|"The Chocolate Watchband were too extreme for their own good. . They had no rules bound to themselves. They were fiercely engaging. They were the best of the 60's punk scene."|
Father Sierra was no dummy. As he moved up the California coast from Mexico, he stopped just long enough to build a mission one dayís walk from the previous one. That way, the missionaries from Spain would have a place to rest their weary whips and bibles as they converted the happy, non-violent California Indians into sullen, God fearing Catholics who now carried industrial strength guilt for the rest of their lives.
To make sure the Jesuits could find their way, Spanish soldiers planted golden yellow mustard seeds brought from Spain along the paths to the next nights lodging. All the good fathers had to do was follow the 'yellow brick road' to get where they were going. As we sat in our seats, flying at 24,000 feet above father Sierra's trail that was now called Highway 101, we could see the yellow mustard below us growing wild haphazardly over miles and miles of open countryside. Any Spaniard now going north would have to take highway 101 instead. The mustard was out of control.
The first mistake the airlines had made was giving us free drinks in first class. Bill and I could barely sit in our seats. In fact, for most of the flight, our feet rested on the windowsills. Try getting away with that nowadays. Try being that limber to be able to do it! We toasted Father Sierra, Vasco de Gama, Cortez, Magellan, Ponce de Leon, Bo Diddly and Chuck Berry for making life so good. We were sorry we hadn't brought leaflets along that said "Chocolate Watchband, Oh?" to drop out the windows to the countryside below like leaflets from Messerschmidts. We were tanked. When we landed at LAX, Ron Roupe immediately lost us when he went to get the rental car. It took him almost an hour to finally catch up. He found us in the baggage claims area under the tutelage of two irate security guards that had caught us surfing the luggage conveyor belts. IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: You must lie down on your stomach to get through the draping rubber curtains to get into the back loading areas. If you don't, you will get whacked on the forehead like I did. All in all, it was pretty cool but not quite as exciting as stoking down the face of an 8-footer at Steamer Lane.
Gathering his awol troops, Ron laid down the law. NO MORE DRINKING! NO DRUGS! NO LEAVING ON YOUR OWN! NO RUNNING IN THE HALLWAYS WITH SCISSORS! AND, NO WOMEN IN OUR MOTEL ROOMS! He had said it with such conviction. He said it with such authority. He said it as if he had practiced saying it a hundred times before in the mirror at home. He said it as if any of us were even paying any attention to him. It went in and out our ears faster than a bullet through Jell-O.
Our new home away from home was the beautiful, the spacious, the gorgeous Sunset Orange Motel strategically located on the corner of Sunset and Orange in Hollywood. This is where derelicts stayed when the Salvation Army shelter was closed for the night. It was a drab two-story rectangular cement building with rude orange doors that had all the charm of a giant squashed tarantula. However, strategically located across the street was an International House of Pancakes and three doors down to our right was Hollywood High School! Pancakes and babes all within a rock's throw away! Who could ask for anything more?
You've heard the story that if you put a sleeping person's hand into a bucket of warm water, they will piss their pants? Well, if they fell asleep after drinking two or three dozen beers, it's true. Throughout history, rock bands have taken great pride in their abilities to destroy hotel rooms and play practical jokes on each other just short of life-threatening or inflicting permanent physical damage. We were no different! Now there is strict protocol to practical jokes on the road that must be adhered to or the words "jury trial", "parole" and "bail bondsmen" suddenly become part of your vocabulary. They have to start small and look innocent. For instance, putting Bill's hand into a wastebasket filled with warm water after he had passed out the first night was OK because when he awoke the next morning, he thought he had done it all himself. Lighting up a dozen really cheap and stale cigars and sticking them in the intake vents of the air conditioner to our managers' room on a sweltering night in LA was OK too. Rubbing black shoe polish on the nose of a sleeping band mate so that by morning he has blackheads the size of jelly beans all over his nose is not too cool to start off with. That's one you want to hold on to for a really big laugh right after he has put a wastebasket full of ice cold water on top your partially open bathroom door so it dumped on you when you went to the john in the middle of the night. Then there are the unexpected events ...Like the evening we were shooting matches across the room at each other and one landed in Seanís' hair and set it on fire! Now that's something you just can't go out and do on a regular basis. The worst was probably the time we were all sitting in the IHOP and a fresh pot of REALLY HOT coffee accidentally spilled into Sean's lap. He left a vapor trail running to the bathroom and he got scalded in the most sensitive of areas. Honest Sean wherever you are, I did not do that on purpose!
