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The Band: Against the Grain

When it comes to defining debut albums, there’s no question that the first one from the band, known as the Band, is a masterpiece. But what makes it, or the group in question, so special, anyway? Simply put, there wasn’t anything conventional about either the band or the album they’d released in the summer of ’68. First of all, their look: five guys that looked nothing like the psychedelic stars of the era from which they came. Apparent country gentlemen, whose approach to making music wasn’t flashy either. That’s one of the reasons they decided that the first song listeners would hear when the needle dropped on side one of their debut would be a slow and soulful song called “Tears of Rage,” co-written with Bob Dylan. According to drummer Levon Helm, it was the Band’s way of rebelling against the psychedelic rock of the era. It was a decision they would not only eventually prompt Rolling Stone Magazine to rank their debut, the “34th greatest album of all-time,” it was also the album that moved Eric Clapton so much, it prompted him to fold Cream and opt for an ensemble approach to making music. The classic album by four Canadians and that drummer from Arkansas, known as Music from Big Pink.

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto


Derek and the Dominos: Layla

For a long, long time, Eric Clapton wanted the things that other men, powerful men, had. Incredible cars and careers. The feeling was nothing new to Eric. As a kid, when his mother revealed that he had a half brother, he wanted his toys. They seemed more expensive and better. And the same sort of feelings extended to women. In the summer of 1970, Eric found himself without a band and without a girlfriend, at least without one he was in love with. Playing and getting high and writing songs were about all he did. With the guys that would become known as the Dominos, and with George Harrison, Eric would find himself at his house, flirting with George’s wife. And flirting turned into a phone call during which Clapton spilled the beans, telling her she was the one he wanted. She told him it wasn’t possible, she was married to George. In the same breath, invited him over to talk. It might have been his excitement and it might have been the red wine, but either way, when Clapton left, he crashed his Ferrari into the fence, flipped it over and somehow walked away without a scratch. He also walked away wanting what wasn’t his even more.

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto

Jimi Hendrix & Eric Clapton

While he has fans everywhere in the world, it’s really tough to find one bigger than Eric Clapton. Eric will never forget after his band Cream returned to London, having just finished their second album and being very excited about it, once he heard the first Jimi Hendrix album, Clapton was certain it was all anyone wanted to hear. It was not only the beginning of Eric’s disenchantment of England, it served to stoke the fire of his true bromance with Jimi Hendrix. How close were they? Put it this way: One day Eric went out and bought a left-handed Fender Strat guitar, nice white one, intending generously to give it to Jimi as a gift. He brought it along to a Sly & the Family Stone concert, certain Jimi would be there; he was not. The next day came the news that Hendrix had died, leaving Eric Clapton angry and upset and filled with a feeling of terrible loneliness over the loss of his friend.

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto

Eric Clapton Meets Lennon

It’s the middle of the sixties and Eric Clapton, now lead guitarist with the Yardbirds, is about to meet the Beatles for the very first time, backstage at the Odeon in London. Paul was the ambassador in the band, friendly to Eric and singing new half-written songs about scrambled eggs – ended up being “Yesterday.” George and Eric became fast friends too. The Beatles’ lead guitarist showed Eric his collection of Gretsch guitars. Eric showed him his light-gauge strings – gave him some too. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. But when it came to meeting the Beatles’ leader, things went a little differently. Eric was on his way to the Hammersmith to see the Beatles again, and he took the underground. On his way, he met an elderly American woman who was lost. The conversation led to Eric taking her along to see the Beatles. They arrived at the Beatles’ dressing room and everyone was friendly – except John. When John saw Eric with this older woman, he totally acted bored. And would you believe John then started to pretend he was “spanking the monkey.” Eric was embarrassed, insulted, and although he and Lennon would become friends eventually, more or less, he thought twice about who he’d bring around to meet the Beatles.

