I finally got the "I Want To Hold Your Hand" 45 on Easter March 29, 1964.
NOW, I wanted to play music. Man, how cool would it be to be up on that stage with long hair and an electric guitar?
Finally, for Christmas 1964, I received my first real guitar. I still have that first guitar but, in 1974, it was refinished to
natural wood with additional hardware modifications.
I didn't learn to play the guitar for quite some time. I plucked at it a bit but all I really did was stand in front of the mirror with it and shake my head as I mimed to Beatles records. Finally, around 10 years old, I began to take a few lessons from a distant uncle who owned the local music shop. These lessons did little more than teach me some coordination on the instrument and
how to pluck out a handfull of old pop standards.
During this time, The Beatles remained my primary focus. I probably had a handful of 45s by other artists but, for the life of me, I can't remember what any of them might have been. I do remember having (and I still have) The Dave Clark Five's first U.S. album. I think it was the first album I ever got besides The Beatles. When you think about it, these guys were pretty heavy rock.
However, I frequently listened to some of my mother's records. Things like Ray Charles, Dean Martin, Herb Albert and The Tiajuana Brass, Barbra Streisand and the West Side Story soundtrack. I also listened to some of my grandparents' old 78rpm records but I don't remember what any of those were. Another record (not a 78) I listened to extensively was my grandfather's copy of "The Tennessee Waltz" by Patti Page. I still have that original record and even bought a reissue in the 1980s.
While most of my mother's records would bear little influence on me, Ray Charles would have a lasting effect and, today,
he is one of my premier favorites. "The Tennessee Waltz" is also still a favorite.
I was very fond of comedy records. My favorite was Bill Cosby. I still have all those records.
Another early favorite was "The Little Drummer Boy" which I listened to more often
than just at Christmas. And, yes, I still have this record but the sleeve is gone.
"The Little Drummer Boy"
A little anecdote about my Beatles interest during this time period is that I could never talk my parents into buying me The Beatles' album, A Hard Day's Night. I don't really remember exactly but I do believe my mother was aware that only half of the songs were The Beatles and the rest were the orchestral soundtrack to the A Hard Day's Night movie and being quite frugal, she must have felt it wasn't worth the money. It wasn't until the later 1960s that I finally got the album.
A Hard Day's Night
By the end of 1965, I only had a handful of additional Beatles singles
However, I had all but the one of their albums to date.
In late 1965, The Beatles released Rubber Soul. I instinctively knew this was a much more mature album than their others but,
due to my youth, I didn't really get a handle on it. I absolutely loved the album and it has probably been my favorite Beatles album ever since. However, I now believe The Beatles' new maturity caused me to drift away for a while.
1965 - With what would become my favorite Beatles album.
Here they came, walkin' down the street... The Monkees!!! The Monkees brought back the innocence The Beatles had outgrown. And hey, you could see 'em every week on television. The Beatles were still tops in my book but The Monkees dominated my interest throughout 1966 and most of 1967. In fact, I'm still a BIG Monkees fan and probably always will be. You might say that I'm more of a Mike Nesmith fan because I have little interest in The Monkees without him. However, I only own a couple of Nesmith's albums. So, just like The Beatles, for me the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
During this time, in 1966, I skipped the next two Beatles' albums (Yesterday And Today and Revolver which I wouldn't get until late 1968) and I believe the only Beatles record I bought was the "Yellow Submarine" single.
For my tenth birthday in April 1967, I received my first tape recorder. I immediately knew that recording would become a major interest in my life. Soon, I was experimenting in ways to record and alter sound. Some of those tricks, I still use today.
I wish some of these recordings still survived but they are long gone. There's a good chance that I still have the actual tapes
but they would have been recorded over decades ago.
April 15, 1967 - My first tape recorder
Later in 1967, I was with my mother shopping at a local Woolworth's department store. As I looked through the record bins,
I spotted this really strange looking album with all sorts of people on the cover and right there in the center of the people were The Beatles in marching band uniforms and with moustaches. What the hell was this?! (at ten years old, I didn't keep up on new releases). As I looked at the back of the record cover, I saw this massive list of words that I took to each be individual songs. I told my mother, "Mom, look at this new Beatles album!!! Look at ALL the songs on it!!!" (remember, I was only ten years old and my imagination could get the best of me). Of course, the list of words were the song lyrics and the album was, of course, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Again, like Rubber Soul, I knew Sgt. Pepper was something different but again, my age prohibited me from realizing its significance. During this time, I was still very interested in The Monkees. Sgt. Pepper served to sustain my interest in The Beatles but the maturity of the music lacked the simple topics of The Monkees' music. The Monkees remained a prominent interest until late 1968
Circa 1967 - The first record player that belonged to me.
