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Q & A
Q. Riding the wave of the Woodstock 50th, (Aug. 2019), Hollywood voice-over artist Aaron Meza wrote: "Hi Steve, Thanks for sharing about Woodstock. You can reminisce anytime! For myself, like Joni [Mitchell], I must be content with honoring that time in a different way – and I did recently with a wee jam with my buddy Gary. (He was 20 years old and in the army overseas in '69.) We played songs by the performers; it was fun, and we included Joni’s song." A. Hey, thanks Aaron. Alright, cool on yer jamming. Yeah, got some memories even though I was only there Sat. to Sunday morning, so here are a few: * * * * * Right after finding a place to park(!) and beginning our 10-mile pilgrimage to the stage came the ticket scalper. He obviously had us pegged as newcomers, and immediately went into a sales pitch, offering each of us Sat. $6 tickets for only $2. What a deal! Not yet knowing that they weren’t needed, I bought one. Strange Brew drummer Mike Pleviak refused, and busted me for being a chump, but I still have mine, now framed with some surrounding artwork [see PHOTO/ART GALLERY]. So who’s the chump now, Mike? But major kudos to George Broody and his beautiful bug-eyed '60s Dodge van, the Magic Bus that got us there and back. You and that van made it happen, George! * * * * * Here’s another: It was Sat. afternoon. Strange Brew organist Mark Leach and I had hung close to stage front for awhile, partook and passed a few things, and then went walk about, heading up the hill. Went to a funky makeshift food stand, and even the worker there passed me something. Bought a burger, dressed it with ketchup. Then I heard him tell the next guy, “Sorry, man, we’re outa burgers. Still got a few hotdogs.” “Are ya gonna get more?” that guy asked - while several other interested people were listening. “I dunno, man” he said, looking around, “I think it’s gonna be awhile.” Took a bite of the burger when this amazing drum rhythm started. “What the eff is that?” I said to Leach. Took another bite, then this incredible mesmerizing lead guitar stuff filled the air. I handed the rest of the burger to the guy who didn’t get one. “Cool, thanks, man!” He took a munch and passed it to somebody else. (That was Woodstock.) Everybody stopped what they were doing, looked at the stage and wondered WHO THE EFF IS THAT? It was some band named Santana – and I had just bought the last hamburger at Woodstock. * * * * * More from Mark Leach who had this bit to contribute, (something that I didn’t recall): “We were in the back where the food stands were and I saw a guy with real long but well coiffed hair, wearing some custom patched bell bottom jeans. I mean really custom patched all over like a work of art, and a fashionable shirt with a navy blue double-breasted blazer over it. He had a fine leather briefcase in hand and was walking around the area slowly and saying in a normal volume voice "pharmacuticals, pharmacuticals", and people stopped by to do business. Best dressed, coolest, hippest dealer I ever saw – to this day!” * * * * * Upward: Sat. night I finally got a chance to see Sly and The Family Stone. (I’d tried twice before, going to concerts where he didn’t show.) But, man, Sly was KILLER at ‘stock! Sometime after midnight, after the music stopped, ML and I went walkabout again. Those two bites of the 'last' burger had worn thin, and eventually we found the place we’d been hearing about: The Pig Farm. Didn’t see Wavy Gravy, but some of his folks and numerous volunteers were keeping things going, offering food and water, and helping to keep some people (who had gotten in over their head) calm. They gave each of us a paper cup with something they called granola (?!) to eat: oatmeal, nuts, raisins, dried fruits. It was great and I didn’t feel hungry again until we were riding home to PA the next day. * * * * * And onward: To me, to anyone who was there, and to countless others with an evolved understanding, there was and is an underlying truth and a lesson from all this and all that – and they get it. To put a finer point on it, Woodstock in ’69 was NOT about partying, drugs or even music. It was all about people. Hundreds of thousands of people thrown together into a situation they could not have imagined or predicted, a situation that conventional wisdom would mark for disaster, a potential do or die scenario. There were NO fights, rapes, thefts, or examples of violence of any kind. This occurred without a police force. People worked together to make that happen. Everyone there, the attendees, townspeople and local folks, caregivers, grossly outnumbered (!) law enforcement personnel, anyone whose eyes met yours was your friend and part of your family.
