Friday, April 16, 2010
I had to have this. Besides, our old toaster, a pretty cool looking red Kitchen Aid guy, was on it’s last legs. Plus, the left side of the toaster only toasted the toast on the left side, so you got one side toast and one side hot bread.
Still it looked pretty cool on our retro round kitchen table.
So, not only did I have to have this toaster because it looked like it had just landed from a futuristic retro restaurant, but I needed it. After all, who likes their sourdough toast toasted only on one side. Of course, once you piled on the penut butter you hardly noticed. But I knew, besides you didn’t get the crunch.
And this toaster looked brand spanking new. There was no price tag on it, so I scooped it up, found a guy who worked there and he confirmed it was new and it was $14.99.
“Great,” I said. We bought it, took it home and in the morning I put in four slices of sourdough, two for me, two for Vesta. And woe of woes. The two slots on the right don’t stay down. I can hold it down and it cooks, but who in their right mind wants to hold their toast down every morning while it’s cooking.
Sure the left side works, so in reality we’re better off than before, because now we get two slices completely cooked, but it just chaps my hide that I can’t four get slices cooked at once.
I went on line and Target sells this baby for $69.99. And they sell a two slice version for $49.99. I can take it back and get my $14.99 back. Which would probably be stupid. So, what’s a Jujuwalker to do? Keep it or not? I guess it all depends on whether or not I can live with a chapped hide.
Friday, March 19, 2010
After I got the boot from the bootleg biz by Big Dub, Dub became known as Little Dub. I missed working with him, because he was good at putting the material together and I was not. I did the RAH record, sure, but an idiot could have done that.
I bought a 650 Kawasaki BSA rip of. British bikes were cool, but you had to always be working on ’em. The Kawasaki made the real deal seem golden, it was always apart, so I bought a new Triumph Bonneville, had the fork extended, got tall handle bars, I don’t remember what they were called back then, sort of like the Ape Hanger Bars you see on Harleys today. I was cool and I liked to ride.
And one day I rode out to Riverside, about an hour from Long Beach on the new extension to the 91 Freeway. They had kind of an old town, walking type street and since I liked being a tourist, I touristed off and I found Betty’s Records. A stupid name, to be sure, but what a great store and they sold bootlegs.
I asked for the manager, who’s name I don’t remember, but the guy who ran the place was named Harry. He wanted to buy boots, but I only had the one, plus about 5,000 Donovan records in a friend’s garage. I wanted to sell these guys records and I reasoned that the Dubs would be glad to sell them to me if I paid the going rate, which was a buck fifty a record. They were more than generous and sold them to me for a buck which allowed them to double their money and I could sell them for a buck and half and do alright.
Vesta and I were back in school, because we weren’t working and being uneducated is just stupid. Every weekend I’d drive out to Riverside and I found a couple other stores to sell to out there where nobody knew me. I was still paranoid.
But I wasn’t going to be paranoid for long, because the money was running out. We needed money, because we had two babies and we’d learned that we didn’t like going to work. So we tried out a swap meat, sold the records retail in front of God and everybody for three dollars each or two for five, doubles five dollars. We made a couple hundred bucks our first time out and for the next year or so that’s what we did. I bought from the Dubs and Vesta and I worked the La Marada swap meet at the La Marada drive in in La Marada, California (that’s a lotta La Maradas). We’d leave at 9:00 PM Friday night and wait in line till dawn, when they let us in. In those days those at the head of the line got the best spots.
Eventually I was working several swap meets. All at drive ins. I had two brothers, both also in school and a couple friends I was supplying with the records I was getting from the Dubs, but I knew it couldn’t last.
Now I have to back up here, In a previous post I talked about how Kay at Lewis Record MFG copied Dub’s stampers (which were really half mine) for me, but this, what I said above, was happening concurrently. I hadn’t gotten around to pressing any of his records yet, because I didn’t have any accounts. I suppose I could’ve taken over Dub’s and eventually I would, but at that point in time I was too dumb and stupid to think about it.
Besides, I was kind of doing okay, selling Dub’s records to my few stores and at the swap meets. But Dub was getting new stereo equipment all the time, Big Dub quit the Post Office and was stylin’, while Vesta and I were going to school and working our buns off. Sure we had new cars. Sure I had a great bike. Sure we had new furniture. Sure we had stuff. But we weren’t stylin’. We weren’t leaving twenty dollar tips for ten dollar meals. We weren’t taking long vacations. We weren’t dripping in money, rolling around in it. We wanted that.
Back to Betty’s. One day after I dropped the records off, they’d only ordered fifty or so, so I strapped them on the back of my Bonneville and drove ’em on out. Gary, that’s the name of the owner. Gary Sparger, I’m surprised I remembered that. He asked me if I’d like to stop by a friend’s house for a few drinks. That was back when drinking and driving was okay if you didn’t get caught and if you did you just got a slap on the wrist unless you killed someone, so I said sure.
No girls there, just Gary, Harry and a couple guys I didn’t know. They were making Sangria. Years later, when I was living in Spain, I’d often look back when I was drinking it at an outdoor restaurant and remember their Sangria recipe. Here it is: You take a bottle of Spinata -- a cheap wine you could get back then, maybe you still can. You squeeze a lime in it. Add lots of fruit bits, heavy on orange slices and canned grapefruit with a little canned pineapple stirred in. Then you add two two hits of mescaline and two hits of acid. Then you stir briskly and smoke a joint while you’re waiting for the flavors to blend.
After a glass and twenty minutes or so we were all doing alright. Somebody found a twenty-two rifle and several boxes of bullets, so we set up cards in a towel cabinet at one end of a hallway and started target practice. We did this till someone realized we’d drilled a hole through the back of the cabinet, through the wall into a bedroom and through the wall opposite. We’d been shooting out into the street. It’s a miracle we weren’t caught and taken away. But we weren’t.
And Harry and I got to know each other a bit. Turns out he and a friend wanted to open a poster business and they thought they needed a third partner and they thought I’d fill the bill nicely. I never dreamed they could’ve wanted me because my dad, whose record business went bust, now had a poster one stop and was selling to all the hippy stores. Being young, dumb and maybe a bit stoned, I said okay.
A month later, after we’d printed up our first batch and sold ’em to, you guessed it, my dad. Harry and partner dropped by my house unexpectedly one evening. Since Riverside was an hour away, I didn’t think they’d just happened to be in the neighborhood. I knew right away they were gonna give me the old heave ho. I’d been there before and could see it coming from clear across the room. But what they didn’t know was that I’d met the printer and had a plan to take bootlegs to a whole ’nother level and I’d planned on including them, we were partners, after all.
But I was out now and Vesta and I were on our own again. We were young, we were greedy and we had a couple Beatle tapes.
One of the posters my dad had in the new Saturn Poster One Stop was the Beatles’ Renaissance Minstrels one. If you haven’t seen it or seen the cover of the three records, (Ren III came later and was more of a counterfeit than a bootleg) it’s got a drawing of the Beatles garbed as one would imagine the Bard would have dressed in his day. Not being too original, I thought it would be a good title and a good cover.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. My dad still had his shrink wrap machine. This baby cost twenty-five hundred bucks, which was about what a new VW cost back then and it was bigger than a VW. On the right end of the machine was a roll of shrink wrap, you slid a record between two layers, pulled done on this bar, which had a heated wire on it, which cut the shrink wrap, then you flipped the record onto a moving belt, which took it into a heated tunnel. The record came out the other end, slid down a ramp he’d designed and into a record box. Do it twenty-five times and you sealed the box.
Though Saturn Records was no more, there were still plenty of crooks in the records business, from the store owners, to the one stops, to the distributors, to the record companies themselves. My dad used to say he told his mother he was a pimp, because he didn’t want her to know he was in the record business. That poly machine earned my dad a ton of cash.
Here’s how. The store owner sells used records and if he takes one in with a new looking jacket, he brings it into my dad’s, goes in the back room and makes it new again, paying the piper (my dad) on the way out. He then returns it to the record company as new. Or maybe to a one stop if he doesn’t buy direct. The one stops usually gave ten percent returns. The record companies were much more generous. So Mr. Record Store would pay Mr. One Stop, who might slip Mr. Record Company Rep a few bucks and that record got returned as new, only to wind up in some kid’s hot mits sometime down the line.
This is why Jack (my dad) had that machine. But I reasoned that it could just as well shrink paper covers to bootlegs, thus making them look more attractive. And you could put the song titles on the cover. But I was still a little paranoid about getting caught, so I couldn’t just walk into any old printer, but there was that guy out in Riverside. An hour away, to be sure, but better safe than the hoosegow.