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto

Thoughts… A Little Music Rant

Most music comes from poor Southern folk. Rock and roll is a mix of blues and country. Blues comes from poor black folk, which even before that, came from old black folk songs, originating from the US slaves, and prisoners. Country comes from poor white folk, which came from hillbillies, and even before that, the Irish, with some Scots and Brits. You can trace all American music back to the South. Poor people make music. The only genres I can think of nowadays that basically have no roots, especially poor Southern roots, is this bullshit electronic/techno/no substance pop music. Hell, even hip hop came from the poor. I think it’s important that we acknowledge these roots, because most of the originators of rock and roll are old now and won’t be around much longer. Thank God for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even the “grunge” people are in their fifties now. I think people like Nicki Minaj, Drake, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, etc, should be so ashamed of themselves for creating music that has ruined multiple generations already, with no regard for people, instrumentation, women, or intelligent thought. What gets put through people’s heads today is absolute trash. I will point out that rock and roll is known for its excess, loose women, drugs, overdoses, etc, but I absolutely love it. I have no problem with “Under My Thumb” by the Rolling Stones. In fact, it’s one of my favorite songs. And I would still love them even if all their songs were about that. The difference is that the Stones are pioneers. They’ve changed lives, taken lives, moved people. They do all the worst things and the best things to people, and therefore are significant. Today’s music is white noise. It’s background party music. They won’t change the world. They won’t inspire millions (literally) to buy Cuban-healed chelsea boots, wear their hair long, participate in civil rights rallies, do LSD, be free and lustful, buy records, live, die. It’s hollow. Machines are hollow. People who are in it for the money are hollow. There’s no soul anywhere. These black bluesmen and hillbillies didn’t give America music so that we could use a computer and make fifteen songs in fifteen minutes. They gave it to us to move us. You know? Bring joy or sorrow to people’s lives, or their own. Not so that some wormy little kid can get famous on YouTube for posting their electronic music. Real music comes from musicians. Musicians who spent hours as kids listening to music, being loners or showmen, working in shitty clubs and bars for five years, until they finally get noticed. They work their asses off, creating on the piano, guitar, bass, drums, microphone, until they realize they fucking suck, and then try harder and become magnificent.
The Beatles gave America their music back to them in the early sixties. It’s time for somebody to give us back our music.

The GTO’s, Groupies, Rolling Stone, Feb. 15, 1969

This is pg. 17 of the famous Groupies edition of Rolling Stone from 1969.

Pg. 17

The GTO’s

The GTOs are a sociological creation of Frank Zappa’s. He didn’t create the GTOs; he merely made a “group” of them… and now is presenting them in concert as well as recording them. According to Frank, G.T.O. stands for Girls Together Occasionally, Girls Together Often, or Girls Together Only are lesbians. But the GTOs (the group) are not lesbians; they are merely girls who happen to like other girls’ company.The GTOs in all their freaky splendor are… outasite. Each has a personality all her own, and together they are not to be believed — tummeling, chattering, laughing, telling stories, leaping about. The visceral reaction is full freak, but once you get into it, you don’t even notice.
“Girls don’t show the emotions like they should,” one of the girls said. “When I say, ‘Sandra, you have the most beautiful breasts in the world,’ that’s not homosexual, it’s just what I feel. You know how it is when you don’t have a boyfriend and there’s a girl there to hold your hand, to kiss you, to say nice things to you. It’s so important.”
Sparky says, “We don’t ignore each other at all.”
Cinderella says: “We compliment each other. There are closer relationships between girls than boys.’
Mercy says: “We love boys to death. But you shouldn’t be pushed into things. Some people think we’re dukes and they’re disappointed when they find out we aren’t.”
Miss Christine says: ‘This is Hollywood, and Hollywood’s Hollywood… but in Ohio, maybe they aren’t ready for this. We’re trying to spread out philosophy.”

