“Uh, hello” I’m uh, is this uh, by any chance, I’m trying to find Dave Aguilar, uh the Dave Aguilar that used to sing in the Chocolate Watchband …. is this the right phone number by any chance?”
“I’m sorry, he’s moved away and I don’t know his new address”.
“Oh man, my name is Bobby McAllister, and I live in Ohio and I’m 15 years old and I think he and the Chocolate Watchband are just about the best band I ever heard in my life and I just wanted to tell him that. I listen to their music all the time and I just wanted to know if that was Dave playing harmonica in “Sweet Young Thing” and why the band broke up.”
“Yes I believe it was Dave playing harmonica but I’m sorry, I don’t know why they broke up.”
“Oh, OK – but if you ever see him will you tell him I called and I really dig him man!”
“Sure, I’ll let him know - goodbye”.
And then I hang up the phone and think about Morocco.
It was the beginning of April and I was half way around the world. Bill Clinton was our new President I had traveled through Spain to Portugal and had crossed over to Tangiers by boat in a pitching, rolling sea. After a brief four-hour layover, I was to be on my way by train to Fez. Tangiers had been horrible. Departing the ferry and walking 500 yards to the train station, I had been accosted, cajoled and finally convinced that I needed a tour of the city while I waited for the train. My guide had been amicable, friendly, he spoke good English and was more than happy to show me around for the small sum of ten dollars. Sounded good to me. Off we went. Within minutes, wandering underground through the intertwined tunnels and souks, I realized without this guy, I was never getting out of here. When I finally did, almost four hours later, I had been to three carpet stores where I had been threatened, almost to the point of violence, to buy one of their carpets. How I made it out without one, I’m still not sure. When I got to the train station and offered my guide and extra $5 tip for bringing me back, I realized his whole demeanor had changed. He was scowling and very angry. When I offered to pay him, he pulled a knife and said he was insulted. I should have bought a carpet because he would have received a much larger tip. He wanted $50 US or I would get stabbed. In a very loud, cool voice, almost shouting, I said “You’re going to stab me with a knife if I don’t give you money? What the hell is this? Who the hell are you?” Here’s the ten dollars we agreed upon for the tour now get the hell out of my face!” With that I turned my back on him and walked away as forty or fifty other folks milling around us watched with mouths wide open. I never looked back as I stepped on the train. It wasn’t till we had pulled out of the station and were rolling through the beautiful countryside covered in green grass and brilliant wildflowers, that I could breathe again.
I was in a small train compartment with polished wood walls and wine colored plush seats. Seated across from me was an older woman dressed in black. She was peeling a big orange for the two small children that were seated next to her. Seated next to and across from her, in front of the window, were two younger men, probably in their early 20’s. They seemed to me to be travelling together. Both were Brits, both sported multiple piercings and old worn out patched denim jackets with “The Clash” embroidered on one of them and “The Sex Pistols Live Forever” painted on the other one. Both had Walkmans and what caught my attention was their heated and animated conversation. They were discussing, in critical terms, just what bands they felt had influenced their bands. Names of bands I had never heard of were bandied around. I supposed they were all British until one name caught my ear … The Watchband …. I interrupted them for a moment and said, “Excuse me. Are you talking about the Chocolate Watchband by any chance?” ‘Why yes, why? Do you know about them – they’re quite big in the UK you know but rather obscure in the States where they came from. “ I told them yes, I had heard of them and I liked some of their music. I showed my brilliance by saying I thought it was some of the best psychedelic garage rock ever recorded. They both thought about it for a moment and then agreed with me. Then, they turned, away almost in unison, completely ignoring me, and plugged in their Walkmans and tuned the rest of the train trip out. I never said another word to them. I just thought in my mind, how is it I’m half-way around the world and I’m hearing about my band 25 years later. Goddamn it Mark Loomis! What a fool you were!