THIS is what human beings can do when they want to, when there’s a common need, when the darkly-inclined want to see you fail miserably and you’re determined not to let that happen. This thread running through our spiritual tapestry will be needed to weave the future - soon.
Woodstock was such a big deal that a ‘second lightning strike’ was attempted in upstate NY the following year with the Monticello Rock Festival, an outdoor concert remembered mostly for its obscurity. Attended by Strange Brew guitarist Mike Bath, the intrepid Mr. Leach and me, it paralleled Woodstock only in a forced move from the original location to another due to a local injunction, which in this case prohibited public performance for payment. So we arrived Sat. morning at A, and later followed a long, wild and crazy vehicle caravan to locale B. After setting up anew, local bands played (gratis) as the sheriff came by to haul the promoter away. ML recalls, “A commune group had come into the camp area with a psychedelic school bus. Later their head guru held a sign that said "LOVE" over 2 whacked out people (who had been sort of dancing); they then got naked and did the deed on the grass in the dirt. Generally a good time with a lot of mind altering everything.” A hat was passed to pay for a helicopter to bring Richie Havens in from NYC - who offered to play for free – and, (to our amazement!), he actually came and performed solo early Sunday morning. This was the best - Richie Havens doing "Here Comes the Sun" as the sun was coming up on a sunny Summer day. It was indeed memorable and quite beautiful.
Q. Steve. Picked up your garage band album at a recent car show where the orange [cover art] truck was on display. A sign said “1979 Dodge Lil Red Express truck heard on track 2”. There was a Lil Red next to it, but that was a ’78 – NOT a ’79! They were for 2 years only, and the front ends are different! So which was used in "Do Ya Wanna Drive?" (Thanks for the CD!) Motorhead Girl A. Neither of those – but I commend you, Girl, on your hot rod knowledge. (Loved you in My Cousin Vinney!) "Sunrise" is my own resto-build wearing its original '78-only color 'Sunrise Orange'; the LRE you saw next to it at that Car Pride Show is an original 20K-mile survivor owned by Mopar Mike Jackson. However, the album audio was done with my ’79 Red Express, (still awaiting resto, and not at the show). Recordings of it ‘leaving’ were done on a country road with one microphone at ‘the line’ and another one positioned for the second-gear chirp. Exhaust was straight out headers with nothing aft, NOT from Red Express stacks. It took numerous attempts to get it right and, with the posi rear, I burned the tires off that li'l pooch. (And that is what is meant by "Have some fun…") Also: it had no brakes. None. Thanks fer the cool question.
Diana B. from Alaska comments and asks Q. Hey! I saw you with Chuck in Pittsburgh in '73. Chuck was late getting onstage and the crowd was getting antsy. But after he walked onstage the crowd went crazy!!! Chuck looked like he was having a great time. I remember you guys playing great backup and some pretty heavy bass. What brand of bass guitar was that? I've seen pictures and can't quite make it out. Any other memories of that awesome concert would be much appreciated!! That concert is an excellent memory of mine. Thanks for your time answering.
A. The ‘Richard Nader’s Rock & Roll Revival’ concert you recall at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena was probably my 3rd time playing with Mr. Berry; the revitalized four-piece Comstock Band (that added me as the young pup on bass) was only a few months old. [See BANDOGRAPHY on the ABOUT page.] We opened the show with a new version of Bobby’s R&R medley – new packaging for same oldies – but except for playing with CB, I don’t recall any of the other supporting acts, (although I know I was onstage as bassist for most of them). Thanks for the kind words; I was using the ’66 sunburst Fender Precision I’d special-ordered (lefty) through Collins Music in Bloomsburg PA when still a school kid. Spent every cent I could save or find to buy it including my older brother’s Indian head coin collection at face value. Thanks, Gale. [Photo on WHAT'S NEW page] I think the reason Mr. Berry was late to the stage that night was because he added a new stipulation: he insisted on getting paid in greenbacks before going on. With the paid attendance clamoring in their seats and the producer over a barrel, Chuck held his ground until Nader’s people coughed up the cash. Mostly I remember how great that Pittsburgh audience was, and how friendly and music-knowledgeable the people were in general.
