Monday, July 30, 2012

7-29-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #162 (The Washington Squares - On the Beach Boys Tour: Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Babra Ann, actually)

Beach Boys "Barbara Ann" with Washington Squares

Actually, the last show of the Washington Squares/Beach Boys tour leg that we shared happened in Maine, in Old Orchard Beach. We heard that the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport was nearby, and that they may have even been around at the time. Not that we cared. . . we were folkie liberals who shunned those trickle-down-theory Reagan conservatives.

At any rate, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, was a really big outdoor daytime concert, with thousands in attendance. I’d have freaked out to BE in that crowd (ugh -- I just hate crowds -- can’t move, can’t breathe), but to play to that crowd: great! And as I recall, it was a pretty receptive crowd -- although one person might have heaved a near-empty container of suntan lotion (not yet the era of sunblock) at us onstage. Maybe.

I remember that before the show, the Beach Boys did a special pre-show merch giveaway (tee shirts and hats) and signing, a radio-station sponsored meet and greet. I made sure to get in line and get some tee shirts and a baseball cap signed. . . I still have them, somewhere, with signatures of Carl & Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston.

We were invited to come onstage and sing and dance with the Beach Boys on “Barbara Ann,” and I am SO glad somebody actually videotaped that moment. We were singing along and dancing in our Squares stagewear, so happy to be a part of the party, being silly and having a ball. I’m hopping around, dancing and smiling and giving it my all (in those silly black fishnet gloves and my Ray Bans, of course). I shared a microphone with Carl Wilson! Yay! The whole experience was so cool.

(Remember, this happened YEARS before video equipment was as affordable, prevalent and portable as it now is. . . the camera was probably thousands of dollars, and probably weighed half a ton.)

If you watch at the very end, Carl says something nice to us as we’re getting offstage, Bruce asks the cameraman, “You got that?” and Brian’s “keeper,” the cute young blond surfer dude, is in the very last frames of the video. Wow. Let’s hear it for documentation. . . got a few B&W shots of us onstage with the BB’s too (though the people are pretty far away -- probably Jill took ‘em?).

(I'm onstage, the person furthest left, in my Ray-Bans and a white shirt over my black top)

(I'm onstage, dead center, in my white shirt and black leggings, dancing away)

7-28-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #161 (The Washington Squares - On the Beach Boys Tour: More Endless Fun Fun Fun with Brian)

One day soon after, Brian Wilson did show up. He was accompanied by a young cute surfer-dude looking guy with long blonde hair and eyeglasses -- sorta like how Michael Stipe of REM looked in the early-mid ‘80’s.  Apparently, whatever was going on with Brian, whatever his issues, he had to have a “handler” on board with him pretty constantly. (I recently read that he had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, like my older brother Tom. . . and on a lot of medication.)

When we were invited to meet Brian, it was a pretty formal event for a rather casual situation/lifestyle (being on the road as musicians isn’t a very formal type setting, after all). We Squares were approached by one of the roadies to follow down a hallway at one of the arenas (probably Pittsburgh). It was sort of Spinal Tap-ish, a long hallway in a subterranean passage that went on for a while. The anticipation of the meeting in our minds probably lengthened it considerably. . .

At last, we faced an unmarked door and the roadie guy opened it and left. We were then greeted by the young blonde surfer-dude guy. He told us, “Brian’s looking forward to meeting you.” Aw, I’ll bet he says that to all the fans. Still, it was nice to hear.

Behind the surfer guy, in the back of a plain white room backstage, an almost gauntly thin Brian Wilson stood, sort of smiling, sort of gaping in a slack-jawed way -- the side affect of some psychiatric drugs. “Pleased to meet you,” he slurred, and shook our hands, one by one.

What do you say to a legend, especially one that seems discombobulated and kind of reminds you of your troubled older brother?

Beats me. . . I probably murmured back, “Pleased to meet YOU -- thank you!”

(Somewhere, I have a photo of us with Brian -- but can’t find it at present. Sorry!)

7-27-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #160 (The Washington Squares - On the Beach Boys Tour: Continual Fun Fun Fun)

At one point in the tour -- maybe it was in Pittsburgh, which BTW I think is a great city & I’d love to visit again someday -- the rumor wafted through like pungent  incense at a teenage basement party in the early ‘70’s: Brian’s coming!  Brian’s coming!