Mercy’s Story: She first went to the Fillmore Auditorium when it first opened, moving into the Haight-Ashbury when she was 16 1/2, leaving her family in one of the San Francisco suburbs. She remained in the Haight until 1967, hanging out on the street, panhandling, very much a part of the scene, spending a lot of time in Golden Gate Park. During 1966-67 she spent six months in juvenile hall, in several installments. “All the things my parents thought I would avoid by being there in jail, I learned in jail,” she says. ‘My parents didn’t care; they thought jail’d be good for me. So I was in with dykes and junkies and the rest. I finally left the Haight when it lost its magic. Besides, I couldn’t see being a hippie the rest of my life. In 1967 she moved to Laguna Beach, traveling back and forth to S.F. and then to New York for five days in the fall of that year, finally returning to LA, where she now lives in room No. 229 of the Landmark Hotel (one of the motels where groups stay) with Miss Christine and Cinderella. Mercy is a heavy girl, with a predilection for loose-fitting clothing made from antique (sometimes rotting) cloth, boots, and black eye makeup looking as if it were applied with a canoe paddle.
Sandra’s Story: Sandra is a native Southern Californian and she joined “the scene” by hanging out at the (?), a now-defunct coffee shop in Hermosa Beach. She also frequented (with Miss Christine) a similar place called the Intangible Tangerine, where, she says, “everybody was insane.” She’s from San Pedro, “where everybody cruises.” She moved in with Tony Melendy, a Santa Monica sculptor. For a while she was in art school somewhere, and finally she found her way to Tom Mix’s old house in Laurel Canyon. At the time, Carl Orestes Franzoni (“he is freaky right down to his toenails,” Zappa said in the liner notes of Freak Out!) was living there in one of LA’s wilder communes. (The house rents for $700 a month and later Zappa moved in, gathering his own commune to support that of Franzoni’s.) Miss Christine had been reunited with Sandra by now and they lived together in the vault in the basement of the house (right next to the bowling alley.) Her “fave raves” are Bob Dylan and Calvin (who is the artist Zappa uses for all advertising and album cover art.)
Miss Christine’s Story: She, too was born in San Pedro, of Yugoslav parents. She was a “sickly kid,” she says, and had a “big complex about being skinny.” (She is tall and lean, the type of girl who would have been called “beanpole” by her schoolmates.) “Pop music brought it all together for me socially,” she said. “It brought people together, it gave me friends.” She says she is the cold, cruel one in the group, but she’s not. She’s bright and quite outgoing. She met Zappa when he returned to LA from New York for a concert, when she was living in Franzoni’s commune. “We talk about groups a lot,” she said. “That’s because it’s glamorous and because we’re very young. If you have a fave rave in a band, it’s like having a soldier in the war; you write him letters and you worry about him.” When Zappa returned to LA for good, she became his housekeeper and governess to Moon Unit, Frank’s daughter. “Mercy and I sent the Velvet Underground a dozen roses with our pictures on the back,” she said. “You can’t be subtle.” Miss Christine loves clothing and makes all her own, which can only be described as junkshop harlequin. The night of our interview she was wearing a knitted patchwork jump suit in a hundred colors, colored pipe cleaners coiled into her frizzed character; not a bad description.
Pamela’s Story: It started with Elvis, she said, when Elvis went “off to war” and she marked the days off one-by-one for two years on a calendar hanging in her bedroom. Later, she sent Paul McCartney a poem every day for several months. She also fell in love with Chris Hillmn (Byrds), and once took him some soup. Still another time she “chased the Stones” and once banged on Mick Jagger’s hotel room door… she kept on banging, so he came to the door and opened it and he was nude… and she ran down the hall. She is from Los Angeles (the San Fernando Valley) and grew up there with the “greaser groups.” She studied acting for a while. Her fave rave is Nick St. Nicholas of Steppenwolf, and one side of their upcoming single (on the Bizarre label), is called “Ooo Ooo Man,” a song written about this blonde bass player she loves. (Nick doesn’t know about it.) Pamela has kept a diary reflecting her interest in groups and according to the Plaster Casters of Chicago, it’s beautiful. Pamela is blonde and fragile, yet hearty.
Cinderella: Isn’t sure of her story. “I’m the chronic liar in the group,” she said. “Frank said write fourteen songs and I did,” she said at another point. “I can’t remember anything.” “I don’t know what you can put down.” “I don’t know how old I am, I’m from everywhere. I have no fave raves.” Cinderella is a little “spaced” by somebody else’s terms; gentle and sad. She apparently writes most of the GTO’s material, as indicated; she has chopped blonde hair and likes diaphanous mini-dresses.
Sparky has always liked all music, she said, emphasis on all. Along with Sandra and some one named Miss Lucy they danced together at clubs (Cheetah, etc), wearing diapers. They became known (to Frank Zappa) as the GTOs… and later Frank broadened the size of the group of dancers and introduced them as the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company. (They appeared with him at least twice; at the (?) and the Cheetah.) “Frank just saw us dancing, I guess,” Sparky said. Sparky is small and dark and sexy.

As Rolling Stone’s photographer took photo after photo, the dialogue was as scattered s the poses they hit. “I’m the Mae West of 1968,” says Mercy. Then: “No, I’m the Theda Bara.” Sandra says: “I’m the Italian widow of the group” Someone else says: “I’m the bull dyke of the group.” (All describing Jimmy Carl Black as the “Indian of the group.”) A radio was playing in the background. “Ahhhhh… Smokey Robinson!” “Wake up, little Suzie…” Sing-along time, and trading stories about groups, between leaping and posing and making commands, and laughing a lot.
What they have going for them is, really, a dream come true. They’re a group now. Making records. Appearing in public. Once it had been decided they would be known (on future Billboard charts) as the GTOs, they rehearsed nearly every night for two months. The act debuted at the Shrine Exposition Hall here a few weeks ago was beautifully choreographed and so what if one of the Mothers thinks they’re astonishingly (?), can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
















Groupies, Rolling Stone, Feb. 15, 1969

The scan of this page did not include the page before, which explains the first sentence. This is pg. 12 of the famous Groupies issue of Rolling Stone from 1969.