On the personal side, I also have fond memories of being in Pittsburgh for that show since my then-new girlfriend’s family lived in the area. They accepted me into their home and served a great spaghetti dinner, and it was possibly the first time that a girlfriend’s father didn’t immediately and instinctively want to kill me. Also recall that she and her sister appropriately accompanied me backstage, but as the show was starting, the producer’s personal security tried to throw them out. The spin was that they were standing where they weren’t supposed to be, but the reality was that these two young women were causing quite a distraction. A bunch of musicians around; imagine that. Nader produced some prime seat tickets gratis; they relocated for the show and all was well. And to follow up: that girlfriend became – and still is – my wife, and her sister became – and still is – one of my best friends. Thanks for writing!
Q. What the real story with this Hall of Fame stuff? Who are you kidding?" - sent by 'N. Credulous' A. Everybody, N., everybody, - and, while accurate in some respects, it has all the authenticity of your name! [See the article in What's New. This satirical piece was contributed by a veteran pro in 'the biz'.]
Q. "Wow. Can't believe I found your site. I searched Headwind. I remember you guys at Cornell, doing CSNY, Dead, Traffic and even Chicago. What happened to that band?" - CL" A. I've often wondered. Jeff Plissner and I were assigned freshman roomates in the old University Hall #4 dorm , and we met and started singing harmony with Aaron Meza at a freshman mixer our first week there. This trio nucleus of Headwind (which had been Ezra) all left CU at the same time a few years later, presumably to make the band fly bigtime, but the effort was soon derailed by someone's bossy new bride commandeering folks to the west coast. ["Hmm... Let's see now: the band - or a hot-to-trot 18-year old?"] Wifey won; Headwind lost. Jeff and I stayed east. Eventually he went back to school; I floundered for a year until I hooked up with the Ithaca-based Comstock Band in 1973. [See BANDOGRAPHY] Thanks for writing, C.
"The old album song I think you should redo next is Time Is Now. - Misty." OK, thanks. That's a good choice. Like all those album cuts, there were technical issues (with both recording and distribution) that held it back. And I've always wanted a chance to remake that lead guitar work with the plastic Mickey Mousegetar. We'll consider it, and I appreciate your suggestion.
Q. My boyfriend wants to know what’s up with the hand sign on Postwar Jump and also on your Spotify page, etc. - Sandi A. While some have assumed that it's simply my own modified version of the Vulcan 'Live Long and Prosper' thing, that hand sign has multiple historic derivatives. In more modern times, it is The Sign of The Big W, and generally signifies buried treasure. Originally thought to mimic the star constellation Cassiopeia in ancient times, it was first used regularly as a secret code by the mysterious Daze Permlar and their followers. This once-powerful sect came under dire persecution, so the survivors were forced to flee Europe with all their secrets, sailing in a lighter-than-air craft built from alien materials they discovered under King Soulmann’s Temple. Upon arriving in North America, they realized that taking the native people’s homeland away from them by force would be unfair and unjust, so they left. This time, they landed on an obscure island, taking up residence on what is now Pines Peninsula. There, in an elaborate system, they buried their treasures and secrets, including their lead balloon and (presumably) the long-sought-for Spark of the Government. By invitation, they mated with the local population and intended to live out their days permanently until forced underground by some unknown cataclysm. Various versions of this hand sign are depicted in numerous famous paintings by Geothermo con Vinci as well as other artists, apparently to tell the viewer in a coded message that The Spark of the Government and the royal bloodline of King Soulmann had survived. I display it as it relates to the fact that there are still many buried treasures and undiscovered secrets – some even hidden in plain sight – and that it’s still a mad, mad world. But we’re doing better; we’re down to only two mads. And feel free to contact me again, Sandi, if there's anything else your boyfriend wants to know, like 'how about when turned on side?' - the answer being, of course, that then it's The Sign of The Big E ! Enjoy.