The Brian, of course, was none other than the Grand High Poohbah and revered founder of the Beach Boys, Mr. Brian Wilson.  With (cool) brother Dennis gone, and sweet younger brother Carl dutifully keeping the name alive and the band on tour, the legendary Brian had been invited to join the tour periodically whenever he was available.

For years, he had been off and on in the care of  -- or under the spell of -- the infamous Doctor Eugene Landy, but at this point in ’87 he was once again more or less a “free” man. Brian was going to come on the tour for a few dates. The anticipation was as palpable as. . . well, name your favorite brew and, there ya go.

At any rate, when a guy is a living musical legend and you’re a musician, you just have to cross your fingers and hold your breath. . . We were so looking forward to seeing Brian.

We chatted with the tour manager about it, how much we wanted to meet and hang out with Brian. “I’ll let you know,” the tour manager said. We were extra nice to him and the entire crew. . . we so wanted to meet B. Wilson!

(photo of Bruce & BB band musician with equipment) 

7-26-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #159 (The Washington Squares - On the Beach Boys Tour: Endless Fun Fun Fun)

One of the BB tour shows happened at a huge arena just outside Chicago. The weather that day was bizarre, I recall. We took turns driving our rental car and got kind of lost on the highways trying to get to the gig from our hotel rooms.

The sky just kept getting uglier and uglier. I complained how dark it was, and somebody in the car pointed out, “You’re still wearing your shades, Lauren!” Oh! I took off my Ray-Bans, but still: it was only midday and the sky still kept getting darker and darker, the color of a big purple and blue bruise. Scary! The rain let loose and golfballish hail filled the air and dented the car hood & roof. 

To the west we could see something even weirder in the sky: a large funnel cloud. Tornado time! I was more fascinated than scared at that point, but we pulled over on the side of the highway just because the precipitation was so horrible you could hardly see and somehow it seemed safer to stop. Traffic slowed or stopped in deference to the deadly show that Mother Nature presented for about thirty minutes.

Fleetly, the storm and its fury passed away. We started up the car and drove to the Chicago gig, car a little dented but safe again, where we all performed for about 8,000 BB fans. Wild day!

The next day, the tour played Milwaukee at some festival in a huge tent, and Victor from the Violent Femmes came out for a backstage visit. Here’s a pic of him and Billy Ficca.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

7-25-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #158 (The Washington Squares - On the Beach Boys Tour: Fun Fun Fun Continues)

We were particularly tickled that the BB tour included really good catering. Talk about your craft services. . . this food selection at a gig was beyond any that I’d experienced. I’m sure there was mixed salad plus a Caesar salad; three kinds of bread; two kinds of pasta, one of them vegetarian; a chicken piccata and some steak or other red meat; a salmon dish or a stuffed filet of sole (this was before the Tilapia craze hit the nation). Lots of other, interesting salad type dishes and gorgeous desserts, too -- which I rarely looked at except for an occasional cookie (I always adore a good cookie with coffee).

It was all quite elegant. Even though, of course, there were stressful moments especially when driving to the gigs, the guys and I had a great time, being well fed AND paid to perform a really pro, tight set of music, then be able to watch American musical legends, the Beach Boys, play songs we all knew and loved. What a ball!

I do wish I had a photo of me with my fave Beach Boy, Carl. I can see him, in my mind’s eye. . . . Carl Wilson made a point of finding us our first night on the tour, in the backstage catering-eating area and greeting us warmly. “Welcome, we’re glad you could join us on the road for this tour,” he said, shaking hands.

Such a sweet, good man -- he is sorely missed in this nasty world. The other guys in the BB band were really nice to us, too. Bruce Johnston and Bruce Paskow got along like peas in a pod. But Mike Love -- sadly -- showed us NO love, doing his best to ignore us any time he passed by. I just didn’t get it: how hard is it to be nice to strangers even just fleetingly? 

I guess it just wasn’t enough TM, eh Mikey?

(photos of the catering 1, 2 & 3)

(Below: chef, Bruce, Billy Ficca, and Tom loading up on the BB tour catering)

(Below: Bruce goofing around about how the food affected him. . . one fun guy, all right -- and can the mushrooms!)