Now, where was I gonna get this baby pressed. I could go to Lewis, but I didn’t want to. Old Ted and Kay were drinking a lot, the plant wasn’t the cleanest place in L.A. The records were a bit thick. They tended to have clicks and pops in them even with the virgin colored vinyl and they weren’t the cheapest. Old Pete Korelich was cheaper. And Jack Brown, he was cheaper still, but the cheapest and the best independent pressing plate on the West Coast was without a doubt, Waddel’s.
We did “LiveR” there, but when it got popular Chris got paranoid, there was a lot of that going around, so he didn’t want to go in there anymore and his stories of Horace and Bud had Dub and me to frightened to even think about it. So what to do? Then I thought of Malcolm. True, when those guys came out to shoot us up, Malcolm found somewhere else to be.
Wait! I have to stop here. Maybe ”Homogenized Beatles” came first? I don’t remember, maybe. It was the same as “Renaissance Two” and it was a sister record to the “Donovan Reedy River” record. They both had white covers with stickers on ’em with the title and song titles. Maybe they did come first. Yeah, they did. I remember now, we went to a printer in Bellflower and ordered a zillion stickers. We told him we worked for the Foundation for the Junior Blind and that this was a project to raise money for them. Gutsy liars we were, Vesta and me. We pressed those records at Lewis. I think, maybe Pete’s. They weren’t very exciting.
Back to the story. I asked Malcolm if he wanted a part of some bootleg action. He was a dope smoking student who liked fast cars and easy money. So he said sure. I told him all he had to do was take these tapes into Waddel’s, meet a guy named Horace and tell him he wanted ten thousand each. I didn’t think he’d be able to pull it off, but then I didn’t know Horace was just like me, just like everybody else in the record business. If he could make a buck and not get caught, he was game. Horace and I later on down the line would do mucho business together.
Anyhow, Malcolm, who about then changed his name to Mel, got the records and we couldn’t keep the bloody things in stock. Christ, did those things sell. It was LiveR all over again. Money, money, money, you gotta love it. Mel/Malcolm coulda made a killing, but he was greedy. I was greedy too, but I wasn’t a cheat. I never cheated someone I was doing business with. I never cheated a partner. We were thieves. We were crooks. But we weren’t cheaters. There’s rules. Well, there should be.
Though I stayed out of most of the stores, because of that paranoid business, there were a couple who were cool, who knew, who wouldn’t tell. One of those was Rare Records in Glendale. A guy named Ray Avery owned it. He did jazz boots way, way back. He turned me and Dub onto Cecil, a funny little man who had all the necessary stuff to master records in his garage. One day I was in Ray’s and he told me he sold out of the first batch of records Mel had brought by and that he’d bought a couple hundred more. What the F? Mel had forgotten to tell me about that and this time I was the one giving someone the heave ho. But now Mel was a bootlegger and he’d be doing it for a long time. I’d just trained up my competition.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Dub hadn’t been bugging me about the records and it was plain to see why. He’d heard that gobbling too. So, for the time being, those records were going to be on the back burner, maybe never seeing the light of day.
After the I breakup I had two main things on my mind. One was getting and making new records and two was getting even. Growing up, my father told me time and time again the best way to get even with somebody was to do them in without them knowing you did it. This way you get the satisfaction of seeing your enemy twist in the wind, without turning him into a revenge seeking maniac.
In that light I’d decided to keep making Dub’s records, but didn’t see any reason for letting him know I was doing it. Also, I didn’t have any inventory. Why I didn’t think half those records in Big Dub’s basement didn’t belong to me is beyond me. I guess because I was young and dumb, because it never occurred to me Big Dub was actually stealing something of mine. I guess because we were making so much money, I’d never given much thought as to the value of the inventory creating it.
I did, however, have those five thousand Donovan records for all the good they were going to do me. Plus I had the original stampers for Great White Wonder over at Pete’s. So that was one record, at least, Dub wasn’t going to be making anymore.
So I had GWW and Dub didn’t. Plus, I had access to all his stampers. But what I really needed was something of my own.
Something they didn’t have.
I had the soundboard recording of Royal Albert Hall and to the best of my knowledge, nobody else, except Waterford, had it. I could rush it out. It was damn good, a very good soundboard recording, but it had been recorded from an acetate, it was mono and there were a few very annoying clicks and pops on it. I’d probably listened to that tape over a hundred times with headphones on and I personally knew every click, was acquainted with every pop. I’d tense up just before they happened and I didn’t want to put out a record with them on it.
So I was going to have to go back up to Waterford’s, because he claimed to have a version of the tape taken from the master tape. Plus, he’d said that the last three songs were in stereo. Much as I dreaded going up there again, I had to have that tape.
But I didn’t want to go alone, so I called my friend Malcolm. True, he’d gone south on me during that fiasco with the R and B single, but this wasn’t a life threatening situation. Waterford was just annoying, probably the most annoying person on the planet, certainly too annoying for me to deal with by myself. If I was going to have to listen to him preach about how Bob was God, then have to spend the night in his bathroom, I wasn’t going to do it all by myself.
Malcolm couldn’t go till the weekend, as he was in school. He was going to UC Irving and was earning extra money by selling bootlegs on campus. Saturday came, but he had a test to study for on the following Monday, so we put off the trip to Santa Cruz for another week, but when I called Waterford, he said he had plans with his new fiance and could we postpone for still another week. He assured me he would have the tape ready to go, no staying up all night in that bathroom.
“Actually, you can’t record in there anyway,” he said.” I’ve moved and I don’t have a sound system in my new bathroom.”
“Really.” That was great news.
“Yeah, I got a place where I can play Dylan loud as I want. The apartment was kind of a drag that way.”
“I can imagine.”
“See you when you get here.”
“Yeah.” I hung up and two weeks later Malcolm and I were on our way in his hot 1969 Firebird 400, which I’d sold to him for take over payments when I got the Healey.
When we got there, Waterford was waiting on his porch with this yappy little dog, it had short hair, perky ears, a pointy tail, was mostly white, maybe grey, and barked like a three-year-old who wants cookies, but doesn’t know the words. It was every bit as annoying as Waterford himself. They were made for each other.
His new place was a cabin type of affair in the woods just outside of Santa Cruz. He had electricity and water, but save for that, the place looked pretty much like it must have when it was built, sometime during the gold rush. The man was not into creature comforts. He had his trunks of Dylan stuff piled against one wall and told me he had others buried in the forest.
Waterford resembled a sloth, the place looked like it hadn’t been cleaned, ever. There was dust and dirt, bugs and smells everywhere.
“I got a couple sleeping bags, if you guys want to spend the night. I’ll be sleeping up in the teepee.”
“Not spending the night,” Malcolm said. Mal was just about the cheapest individual I’d ever met. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’s opted to sleep naked in the snow, rather than spring for a motel room. For him to give up the offer of a free night is a true testament as to how much Waterford’s place reeked.
“So where you staying then?” Waterford wanted to know.
“We’re heading back tonight,” Malcolm said. “I gotta study.” And here I thought we might be staying in a motel.
“I guess we better get copying then,” I said.
“First we have to set up the teepee,” Waterford said.
“The one I’m getting married in tonight.” Though he looked like a grub, for a second there he almost looked angelic. “I’m gonna need your help setting it up.”
“I’m not setting up any teepee,” Malcolm said. Not only was he cheap, he hated work, would do almost anything to get out of it.
“We can make you the tape as soon as we have it set up.” Waterford was playing us. But if I had to go along with a little blackmail to get the tape, well, I’d do it.
I cut Malcolm off with a glare.
“All right. We’ll help you set up the tent,” Mal said.
Waterford made for the door, Mal and I followed, Yappy right on my heals.
“The dog bites me, he dies,” I said.
“He won’t bite.”
I’d been around big dogs all my life, got along with them fine, but there was something about me this guy I didn’t like. I couldn’t help feeling he wanted to rip my Achilles tendon out.
Waterford led us down what looked like an animal trail of some kind to a clearing where there was some bundled canvas and three poles that looked suspiciously like the poles I’d hated so much when I was in bootcamp. These things were about fifteen feet long. The drill instructors would assign four or five guys to a pole and we’d be picking them and putting them down for about an hour or so. Sometimes they’d line us up four abreast and we’d do curls with those poles, or overhead presses. I hated those poles.