I would bet that's either a Beatles or Monkees album on it.
Previously, I had used an old 1950s model of my mother's.
Again, I surely must have had a few more records that I can't remember now. I remember liking artists such as Peter & Gordon, Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Animals, Herman's Hermits, The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Roy Orbison.
I was very fond of The Royal Guardsmen's Snoopy songs and I really liked Dion's "Abraham, Martin and John".
Somehow, I wasn't aware of The Beatles' next album, Magical Mystery Tour. I remember seeing it in the stores but I didn't notice the word "BEATLES" written in the stars on the cover and remember thinking, "Who in the world is this weird band in the animal suits?" I thought it was a gimmick or something. I didn't realize who it was until January 1969 when I made a new friend who had the record. I remember my surprise when I learned that it contained several songs I was familiar with.
Today, I often wonder what I would have thought of the album if I had bought it when it was released. I had the "Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane" single and I was familiar with "All You Need Is Love' and " Hello Goodbye" but what would I have thought of "I Am The Walrus", "Blue Jay Way" or "Flying" as well as the overall content of the album?
"Strawberry Fields Forever" / "Penny Lane"
By mid 1968, I had only three additional Beatles singles
I did learn about The Beatles' "White Album" shortly after it was released. In December 1968, I was visiting the neighbor girl who had older siblings. As the neighbor girl and I were sitting talking, I noticed this odd close-up 8x10 photo of someone who looked like Paul McCartney. When I inquired about the photo, the girl said it was her older brother's copy of the new Beatles album. I said, "Cool! Can I see it?" Two records, a poster and four portraits. How cool was this? I received "The White Album" that Christmas.
Having aged a couple of years, I was able to get some grasp on the songs. "The White Album" set the stage for my ventures into various musical styles and "Helter Skelter" on side 3 provided my first exposure to heavy guitar music which would become the driving force in my musical dreams and identity. "The White Album" was the seed that would grow throughout my life and manifest itself into a broad variety of indepth musical interests. My days of just pop music were gone.
It was at this time that I was finally introduced to the albums I had missed during my Monkees years, Yesterday And Today, Revolver and Magical Mystery Tour (noted above). These were great records and within a short while I had convinced my parents to get them for me (along with the aformentioned A Hard Day's Night album).
The Beatles were solidly back in my life.
1969 ushered in a grand surge in my musical interests. Much of which was a direct result from listening to CKLW AM in Windsor, Ontario (THE radio station in my area at the time because, while it was "hit" oriented, they played a broad spectrum of popular music). Also at this time, I began to buy Rolling Stone, Creem and Circus magazines which opened my eyes to a wide variety of rock music and I was buying as many records as I could get my hands on. Also, The Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in August 1969 and the publicity which surrounded it also aided in expanding my interests.
With The Beatles now firmly back at the forefront of my interests, one day in March 1969, I had the radio playing in the other room. A song came on that I had never heard. Finally, I realized it was Paul McCartney's voice. "Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged..." This HAD to be a new Beatles record. Sure enough, after the song, the DJ confirmed my suspicion. A couple of days later, the exact thing occurred again. This time, it was John Lennon and "Don't Let Me Down." Because I was aware of it and able to anticipate it, this was probably the most excitement I had over a new Beatles record since 1965's Help!
In 1969, I believe the first album, other than The Beatles or The Monkees, that I sought to purchase was Three Dog Night's
Suitable For Framing. This marked my first step across the proscenium, so to speak, into musical adventure
Hmm... I just realized how similar this is to the With The Beatles album.
Sometime early in 1969, I got my second tape recorder. It was still just a mono 3" reel-to-reel machine but it had two speeds, record levels and a couple other cool things. My friends also had similar machines. We all experimented with recording (although, I'm the only one who really maintained it throughout life).
1969 - My second tape recorder
June 1969 - I made early attempts at playing keyboards.
I still dabble at it today but it was never quite my instrument.
Odds are that I was playing "Night Train" in this photo.
Prior to 1969, the only "hard rock" that I had really listened to was The Beatles' 1968 "Helter Skelter", "Birthday", "Back In The U.S.S.R." but the year ushered in my real introduction to heavy music. These guys had balls and were the perfect outlet for my adolescent male angst. My initial interests were...