7-24-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #157 (The Washington Squares - On the Beach Boys Tour: Fun Fun Fun)

I don’t recall what we were paid, but Goodkind always was able to get us on the road, pay for travel expenses, and then pay the band at the end -- so it was better than being on a whaling ship of olden days, shipping out for a year then coming home with nothing to show. Oh, no! We traveled, made music, and made (some, mostly rent) money. Other than touring income, I worked more side/survival jobs.

Being on the Beach Boys (BB) tour, we rented a van or a large car and drove from gig to gig. We only had our instruments and our luggage, so it was OK. Billy Ficca came with us on the tour as our drummer, so it was a really tight, cohesive band. We were 3 ½ years into doing the band, so our sets were really tight, too. I think we had thirty minute sets when doing the BB opener. . . any more than that, the fans of the headliner would get antsy or annoyed, so we knew it was better to quite while ahead.

I mean, what would the Ramones do? (WWRD?)  Less is more!

For a big act like the BB’s, being on tour required nothing less than military precision and an organization that worked like clockwork. They had TWO different road crews with identical equipment traveling in two separate buses, the A crew and the B crew. They had two semi trucks traveling, too. I was pretty impressed with the whole setup. The logistics alone were staggering to comprehend.

(below: photos of the tour buses and the relaxing roadies)

Monday, July 23, 2012

7-23-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #156 (The Washington Squares - Business: Getting on a Major Tour)

Because Goodkind was managing us, he spoke with the press, record companies, and agents. One agent, a sweet and very cute, tall guy named Michael, talked to Tom about getting us on a leg of a Beach Boys Summer Tour in 1986. I don’t know what deal was struck or what if any strings were attached, but what a coup!

At the time, I was temping in offices as a secretary -- in an era when the men didn’t type their own correspondence yet, for the most part. The move to word processing was underway, and the most used program was MultiMate (followed by WordPerfect by Microsoft). More anon about that. . .

Being on the Beach Boys tour was a dream come true, though in its own way stressful and harrowing. Funny that I never felt unsure or nervous about performing on a large, raised stage in front of thousands of fans. Thousands of fans of the OTHER band might have given pause to most sensible performers but to me, it was all good and once we opened our mouths and sang in that lovely, tight harmony with our songs of inspiration and fun -- how could they NOT love us?

I confess to only being nervous to playing in smaller venues when I can see the faces of the people, especially if I know them personally.

At any rate, the opportunity and the exposure when playing in the large stadiums on tour opening for harmony-singing legends The Beach Boys was pretty huge. . . I bought a new little easy focus camera, an Olympus, that had a slide out panel for the lens and a flash attachment that screwed in to the side. It was small and easy to use. We still had to buy film (usually 100 ASA B&W), but snapping away on a once-in-a-lifetime tour was definitely a given for me. . . I just HAD to document it.

We played Milwaukee, Chicago, Pittsburgh, PA, Ohio, and Old Orchard Beach, Maine. . . and perhaps a few other stops.

(photo of “big arena ‘87” above & “View from wings” below)

7-22-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #155 (The Washington Squares - Conflicts & Band Roles)

Personalities according to their instrument/role in band. Here’s an incomprehensive list of self-evident truths that I won’t belabor but want to share:

Lead guitar players: brilliant musicians, moody, quiet when you needed to talk about anything important, passive-aggressive, etc. . . . their talents are admirable, but I find it hard to know them or get close to ‘em. Drummers = fun and a little crazy, opinionated, real characters. But, drummers are easy for me to chum around with. Bass players = usually bandleaders, more even tempered than the rest, sweet. Generally, bassists are romantics -- or snide bastards! Vocalists = good P.R. people, schmoozers, “the face” fronting the group.

In the Squares, we had three vocalists, two lead players (Bruce AND Tom, on electric banjo later on), an occasional drummer, and Tom on bass (though he’d occasionally have Bruce or I play bass, on “Promises” and “Fourth Day of July.”). Oh, we also had two stand-up comedians who dealt in “fastball wit.”

Me being in the middle of it, in our inverted V formation, I tended to feel left out. . . I was of the more cerebral, rambling stage patter school, which didn’t work so well in a tight group. Oh well. At that point in our act, it didn’t hurt to have the cute girl in the middle. . . though I felt smarter than I may have looked, I was also not clued in at the right times so how smart was I, after all?!

My tenacity always won out. I stuck with the Squares through the good times and the bad, and I stuck with survival jobs and boyfriends too, generally -- until the breaking (or tipping) point prevails. . .