Why do things come apart? At what point does a love relationship become one of deceit or hate or anger? Why do some people say “Black” when you say “White”? Why do some bands stay together until even their biggest fans wish they would die? What is the glue that holds groups together? I believe it’s Sex, Drugs, Ego and Music. What is it that pulls great bands apart? The same thing - Sex, Drugs, Ego and Music.
SEX – One day you’re just a guy trying everything under the sun to be noticed by girls. You buy a cool car, you wear cool clothes, you become a jock in high school, learn to dance, learn to talk, squeeze your zits every night and go to bed with Clearasil pasted all over your face. You do anything you possibly can including jumping off a roof if you have to just to get noticed. Then, you join a band. For a while you have the guys to hang with, They’re cool, so you’re cool too. Who needs girls? You spend untold hours together practicing, talking music, shopping, hanging out together checking out other bands…sizing them up, tearing them down, learning from them, and just dreaming. All of a sudden, you become much more aware of the girls around you. You can feel it when some of them check you out. They are CHECKING me OUT! And, the best part, you are with your buds and you can all talk about it later. “Did you see the tits on that one?” Yeah, she was really checking you out. I know man, that’s too cool. Hey – hey look at that one. Man she’s hot. She’s going with Don Baskin of the Syndicate isn’t she? Yeah, nobody’s touching her except him! And in your mind you say, I want to be just like Don Baskin. I want girls like that hanging around me. And then, one day, they are. Where did they all come from? Each guy in the band suddenly has his own harem following him and hanging around after the shows. Is there a party tonight? Can we come along? Sometimes you spot them in the audience. Their eyes and your eyes lock together. Oh yeah, after the show you’re mine. It’s amazing to watch a woman move as she stands at the front of the stage looking up at you. She hugs herself, rubs her hands up and down her arms, shifts from one hip to the other, swivels left then right all the while her eyes are looking at you and only you. Her mouth is open showing her white teeth. When she runs her tongue over her lips its almost as if she had just tasted you and is savoring what she found. And the one behind her is doing the same thing. The thought races through your mind. Can I pull it off? I mean two in one night? Can I do it without the other one knowing? The amazing thing is that each guy has his own set of women. Each, for some totally mystical reason known only to nature, has picked that one and only guy to fixate on. She won’t wander very often to any other guy in the band. Something about him and only him drives her nuts. She has to be him. I never liked the word “groupies” because I thought it was too demeaning a term for anyone to carry around. If guys liked your band, they’d come up and talk to you about your equipment, about the songs you played or the other groups they’d seen. They would even ask if you needed help with the equipment and volunteer. Girls never said anything about the music or the equipment and only once did I have one talk to me about another band. She told me, rather proudly, she’d had an abortion carrying Roger Daltry’s baby after a one- night stand. I guess that was supposed to impress the hell out of me or something but it really didn’t. It made me wonder why in the hell was she so stupid to get pregnant in the first place? There was something called the pill, you know.
The situation with bands and sex was that there were some girls nobody cared if every guy in the band and the roadies slept with her, maybe even in the same night. They were invisible to us. Sometimes you ran into them on the road. Sometimes you saw them at local shows or afterwards at parties. Invariably, they were always with some other guy but somehow made it be known that they were open to being with you too. Then there were the women that were never there at every show, but when they were, you belonged to them. The guys in the band knew these women, they respected that they were with one particular member and they didn’t try to hit on them. Granted, each guy could have four or five of these women , and it was sometimes very awkward when two showed up on the same night. But a resourceful guy could arrange it so that the first two hours after a show were spent with one in the sauna or at a party and the rest of the night with the other one in her bedroom.