By late afternoon we had settled most comfortably into our new digs when women started showing up. I really don't know where they came from. Walking from my room over to Mark's, there was a black baby carriage sitting out in the open hallway with a 4 or 5 month old sleeping in it! Stepping though the partially open front door, I was suddenly confronted with Mark's bare white ass bobbing up and down on top of some girl whose widespread feet are vainly trying to touch the ceiling. Later, over dinner, Mark explained, with a big grin on his face, that he started talking to her in front of the highschool and he brought her to the motel room so he could show her his guitars. Boy, did he ever!
On Wednesday morning, July 13, 1966, at 10 AM in the morning, we walked through the front door of American Recording Studios. On our way in, we passed by the tubular green building of Capitol Records. We were like like dogs sticking our heads out the windows of a car looking at the sights, ears and tongues wagging in the wind. We were grinning - we were impressed. This was the real thing! We had never been inside a recording studio before, we were excited. Through the front door, there was a dark short hallway with gold records hanging on walnut paneled walls. Two of them had the names The Four Preps, a group my mom listened to. Through the door at the end of the entryway, we stepped into the control room with a giant black and silver 16-track mixing board facing through double glass windows into a 20' by 20' recording room. Inside two men were in deep concentration alternately draping pieces of carpet over the bass drum and moving different microphones back and forth in front and inside it. One of them I recognized as Ed Cobb. The other was a thin; slightly built man with delicate white complexion that had obviously never seen the light of a Los Angeles day, frail arms and thin fingers with short cropped brown hair and a goatee. He was our engineer, Richie Podlar.
Ed had a thing about bass drums. He believed they powered the song. Late at night, after the band had finished with recording, he would go back and add an extra track beating on the bass drum with the back of a drumstick. That was one of Ed's recording tricks. On the far right wall of the recording studio was a two-foot square wooden door like you would find on an old ice cream freezer. Coming out from a padded hole in the wall underneath it was a series of cables that ran to the recording booth. We were curious. We opened the door and looked inside. It was a small, round cornered cement room about 10' square that looked like the bottom of a swimming pool. Bill climbed inside when nobody was looking. Gary closed the door so he couldnít get out. Bill was stuck inside the soundproof echo chamber. Ron asked where Bill was. I mentioned that I thought he had gone to the bathroom knowing exactly where he was. Ron waited. He had a pep talk and introductions to make. He started to sweat. No Bill. Ron goes to the bathroom to look for him. We open the door, Bill steps out with a silly grin on his face. The room now stinks of dope. Sean steps inside and we close the door behind him. Ron is back. Now where's Sean? Oh he stepped outside for a smoke. Ron goes after him. Mark replaces Sean. This has gone too far. Ron is ready to have a coronary when he finds out Mark is in the bathroom. He stomps off swearing after Mark. Gary and I replace Mark. Just as Gary is about to take another hit on the glowing joint, the door swings open. Ed Cobb's smiling face fills the entryway. He sticks his head further inside, reaches out and takes the joint from Gary's hand and drags a Godzilla hit. He heard us laughing through the microphones in the control room. By this time, Ron is completely flustered, his face the color of a ripe Satsuma plum, and he has forgotten his speech. Ed is humming to himself and smiling, and the rest of us are all quite stoned. It's time to start making serious Rock and Roll!