Independence Day

Sixteen bands were on the bill for the San Jose Independence Day celebration concert. The Jerry Sheehan Express limped into town late Wednesday night. They had been plagued with vehicular breakdowns, cancelled gigs, and failing amplifiers throughout their trip. Ted had relayed the address of the hippie haven to them through our agent. They found the Manor of Mayhem (Hippy Haven) with little trouble.

Despite all of the difficulties they had endured, the spirits of all Express members were high. They got even better in hurry.

Sandy Lindstrom looked even sexier than ever. Her long blond hair looked like she had ironed it on a washboard. Did kinky hair equate to kinky girl? My fantasies of sex with Sandy ran wild once again. There was no doubt that I was in lust with this chick. Braless with pointy nipples dimpling a tight ribbed sweater, she even exceeded sizzling Willow in hotness, which was quite an accomplishment.

“Armond,” Sandy said while hugging me tightly, “how the fuck is it going?”

“The craziest, babe, absolute insanity for the past week,” I replied while trying to sustain her hug for as long as possible.

“Cool, I need some craziness, man. We have played to nothing but shit-kicking cowpokes for the past week. I fucking swear if one more motherfucking guy tells me how ‘purty’ I am I’ll slice off his balls and fry ‘em for dinner.”

“That bad?” I asked.

“That bad and worse. We played this fucking shithole of a bar in Idaho where every guy I talked to said, ‘Idaho, are you da ho, too?’ I wanted to ram a hot fucking poker up their asses.”

Our hostess, Magnolia, broke out more mescaline tabs for the newcomers. Despite the promise I had made to myself that I wasn’t going to drop acid the night before the big show there was no way I was going to pass up tripping with Sandy. Perhaps she’d loosen up enough to ball me, I reasoned. Or, maybe one of the hippie chicks would inform her of my now semi-legendary prowess with my private organ and she’d demand a personal recital.

Hundreds of great fantasies of sex with Sandy blazed through my head, but she didn’t travel two thousand miles to fuck a guy that she could easily bang back home. No, she immediately focused in on a furry hippy guy playing acoustic guitar and singing Beatles tunes. She joined him in harmony on the songs and soon disappeared upstairs with the guy. Damn, there goes the best shot I’ll ever have at Sandy, I thought.

Pervert that I am, or was becoming, I even snuck upstairs pretending to go to the bathroom where I listened at door after door until I heard Sandy’s beautiful voice singing a new erotic harmony with hippie guy.

Of course, those sounds shivered my timbers so I returned downstairs to find a girl to scratch my itch. There was only one girl not already occupied, a rather plain girl sitting in a corner twirling her long blond hair with intense fascination. I sidled up to her.

“I’m Armond,” I said.

“Yeah, so?” she replied.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Tulip,” she replied.

Of course her name was Tulip. It was about the only flower I hadn’t met yet.

“Tulip, that’s a cool name,” I said.

“I know,” she said flatly.

“How did you get that name?”

She raised her sundress exposing a shaved-bare pubis.

“Ah, I see, two lips,” I observed.

“Are you buzzing in to pollinate me?” Tulip asked.

Instead of words I just made a bee sound, “Buzzzzzz”.

She laughed, “You’re funny. Have you seen the view from the rooftop yet?”

I said, “Yes, it is breathtaking.”

“Let’s go there. It will be more private,” she assured.

We climbed the ladder to the deck where Holly and I had watched the sunrise, but there was already a couple in the throes of passion that had lay claim to the space.

“It looks like it’s occupied,” I said with a hint of disappointment in my voice.

“Not here, silly,” Tulip laughed. “Follow me.”

We walked past the balling couple – where I recognized Holly’s grunts and partially visible ass – around a corner to an obscured ladder on the side of the house that led to yet another deck that sat atop the attic. This was a three story house with an attic. We were more than fifty feet in the air. The view from this perch was even more spectacular than that on Holly’s level. It was also quite a bit windier at that height.

“Too cold up here,” Tulip said and I agreed, whereupon she led me to an access door to the attic. She lit candles around the small attic space providing eerie illumination. “I love to be naked, don’t you?” And away went another sun dress. I love sun dresses.