Sex problems could arise between band members when invisible, unspoken boundaries between women and men were violated. Vickie was slight in build, had the whitest skin and the longest straightest blonde hair that framed one of the prettiest faces a man could ever hope see. On top of it, she exuded sensuality. We first met her one afternoon at Mark’s house, when we came over to practice. Mark told us he had been seeing her for the past two weeks and he really liked her. Now Mark was not the studliest of guys. He didn’t have that lusty macho attitude about him. He was very bright, calculating but kinda quiet, pensive, moody and occasionally acerbic. He had delicate hands that had probably never seen any manual labor or caught a football or baseball in his life. He lived with his mother and we had been told numerous times that we could not come over to the house in the morning because Mark had some sort of inherited sleeping disorder from his dad and he could not be awakened before noon. And when you did wake him, it took a while for him to get out of bed. He was goofy around Vickie. And come to think of it, I think the guys kinda resented it. Very rarely did we ever bring women to practice. They might visit but they never stayed. That was something between us and nobody else. There would be arguments, disagreements, negotiations, tantrums, renegotiations, alliances formed and dissolved…you know, all the stuff that we face everyday in life. But those were our private moments that never showed on stage. Now to have a girlfriend open to all of this, that was a mistake.
HUMAN NATURE 101
What do you get when you place five Alpha males in a closed room with one very attractive, sensual and sexually free female. In one way or another, during the course of the next few hours, every guy in that room is going to make it known to her that HE IS THE ONE leading the group. And two days later, when she dumps Mark and jumps into the bed and becomes the permanent lover of one of the other band members …
an•ger (ang’ger), n 1. A strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a real wrong leading to wrath and trouble.
dis•as•ter (di zas’ter), n 1. a calamitous event, esp. one occurring suddenly and causing great loss of life, damage or hardship.
Take your pick. Or, select both.
DRUGS- For listening to music, watching a movie, making love or driving down coast Highway 1 with Pink Floyd turned up full on the radio, they can be fun. For performing music, jumping out of airplanes or trying to define yourself as a musician, they suck. Drugs are a recipe for absolute, guaranteed failure. Just ask Mark.
EGOS-Egos are the power units of rock and rollers. You gotta have a huge ones or its never gonna work. Your ego is what tells you its OK to get up on stage and perform a song you don’t know the words to. It is the unshakeable belief that you are better than someone else and the world needs to know it. Ego is what got us into trouble with the Seeds. The Watchband always had a set pattern for starting a rehearsal. First, we all gathered for practice around 6 PM. We never practiced on weekends. Those were reserved for performing. Mark was always the first to show up because, well, he lived there! Gary was punctual as hell because he lived two miles away. Bill was as good at telling time as Gary and he usually made it by six also. I was in school and sometimes arrived a little late but never after seven. Sean, well how do you hold the wind in your hand? Sometimes he stayed at Marks’ - sometimes he stayed at a new girlfriends’ house, sometimes he just decided to hop a jet and fly down to LA to see what new releases were in the stores. He was the oldest, had been in the Marines and he was his own person. He was totally independent. He was open to every distraction that came his way especially if it was wearing a dress and no underwear. Consequently, we sometimes started practice without him.
Here is how a typical session might go. We arrived, went into the garage, got started. It was that cut and dried. If it was a Monday, first thing we had to do was set up the equipment from the past weekends’ performance. That usually took about a half an hour. While we were doing that, we talked. It usually sounded something like this:
Mark: “Bill, did you see that chick that stepped on that guys’ foot and fell down right in front of you during “I’m A Man”?
Bill; “I almost split a gut laughing so hard! I went to G instead of F I was laughing so hard.”
Sean: “I think I dated her once”
David: “Bill – I really liked it when you went to G. I think if you had held it for a few bars and Mark you had jumped in over the top of it – we might have really had something there!”
Gary: “And I can could have come in with a little roll on the highhats..stretched it out a little bit…”
David: “Yeah, exactly”..
Mark: “What if I tried a backwards feed back on it next time – Sean can pick up the rhythm”
Bill: “Yeah and then if David can just gives us the sign when he wants to return to the beat we can all come in together”
Mark: “Yeah, let’s try it!
David: “ OK!”
Sean: “You know that chick, I think I dated her sister too.
Bill: “I almost wet my pants laughing so hard!”....
