Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It Coulda Happened this Way -- Not First, Not the Best Either

Dub and I mastered the Donovan record Reedy River a couple months before we broke up and we’d ordered 5000 copies, which I’d picked up and was storing in my friend Jim’s garage as Big Dub’s basement was pretty full. We’d put out some feelers about the record and it was looking like this one wasn’t going to be the runaway hit our other records had been. In fact, when I was over at Jim’s, I swear I could hear the gobbling of those turkeys, trapped fifty to a box out back in that garage, calling to me.

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 good.

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.

Spooky.

Waterford resembled a sloth, the place looked like it hadn’t been cleaned, ever. There was dust and dirt, bugs and smells everywhere.

Creepy.

“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.

“What teepee?”

“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’m not—”

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.

“What?”

“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.

Malcolm stopped.

“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.

It didn’t.

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.

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