Other favorites from 1969 were, Blood Sweat & Tears, Tommy James & The Shondells, Sly & The Family Stone,
Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Guess Who and Neil Diamond to name a few. But looming on the horizon... what is this?
A new Beatles album is coming out!!! Abbey Road was probably the grandest piece of music I had ever heard.
This was just too damn cool and helped to further fuel my new musical interests. For decades, I've often wondered
how The Beatles would have followed this.
Man, I wanted to make music! The first attempt at a band was November 9, 1969 when a friend, who could actually play the trumpet, and I recruited another friend to bang on some toy drums. I was still taking guitar lessons at this time but really knew nothing about the instrument although we gave it a whole-hearted try. The only song we ever, nearly, put together was "September In The Rain". I don't remember if any of these "sessions" were recorded but, now, I'd really love to hear what
we sounded like.
(the trumpet player)
We called ourselves "Yer Blues".
A name which stuck for five years for all incarnations of the so-called "band".
We even had matching jackets made with the words printed on the back
We tried to design a logo.
December 1969 brought to my ears, the first unreleased Beatles song that I would ever hear. CKLW began playing a new Beatles song that I had read about but never heard. "Let It Be" was promoted as coming from The Beatles' new album titled, Get Back. This was an album that would never be released. It was reconfigured and released as the Let It Be album later in 1970. The song "Let It Be" was also released as a single but neither the album nor the single featured the version of the song I heard back in December. Luckily, I had recorded a few of the CKLW broadcasts which provided me the first unreleased Beatles song I would possess. Thus, the origin of what would become my life-long addiction to "bootleg" recordings.
For those of you who know, it was same version as on "the WBCN acetate".
Read further details about the CKLW recordings here.
Christmas 1969 brought my first electric guitar and a whopping 5 watt amp. Again, both were Silvertones. I still have this guitar but it was refinished in the 1970s first with a white finish (seen in Bio Part 2) then a psychedelic look, ala Eddie Van Halen, and today, needs some serious reworking. I still have the amp but a new cabinet was built for it in the 1970s and it needs tubes.Yes, yes, yes... I know all you gearheads are saying "WHY?!?!?!". Hey, I was young. I'd give anything to still have them in original condition.
My first amp
The Silvertone today
In late 1969. I walked into a local pharmacy that had a nice selection of records. Right up front, was this strange, new I assumed, Rolling Stones album titled Let It Bleed. I remember thinking it was some kind of joke. Although The Beatles' Let It Be had not yet been released, I had heard the early version of the song. I was quite familiar with The Rolling Stones' hit records but really knew nothing about them. I thought for sure this new record was some sort of parody of The Beatles' forthcoming album.
Anyway, on a whim, I bought the album. If for no other reason than it had such an odd cover. Much to my surprise, it was an incredible album and, shortly thereafter, I picked up the Beggars Banquet album. Both albums opened the doors for me into blues based rock. From that point, The Rolling Stones were a primary mainstay in my record buying choices and they would bear great influence on my musical tastes and visions.
Late 1969 with my just released copy of Plastic Ono Band (John Lennon) Live Peace In Toronto
and catching up a bit more on my Rolling Stones with Between The Buttons.
During 1969, my friends and I were all quite fond of The Beatles' "White Album" track titled, "Revolution 9" (for those who don't know, this is more a sound collage piece as opposed to an actual song). We had began to experiment and emulate what we heard in The Beatles' recording. The result was an annual "piece" of audio collage. Four of these "pieces" were produced. One each for 1969 - 1972. They were oh-so-creatively titled "Revolution 1969" etc. respectively. In 1971, I got a new stereo Sears and Roebuck(!) 3-speed 7" reel-to-reel with sound-on-sound capabilities. That was so fuckin' cool!!! I really put this machine through its paces with all types of audio experimentations. I still have this machine but it barely works. I hope to be able to recondition it someday.
My new Sears and Roebuck stereo 7" reel to reel recorder.
Prior to 1970, my primary sources for seeing and hearing music were television shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show, Shindig, American Bandstand and The Hollywood Palace. Basically, I listened to only two radio stations, CKLW AM Windsor and WKNR AM Detroit. But then in 1970... I discovered FM radio. The two leading stations in my area were WMMS 100.7 Cleveland, "The Buzzard" and WRIF 101.1 Detroit, "The Riff". This was my first exposure to a broad range of music and an
opportunity to hear full-length albums that, otherwise, I would not have heard.