“Okay, let’s get this thing set up, so we can get out of here,” Malcolm said.
“Oh, we’re not having the wedding here.” Waterford pointed. “We’re having it up there.”
I did remember he’d said he would be sleeping in the teepee on a hilltop.
“I’m not moving that!” Malcolm said.
“Then you’re not getting the tape!” Waterford said.
I wanted to strangled them both. I needed that tape, so I pinned Malcolm with another glare.
“All right!” Mal said. “Let’s get it over with.”
Waterford was shorter than us and he took the middled, Malcolm took the front and I brought up the rear. We shouldered the pole, Malcolm and I bearing most of the brunt, and started up the hill. Twice I almost fell. It was heavy, the footing precarious and Waterford wasn’t doing his share. The little shit.
It was back breaking work, getting that pole up that hill. Once there, we saw that brush had been cleared away, stones had been set up for a fire.
“This is gonna be great,” Waterford said.
“So the wedding’s tonight?” Malcolm said.
“Yeah. It won’t strictly be legal, cause she’s not quite old enough.”
“Really?” Waterford looked about thirty, reminded me of a snake and there was no way I could imagine a seventeen-year-old girl, no matter what she looked like, ever being interested in him.
“So how can you get married then?” Malcolm said as we started back down the hill.
“I have a friend who is a Universal Life Science minister,” Waterford said.
“No shit,” Malcolm said. “So am I.” He’d sent away for the card in the mail, anyone could do it back then. It was a scam. Some people thought it would help keep them out of the draft, others liked to be called reverend and thought a card you could get for twenty bucks gave them the right. Malcolm told me it got him to the head of the line when he was flying back east once. He also said it helped him get hippie chicks in the sack.
“Let’s just get this over with,” I said.
We took the canvas up next, then another pole. One more to go and I didn’t think I was going to make it. The climb was steep, the poles heavy. I picked my way up the hill with the pole digging into my shoulder. I had to shit, thought I was going to blow, because I was so worn out I didn’t think I’d be able to hold it back and no way was any bathroom inside of that place Waterford lived in gonna ever see my naked butt. I needed a place in the woods, needed it now.
I saw the top, soon this ordeal was gonna be over. A quick trip behind some bushes, then back to Waterford’s, copy the tape, a fast drive to Long Beach and in the morning I’d get the tape mastered. This one was was gonna be LiveR all over again. I felt it in my blood.
Finally we reached the top.
“Oh fuck!” Waterford screamed. He’d stepped into a beehive. Somehow it had falling from a tree, was waiting there on the ground, like a land mine.
The dog howled. It was covered in bees, looked black now. Malcolm screamed.
We dropped the pole.
I whirled around, jumped off the edged of the hill, slid down on my backside, with a swarm of those stinging bees hot after my hide. I made the trail below, still hadn’t been stung. I started running, pumping my arms like I’d never pumped them when I ran track in school.
I couldn’t hear the bees, but I knew they were there.
Up ahead I saw a group of people, five or six girls and guys out for a walk in the woods. I ran toward them, chugging air for all I was worth, legs working overtime, feet slapping the forest floor.
I ran into the group, zapped straight through them. Somehow I knew the bees wouldn’t follow.
“Thanks a lot,” motherfucker one of the guys said as the women screamed. I kept going, running like the wind. The path turned, I slowed, stopped, turned. Sure enough the bees hadn’t followed. I headed off the trail, found some privacy, took care of business.
Back on the trail, I made my way back to Waterford’s only to find him, Mal and the dog already there. The dog got the worst of it. He was covered with lumps and didn’t look like he was going to make it. Waterford had been stung several times, Mal only four. Who knows how many times the group in the forest got nailed. I came through scott free.
Waterford was not happy. He told us to come back around sundown and we could copy the tape then, but for now he had to take care of the dog, plus he was in pain. Mal, to his credit, bore it well.
We went to a pharmacy in Santa Cruz and the pharmacist there told Malcolm to scrape the infected areas with a credit card to get the stingers out.
“The stinger is hooked on to a venom sac,” he said. If you pull it out, you’ll just get more of the venom in you.”
After Mal scraped those stingers away, he used alcohol supplied by the friendly pharmacist to clean the infected areas. Mal had no allergy problems and aside for a little pain, followed by a little itching, was good to go in no time at all. I could only imagine how Waterford was fairing. And the dog, I didn’t want to think about that.
Sundown and we were back at the cabin. Waterford had a couple lumps on his neck, some on his harms, but he seemed in no pain. Drugs, I thought, but I couldn’t be sure. The dog, he said, was at the vets. He was going to survive.
“So let’s start copying then,” I said.
“Gotta pick up my fiance first,” Waterford said.
“I don’t have a car and she doesn’t drive.” He crossed his arms. “As soon as we pick her up, we can copy the tape for you.”
“Christ,” Malcolm said.
“Sure, why not.” I really wanted that tape.
We got in the car, Waterford in back. It was getting dark as he led us to an upper middle class area. Two story homes, nice lawns, three car garages, big lots.
“Stop there,” Waterford said.
“C’mon, I gotta get out.”
I opened the door, got out, held the seat for Waterford so he could get out too.
A girl opened the back door of the house, rushed to the car.
“Hurry!” Waterford said.
“Boy my parents are gonna be pissed.” She jumped into the back.
“Oh Christ,” I said. She looked like she was fourteen. “We’re in trouble.”
“We gotta get out of here!” Waterford jumped into the back.
“Get in!” Mal said.
“We’re not going anywhere!” I said.
“You’re going to jail if you don’t get in,” Mal said.
I got in and Malcolm peeled on out of there.
“What’s going on here?” I could’ve ripped Waterford’s heart out.
“She’s very mature,” he said.
“I don’t care.”
“Just drop us at my place,” Waterford said.
Malcolm drove like the wind and in just a few minutes we were at his cabin.
“Get out of my car!” Mal wasn’t happy.
Waterford got out, again Mal burned rubber. Soon we were on the freeway, without the tape.
I got home around two in the morning, went straight to bed, got up early and took the tape I had, the one that was recorded off the acetate to DCT studios near Sunset. That’s where I did the MLK speech record. The guy cutting the record knew right away he was cutting a bootleg. He thought it was cool. Even with those few clicks and pops it was a pretty darned good tape and I was convinced it would put me right on top of the bootleg biz.
I took the acetate into Lewis as soon as it was cut, as they made the masters, mothers and stampers on site. After a few minutes with Kay I wandered around the plant, saw that Dub had copied GWW and was doing it on colored vinyl. That was gonna sell. In fact, everything he was doing now was on colored vinyl.
Then I saw a record that wasn’t on colored vinyl and my heart sank.
Somebody, not Dub, had beat me.
And he was making a lot of records.
I took one of these Royal Albert Hall records home and to my dismay, it was better than mine. Those annoying clicks and pops were conspicuous in their absence. I did not, however, stop production of my record. I sold a lot, would have sold a lot more had I put my version out earlier. Then to make matters worse, Dub came out with his own version and it was even better yet. And he had those last three songs in stereo.
I felt like driving up to Santa Cruz and shooting Waterford, but I didn’t go back up there. I don’t know what happened between him and the child he wanted to marry. I never saw him again, never spoke to him again and when I saw his books in the bookstores, I turned away, refusing to acknowledge them.
I was so sure I was going to be the first with this record, so wanted mine to be the best. But I’d failed in both, this new guy beat me to the punch and Dub creamed me with quality. It this case, his version truly lived up to the name Trade Mark of Quality.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
The first one is my first copy of the one Dub and I did together. I had one of the originals, but we were selling so many that I wanted more, so two or more people could stamp at once. As I said in my last post, Bob didn't get them right. The bottom one is the original. The top one is thicker and the middle one is similar to the top one, but the lettering isn't as thick.
If you look at the bottom one you can see it's a similar font, I didn't know what a font was back then, the serifs extend outward, rather than straight down. If you have a record with one of the top two stamps, especially the top one, you've got something very rare, because hardly any got out.
Still, it goes without saying, any copy, especially the gatefold ones, are rare and I hope this clears it all up.
Monday, March 1, 2010
We wouldn’t last long with a PO box, that was for sure.
Not unless we could figure out some way to give the mail people a fake address and be guaranteed they wouldn’t ever verify it. And not unless we could figure out a way to get our mail without ever going to the post office, because there were going to be watchers watching that box.
Enter Dub’s dad.