“Yes. Yes, I do,” I replied. “I don’t remember seeing you on Naked Day. Were you here?”

“No, I work and go to class on Tuesday’s. I’ve been trying to get them to change Naked Day to another day, but Tuesday fits the other girls schedule better. I make it occasionally, but I had too much homework yesterday. What are you waiting for? Strip for me, big boy.”

~~~

I awoke with a song in my head early Thursday morning, “I once had a girl or should I say she once had me. Oh, isn’t it good, moe-horning wood.” Tulip lay naked on her right side next to me. She was so wonderfully warm. I ran my hands up and down her body until she began to stir, wake enough to realize my intent, and invite me in. There is no better way to wake up in the morning. There just isn’t.

I whipped up an enormous batch of fry bread for breakfast (using Momma Lafontaine’s concoction of flour, lard, and sugar mixed together and fried). We needed fortification and sugar energy. It was show time. This was the day that motivated our trip, the Fourth of July, Yankee Doodle Dandy Day, 1968.

The flower girls went wild over my fry bread. They seemed amazed that I could cook, too. I cook because I love to eat. With my mother in and out of sanity and insane asylums cooking became yet another survival technique that my dad taught me.

We arrived at the venue around 11 AM. Man, was it hot on the San Jose side of the hill without the chilly Pacific wind to cool it down. The first band was scheduled to start at noon. As soon as other bands saw my Hammond they were asking if they could use it on their set. Of course, I said yes and we positioned my A-105 and Leslie in the middle of the two band areas on the huge stage so that it was easy to turn the beast toward the band that was playing.

The promoters had constructed one huge, long stage so they could have one band playing on one half of the stage while another band set up on the other half. My Hammond organ & Fender Rhodes piano was easily accessible by either side. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I could have rented my ensemble to the promoters for $300 for the day. I didn’t learn that until afterward, of course.

I got excited when I saw the playbill for the show. First, it was cool to see Dynasty on the list, but also playing was The Loading Zone. Cool. My old band was in town. I couldn’t wait to see Kenny and the guys. I was surprised that I hadn’t heard anything about their trip from Kenny or someone close to the band.

The concert began with a couple of local bands that weren’t very good, frankly. They were the filler bands used to play as folks arrived to see the main acts. The biggest name on the bill was The Box Tops with their hit song “The Letter” hovering at the top of the charts for the past several months. Amazingly, The Loading Zone was scheduled to play right before the headliners.

Backstage, we drank beer and wine and smoked lots of pot. There were nearly naked hippy chicks everywhere hanging on musicians, twirling to the music, or sitting stoned like statues. I figured that the term stoned was invented to describe the latter.

The first eight bands played half-hour sets. None of the groups were very good. They were hired to play while the crowd slowly assembled.

The Jerry Sheehan Express set up their gear around 2:30 for their 3 PM start. Sandy was decked out with shiny satin slacks, a puffy blouse, and frizzy blond hair that flew out from her head in all directions as if she were in outer space and weightless. She said to me, “Thanks for letting me play your organ.”

“My pleasure, I assure you,” was my lurid reply. The Hammond wasn’t the organ that I was lusting for her to play, but even watching her touch my keys sent electric shock waves to my groin.

“Groovy people of the Gay Area,” started the MC. “Oops, that should be the Bay Area,” to applause, laughs, and a smattering of folks yelling, “You’re right, right on, it’s the Gar Area.”

“Give a big Gay Area welcome to our next band from Minneapolis, Minnesota, The Jerry Sheehan Express.”

Minneapolis, Minnesota? Oh well, that’s show biz.

Sandy was phenomenal during their set. Fingers flying over the keys and her voice… her incredible voice. Could this actually be the pure innocent girl that had stunned the jaded 9th grade class with her sublime rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow the year before? It certainly wasn’t the same girl that was lighting up the San Jose crowd with scintillating versions of Jefferson Airplane songs like Somebody To Love and White Rabbit.

