Tuesday, March 18, 2008
(part 41) LSD, DOWNERS, AND VIETNAM... A NEW BEGINNING
Original seession for Vietnam by Bobby Jameson. Don Conka on drums and members of The Leaves on the track.
1965 was a big year for me. I took my first LSD trip and started using downers on a regular basis. My first acid trip was with Danny Hutton who had come into prominence with a single record "Roses And Rainbows." He then went on to Three Dog Night fame. Our trip started in Hollywood and ended after dawn on Venice Beach and then back to Hollywood. When it was over, I was different.
My use of downers gave me a sense of well being like nothing I'd ever known in my life. The tension I was used to was gone when I was loaded and I loved it. I felt as if I could do anything. I was addicted from the very first time I used them. When I mixed them with booze I would fight anyone anywhere. This became a trademark of mine over the next number of years and got me in a lot of trouble.
After being bounced off the wall by Randy Wood at Mira's offices, I vowed that no one would ever get physical with me again in the music business. I made that promise stick without exception. As far as LSD went, it altered all of my perceptions about everything, and I used way too much of it for way too long.
When Chris Lucey was finished I figured I was too, at least where Mira Records was concerned. But Pam Burns kept after to me to go back and cut a single for Mira. She told me that Randy was ashamed of what he'd done to me and wanted to make it right by letting me cut a record of my choice under my own name.
I was confronted with a number of issues in 1965 and received a letter from my mother containing my draft notice. The war in Vietnam was starting to escalate and I was going to have to go. "Jesus Christ man, just what I need!" I complained, after seeing the notice and finding out I was 1-A. That meant I was eligible for military induction and on my way to Vietnam, period.
This fact, as you may have guessed, was the very reason I wrote the song "Vietnam." Randy Wood was not too keen on this song but said, "If that's what you want to cut then go ahead." This was of course prompted by his promise to Pam Burns regarding my work on Chris Lucey.
I wrote "Metropolitan Man" as a b-side and used Don Conka on drums and some of the guys from "The Leaves" to record both songs. The Leaves were also on Mira and had recorded my song "Girl From The East" for their album. The Leaves had a hit with the song "Hey Joe" at the time and I was lucky to have their help on the record. It came out pretty well I thought.
There were 2 versions of "Vietnam." I wrote the song at the end of 65 and demo'd it with just me, guitar, and harmonica. The version with a band was cut in early 66. As promised, it was on Mira Records as a single, but was never promoted by the company. Randy was reluctant to back an anti-war song on his label so the record just died without ever getting a chance.
I once asked a group of L.A. DJ's at the Whiskey A Go Go during an afternoon radio promotion for something unrelated to me, why they never played my records in L.A.? Reb Foster accused me of using the anti-war demonstrations to further my own career. He was referring to the demonstrations that were starting to occur on the Sunset Strip with great regularity.
They all laughed when Reb said that and chimed in, "Yeah, you're too political." They laughed some more and ignored me as if I weren't there. That was pretty much the story with L.A. radio and me. I never got any airplay. There was a lot of resentment toward me because of the Tony Alamo days. The big ads and then nothing. People used to say, "Oh, you're the guy who had all that publicity and then blew it." I heard that a lot from music industry people in L.A. I was kind of the has been who never was to them and they never let me forget it.
Randy kept his promise alright, but managed to kill the record before it could get off the ground. I didn't know back then whether he did it on purpose, or just didn't get the point of "Vietnam" and refused to promote it. Hell there was a war going on and a lot of people were pissed off about it, so you'd think a song as relevant as "Vietnam" would have had a real shot if Mira would have gotten behind the record.
I don't recall any contracts regarding "Vietnam" and "Metropolitan Man," so I can't say much about it. Knowing Randy though, I'm sure there was some sort of agreement about it somewhere. Randy and I learned to have kind of a love hate relationship with each other that went on for quite awhile, but it was Pam Burns who kept any balance going between Randy and me. She was stuck in the middle of course, because she worked for Randy and loved me. Pam was always the one who kept things from going out of control around Mira.
As usual, I made no money for writing or recording "Vietnam/Metropolitan Man." Unfortunately I was getting used to that. It kind of seemed normal to me. I just liked writing songs and making records whether I got paid or not, so I kept doing it whenever I got the chance. It proved to be a bad way to do business.
Metropolitan Man b-side of Vietnam Mira Records 1966