Big Dub had worked for the Postal Service his whole live. A veteran mailman he was. He got us a box in the Glendale Post Office, and he picked up the mail every night, from inside the post office, so the bad guys (or good guys on the other side, depending on your point of view), could wait till the cows come home, but they’d never catch us.
Big Dub brought us the mail everyday, with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. He just loved the fact that he was helping us put something over on the man. Not only did he bring us the mail, but when our business got bigger and it was no longer convenient for us to work out of our homes, he let us store the records in his basement, which had been Dub’s room when he lived there.
Actually it wasn’t really a basement, because the house was sort of on a hill. The front of the house faced an upper middle class Glendale street, the back of the house was actually down a level and opened on a large backyard. Dub’s old room was the whole bottom floor of the house and had its own entry from the back. You could also get to that large room, which we converted into a warehouse, with record bins on all the walls, by taking the stairs down from the kitchen above.
This moving the business to the basement didn’t happen overnight, it was sort of a gradual thing. I was there a lot and Big Dub, Virginia and Tammy the poodle, who ate better than most humans, all made me feel like I was part of the family. Well, Tammy didn’t make me feel like I belonged. She actually hated me. But the feeling was mutual.
This pampered poodle got a bath at the vets at least twice a week, was talked to by Virginia and Big Dub as if it were a baby, cuddly and cute, and she was cute, but she was evil. Virginia was a good cook, I know, because I ate an awful lot of meals with them before Dub and I would retire down to the basement to pack and ship records. But before she cooked for the humans, Ginny cooked for the dog, grinding her steak just so, not too chunky, not too fine, then cooking it just perfect for Tammy.
And if she didn’t make it just the way Tammy liked, the pedigreed pup would turn her nose up and Dub’s mother would dump the food in the trash and start all over again.
One day Dub surprised his parents with a month long holiday in Europe. One of those motor-coach affairs, where if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium. They were going to see the Continent in style. First class all the way for Dub’s folks. Dub wasn’t cheap. As the time drew near to day when they were supposed to get on the big airplane, Virginia got more and more nervous.
“What about poor Tammy,” she would whine.
“Tammy will be fine,” Dub would answer. “Don’t worry.” I think, like me, Dub hated that dog, only he couldn’t say it out loud. Well, actually I couldn’t either, not if I didn’t want to incur Ginny’s wrath.
In the end, Virginia didn’t trust us to take care of the dog, so she found a kennel that sort of met her approval. One of those places where the stars took their pets. This was a wonderful gift Dub had given his folks. I don’t think they’d ever been out of the States. However, four days later they were back. Ginny had called the kennel while they were in Rome and learned that Tammy wasn’t eating regularly. Apparently those kennel people didn’t sauté Tammy’s steak just so.
I swear, and may lightning strike me dead if I’m lying, that dog went around the house for the next weak or so with a smug look of satisfaction on its poodle face. I think Dub would have killed the dog if he could have gotten it alone, but that wasn’t possible, Ginny was in constant attendance.
One day shortly after Big Dub and Virginia got back from Italy I went by Lewis and picked up a couple hundred copies of Birch and Freeze Out. The records without covers were packed fifty to a box, so I had eight boxes of records in the back of my small car. I drove straight out to Dub and Virginia’s to off load the records. Which was normal. I figured on dinner, then a couple hours stamping covers and stuffing records, then I’d planned on hitting the freeway, getting home around 8:30 or 9:00.
But that’s not what happened.
When I got there dinner wasn’t on the table. Virginia was out walking Tammy. Dub wasn’t home.
But Big Dub was there and he wanted to talk. He told me he thought Dub was responsible for the records being as successful as they were, because of all of his state of the art stereo and recording equipment. The records were actually assembled in Dub’s old room and Big Dub was the guy who was paying the rent, so to speak, for storing our records. In fact, the way he saw it, I wasn’t really doing very much at all. I wasn’t carrying my weight, it wasn’t fair to Dub. Dub needed a partner who could move the business forward. I was dragging him down.
Bottom line, I was out, Big Dub was in.
To this day I don’t know why I didn’t attack the man, then burn down his house with him in it. But I didn’t. I got in my car with those four hundred records in the back seat and drove home, getting angrier and angrier as I sat in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic.
When I got home I’d calmed down some. I told Vesta what happened. My friend Dick came over and I told him.
Richard MacPartland, was just about the best friend I ever had. He was raised in Boston, was an incorrigible kid whose parents took him to reform school when he was eight years old for stealing a pack of Oreos. And there he stayed till he was sixteen.
Out, he got involved with the wrong kind of people and he shot and killed a man with a flare gun. Dick’s story was that there were three guys who wanted to take him down, after he shot the one, the other two fled, but he was caught by the cops and sent back to reform school without a trial.
He got out again on his eighteenth birthday. A couple weeks later he saw a man beating a dog with a cane. Dick pushed the man over a row of hedges, took the dog and set him free a few blocks away. However, unknown to him, beating your dog was not against the law, but dog napping was and so it was back to jail for skinny Dick MacPartland till he was twenty-one.
Out again, he figured he should get as far away from Boston as possible, and you can’t get much farther away and still be in the United States, than Los Angeles, so that’s where he headed. In L.A. he met some guys who were into counterfeiting and in no time Dick was hawking counterfeit copies of Smoky Robinson’s My Girl. My dad bought a lot of ’em, knowingly or unknowingly, I never knew, but my father took a liking to Dick and he sort of became part of the family.
However, Dick was always going away on vacation for small peccadilloes like, Interstate Transportation of Counterfeit Securities (he’d moved up from Smoky Robinson forty-fives to American Express traveler’s checks), Grand Theft Auto (he was part of a car theft ring), Drug Smuggling and a host of lesser crimes. During theses enforced vacations my brothers and I would send him cigarettes and fifty or sixty bucks a month. Dick was out at the time and when he heard about what happened, he wanted to go out and pay Big Dub an immediate visit.
Once, when I was working for my dad, I forget to order the third Doors LP. Dick said he needed to borrow my car. He took it (without my knowledge) over to Cal Racks, a major rack jobber, parked it next to one of their trucks that was about to make a delivery and off loaded a couple hundred Doors records from their truck into my trunk. He’d committed a daylight robbery, just so my dad wouldn’t know that I messed up and forgot to order the hottest record in America, and he got away with it. Dick got away with a lot of stuff back then. But he got caught for a lot of stuff too, which is why he spent so much time behind bars.
I was mad at Big Dub, but I didn’t want him dead.
“But I need to help somehow,” Dick said. “What do you need?”
“If I could borrow your car tomorrow, that would be good.” I needed jackets for the records. Big Dub kind of fucked up, he should have waited till after I unloaded those records before instigating his coup.
The next day Dick came over bright and early. He’d been out to Dub’s with me a couple of times and he’d been out to Big Dub and Virginia’s as well, so I don’t know why I was surprised when that’s where he headed.
However, when we got there nobody was home and that was a good thing. So, next we went out to the pressing plant, because I wanted to talk to Kaye.
We got there right after Big Dub left. He’d been there to inform Kaye not to press any records for me. He was his son’s new partner and he and his son were the only people who were going to be making bootlegs there.
Kaye was an alright old gal. I never went there to pick up records without spending time with her. She had a smoker’s voice and maybe she drank too much on occasion, but she had great stories she liked to tell and I liked to listen. I had some stories too, and she liked to listen to mine.
Dub, when he went there, just grabbed the records and went. He was a nice guy, one of the nicest people I ever knew, but he had faults, faults he’d inherited from his parents. He talked about Catholics and Jews as if they were inferior. He didn’t mean it, he just didn’t know any better. He acted like he was superior to others as well. Again, he didn’t know any better. But when Kaye met his Daddy, who was not such a nice guy, she learned straightaway why Dub was the way he was.
She and Dick were like two peas in a pod. After only a few minutes together, they’d worked it out that Kaye would make me mothers of everything Dub had in there, stampers too. And she’d do it for free. Plus she’d keep pressing for me. And that deal went on forever. Whenever Dub took something in there, she’d make me a set of plates gratis. When he ordered records, she’d ask me how many I wanted.
Okay, so I was still in business, thanks to Big Dub’s arrogance, Dick’s smooth talking and Kaye’s sense of what was right and what wasn’t. We left Lewis and went to pick up the jackets and with them safely in Dick’s trunk, we got on the freeway and lit up a joint.
Back then you went to jail for a long time if they caught you smoking dope, so we figured the safest place was on the freeway at about seventy-five miles an hour. If a cop pulled up behind you, you could toss it out the window. Fat change a cop was gonna find it. What could they do, shut down the freeway?
