5. Erebus II (1969-70)
In 1969, Steve Schmitt graduated from high school and went off with Bill Williams on some hippy adventures in
At this time, Hisey and I finally decided to adopt a four-man lineup—guitar, bass, drums, and a frontman. This was the personnel that comprised both Led Zeppelin and the new Jeff Beck Group. Beck, one of my favorite all-time guitar players, had left the Yardbirds and released the first Jeff Beck Group album with Rod Stewart on vocals, Ron Wood on bass, and Mick Waller on drums. Also that summer, before school started, we had seen at the
Later in the year, the Ludlow Garage was opened by a guy named Jim Tarbell, who today is a
We determined that the bands with the four-man lineup were the coolest, and that this was the direction in which we should go. Hisey, however, had always played rhythm guitar behind a lead player and did not consider himself much of a soloist. His hero was The Who’s Pete Townshend, who played few solos, but made his chords say so much. We figured out that we could tailor our song list toward material with minimal or simple guitar solos.
The first step toward our new identity was to trade in Hisey’s Kustom amp. It looked beautiful, but it was a solid-state (transistor) amp and just did not have the warm, tube sound necessary for lead guitar. We went down to Buddy Rogers Music in North College Hill, where Bob Monday of the Daybreakers worked selling and repairing instruments. He took Hisey’s Kustom in trade and sold us a used black-face Fender Vibrolux (probably made around ’65 or ‘66) and a Univox speaker cabinet with two 12-inch speakers to go with it. Hisey set the the Vibrolux on top of the Univox to make a little “stack.” I think he covered it with a big American flag, as we had seen the MC5 do at the Black Dome. The Vibrolux was a very heavy and powerful amp with two 10s. This gave Hisey plenty of volume and good tone for his new role as our only guitarist.
Jimbo remained on drums, and our fourth member was a guy from the
I had cut my hair, formerly all one length and almost to my shoulders, into a short shag style reminiscent of the the early Who. I had a tight, white ribbed shirt and bright purple corduroy bell-bottoms. With the rest of the band flamboyantly dressed, we took the stage upon which, with only four members, we had more room to move than we had had with our five-piece lineup. Because of the strictness of the director (the same one who had caught Marilyn and me kissing behind the building when we were Open House members), though, we knew we could not do our normally scandalous stage show here. She would have tossed us out on our ears—without our $20 payment. So we made it as flamboyant as we could without being too sexually suggestive. I strutted the lip of the stage like a caged lion and swung the mike as I always had, staring boldly at the crowd, but I did not grind my pelvis against the amps or stick my tongue out at the girls.
We went back up to the Eaton Armory with Sims, as well, and played wherever we could, but the most significant thing we did with this lineup was to record in a studio for the first time. In the winter or spring of 1970, Hisey wrote the music for two songs. He then showed them to me and asked if I could write lyrics to them. I did, and we added the two resulting original tunes to our repertoire. The first was an uptempo power rock song called “You Can’t Hide.” Its style was a combination of early Who and early Small Faces. The second was a slower song, maybe not exactly a ballad, but something like one, that we called “She Smiles.” Looking back at these two early songs, I find my lyrics sound like exactly what they were, something written by a juvenile (no kidding; I was 17), but I think Hisey’s music holds up pretty well. Both songs were musically well-structured, and “She Smiles” would actually turn out to be an “award-winning” song (in the most modest sense of the term) almost 15 years later.
That summer, shortly after I had graduated from high school, Buddy Rogers Music, which had many stores around
We were shocked and overjoyed at our success and began to practice extra hard for the finals. That was the summer, however, when the cicadas made one of their every-17-year visits to
As a result of winning the Westwood preliminaries, though, we received two hours of recording time at the Lunar Studio, a modest recording facility in North College Hill, near the Buddy Rogers store where Bob Monday worked. Bob went with us to produce the recording. The studio (the first I had ever seen) was small and basic, probably used mostly for recording country acts or possibly radio commercials. Working with only two tracks—guitar and vocals on one, bass and drums on the other—Gary Hisey, Gary Sims, Jim Powell, and I made our first permanent musical record that day. We recorded our two original songs, “You Can’t Hide” and “She Smiles.” Since we had played them many times, we did them in just one or two takes. Then we dubbed in harmony vocals and some subtle guitar lead on “She Smiles.” I was not then and am not now a good harmony singer, but I was able to find harmony parts for the choruses of both songs and teach to Hisey. Bob Monday mixed the songs for us, and we were out in two hours with our little reel of tape in our hands.
We drove back to
The Buddy Rogers contest and our recording took place late in mid-late summer 1970. I had been accepted by