Q. Hi Steve. Recently found your site and read bandography [ABOUT page]. I worked with [a certain drummer - name withheld] years ago. Once we were coming home from a gig in your area. On a back road, we put the VW microbus on it's [sic] side in a big ditch. He called some bass player guy at 4 in the morning to come out with his Power Wagon pickup truck. The vw was yan[k]ed back on its wheels, and up out on to the road, and we drove it home - cops never came. Was that you? [name withheld] A. Yep.
Q. Akiko writes: "Very fond of cd yours. Wakan is my favorite. I listen over and over. Artwork shows many flying saucers. Are subscribed you to ancient alien theory?" A. Yes. I’d describe it as ‘directed panspermia – with fringe benefits’. A subscriber? Yes. I was a charter member, seeing The Day the Earth Stood Still at 10, and reading my first Ivan T. Sanderson book at age 14. These days, many (if not most) UFOs seen are likely from one of the secret space programs, not ET's ride. Anyway, I thank you for your words, and I am greatly honored. [The tweaked-up re-release of 'Wakan' came out June 2018. I hope you liked it, Akiko ! ]
Thanks, Gman, for the review you put on CDBaby. [NOTE: Come to find out, 'Gman' is actually character actor George Georgiadis. His review went: "Every time I play the album my favorite song changes... road trip or cruise, ROCK ON..."] Yeah, there was definitely some drivin' going on in that recording, George! Ol' Chuck Berry told me once, onstage, in the middle of a song: "You drive me, man. You DRIVE me!" - after which he did the sidestep slide up to the mic, and hit the fourth verse of Johnny B. Goode el perfecto. (And that's where my song title "Drivin' Johnny B." comes from.) Sorry to hear you got thrown out of that Beacon Theatre concert for dancing onstage; I have only a very vague memory of it. Probably when the Coasters were on, right? I knew Carl and Speedo best; we partied some. Chuck was always doing that, too: he'd invite people up, and it would get out of hand. (DUH, Mr. Berry!!!) He did that at Madison Square Garden one night - and ended up punching some guy in the head, onstage, while under a perfect white pin spot! The Big Apple audience didn't like that, and closed in on the stage and orchestra pit. I barely got out of there alive, and with equipment intact - thanks mostly to my personal roadie of the evening, friend and drummer Mitch Doll. Sideman pal and saxophonist Lou Marini Jr. was on that show, too, about a year before he became "Blue Lou" with The Blues Brothers ala Sat. Night Live. Grapevine said our Comstock group was also scrutinized to be the backup band in that movie; obviously we didn't get the offer.
tarzanNjane asks: Q. "Could you please tell us more about Ernest Silverback, and what he is doing now?" A. No, vineswingers, I cannot. I have never even met the man face to face. Producing that song ["Frackin' Fool"] was a unique challenge. First, SE Consortium members powwowed to create the instrumentation backing, (the accompaniment). Then, Silverback essentially phoned in his performance. Afterward, I put on the finishing touches and shoved it out of the nest. So, to answer your question: I can't say where froggy-voiced Ernest is or what he is doing. Truth is I'm not exactly sure who he is.
This, from Deereman66: Q. "Heard your Frackin Fool on a country list, and I’m incensed. I’m a 4th generation farmer, and we support the gas drilling venture here. Not just for the money, but for those who need this energy. Where do you think it’s going to come from for this great country of ours? From space? I think you are the fool. Who do you think you are?" A. I think I’m a musician and a farmer whose ag lineage also goes back 4 generations. The story those songs tell was culled from real life. Yes, that frackin' natural gas IS needed: by the energy corporations - to sell. The process to get it is foolish, shortsighted, irresponsible and, plainly, idiotic. (Nikola Tesla knew about free energy for everybody, but citizens have yet to get that info. And: it IS from space , guy.) I think you are not stupid, just ignorant, since you believe what you’ve been told. The real news is not on 'The News'. Instead, think on this: "I think, therefore I am. I think not, therefore I am not." However, I agree with you, my Deereman: you should be incensed! I suggest Celestial Sandalwood.