3rd Movement: Tommy, Vince & Lou
Updated: Sep 7
“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”
-- W.C. Fields
It was now sometime near the beginning of 1969 when ol’ Vince n’ I decided it was time to put out the feelers to Lou. And, since I’d already played with Lou before…see....I had played with Lou, but never along with Vince…and Vince had never played with Lou, but his mom knew Lou’s mom…so…(ok, ok, if you want to understand this partic’lar inside band joke, then listen to Mike Bloomfield’s drug-induced intro-rap on the “live” Super Session album).
Anywho, we asked Lou to join up and he was down with that. So, now it’s Lou on bass and singin' vox. Vince on drums. And me singin’ vox and back on lead guitar.
Which, after Larry, had to be more than a bit o’ a downer for poor Vince.
But, we soldiered on.
Played a few school functions like student body meetings n’ high school dances…grammar school dances (Ughh!)...private parties…hell, anyone who would have us, basically. But it was around this time that I found out that Lou had a sister ‘bout 1-year younger than he was, named Mimi. And she was a real looker, lemme just tell ya that. And, a looker with a set of lungs that produced a really strong, yet sweet, voice.
OK, you know where this is going, right? So, I asked Lou to ask his mom if it was ok for him to ask Mimi if she would like to come by one of our rehearsals and just sorta see how it goes, ya know? Finally, after properly following the family chain o’ command, it was determined that we’d get together, run it up the ol’ flagpole, n’ see if anyone saluted kinda deal.
Oh, and Lou told me to learn a couple o’ tunes by the Jefferson Airplane that were both popular at the time: “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.”
OK, no prob’ there, amigo. I mean, at least I wasn’t a’gonna hafta go out n’ butcher yet another Clapton or Hendrix solo. 'Cuz ol’ Paul Kantner of the Airplane played some really tasty, yet easy, rhythm guitar parts. And, more importantly to your humble narrator, Jorma Kaukonen did mostly nice n’ slow lead stuff that even a bonehead guitarist like myself just might be able to foist upon the audience.
That is, given a healthy ‘nuff dose of smoke ‘n mirrors: “Grand Canyon” reverb. Over-done wah-wah pedal. Fuzz-box distortion. “Twilight Zone” tremolo. And good-ol’-fashioned, plain-white-toast frickin’ VOLUME.
Rehearsal went really well. Mostly cuz Lou had Mimi’s vocal chops screwed down tight as a snare drum's head. So….somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody who knew someone else, managed to score this new lineup our very first performance at yet another one of the weekly AHS Student Body Assembly Meetings.
That is to say, at an event that always took place in the school’s “BIG” auditorium.
But, this time it would be me as the only guitar player. And after the entire school had already heard Larry wail away on guitar with the band only weeks earlier.
I was nervous near fit to puke. 2,000 kids. Of which just about 4 might possibly be considered sorta, kinda, almost friends of mine. Ahhh! Poor li’l unloved Twick. Hey, screw that. Here’s the reason, k?
I came right from 8 years at St. Joseph’s Catholic Grammar School for good li’l boys n’ girls in Alameda, directly over to the biggest public High School on the entire island: Alameda High. Out of an 8th Grade graduating class of ‘bout 50 kids, only me and 3 other kids decided to not attend Catholic High School.
So, I went from being my Eighth Grade’s Class President, "Mr. Popular," "Mr. I-gots-me-friends-everywhere," to being lost in the shuffle. And thus, rather euphemistically referred to by 99.9% of my fellow classmates - and this was when they were being kind - as a “Catholic School Puke.”
Need I say more? Back to the assembly gig.
I’ll keep it short. It was just the two Airplane songs that we did, and Mimi freakin' nailed it. Killer response. Great, hmm? Yeah, but Lou’s mom already knew that, as much as she did encourage all of her kids to learn how to play a musical instrument or two, she did not want Mimi getting’ any ideas in her purty li’l head about a career in Show Biz. So, for her n’ for us, it was just the one performance n’ out
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.”
