Welcome to the Big Leagues - History Part 4
We had just finished the previous weekend at the Fillmore with the Mindbenders and The Grateful Dead. This was our second trip to the Fillmore and the first time our names had appeared on a show poster. It was not a spectacular poster by any means ... a lot of purple and yellow, but there we were, playing with the big guys up in the city. We came on stage first; opening up with a cover of a very obscure Stones song that had never been released in the States. Sean had found it on a Japanese EP on one his overnight trips to LA. It was called "Sad Day". As usual, our set rocked and roared. "I'm Not Like Everybody Else", "Keep On Running", I'm A Man", "Smokestack Lightning" somehow turning into "Going Home", "Season of the Witch", "Mystic Eyes", "Little Red Book". We played two sets that night. We opened the first hour and then came the Dead. One hour and three songs later, we came back on with a more liquid set.
My main problem with the Dead was that I was never stoned enough to ever uncover or appreciate any of their hidden genius. I always thought of them as a really bad country and western band that had accidentally taken too much acid. I was just too impatient to hang around twenty or thirty minutes to find out how a song ended. The rest of the group thought the Dead was just about the most amazing bunch of drug addicts to ever hit the stage together at the same time. They partied every weekend with them. I learned my lesson that Saturday night about partying with the Dead. They put acid in everything and on anything. At their house, someone might have rubbed a tab on the toilet paper...on a door knob or all over someone's bare breasts. You never knew. It was just one big joke. That night, at their house, there was an industrial party going on. Jerry was in one corner of the living room playing acoustic guitar...women wandered around topless with flowered bell bottoms and bare feet or naked with beads and silk scarves draped all over their bodies....everybody loved everybody else and was out to prove it.
Bill, Mark and Sean had dropped acid before they got there. Sean and Mark disappeared into a back bedroom with two girls dressed like Indian maidens. Billy was under the table playing air bass, which looked more like he was losing a wrestling match with a giant invisible octopus. Gary had vanished. I was on my own. I was standing in the hallway wondering who had the keys to the van when out of nowhere, a tall, thin pretty girl with long red hair and a see-through blouse floated over and kissed me softly on the lips. Then she laughed like a mischievous fairy in a Mid-Summer's Night Dream. She said her name was Mara in a voice that sounded like a shallow brook running over small pebbles. Oh yeah, she was also eating a stick of butter like it was a candy bar! She offered me a bite and I don't know why, I took it. (DANGER Will Robinson!) Sean's new girlfriend and later his wife that he had picked up earlier that evening at the Fillmore squeezed past us asking if we'd seen Sean. As she saw me take a small bite from the butter she remarked sarcastically."Where are you two from, Oklahoma?" The remark never phased Marna. She had that look in her eyes that cows get when a train suddenly passes by. "What the hell was that?" She just smiled and said "I think the Indians are smoking your mans' peace pipe in that back room there. They're having a big pow wow." Then, she turned back to me and proceeded to tell me about her amazing ability to fly. She told me how beautiful Golden Gate Park was at night as she flew over the treetops sometimes landing in a giant redwood to rest when the fog came in. You always had to be careful when flying around the Golden Gate Bridge because sometimes soldiers at the Presidio would shoot at you.
As I listened, a thought came into my transfixed mind. I hope she is stoned right now and not permanently messed up like this because she is really beautiful. But before I could say any of the words that were now drifting out of my mouth like giant cartoons, she floated away from me and before my very eyes, turned into a shiny green mermaid with a golden wings and beautiful waving tentacles for arms. With a smile and a wink from one of her many hypnotic orange eyes, she began melting like a snowman on Venus into the rug - flowing out the door like a blue-green ocean with tiny chrome fish leaping out of the water filling the room like fireflies. I watched my feet melt into her retreating waters and flow away from me as if they were entering a black hole in space. Somehow for the next few hours, all the molecules in our bodies mixed together forming one new, insatiable creature. After all, this was the House of the Dead and all it had taken was a single kiss.
The following Tuesday, our equipment had been set up and we were getting ready to rehearse. That coming weekend we were playing with the Syndicate and the Jaguars at the Continental. The Syndicate was riding high with "Hey Little Girl" and they were getting lots of airplay on the local San Jose station KLIV. We hadn't even been into a recording studio yet. Were we jealous? No. After playing with the Syndicate about a month earlier, we felt we were now equal with them as far as stage performances. We both had been influenced by many of the same artists but we always saw the Syndicate as much better musicians, much more polished stage performers, much better singers and much better dressers in their pin striped suits. To us, they were the elite of the cover groups. They could learn a new Stones or Beatle's song and play it that same night just after it had been released. It drove the audience nuts. Their Beatle covers SOUNDED just like the Beatles! Their Stones covers sounded just like the Stones! We had never seen any other group capable of pulling that off.
But a month earlier, something inside us told us we had changed. Now, there wasn't anybody in the Bay Area that could outperform us. We were ready for the next step and in it came that night wearing Ron Roupes' shoes ... "Hi fellas", was the way he always started a conversation. "I have some good news for you. Tomorrow you're leaving for LA to record your first album."