Then, Sandy stepped out from behind the keyboards to deliver a series of jaw-dropping performances of songs by a relatively unknown singer by the name of Janis Joplin. By October in 1968 the album Cheap Thrills rocketed to the number one spot on the Billboard charts, but this was July. The Bay Area crowd was familiar with Joplin even if the rest of the country wasn’t yet and loudly applauded following Sandy’s version of Piece of My Heart.

Sheehan Express then launched into the old Big Momma Thornton song, Ball and Chain. I felt the pain and heartache of that old standard like never before. This was a white chick – as Swedish as they come with her piercing blue eyes, long blond hair and long, slender legs – yet she sounded as black and tormented as a Neville cousin. Tears rolled down my face as Sandy tore my bottled up emotions loose from their deep shackles. The crowd, numbering near 20,000 by this time, exploded in appreciation at the end of the number.

Jerry Sheehan walked to where I was standing in the wings and asked if I would sit in on keys for their next number, the Gershwin classic Summertime. Jerry wanted to keep Sandy at center stage as long as he could. I eagerly agreed. I was finally able to play with Sandy Lindstrom, but not in the way my young hormones requested. I connected with her on a far higher level during that song. She hopped her butt up onto my organ, Hammond organ, that is, to begin the song only to slide fluidly off my beast during the first chorus. She fell to her knees at the edge of the stage during the second verse causing a thousand guys to extend their hands to catch her if she hopefully fell, fell into their arms having already captured their hearts. It was like being onstage with Billie Holiday. Tears streamed down my face in admiration of her performance. What we shared during that song was better than sex. It was the gutsiest performance of Summertime that I’d heard up to that point and I had heard some great renditions back home in New Orleans. (Sandy held that record for ten years before the great Wanda Boudreaux topped it with her show-stopping, room-silencing, owning of the song.)

One, two, three, four and off we went into the Rolling Stones song Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Fortunately, I knew the song well because I couldn’t see the keys through my watery eyes.

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash is a gas, gas, gas.

I was stoned. I was washed up and left for dead

I was crowned with a spike right through my head

But it’s all right,

Yeah, in fact it’s gas.

Oh, it’s all right

Jumpin’ Jack Flash is a gas, gas, gas.”

Sandy stomped the stage while 50,000 plus fans sang in unison with her. All that could be seen was a sea of arms and bouncing waves of bodies all the way to the horizon.

We all graciously left the stage to her alone. “You fucking killed them, girl. Holy shit, that was incredible to watch,” I hugged her as she came off the stage. Her band mates boosted her onto their shoulders and carried back to center stage. It was her moment, all hers. She earned all the adulation that the jaded California crowd could heap upon her.

I felt sorry for the band that had to follow her and was glad it wasn’t us. The next band was good, but paled by comparison.

Sandy’s performance lifted our band, too.

We went on just as dusk fell with the burning red globe of the Sun sinking behind the hills to the west into San Francisco. The MC for the day, a locally famous gay guy shouted to the crowd over the PA, “Are you ready to rock? (Cheers and yeas) Are you ready to roll? (More cheers and yeas) Are you ready to Rock and Roll all at the same time? (Cheers, yeas, and Fuck Yes’s.) Then, give a big bay welcome to our first band ever from Duluth, Minnesota, the birthplace of Bob Dylan, for The Dynasty.”

We kicked into our version of Dylan’s Hang On To A Dream, which was greeted with delirious cheers.

I hadn’t given the whole thing too much thought up until that first song. I was pretty stoned and more than a little drunk on wine and probably had some acid still pinging through my brain. I looked out on the sea of flesh and realized that there were over 50,000 people out there watching us play. It had been many gigs since the last time I had any semblance of stage fright, but it creeped in during that first tune. I put my head down and tried to ignore the crowd and force myself to concentrate on what I was playing, which is easier to say than it is to do.