Sunday, July 22, 2012

7-21-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #154 (The Washington Squares - Poseurs!)

Thought I’d give the conflict a respite and include these photos of us.

1.    Our first album cover, blown up, at Tower Records in LA;

1.    The three of us in front of said album cover, posing as we were on the cover;

2.    Tom and Bruce with Mick Fleetwood -- posing (yes, he is very tall).

Whenever we were in a situation where other celebrities could be photographed with us, of course we were game. . . that was fun. We met a lot of cool people, sure -- and worked with a bunch of ‘em as well.

It was really cool that we were so enthusiastic about it and everybody looked good. But, after the first year of being “Squares,” I wanted to eschew the shades and wear the signature Beatnik chick eye makeup: heavy eyeliner & mascara. I thought that was a really cool look and I wanted to be seen that way. Yes, I have big brown eyes and I’m told they’re pretty -- so what’s the problem, guys?

“You’ll stand out if you don’t wear the shades -- and Ray Bans and berets are part of the deal.”

“Yeah, but so’s the beatnik chick Egyptian eyes -- that’s a very cool Beat look, too, and I can do it ‘cause I’m a girl.”

At this point I started to realize that it wasn’t in THEIR best interest to make me any kind of sex symbol -- or “be” the girl. Not that I was comfortable being a sexy chick but I didn’t mind looking hot in a classy way. Mesmerizing eyes were cool -- but not if two guys in your band fight you tooth and nail. . . 

7-20-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #153 (The Washington Squares - Conflicts airable now)

For those of you who have ever been in a band, raise your hands. Tell me if you’ve experienced the personalities you work/play with as a sort of dysfunctional family. My musical groups are always nice when they start, then eventually everybody lets their guard down and the honeymoon’s over, guys (and girls).

For me, being in the Washington Squares -- Tom, Bruce, and I, sometimes adding a bongo player or drummer like Billy Ficca -- was just like having two hyper competitive siblings around who each wanted the most attention. Bruce was hyper, period, and Tom had his other moments. He made a lot of friends, along with a few enemies -- which I found out to my rue years later, once the band broke up and I tried to do a solo project.

Tom was managing us throughout the Squares because we couldn’t find a managerial candidate who wasn’t dreadful. I wondered if he just couldn’t relinquish control. . .

But, for whatever his other issues, at least Tom would talk to me. Bruce was a typical lead guitar player: brilliant musician, moody, quiet when you needed to talk about anything important, passive-aggressive, etc. 

I don’t think he liked me, either, so I couldn’t get Bruce to talk with me about much of anything -- he’d vanish once we were done with a rehearsal or a show. At one point, Jill and Tom were trying to set up me and Bruce (as a couple) but our personalities didn’t mesh at all.

I didn’t really understand because I like to charm and take care of people (one reason I’ve had success with people, esp. the opposite sex). Bruce was having none of that! Besides, he wanted to be THE funny man, and didn’t laugh at other people’s jokes.

Best way to be my friend is to listen and laugh at my jokes (generally puns). Like I said, Bruce was having none of that. . .  I do wish we could have been better friends.

7-19-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #152 (The Washington Squares - Broaching conflicts as a subject)

Hitherto -- up to now -- I’ve been waxing all positive and glowing about how things were back in the day we were carving our name in the annals of ‘80’s folkrockdom. You see, I’ve always had a difficult time facing conflict, dealing with conflict, writing about conflict. . . though I must admit I have probably created a lot of my own conflicts.

And when in one of “those” moods, I’ve been called a Jack Russell terrier of conflict -- small, loud, and mouthy. When I get mad, get moving!

Truth is, it DOES take two to tangle (I don’t tango) and friction is an essential part of life. Without it, nothing is created. Even babies are created by friction between male & female. . . not to get too deep or literal here. At any rate, try as I have to not be part of the problem, sometimes when I come up with solutions they aren’t always agreeable to others or part of the agenda -- thusly, CONFLICT rears its ugly head, big or little.

Even now, I’m pussyfooting around because I shudder at the feelings that difficulties -- conflicts -- create. I’m conflicted about letting loose and showing my true DARK feelings. . . you might think I’m a beast, a monster, not “nice.”