-- William Shakespeare
This next part’s a real bitch for me to hafta tell ya….but, here goes anyways…
It was also here in early ’69 that Lou, who had really long hair and dressed for school like a Brit “Mod” right off o’ ol’ Carnaby Street in London (think “The Monkees”), started gettin’ picked on by a ruthless cadre of the local school bullies who didn’t happen to like hippies.
Lou had a locker in the Science wing of the school, way down at the far end of a first floor dead-end hallway. And that’s where the “boys in the black hats” sought him out. Justa waitin’ for him after school by his locker.
And I can’t speak for ol’ Vinnie, but for me this absolutely was and still is one of the things in my life of which I am the least proud...and most ashamed.
The gang, usually 4 or 5 upper-classmen, would start in on Lou, and Vince and I would start to come to Lou’s rescue. Then we'd immediately get our heads slammed up against a locker by two or more of the older guys. And then…we’d just stand there, man. Doin’ nothin' to help Lou. Gawd, what a bunch of sissies we were.
Don’t remember me bein’ that way in grammar school. Nope. Maybe it was cuz I was popular in grades 1 - 8 and had more confidence. Maybe it was cuz back in grammar school I didn’t have zits yet. Maybe it was cuz of any of a million other bullshit, lame-ass excuses that punks have been inventing for themselves since Time Immemorial for why they end up acting like cowards.
Who knows? It don’t’ matter. It sucked…and I sucked. And just cuz it ain’t that way no more with me now, still doesn’t help to make what happened back then right. No, it sho’ don’t, dear reader.
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
-- Mark Twain
HEY! But Lou? Oh, no…not Lou. He would dive right into the heart of the breach and scuffle n’ fight back. Launch head-shots. Slap. Scratch. Fire off haymakers. Ear-bite. Dick-kick. Elbow. Eye-gouge. Spit. Toe-stomp, Yell. Head-butt. Whatever it took to shake off this attacking Thundering Herd of Punk Assassins.
Hell, I remember one time he whipped his belt off - the one with the big ol’ metal buckle - went-off all “Steve Reeves” on their asses, and just startin’ swingin’ for the fences. And, ya know what? Boy, did they back off. This pretty much daily tormenting finally fizzled out after about a few months or so. But, dammit, how could Vinnie n’ I be such weaklings?
Well, there it is. It ain’t pretty, folks, but it’s the truth. And to make things even worse for me n’ Vince? Lou never chastised either of us about it. Nope. Not even one time. He was already just that kind of man.
Whew. Didn’t really consciously plan on remembering that part of the story.
But well…it happened, so it’s gotta be told.
Take a deep breath, Twick…
“Slump? I ain’t in no slump…I just ain’t hitting”
-- Yogi Berra
After the performance with Mimi Sarrica at the school assembly, gigs started comin’ few n’ far between. Not sure why. Prob’ly cuz the other bands were just simply better than we were. Fuckin’ Assholes. In the meantime, to help pass the time and in order to help keep us somewhere, at least, around the local music scene, Lou’s mom got us jobs ushering Rock Shows at the Berkeley Community Theater.
So, the deal was that we had to wear a suit and tie. Bring a small flashlight with us. And then stand in a particular section of the theater and do…well, we did what all ushers do: we helped people find their damn seats. We were also supposed to report anyone smoking marijuana. Not warn them to stop. Nope. Rat them out to the undercover Berkeley cops who were stationed all around the inside and the outside of the hall. Hmm. Yeah, right.
That part most definitely sucked. But, speakin’ for myself, that was the one part of the job that I did not pursue, at all. Hell, from time to time I’d even stoop down n’ make like I was just ‘bout to bitch someone out, n’ instead sneak a li’l hit fo’ myself.
However, ya gotta remember though, this was 1969 and being caught with even just one joint was likely to get you charged with a damn felony. I ain’t kiddin,’ Serpico. I’m talkin,’ “on your permanent record” n’ all that jazz.