We got home around 3:30, easily beating the rush hour traffic which is a big deal in L.A. However, after we off loaded the records, we realized we had another problem. I didn’t have any rubber stamps. Pigs I had plenty of, because we used to make up the records in my living room. But I needed a Birch and a Freeze out stamp pronto.
“I know a guy,” Dick said. He asked me what I wanted the stamps to say, then he made a call. “We can pick ’em up in a couple hours. He’ll call when they’re ready.”
The kids were at my fathers for a couple days. Vesta used to do that, drive them out there and leave them for three or four days, because my dad and his new wife had a girl a year older than my son and a year younger than my daughter. They loved it, because they spent most of the time in his pool. We didn’t have a pool.
So without the kids we had no reason to maintain. We had a couple hours with nothing to do, so we fired up a joint, put "Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues" on the turntable and waited for that call. About halfway through side one Dick mentioned that he had a hit of acid and maybe we could split it three ways.
This is the kind of suggestion that under normal circumstances one would laugh off at 3:30 on a Thursday, especially if you have to go outside and deal with normal people. But we were already stoned and besides, we were gonna split it three ways, what could happen? So I went out to the kitchen, got a coke, popped the tab and Dick dropped the acid in. Vesta got the rum out from the cabinet on top of the refrigerator, got three glasses and made us each a drink.
Funny thing about LSD, I don’t think it’s the amount of the drug you ingest, but how easily it is to open that doorway. You know, the one in your mind most people like to keep closed. We were all veteran drug takers and we were all pretty used to seeing what wasn’t there. In fact Dick used to be a junkie, but my brothers and I introduced him to acid and he never went back. So, really a third of a hit, three hits or four, it made no difference, our doors were blown right off the hinges and we had no business going outside, much less getting inside of a moving vehicle.
However, when that phone rang we piled right into Dick’s old car like it was the most normal thing in the world. And he drove us down to the Pike. The Pike was an old amusement park full of barkers, hustlers, carny people, tattoo parlors and it sported the greatest roller coaster on the planet, "The Cyclone" or as those not from Long Beach Called it, "The Cyclone Racer".
“We’re going to ride the coaster.” Vesta sound enthused.
“No we’re not.” I might have been floating above all that’s holy, but I wasn’t so stoned that I didn’t know that we’d never get off that beast alive if we got on it in the condition we were in. It had killed before, I didn’t want it killing tonight.
Dick parked in front of a tattoo place and lead us to the business next door where he introduced us to Bob, a guy with a Santa Claus white beard that attempted to hide a ruddy drinker’s face, but Bob’s bulbous, blue veined nose gave the game away. Bob wore a sailor’s hate just like the Skipper wore on Gilligan’s Island.
He held out his hand, I shook it, was about to say I was pleased to meet him when something clamped itself around my leg.
“What?” I looked down and son of a gun if Tammy’s twin wasn’t dry humping my right leg.
“His names Brucie, he likes you,” Bob said.
“I don’t care. Get him off!” Tammy and I never hit it off and I could see that Brucie and I weren’t starting off on the right foot either.
“Down, boy,” Bob said, but that just got Brucie humping harder.
“Knock it off.” Bob grabbed Brucie by the scruff on his neck, tossed him across the room. This dog wasn’t mollycoddled, but he had a problem with no, because in an instant he was right back on my leg. Bob grabbed him again, went behind the counter, set Brucie on it. “Behave!” he said.
Then he handed us the stamps.
They were horrible. Neither stamp said GWW on it. The Birch stamp didn’t have the square outline around the title. The printing was too small. The typeface was different.
“We can’t use these,” I said. Though we did use the Birch one a few years later, probably stamped five or six hundred records with it, but the Freeze Out stamp never saw ink.
“I made ’em just like you ordered,” Bob said to Dick. And that was true. Dick told the man what he wanted the stamps to say over the phone and Bob made ‘em up.
I explained our problem and Bob was very understanding, especially since I told him we’d pay for the bad stamps. Bob said if we could get him an impression, he could have the stamps made up the way we wanted in a couple hours. He’d stay open, do ’em special tonight. You can’t beat that for service, so we drove back home, a major feat in our condition, got a copy of each of the records for Bob.
So here we were, three very stoned people at the Pike. The last time I’d been here I’d been arrested by the Shore Patrol for being in uniform without a tie. I’d been drinking too, so they turned me over to the cops, which under normal circumstances isn’t a very nice thing to do. But they were sailors and saw a chance to stick it to a Marine.
The cops handcuffed me, one of them put his hand on my head, guided me into the back seat. This wasn’t good. They drove away from the Pike, then the officer riding shotgun turned around and smiled.
“Where’d you park?”
Not my car. I had a 1960 Ford Starliner, candy apple red, white tuck and roll, 352, Holly four barrel, Hurst four speed on the floor, racing slicks. Not the fastest car in Southern California, but I’d won my share of races on Cherry between those two big cemeteries, the Catholic All Souls and Forest Lawn. We raced in the dead of night, the dead cheering us on. I really loved that car and now these guys were gonna tow it away. I felt like shit.
“Relax, Ken, we’re not taking your car.”
How’d this guy know my name? We hadn’t been introduced. He hadn’t check my ID when they chucked me into the car.
“So where’d you park?”
“John?” It was John Ogden. Though he was a cop, he also owned Ogden’s Judo and Karate School on Cherry and Anaheim. Unlike most of the Marines at the Pike that night, my home was local and my brother and I had studied Shotokan Karate under Kaylor Atkins at John’s school. I only stuck with it for about six months, but it was like a religion for my brother.
“So, I’m not going to jail?”
“Think you can drive home without wrecking the car?”
“You are going home, not to Pendleton, right?”
“Yeah, home, I go back tomorrow.”
They dropped me at the car. I was with a couple other guys that night, but they’d seen me stuffed into that cop car, so I didn’t think they were counting on me for a ride back. Because I was going to Camp Pendleton that night. However even back then I wasn’t a complete idiot, I took the car to my mother’s and she drove me to the Greyhound Bus Station, where I met my pals, who were, needless to say, pretty surprised to see me.
Now, I was back at the Pike with my wife and my best friend and we were all flying Trans Love Airways. We had a couple-three hours to kill. Vesta still wanted to ride the Cyclone. Dick knew of a crap game we could get in. I didn’t like either of those ideas. If the Cyclone didn’t kill us, Dick’s illegal pals were for sure going to slit our throats and take our money. At least that’s what my drug indulged brain was telling me.
“You decide, Ken,” Dick said. Dice or the Coaster.”
“I vote for pinball.” There was a pinball arcade right across from Bob’s. We wouldn’t have to go very far at all. I headed to the arcade, hoping they’d take my lead and follow. They did.
I cannot say enough about the virtues of pinball when you’re on acid. It’s more fun than you could ever dream of. Plus it tends to keep you rooted to one spot. The game is always changing, every ball different, so you don’t get bored. I mean if you can trip out on a few grains of sand on the tip of your shoes, imagine what you can do with bells, whistles, targets popping up and down, flippers and the Who’s Pinball Wizard playing around in your head. Fun, fun, fun, that’s what you get when you mix pinball and LSD.
Things were going good, I’d managed to master the art of grabbing the ball with a flipper and holding it in place, taking aim and getting fairly close to what I wanted to hit. We stayed on one quarter eating machine, getting to know it well. After a couple hours we were all pretty good, then something grabbed my leg.
“Brucie,” I said. “Get away.” But the dog was humping to beat the band. I wondered if he smelled Tammy on me. Maybe that was it, he thought I was a big, attractive poodle.
“Oh crap,” Dick muttered.
It was the cops.
And that’s just about the last thing you want to see when you’re out having a good time on acid.
“Are we in trouble?” Vesta said.
“Ken is that you?”
“Don, Don Berans?”
“Yeah, it’s me.”
I’d met Don in the service. We were clerks. Yeah, a lot of Marines carry a rifle, but Don and I, we could type and back then they didn’t have computers or even Xerox machines. We used carbon paper and you had to be a dead on typist, because if you made a mistake, especially on a promotion, or anything remotely important, you had to do it over. We’d never been pals, but we’d worked together, been drinking together.
I don’t know if he knew what kind of condition we were in. I hadn’t seen him in years. I’d changed a lot. I had long hair, a beard, was obviously part of the counter culture and he was obviously part of the establishment. But he seemed so dammed glad to see me. He pumped my hand like we were long lost brothers. Then he wrote out his address on the back of some kind of business card, said we should get together sometime.