Pg. 12

…with the younger ones, that’s really like a desperate attempt at getting something out of the group, instead of relying on her judgment for the one guy she did dig.”

Q: Does the name “groupie” bother you?

Anna: Oh, probably because you see what most other groupies are into and you just don’t want to be associated with it. I mean, it’s just so basic with most chicks. They just know that person is on stage, they don’t know his name — or maybe they’ve read it — and they haven’t even taken the time to figure out if his guitar is a bass or lead. Well, like I’m lucky enough to know. Usually, unless I’m really wiped out, I can tell what’s happening up there. That’s why I don’t like the term groupie. It covers a very wide range of women.

“Really being a groupie” says one chick who is a groupie by the way she lives, if not by her own description, “is like borrowing a series of lives from people and thinking you can be them. It’s not something you can do. That’s why groupie chicks are so miserable. It’s a constant frustration, the groupie scene. Even when you’re balling some cat, you’re not balling him, and he’s not balling you, it’s really just two people on different planes with different needs and different fantasies.”

Q: What’s the appeal for a chick in groupie-ing?

Sally: In plastic terms — in sensual terms — where can you get more sensations? You get to ball, smoke dope, dress weird, be groovy, be around nothing but groovy people — all at once.

A fine little girl
She waits for me
She’s as plastic as she can be
She paints her face
with plastic goo
And wrecks her hair with shampoo
Plastic people
Oh, baby now-
You’re such a drag
– Frank Zappa, “Plastic People”

Star-fuckers are lowest on the totem pole of groupiedom, badly regarded by the other girls and musicians alike. Their designation says it all: they ball with the super stars of the pop world only so they can then say they balled  Mr. H, Mr. D, L., McC., H. and S., Mr. D, Br., B., J., J., W., R., and W., Mr. M., Mr. B., and Mr. R. and Mr. M. for good measure. (No one claims to have made it with Mr. T.T.) It’s like notches in the star-fuckers belt, like saving bubble gum trading cards. Groupies are such incredible name droppers. It’s impossible to be sure how much is truth and how much is fantasy. You’ve got to be careful talking with a lot of groupies. The way they tell it, it always went their way — in their favor.
For star-fuckers, it’s a competitive thing that has very little to do with getting to know the musician; it’s the same instinct that motivates butterfly collectors: “Okay, I got one of those, now I want one of these.”
Recounted by Henri: “Groupies tend to hang together, whereas star-fuckers are usually social lovers. A bunch of groupies will form a clique and discourage star-fuckers from being in the vicinity of the dressing rooms and hotel rooms as best they can. Star-fuckers have worlds of patience and will wait for hours to fuck their heroes.”
Star-fuckers are balling names, not people, and this basically inhuman quest is not lost upon the musicians, who tend, naturally enough, to think of themselves as people first and Symbols second, especially in bed. Star-fucking is the essential part of the Los Angeles scene, integral to New York, tangential with exceptions, to San Francisco.
Lucy: In Los Angeles they just hang around. They only want to be seen with a guy. They’re young girls and they don’t know what they want. They’ll hang out with a band where the guys are really gross, but, you know, he’s a star, so later you can go back to your friends and rap.
“Sure, some chicks are just star-fuckers,” says Country Joe McDonald, “But it doesn’t matter what their motivation is, you know. There’s these times when they come around after somethin’ and you’re after somethin’ too, so you get together and everybody’s happy. Groupies are beautiful. They come to hear you play, they throw flowers and underpants, they give you kisses and love, they come to bed with you. They’re beautiful. We love groupies.”
Anna: I’m very aggressive. I don’t know anything of waiting for them to come out on stage and grabbing their arms or copping a feel and telling them what I want. Why shouldn’t you? Why play those little games? Like, if they dig you and dig what you’re into, they’ll say, groovy, come on. And backstage you go and turn on with them.”