Many times we would then listen to a new song Mark, Sean or I had brought in with us to see if we wanted to do it. In one evening we were usually able to cover two new songs. Some songs didn’t work. We just couldn’t feel the groove or many times I just couldn’t sing it. If it didn’t feel right, we dumped it. That was it, a non-ceremonial burial at sea. One Thursday evening Sean brought in the new Seeds album and we listened to it. He never intended for us to ever do any of the songs. He just wanted us to hear what was hot in LA at the moment and what the band we were playing with on Friday night at the Continental sounded like. We listened, we laughed. It was one of the simplest albums we had ever heard. I started imitating Sky Saxon by singing “Pushin too hard – Pushin too hard on me” in that whiney high-pitched little voice when Mark picked up his guitar and started playing along with me. Bill was the first to say “I like it! Make it nasty David – make it reallllly nasty!” Suddenly Bill and Gary joined in while Sean sat at the record player grinning from ear to ear. When we stopped, with an even bigger grin he said – why don’t we play it tomorrow night just to show them how it should sound? Wouldn’t that be funny? “Funny my ass”. I said, “Why don’t we learn the whole damn album and really screw with their minds?” That wasn’t me – that was my ego talking. The room was totally silent except for the wheels turning in everybody’s heads. Then, at almost the same exact moment, everybody’s ego yelled “Shit Yeah! Let’s Do IT!” and then we broke into uncontrolled laughter.
We didn’t tell anybody what we were going to do.
The Continental was a roller rink during the daytime. It did not have dressing rooms for bands to sit around and chill out in before a performance. It had two stages, one at each end of the long rectangular hardwood floor. While one band played, the other band set up at the other end. So, about 40 minutes before the Seeds were to go on, and just as they walked in through the far doors to start setting up their equipment, I announced that the Watchband would now like to do a few new songs we hadn’t done before. In fact, we just learned them this afternoon! Sean was nervous. Whenever he got nervous, he clipped his words. All of a sudden, he wasn’t quite sure we could pull this off. Down on the other end we could see the Seeds setting up, paying no attention to us. I thought, how difficult can this be? Every song sounds the about the same. I had the words written out on sheets of paper placed all over the floor next to my mike. Bill was up for it. He thought it was funnier than hell. Gary was ready to try it. He didn’t care. But it was Mark who finally pulled it together. He had memorized in one short day, every song forwards and backwards. He moved behind me and over to Sean with a look of full confidence on his face and said – “Come on man, we can do it. I know every song. If you get lost, just stop and listen to me. We can do this. Fuck em’ if they can’t take a joke!”
We opened with “No Escape”. The Seeds whipped their heads up in unison like four deer drinking from a water hole that just got wind of group of hungry cheetahs standing three steps behind them. Next came “Lose Your Mind, followed by “It’s a Life. Then, “Try to Understand”. Oh it was getting better. We went right down the album. We were having fun. They were pissed! “I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” was nasty and raunchier that even the Seeds could do it. But when we launched into “Pushin’ Too Hard”, with big grins on our faces, the Seeds walked out. Granted, it was a pretty crappy thing to do. We thought it was a lark! Dogs peed on your tree to let you know you were trespassing. The Watchband played your music and stole your women. In retrospect, what we were really saying was that we were better than they were. We could out play them even using their own music. After we finished and walked off stage, nobody started playing on the other end. The stage was empty. The interesting thing about it was that the Seeds, except for “Pushin too Hard”, were almost unknown to the Bay area audiences or the promoters at the Continental. What was the big deal? Why wouldn’t the Seeds play? Only they knew and we knew why. Sky wanted to walk. He couldn’t believe anybody would do that to him. He didn’t see the humor in it. Darryl wanted to walk. He didn’t see it either. It took the promoters almost an hour to get the Seeds back up on stage to play…and they bombed. They truly were a 1 1/2 hit wonders. They never played Northern California again. They didn’t even send us a Christmas card. It broke our hearts.