Twice in my life I’d had a close call with the cops at the Pike and twice I’d gotten away by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin.
“Don, do me a favor,” I said.
“Shoot the dog.”
He laughed, then he and his partner left.
“The stamps might be done by now.” I pulled the dog off my leg and we went back to see Santa Claus Bob.
“Finished.” Bob handed me the stamps and I handed over his dog.
“Perfect,” I said.
And they did look perfect, but when we were back home, still flying Trans Love, Vesta noticed something wrong as we were stamping the records.
“They’re different,” she said.
“They’re not,” Dick said.
“The quote things on "Birch", they’re straight and the type on the others is off.” She was right. We stopped stamping the records, because I wanted the stamped covers to look exactly like Dub’s.
The next day Dick and I drove out to Glendale, where Dub and I had the original stamps made. I ordered another Birch and Freeze Out, plus I ordered a new one. GWW Royal Albert Hall, and I paid him for all three stamps. The stuff on Burn Some More was the last Dylan stuff that I got from Waterford that I gave Dub, actually I mastered that one. I’d held back RAH because I wanted to listen to it a bit, before we put it out.
The next day I went back to pick up the stamps. The guy there wasn’t happy to see me. Big Dub had been in and told him not to make any more stamps for me. The guy gave me the three stamps I paid for, then told me not to come back.
On the way home I wondered if he told Big Dub about the stamps I’d made there and if he’d told him about Royal Albert Hall. I could only assume he had, but Big Dub wasn’t into the music. He wouldn’t have know how important that record was going to be. How necessary it was to my comeback that I have it and he didn’t.
But what I didn’t know was that I wasn’t the only bootlegger in L.A. with that tape.
Norty and Ben were out of the picture. Sure a couple other people were making boots, but they were insignificant, they didn’t affect us. I didn’t care. We didn’t own Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or Jethro Tull. They hadn’t signed contracts with us.
Rubber Dubber was making his records and I ran into him at Rare Records in Glendale. He introduced himself right off. He seemed like a nice guy, invited me to his home in Sherman Oaks. I went, met his wife. They drove matching BMW motorcycles, which I thought was kind of cool as I had a Triumph Bonneville. Scott Johnson was a guy with a story for every occasion and some of them were a little much, so I excused myself, said I had to go to the bathroom, where I checked out the names on the prescription bottles in the medicine cabinet. Sure enough, he was who he said he was, at least that part was true.
During the course of my afternoon there, Scott showed me the bamboo growing in the backyard, said he used it to disguise the fact that he was growing marijuana behind it. Well I was a dedicated dope smoker, who was constantly supplied by a younger brother whose two main goals in life were to stay out of the draft and to grow the perfect marijuana plant. What Scott was growing behind that bamboo, just looked like more bamboo to me, but I didn’t say anything.
I ran into Scott and Richard, a guy he called his enforcer, a lot in the next couple of months. He was always trying to figure out where we got our records made and I was always trying to figure out where he got his done. He told me he had them done in a moving truck, a secret warehouse where he’d set up a couple presses and that he’d been paying off the people at Capitol to make them at night. He didn’t tell me these stories all at the same time. Every time I asked, he had a different tale. Still, he was a nice guy.
His favorite story, one he told me just about every time he saw me, was where he claimed to have friends at Warner Brothers and they knew who he was and liked what he did. He said Warner’s called Rubber Dubber the unpaid advertising arm of Warner, Electra Atlantic. Or maybe he said Warner, Reprise, I don’t remember if they owned Electra at the time, but you get the picture.
Then he did the Stones European Tour, or maybe he’d done it earlier and Dub just got around to finding out. Whichever, it really pissed Dub off. Apparently he thought we had the rights to the Stones. They were our band. Bootleg Dylan, Zep and Hendrix if you want, but leave the Stones alone. I tried to tell him it was no big deal, but Dub wasn’t having any of it.
One morning I showed up at his place to find that he’d mastered Scott’s record. Copied it straight from Scott’s double disc, got all the material crammed onto a single disc, improved the sound with his equalizer (Dub was one of the first people on the planet to actually have one of those in his home. They were expensive, new and most people had never heard of them).
“This is not a good idea,” I said.
“We’ll sell as many as LiveR.” He was excited. “Nobody’s going to buy his double record any more.”
“We’re doing to Scott, what Norty and Ben did to us.” This from me, a guy who would go on to copy any and every bootleg he could get his hands on in just a few short years. But then I still had a few morals. I knew we were crooks, but I truly believed you had to be honest if you lived outside that law. And that meant no copying.
“No, it’s not,” Dub said. “We invented bootlegs. It was our idea.”
I didn’t agree with his reasoning, but I didn’t fight him too hard when he got the record mastered. I’m not stupid, I was more than happy to take my half of the money, even though I thought it was wrong.
I was disappointed when the record came out, because it sounded pretty awful compared to LiveR, but then YaYas sounds pretty awful compared to LiveR, too. However, it was more than that, European Tour just sounded like something I didn’t want to be associated with. Sort of like some of those Dylan tapes I’d listened to in Waterford’s bathroom.
The record had only been out a few days when Scott called me and he was pretty upset, told me Richard was coming right over with a friend. They wanted to talk. You know, when you’re sending someone over to “talk sense” to a rival, you shouldn’t call the person first.
That was dumb.
Malcolm happened to be at my house when Scott called. I told him what was happening, that there was likely to be a confrontation. I could tell he wanted to leave, but he’d japped out on the business with those bad guys from back East and he wanted back into the bootleg business in the worst way. If he ducked out on me now, that was never gonna happen and he knew it.
I told Vesta that now might be a good time for her to take the kids over to my mother’s and she agreed. After she was gone, I went to the bedroom, reached under the bed and took out my father’s service revolver, that same forty-five auto I’d held in my shaking and a quivering hands during that escapade at Saturn, where we almost blew away my father and half the black record store owners in L.A.
“You think it’s going to come to this?” Malcolm’s eyes went big when he saw the gun.
“Probably not, but Richard looks like a pretty tough guy.”
“So you’re going to shoot him?”
“Not if I don’t have to.”
“Shit!” Now Malcolm really wanted to go. To his credit, he stayed.
I had a sofa on one side of my living room, two chairs in front of bookcases on the other side. Vesta and I have always been voracious readers, every house we ever lived in was jammed full of books. Our boat was stuffed full of them. Reading is important.
I checked the clip, put it back in the weapon, chambered a round, made sure the safety was off, because it’s stupid to have a gun that won’t shot when you pull the trigger.
“Oh fuck!” Malcolm looked like he was going to wet himself. But he hung in there, even though he wasn’t liking it very much. “What if you shoot him? What are you gonna do then?”
“That’s what you’re here for. You’re gonna put the bodies in your trunk and take ’em out to the desert.”
“You already said that.”
“It’s the middle of the day!”
“I was kidding, nobody’s gonna shoot anybody.”
“Then how come you did what you did?”
“Checked the bullets.” He was sort of bouncing on his toes. “Oh shit, they’re here.”
“That was fast.”
“It’s gonna be fine. Just stand behind me and try to look tough.” I put the gun on the third shelf of the bookcase, so it’d be close at hand when I sat in one of those chairs.
Through the window I saw Richard and a big guy get out the car. Richard wasn’t so big, but he was kind of scary, the big guy didn’t look so scary, but he was big. It looked like he was just for show, but I wasn’t sure.
I went to the door, opened it as they were coming up the porch steps.
“Hey, guys, come in.” I showed them my back, went to a chair, sat down.
Malcolm took the other chair.
Richard and Big Guy took the couch. Richard got tense all of a sudden.
“What are you going to do with that?” He didn’t have to say what he was talking about. I knew what he meant and he knew I knew.
“Just being cautious. You would be, too.”
“Scott’s not happy that you copied his record.”
“But we didn’t,” I lied.
“Oh, come on.”
“It’s like with the Zeppelin record, independent tapes.”
“You’re full of shit.”
“I’ll show you.” I got up, moved away from the gun, went to my records. I had them stuffed in alphabetical order in old wooden seven up crates. They took up a whole wall, stacked three crates high. My stereo system was on top of them.
“You got something to drink. A coke maybe,” Big guy said.
“Out in the kitchen.” I pointed. “Lots of stuff in the fridge.”