ENOUGH! Just so you know, I’m very human. I am so emotional I try to go the other way and be logical/stonefaced. Stoic, in fact. It’s self protection.

One night, before the Squares began, at the old Hurrah’s club (or was it the Peppermint Lounge or Danceteria?) I was introduced to Richard, from one of those snotty new wave Brit bands. He called me “Stone faced” -- to my face -- and I was in a really bad mood, so I punched him. I just saw red and lost it.

Not only that, he never punched back, just started yelling or something. I think he was in shock. What an asshole.

I know you could also think that about me, but I am trying not to care. Because I want to write about the upsets, disappointments, and CONFLICTS I felt when I was a Washington Square. All right with that?

Can I get a witness?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

7-18-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #151 (The Washington Squares - Early Visuals 7)

We had two very strong folkie influences (all right, three actually): The Weavers, Peter, Paul & Mary and the Kingston Trio. We loved their music, their politics, and their very broad, mainstream appeal. So, when PP&M played a local gig on Long Island in 1983, all of us piled into a train or a car (don’t remember which) and caught their show.

We came all dressed in our new wave/beatnik regalia, ready to meet and greet the popular, beloved entertainers after the show. Knowing that they’re seasoned pros and would never pass up a meet and greet backstage after a concert, we positioned ourselves with a small but eager crowd at the stage door.

Sure enough, they came out to say hello after the show. We burst right into an early PP&M song, “The Cruel War,” which the guys sang harmonies to as I crooned my best Mary Travers. But -- once Mary heard us singing her song -- she joined in and came over, stroking my cheek and singing lovingly along with us Squares. Nice!  

(photo by Jill Goodkind)

Little did any of us know that within 5 years we’d be sharing a label: Gold Mountain/Gold Castle Records. . . (whatever the heck it was!) 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

7-17-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #150 (The Washington Squares - Early Visuals 6)

Because we had both the old and the new angles working for us in the Squares (New Wavers gone folky/the old guard passing on the torch to us), we met and played with a lot of really cool people who were a generation or two older. At an Irving Plaza gig (one of the hippest places to play in NYC, still), we played with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary, and special guest Allen Ginsberg (not to mention our own Jeff Berman on bongos!). 

We also played events at historic places in the Village like the Judson Church by Washington Square Park, a hotbed of old leftie activism. So we’d have the stance down just so, we studied old photos of classic folk groups and how they stood (kind of like classic bluegrass groups). Jill Goodkind, again, did a great job of shooting and archiving us as we happened. . . thanks, Jillski!

(sometimes, looking back at these images of us from the '80's is like watching MadMen. . . looking with loving reverence to the past with a great eye for vintage style detail)

Monday, July 16, 2012

7-16-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #149 (The Washington Squares - Early Visuals 5)

I’ll say it again: Tom Goodkind was never more brilliant at promotion than he was with the Squares. I knew if I hitched my star to that wagon -- with a brilliant promoter and the combined musical talents of Tom, Bruce, and me -- that it’d have to go much farther than I could’ve mustered on my own. I work well in a team and like to work collaboratively, so it went well, for a while. . .

How Tom got Stephen Holden to review us for the New York Times in 1984 was really quite a coup. If he reads this, I’d love to hear his version of how that came about. I know that Jill was also great at publicity and that she worked in the field, so what the hey, it could’ve been her doing. . . but this was really good for our press kit, which got fatter by the month, seemingly:

Oh -- and here’s a snap of us with Peter Stampfel, the brilliant leader of the (Un)Holy Modal Rounders, taken at a Folk City gig when we invited him up to sing (does Tom remember the name of the song he was belting out enthusiastically with us here?).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

7-15-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #148 (The Washington Squares - Early Visuals 4)

The Washington Squares had a penchant for the press, but that was partly because Tom Goodkind knew how to schmooze writers and editors on the phone and he’d just go run with it when he had a live one on the hook, so to speak. The copy in this Village Voice Folk City ad just cracks me up, as he mentions what we’re wearing along with what we’re playing in the descriptions of who we are and what bands we were from in the New Wave scene. He really knew how to promote. . . as that was his job at the Peppermint Lounge, too: as a music promoter.

So, we have the ad from the gig -- and then a review of the gig:

But if that good Variety review was a feather in our cap, getting an early New York Times review (thank you Stephen Holden) was like an entire Apache headdress. . .