Your friends they are making
A pop star or two – every evening
You know that scene backwards
They just can’t see the patterns
They’re weaving…

And you sit in your one room
A little brought down in London
Coffee on, milk gone
Such a sad light and fading

Yourself you touch, but not too much
You hear it’s degrading…

You are lonely-
Well you are but a young girl
Working your way through the phonies
– Donovan, “Young Girl Blues

Groupies tend to think about themselves as unselfish vehicles of love, but those who’ve studied the groupie ethos see them otherwise. ‘They treat sex the same way an accountant treats his new Buick,” says Los Angeles Free Clinic psychologist Gerald Rochman, “as a status symbol.” The whole thing can be seen in a homosexual perspective, to the extent the chick is balling rock stars simply to be able to brag to her girlfriends.In some cases, this may be coupled with negative feelings toward both the musician and his success. “They may,” says Rochman, “feel anger or envy, and by sleeping with these fellows, they’re showing the gods have clay feet.”

Groupie slang (which derives from rock talk!) might seem to bear this out by its violent undertone. When a groupie talks about sleeping with somebody, she will often say she hit him — a term which derives from gangster talk. When the Mafia hits a cat, he’s dead. Even among friends, like Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Sally Mann, who hangs out with the band, an air of (mock) brutality comes naturally. Jorma stood at the head of the stairs at Airplane House speaking with some people and Sally, at the foot, was giving him some hassle about something. “You better watch it, little girl,” he said, flicking open a switchblade, “or I’ll carve my initials in your backside.”
“Then I’d always know who did it,” she laughed.
“Then everybody would know,” Jorma replied.

“Within a certain subculture in San Francisco,” says Dr. David Smith, head of the Haight Ashbury Medical Clinic, “rock is the basic art form. The musicians are the high priests of the community. Janis Joplin is the high priestess. The structure of the community is mediated through the art form and all activities revolve around the bands. Now, sex is no big deal within the community,” the psych-pharmacologist stresses. “it’s just part of the whole sharing process. They share food, houses, drugs, houses, money, sex. If it were a sex cult thing, the rest of it wouldn’t exist — the whole structure of the community.”It’s the same as straight culture, in a way, where the bankers are attractive to young girls. They’ve got the money and the power. In this community, rock musicians occupy that role.”

Anna: Groupies are mainly concerned with themselves and the images they’re giving off to their friends… when it started, it was an ego thing, where if I could really get into a band that came to town, I thought my friends would really think I was really groovy and far-out for someone like that to notice me. It was a challenge — of course, it was a challenge. But that wears off. That’s one of the first things that wears off.

Being a groupie is not nothing but laughs; it is, in some ways at least, a Life of Pain.
One San Francisco groupie (she didn’t want her name used, so call her Victoria0 serves as a good example of one thing that can happen when you go around balling a different cat every week-end, three or four times. You wind up — she wound up — pregnant and, nine months later found herself enduring the pain of the maternity ward. Her baby boy is now two. “God, I was in love with that cat,” says Victoria of the father. “In fact, I still am. His whole life revolves around music. He’s got no time for a kid, I haven’t put any demands on him. I was 15 when David was born and I wanted to keep him. But never again would I keep a child. Never again have a child out of wedlock. Oh, you don’t know how hard it is when you’ve got a kid and you’ve got to earn a living and you’re 15. I’ve done it all by myself. You find your family isn’t too sympathetic when they learn the details. I feel sorry for any other chick who gets herself into this kind of scene.” Victoria frowned a little, shut her huge blue eyes and added, more softly, “It’s awful but I’ll put on a certain record and one of those songs comes on — and I just break into tears and cry like a baby.”
The way she says this, Victoria is clearly feeling sorry for herself, but she says it without expression or inflection — as if she’s lived it too long to get excited about it; but she does want other chicks to know, “First I get mad and say, That motherfucker, and then I bawl and bawl.
“I was 14 when I first started balling guys. Jumped in with both feet. I didn’t know what I was doing. Somebody gave me some birth control pills and I would just take one or two before I was going to ball.” The result of it, Victoria feels, is that she never had a teen-age. “I never went to a football game or a prom. Not once. There’s a whole life that I missed.”

I can see that you’re fifteen years old
I don’t want your ID
I can see that you’re
So far from home — but
That’s no hangin’ matter
It’s no capital crime
Oh yeah, you’re a stray, stray cat
Come to scratch my back
You’re a stray, stray cat
Betcha mama don’t know you can scream like that
I betcha mama don’t know you can spread like that…
I bet yer mama dunno ya can scratch like that
I bet yer mama don’t know you can bite like that
Say you got a friend and she’s wilder than you?
Why dontcha bring her upstairs
If she’s so wild that she can join in too
It’s no hangin’ matter…
– Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, “Stray Cat Blues”