Richard seemed surprised. I was across the room, well away from the gun and I’d just let the big guy go out into the kitchen by himself. That really was pretty stupid of me, but I was playing it as it went. However, I sort of wished now that I hadn’t chambered a round. In fact I sort of wished the gun wasn’t loaded.
“What are you doing?” Richard was still sitting, was watching me and not the gun.
“Here it is.” I pulled out the record. “You’ll see now what I’m talking about.” I put the record on the turntable, cranked the volume on my McIntosh Amp up loud, dropped the needle on the disc and Mick’s voice blared through the living room, singing Sympathy for the Devil.
Richard started bobbing his head up and down as the big guy came back into the room with his coke.
I turned it down.
“See what I mean?” I said.
“Yeah,” Richard said, “different tape.” But it wasn’t a different tape, because Dub had just plain copied their record. I don’t know if he and his EQ work made it sound different enough to fool Richard, or if my playing it loud fooled him, or if it was just the power of suggestion, or if he just didn’t want to take it any further.
“So we’re cool.” I looked over at the gun. Richard did too. He was closer.
“We had it out first,” Richard said.
“We had Zeppelin out first.”
“That was different.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“So, we’ll check with each other in the future to make sure something like this never happens again.”
“Absolutely.” I walked over to him, held out my hand.
“That’s good.” He shook it and they left.
The big guy sort of smiled, gave me the high sign with his coke.
“That went okay,” Malcolm said as they drove away. He’d never gotten out of his chair, didn’t say a word the whole time they were their, didn’t even bother to look tough. Still, he was there. That was something.
A few days later I went out to Scott’s, because a customer of ours wanted some of his records. We’d done a few trades in the past and it worked out okay for everybody. But when I got there the house was vacant. He was gone, so was his stuff. I looked in back. The bamboo was still growing, but somebody had pulled out some plants from behind. So I guess it had been marijuana after all.
I never saw Scott or Richard again.
But I read an interview he gave Esquire Magazine a few months later. He told how he made his Rubber Dubber records in a semi truck, always moving it around so the FBI couldn’t find him. What a typical Scott Johnson story. The Esquire interviewer bought it all.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Vesta and I had been working late, stamping GWW covers. They littered our living room floor. Our hands were ink stained, our eyes bleary. Our kids were asleep on the couch. It was a bit before midnight and we were just getting ready to carry them off to bed, when the phone rang. Right away we knew it was trouble, because nobody ever calls at that hour, unless it involves a heart attack, car crash or jail.
It was jail.
My brother was on the other end of the line, talking a mile a minute, cursing cops, courts, Nixon, Agnew, the war and Paul Newman. But mostly it was cops he was mad at. Seems he and a pal were arrested in Santa Cruz for felony destruction of city property, theft of city property, possession of marijuana (among other drugs), resisting arrest and assault on a police officer, or rather officers.
He was in serious shit.
I tried to calm him down, finally did and found out he wanted me to come up and get him of there.
I could understand that. Jail is a bad place to spend the night. I called Joey, who gets calls all night long, and asked her if she knew somebody up there who could help.
Joey, of Joey’s Bail Bonds, was my bail lady. I learned from my father that if you live outside the law, it helps too have a bail person up to speed on your life. You don’t want to call one cold at 3:00 in the morning, not unless you want to take out a second on your house or sign over the pink slip to your car.
Right after Great White Wonder took off I went down to downtown Long Beach, looking for a bondsman, because if I was ever arrested, I wanted a number to call that got me out pronto. A good bondsman, or in this case bondwoman, can get you out of any jail anywhere right after they book you, unless, of course, you shot someone or were arrested high.
I had it set up that if I was ever arrested, I used my one call to reach out and touch her. She could spring me from any hoosegow, because bail people reciprocate. She bails me out and shares the ten percent bond fee with the local bondsman she called. Me, I just have to know her.
She was the fourth bail person I checked out. The first three were all seedy guys with baggy eyes who looked like you could trust them about as much as you could trust the stubby cigars in their mouths to stay lit in a downpour. Joey, on the other hand, was a lady. I told her my problem, filled out a credit app, had a cup of coffee with her, smoked a couple cigarettes and became her customer. One of the wisest things I’d ever done.
She told me she knew a guy up there, a retired judge who now did bond work. She gave me his number, said he’d be expecting me.
So, hours before the sun, I took off in my recently acquired 1967 Austin Healey MK 3000, with the top down. What a car, red, the way a sports car was meant to be. Four on the floor and an electronic overdrive on the dash, flip the switch and you were flying. It was summer, at least I believe it was, because I remember the breeze was warm.
I was tired, having not had any sleep, but that breeze whipping my hair around, smacking it into my face, kept me awake. I did seventy-five up Highway 5 the whole way making the three hundred and eighty five mile trip in five hours, the Healey purring like Vesta’s Jaguar the whole way. Yeah, one of the advantages of being a bootlegger was that you got to drive good cars.
Since I beat the sun and nothing would be open, I started looking for a motel. This was sometimes not an easy task for a kid driving a red sports car, who had a full beard and hair almost as long as Crystal Gayle’s. Well, not that long, but long. Plus my Marine Corp utility shirt with the patch sewed on the left breast pocket that said, “War is not healthy for children and other living things,” probably didn’t help. After four or five refusals, I decided to drive down to a parking lot overlooking the beach and sleep in the car.
Given everything I’d heard about Santa Cruz, it was a town of peace and love, a beachside town with almost as many hippies as the Haight Asbury district in San Francisco, one would have thought I’d have received a better reception, but I guess the peace and love business started from the ground up and hadn’t worked it’s way up to motel desk clerks yet.
After a couple hours of fitful sleep I drove to the center of town where I found the Judge’s office. He wasn’t a judge anymore, but I addressed him as your honor. We had coffee, talked. He seemed like a nice guy. He told me not to worry about a thing, he could take care of everything and just the way he said it, I knew I was in good hands.
And what do you know, by noon he got all the felony charges dropped, including that pesky resisting arrest and assault on a police officer business. The deal he struck was that John and his friend Mike plead guilty to a misdemeanor account of defacing city property, pay a fine right now, and the rest of the charges would go away. Jeez, what a deal. I couldn’t pony up the money fast enough. And the man never asked for a cent for himself. And since there was no bail, neither he, nor Joey made a dime on the deal.
Sometimes you just get lucky.
It took a couple hours before they were able to spring them, something about them still being too high to let loose on the general public, so I hung out with the Judge, had more coffee, smoked cigarettes, talked politics. He was an okay guy.
When John and Mike were finally released they were dying to tell me about this guy they met named Steve Waterford, who had a ton of Dylan tapes. Studio tapes, live tapes, great tapes, tapes I just had to hear.
Well, well, I thought, maybe this cloud had a platinum lining, after all.
They’d met Waterford at Odyssey Records.
This guy was short, maybe five-four, had wandering eyes, thinning hair, talked a mile a minute and he thought Bob Dylan was God. Literally. I think he prayed to the man. He was researching a book on Dylan, paid a clipping service to send him anything in print. He had a trunk with his valuable clippings buried out in the forest. He seemed like he was high on something, but I don’t think he was. I just think the very mention of Dylan’s name got his endorphins kicking in.
After spending a few minutes with Waterford in that record store all I wanted to do was get in my car and drive. I could still make Long Beach by dark if I left right away. I was just about to make an excuse to get on out of there, no tapes were worth this, when Waterford said. “I have Blonde on Blonde out takes.
“Say again,” I said.
“Blonde on Blonde out takes. Hours of them.”
Now I was excited. Waterford had just become my new best friend.
I bought ten reels of good tape at the record store and we made arrangements to meet later that evening, then John, Mike and I went out to get something to eat. Over the very late lunch I learned that they’d ingested a fair amount of mescaline, were having a bit too much of a good time, so they decided to take in a movie. This way they could enjoy themselves away from prying eyes. Something about drugs, they seem to make you paranoid. They found a theater, bought tickets, without knowing what they were going to see. It wound up being “Cool Hand Luke”.
The movie starts out with a drunk Paul Newman attacking a parking meter with a pipe cutter, to get the nickels inside. My brother and his pal were on the road, touring America in a beat up van. It’s true they were just starting out and hadn’t made it very far, but they were already running short of cash, and they thought this might be the answer to their problems.
Parking meters were everywhere, just begging to be plundered, an endless source of spare change. Maybe if they’d stayed around and saw what happened to Paul after the cops got their hooks in him, they might’ve had second thoughts, might’ve stayed out of trouble, but they didn’t. Instead, they left that theater in a hurry, asking everyone they encountered for directions to a hardware store that sold pipe cutters.
By now everybody in town was alerted to the fact that there were a couple drug crazed loonies on the loose and the cops had been notified. The pair of would be city property defacers found a hardware store, but a pipe cutter they could not get, so they settled on a couple hacksaws, then they made their way to the local amusement park where they had their van parked with a couple cops tagging along behind.
When they got to the van, they went to work on the meter, taking turns sawing away, mindless of the cops watching them. By the time they’d finished they’d attracted quite an audience. Needless to say, they didn’t get to make a Butch and Sundance getaway, however, they didn’t go quietly to the jail house. I guess in their drug induced brains they thought they had superpowers or something. They didn’t, but the story about their resistance and their time in the slammer made for an amusing meal.
After we ate we walked around the amusement park until it was time to meet Waterford. It was dark, around 9:00, when we finally hooked up with him. He had a dingy upstairs place over a business, I don’t remember what. He played us some of his stuff. Dylan with the Band in Sweden, quality was awful. I could barely make out the words, but Waterford’s eyes were aglow.
“Just think,” he said, “We’re listening to Bob Dylan and the Hawks in Sweden.” He sighed. “Back in 1966.”
Jesus, who cares, I thought. If he didn’t get to the Blonde on Blonde stuff pretty darned fast I was gonna kill the son of a bitch and go home. I was bored shitless, however my desperado comrades seemed to be really into it. Christ, the cops searched their van, confiscated their drugs, but apparently they didn’t find all of them.
Acid, shit. I figured that out pretty quick. No wonder they were having such a good time. So now I was stuck, I couldn’t exactly walk out and leave them with Walleyed Steve, not in their condition. So I stuck it out, listened to one crappy tape after another. I really did want to kill someone.
Then, sometime after midnight, Waterford says he’s going to bed. We could listen to the tapes in the bathroom, he said, but we had to be quiet. Yeah, the guy had a reel to reel tape recorder, amp and speakers in his bathroom. Guess he wanted to be able to listen to his shitty tapes when he was taking a sh*t. Me I woulda run some speaker wire to the bathroom, but that’s just me.
“The bathroom, groovy,” Mike said. Yeah, they said groovy back then, even I might have said it a time or two.
“Yeah,” Waterford said, “I get a lot of people coming over to listen to my tapes, so I got a set up in there so that I can get some privacy.” Well that answered that question.
So, there we were, me, my drug enlightened companions and endless hours of Bob Dylan trying to make himself understood through all the tape hiss.
Then, when I thought all was lost, Mike flipped the switch to play after having just put in another tape.
And Bob Dylan’s young voice rang through that bathroom in all it’s crystal clear glory.
“What’s this?” I looked at the label on the tape box. Bob Dylan: Town Hall 1963. Well, well, well. I got up, went to the living room, where I’d left that tape I’d bought earlier, unplugged the tape recorder Waterford had there and brought it into the bathroom.
“What are you gonna do?” John said when I came back and stopped the tape.
“What’s it look like?” I flipped the switch to rewind, then started hooking up the tape recorder.
“You can’t do that,” Mike said. “It’s stealing.” This from a guy who was about to go up the river for who knows how long had it not been for me.
“The motherfucker was right there when I bought the tape. Did he think we didn’t have any in LA, that I was stocking up?” I cracked the seal on a tape box, threaded it into the machine I’d brought in from the living room.
“He’s got a point,” John said, which was good, because apparently I was going to need some help with Mike. I saw a bad trip a comin’ but at this point I didn’t particularly care if the guy fried his mind or not, just so long as I got the tapes.
“This isn’t right,” Mike said again.
“Calm him down or kill him. I don’t care, just so long as you keep him quiet.” But I needn’t have worried, because just as soon as the tape started Mike got right into it, smiling and rocking as he listened to brother Bob.
Now that I realized there was gold in this pile of tapes, I didn’t feel so bad about being there. I checked the levels, saw the copy was being made okay, saw that John and Mike were content. I listened to the tape along with them.
When it was finished, I put in another, didn’t sound good, tried another, again no joy, then bingo, Bob’s voice from 1966, but not like that crappy Swedish tape we’d heard earlier. This was an acoustic set from Dublin and it was glorious. I copied it. By the time I was finished the sun was coming up, my hippy comrades were coming down and I was ready to crash. So I took the tape recorder back out the the living room, where I met a yawning Steve Waterford.
“You didn’t copy any of my tapes!”
“What the fuck!”
“Hey, you knew who I was, what I did for a living!” I stared him down. “Did you think I wanted to come up here to spend the night in your bathroom?”
“You’re not going to put them out?”
“Really?” His eyes lit up, then he closed them. If Bob Dylan was the second coming, then Steve was his John the Baptist, only Bob didn’t know it. I could almost see the halo. He opened back up his glowing eyes, was smiling saintly. Yeah, that’s right, like a saint, that’s what he looked like. “Could you call it Bob Dylan Approximately?”
“Well, yeah. I could do that.”
“Because I was thinking that would be a great name for a Dylan record. What do you think?”
“I think it’s perfect.” Was I hearing right?
This was not how I expected it to go down at all. I’d expected the typical collector reaction. You know how collectors are, they have this rare tape they listen to at night, but they can only enjoy it if they know nobody else has it. Once it’s out there for all the world, then they don’t want to listen to it anymore. Waterford was apparently not that way and for me, even back then, that was refreshing.
“Could I come down to LA with you and see how it’s done?”
“Not right now.”
“Why not?” Oh lord, I’d created a monster. I told him we wouldn’t be making the record straightaway, that I had a wife, kids and obligations. But he wanted to be around when the first record came off the presses, wanted to stamp the first one with that Bob Dylan Approximately stamp.
I told him I’d call him, rounded up my outlaw, hippie, cohorts and the three of us got into my Healey, Mike crammed in the back. and we scrammed on out of there. I took them back to their van, where they promised to drive on out of town till they could find a good place to pull over and sleep for a week.
Then I started back toward Southern California, knowing that sometime in the not two distant future I was going to be back in that bathroom, because I still hadn’t gotten those Blonde on Blonde outtakes.
I coulda gone straight home, but Dub’s wasn’t too far out of the way. I got there around 11:00. He was just leaving to go out for breakfast, he sort of liked to get up at the crack of noon. I told him I had line recordings of Dylan in ’63 and ’66 and all of a sudden he decided he wasn’t hungry anymore. I left the tapes with him and went home.
The next day I drove up to his place to find he’d already mastered the record. He put the Town Hall stuff on Side One and the Dublin Stuff on Side Two. Me, I’d’ve made two records out of those tapes, but Dub managed to get it all on one disc, losing only one song from the Dublin set. Of course, we still hadn’t learned that when you squeeze more than twenty-five minutes or so on a record that the quality suffers a bit.
Dub was excited about this Winkelhoffer name he’d come up with for the name of the fake record company on the label. I didn’t care about that stuff. Dub was the artistic one, after all. Dub wanted to call the record While the Establishment Burns, I’ve already talked about that, but Waterford wanted to call it "Bob Dylan Approximately".
“No problem,” Dub said, “We’ll make two stamps.”
“Yeah, that could work,” I said, never thinking how outraged Waterford would be when he came across one of the records that didn’t have his preferred title on it. Well actually the only records with that Approximately title were the ones going to Walleyed Steven, the rest of them were going to have Dub’s title, so I should have figured on a confrontation sometime in the future, but I didn’t.
Later that week I called Waterford, told him we’d turned the record in, that it was coming out next week, that we had his Bob Dylan Approximately stamp just waiting for him to stamp that first record. He called me back an hour later, told me when he was coming in. He was eager.
Dub had just moved from his little apartment above his grandmother’s to a spacious house in the Hollywood Hills. It was one of those cliffside places with giant stilt like steel supports holding the back of the house up, so that it didn’t fall over the cliff.
While I was away Dub had mastered My God, by Jethro Tull which was mostly B sides added to a couple live songs he record in Long Beach with his shotgun mic. We'd moved away from Pete's, because he was just too slow, and taken our business to a place called Lewis Record Manufacturing, where we dealt with a wonderful woman there named Kaye. She was old enough to be my grandmother and she kind of reminded me of a woman who would have been comfortable with the likes of Bonnie and Clyde in her youth. She wasn't afraid of anything. It was to her that we handed My God and Establishment and these were our first records on colored vinyl which the growing number of bootleg fans really seemed to like.
A Note: Some names have been changed, sorry, but it just seemed prudent.