Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rehearsal Spaces pt. 2

The grocery store didn’t last long. It was depressing anyway. It’s hard to be inspired when the band sounds like crap. If you’ve ever had the feeling of insignificance as you gazed into the infinity of a starry night sky, you’ll get how our tiny group felt illuminated by a couple of bare bulbs in the inky darkness of that vast deserted grocery store. (Whew!)
I was still living with my mother in Soulard. It occurred to me that we had a garage we didn’t use. I think it was really an old stable. There was no electricity and it had a dirt floor. The door slid open and offered little protection from thieves or the elements. Those horses must have frozen.
We powered the whole band with one extension cord. The garage was about two stalls large and we weren’t happy there.
I must have been pissing and moaning about it to my dad, because he offered us his basement. I guess it was summer, because we weren’t aware there was no heat at first.
We threw up sheets to hide ugly objects in the room. My dad lived upstairs in a two family flat that a friend of his owned. You’d open the front door, lift the stairs (like the stairs in the Munsters where Spot lived), and walk down into the basement. It probably had dirt floors too.
When it got cold we found a huge, oil burning, heater. We never should have been left in charge of the beast. One night it blew up, covering everything in black soot. It took weeks for the smoke to clear and in spite of the cold air outside, we practiced with the door open so we could breath. We were writing the most complex arrangements of our career at the time. Dominic is trying to get us to record some of that stuff right now.
The songs included: Psychedelicness, which was based on a few really interesting chords I found in a Joe Pass music book, Cold Hands (a fast and furious song in 13/2 time signature), and the Magic Glass (Crimson-like arrangement about alcoholism).
We have always been an emotionally volatile group and we ended our stay there when we kicked Dom out of the band. We found ourselves back at Dom and Benet’s mom’s basement. At least there was heat!
We suddenly found ourselves without a vocalist and front man. As a three piece, we began to experiment with improvisation. We recorded it.
It’s a great document of the band. The first recordings are the three of us. Eventually you can hear Dom upstairs jamming along on his sax. One day he just walked downstairs playing and was back in the band. I don’t think we ever even really talked about it.
Tracy was still living in the county. Before we got Dom back, Tracy introduced us to a keyboard player and guitarist. The keyboard player was infatuated with Keith Emerson. I hated Keith Emerson. We found ourselves in a garage in the county showing these guys our material. Upon hearing Psychedelicness the keyboard player asked, “Is that comedy music?” Oh, I almost forgot, he wanted to call the band “Colossus – The Forbin Project”. I think it was some kind of science fiction movie (a genre that never really captured my imagination). I was so happy when we got Dom back.
We decided we needed a real vocalist. I’m not sure how we advertised, but we found a guy named Theo Johnson. Theo ended up being one of my favorite people in the world. I wrote about him in an earlier post about single-handedly wrestling with me in the snow and getting me up to my second floor apartment while I was in the throes of an epileptic seizure.
Poor Theo! I spent a year with him just acquainting him with the band’s psychology. We went through everything together.
We ended up in Theo’s basement. He lived in a run down mansion in the northern part of the Central West End. It was right next to all the private streets with all the mansions that were built around the time of the 1904 World’s Fair. I think we might have been back on a dirt floor, but there was heat. We always mixed acoustic and electric instruments, so we separated them in an old coal chute. We put Theo and Dominic back in there.
We went through some major changes there that I’ll get to next week.
Pics are all from Theo's basement.


Dominic said...

Chris McKenna was playing clarinet with us on Papin (your dad's basement) when we had the big blow-up. "GO AHEAD AND BE ROLAND KIRK!!!" you screamed, gesturing grandiosly... "OKAY I WILL!!!" I screamed back.

I distinctly remember how i felt standing in the living room or kitchen when you all moved back to 10 LaClede Court and thinking "those motherfuckers... they fuckin' got some motherfuckin' NERVE to taunt me like this!!! waitaminute- that's some pretty cool stuff they're playin'! maybe if i go down there and act like i'm just there to run the tape decks i can weasel my way back in..." and of course, it worked! bwahahaha!

Anonymous said...

Nice evil laugh Dominic also I must say I enjoyed the allusion to the Munsters. I always thought this was a funny story.