As 1970 began, the illusion that The Beatles still existed as a working unit was strong. My friends and I anxiously awaited the release of The Beatles' new single and album, Let It Be.
This photo was taken later in 1970 but the story is, one day I was goofing around with my "Let It Be" single which resulted in it literally being broken in half. "Oh my God, what have I done?". Neither of the songs were on an album and the single had long since disappeared from the record racks. I eventually persuaded a friend to sell (or trade) me his copy. This photo was taken on the way home from his house. Notice the smile on my face. Whew! Got my record replaced.
The reality of The Beatles' break-up still had not hit home regardless
of the release of Paul McCartney's first solo album (seen in these photos).
But the dream was over...
There was always the hope and possibility that The Beatles would reunite and for a long time, it didn't really feel like they were gone (a couple of bootleg records helped preserve the illusion) but things just felt different. The 1960s were gone and I knew The Beatles were, too.
Oh, but the grand musical horizons that lay ahead. In 1970, with The Beatles now a thing of the past and my musical tastes whetted over the previous year, two albums were released that would have a profound impact on me musically.
I was quite familiar with The Who but the only record I had was "Pinball Wizard" from 1969. Their album, Live At Leeds, changed all that. By this time, I had a few of the earliest Beatles and Rolling Stones bootleg (unauthorized) record releases, Kum Back, Get Back To Toronto and LIVEr Than You'll Ever Be. The Who album looked like a bootleg, which was cool, so I bought it. Many of you might be surprised to learn that The Who are actually my all-time favorite band. Not The Beatles. The Beatles are more a way-of-life.
Around the same time, at the same pharmacy where I bought the Stones' Let It Bleed album, was this cool looking album by Grand Funk Railroad, the Live Album. I was familiar with a couple of Grand Funk songs and liked them so, I bought this double album immediately. For some reason, I just HAD to have it.
WOW!!! What a cacophony of sonic exhilaration these two releases presented!!!
This was ROCK that kicked my ass!!! Male and aggressive in all its glory.
Ah, but wait... there was another musical being lurking in the shadows that was waiting to pounce on me and forever
change not only my musical influence but to actually change ME. Slithering out of the squalid underground of
Detroit, Michigan came The Stooges and their notorious frontman, Iggy Pop. For the previous year, I had been
reading about the antics of this strange new band. My interest was peaked when I read a Rolling Stone
review for the new Stooges album titled, Funhouse. I bought the album and nothing has been the same since!
That was it. There was no turning back now. Sleaze, sex, scum and bile. Yep, they had the attitude!
The Stooges had invited me into their funhouse and I decided to take up residence!
To this day, and probably forever, Funhouse is my absolute favorite album.
To add fuel to the fire, on May 29, 1971, I attended my first concert... yep, The Stooges. I didn't know what to expect.
I couldn't believe my eyes when Iggy took the stage completely painted silver. He looked inhuman.
But the music churned and oozed into my soul. At fourteen years old, I had found my niche.
Although two years late to my ears, The Stooges opened my eyes to Detroit's MC5 and their 1968 powerhouse
album, Kick Out The Jams . To this day and probably forever this album receives heavy listening.
In the summer of 1970, at the Cedar Point amusement park, near where I live, we made some records in a booth
similar to a photo booth. These consisted of vocal nonsense and were literally cut (like an acetate) in the booth as
the recording was made. Four of these discs were made. Only two survive today.
One of the Cedar Point discs.
I was still taking guitar lessons and continued to do so for a while into 1970 but my interest was waning. I was bored with the songs I was being taught (stuff like "That Big Rock Candy Mountain"). I wanted to ROCK!!! but I had no clue how to do it. I did learn how to play the melody of The Beatles' "Yesterday". But that wasn't rock! Attempts were made to start a band with friends who also had instruments. Since no one had any real idea how to play, these attempts were hopeless failures.
The first attempt to set up a real rehearsal room was in 1971 in a friend's basement.
This went nowhere and only lasted for about two weeks.
Later, another rehearsal room was set up in my basement. While this lasted for about a year, it never really
amounted to little more than a hang-out. However, some of the "Revolution" tapes and other audio
experimentation was done here sort of making it my first recording studio.
In the end, the other fellows all lost interest. I, however, forged on....
On to Part Two