimmy’s and Keely’s that nite and looked into the van parked next to the Lincoln Continental he was letting warm up.
Another chapter in Growing Up Jewish in LA. This one written after a 1998 stop in Warsaw and a visit to the site of the Jewish Ghetto.