So if you got busted back in ‘69? Ohhh, man. Good luck when it comes time for you to enter the work force, Hoss. Hope y’all know how to shovel poop. Cuz dat’s jus’ ‘bout all there's a'gonna be fo’ yo’ druggie ass, boy.
‘Course that’s hella un-freakin'-believable in this day and age. But that’s how it was back then. Even in Hippieville, California.
So, for us ushers, the bottom line was that after everyone got seated, then we were pretty much free to just stand there and watch the show.
Man, and what shows they were!
Saw the early-version of "The Doors" twice (back when Morrison could still string together more than 2 words at a time). An entire evening with Ravi Shankar, which was an amazing eye-opener and gave me my first introduction to Eastern Music and the 1/4 tone scale. “Iron Butterfly” along with “The Grateful Dead” opening up for them while “Pig Pen” was still alive. A “Country Joe & the Fish” show with Lafayette’s own “Frumious Bandersnatch” openin’ up the show for 'em. (I dare all you literary types out there to try n’ remember from where “FB” got their name…hmm? OK, I double-dog dare ya…huh?…huh?).
AND one, very memorable “Simon and Garfunkle” performance.
The S&G show was informative to me as a musician cuz they played their first tune and then Paul Simon got on the mic and pretty much bitched-out the sound man cuz Simon thought the sound was wrong. And it was wrong. Feedback City. Next song, same thing. By the end of only the third song, Simon addressed the crowd and told everyone that he was really sorry for the poor sound quality, the audience deserved better, and that he n’ ol’ Art were a’gonna call it a night.
But, that he and Art would do it all over again the next night with better sound. And that everyone in the audience was invited to go to any one of the 6 theater box offices outside the venue that very night for a full refund of all their money. AND then they could all come back the next night with their ticket stubs and see the entire show for free.
Pretty doggone amazin,’ I must say. And the crowd loved them for it.
Good to know.
The last show we worked was with “The Mamas n’ the Papas.” Man, they sounded absolutely bitchin'! Harmonies from Heaven, indeed. “Papa” John Phillips did a bunch of between-songs banter from the stage satirizing all of the straight Establishment’s many stereotypes.
He nailed the Military-Industrial-Complex on the war in Vietnam. Did a completely hilarious impersonation of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Followed that with some pro-legalization of pot stuff. And then he spoke out in a serious manner ‘bout the Civil Rights issues going on throughout the country. By then he pretty much had the entire audience - as well as your humble narrator - basically eatin’ out of the palm of his hand.
But, for me, the one thing I’ll never forget is the way Michelle Phillips looked that night. Good gawd! She was wearin’ this skin-tight pants-suit with big bell bottoms, that looked like it had been spray-painted on. And it had these long-ass bright black n’ yellow stripes going vertically all up n’ down that "runway model" body of hers. Ya add in all that long, straight California Girl bleached-blond hair hanging down below her tight li’l bubble-butt ass. And then you can finish off the picture with that gorgeous face of hers n’ that smile that simply lit up the whole doggone hall.
Oh, man! Yeowie! And she just moved really classy, ya know? But also really sexy.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Think I was in love, folks!
Yeah, right….“zit boy.”
“Fall seven times and stand up eight”
-- Japanese Proverb
OK, so in regards to our ushering-at-concerts-gig, it had been fun for a while. But now we all started getting more than a bit bored with being the watchers, rather than the watched, if ya catch my drift. And even though the band’s "live-gig well" had done dried up more than a wee bit. Still, in our hearts none of us really wanted to end our musical careers as a pack of professional ushers, capisce?
It was time for us 3 Mamas to musically step up to the plate, fish or cut bait, up the ante, poop or get off the pot, and all that other kind of rah-rah horsepucky.
And so it was at this juncture, dear reader, that our new shinin' star appeared on the scene: