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.