When the first song ended the crowd erupted in appreciation. My hands started to shake. Our next song was Light My Fire. What the hell are the notes? What fucking key is this song in? I’m going to fuck up. I’m going to fuck up. There are 100,000 eyes on me and I’m going to fuck up. Strange, how we become our own worst enemies at times like this. Crack, went Timmy’s drumstick against the rim of his snare. I began the flurry of notes for the introductory section of The Door’s biggest hit. My fingers shook and vibrated on the keys. I thought I was going to pass out. Several of the passages were a little off-tempo. I rushed, then slowed too much, then rushed again. What is timing, again? I finished the intro and broke into the verse where all I had to play were the two chords A-minor-seventh and F-sharp-minor-seventh. My hands felt like glue stuck in molasses.

My lungs interrupted the flow. “Lungs to brain, lungs to brain, do you copy, over?”

“Brain here, what do you need, over?”

“We haven’t taken a breath in several minutes, over.”

“How do the lungs recommend that we remedy the low oxygen alert, over?”

“Lungs recommend that we take a breath, over.”

“Wilco, lungs, brain concurs, reading you five-by-five, transmitting order to breathe initiating in five-four-three-two-one breathe. Breath taken light is on, over.”

“Breath confirmed, breath confirmed, we’re showing oxygen levels rising sharply. Thank you, brain, over.”

“Breath confirmation acknowledged. This is brain, over and out.”

I swear that it took that long. The more I breathed the calmer I got, and the smoother my fingers flowed. When we reached the organ ride section I was ready, my fingers danced on the keys, the crowd roared approval and my confidence soared. I kicked that ride’s ass. Jack Ghostly took over with a brilliant guitar solo that I supported with accents on the keys. We achieved a synergy between us beyond any we had experienced as musicians before that moment. Jack would play notes. I echoed them back from the Hammond. Jack played a flurry of notes. I played a flurry of complimentary notes. Jack edged toward me from his side of the stage. Well, I couldn’t move. I play a Hammond.

Jack and I lit the fire of the Bay Area crowd with Ted Anderson funkafizing the bass line like a mad New Orleans jazz cat, Teamo pounding out a crazy Caribbean beat on his skins, and Rock spinning and dancing with moves he’d picked up from Jim Morrison in Chi-town and Motor City. The backstage hippy girls came onstage, swirling, twirling, throwing beaver shots to those near the stage, and majorly pumping up the crowd. The energy I was feeling was so strong that it brought tears to my eyes as Jack and I finished our solos together and banged through the intro section back into the song.

“The time to hesitate is through,

The time to wallow in the mire,

Come on, baby, we can only lose

And our love becomes a funeral pyre.

Come on, baby, light my fire…”

Chicks in front of the stage started flashing their tits at Rock, some crying, all singing, all willing to bear the fruit of his loins. I felt the warm hands of Willow reach around my waist and ride up to my nipples, which she pinched while dry-humping me from behind.  I played through the distraction, ignoring the action at my back door. I knew it was Willow by her scent and touch. It felt like she was trying to grow a rod from her mound in order to penetrate my back door, man. I clutched the organ during the last chord of Light My Fire producing a loud, large chord while Willow rode me to the ground like I was a bucking bronco that she was determined to break.

I kissed her, copped a generous feel of boob and ass and rose to play Dylan’s My Back Pages. The crowd grooved in collective insanity. Guys screaming at us, “I love Dylan,” and gals shrieking, “Tell Bob I love him.” It was a good thing that we’d put these Dylan tunes together because everyone there assumed that since we were from Duluth that we must all know Bob Dylan. But, that didn’t seem to be the moment to tell them that none of us knew the former Robert Zimmerman. Hell, I was a kid playing sandlot baseball in New Orleans when Dylan left Duluth for good. But, that’s showbiz.

Evil Woman had the guys in the crowd shouting out the lyrics with us. “Evil woman don’t play your games with me-ee.”

At the end of our set the stage manager gave us the stretch sign that meant the next act wasn’t ready. We trekked on with an extended version of Mustang Sally. In the middle of the song a hippy cat came over and shouted something in my ear.

“What? You want me to slay keys bred in a sandlot?” His words made no sense. I looked puzzled so he shouted again and again I didn’t understand.. “Keys vacation with marmalade?” “Lots of cheese starting in a muffuletta.” The cat gave up and waited for the end of the song.

“Would you play keys for the Vacant Lot? Their keyboard player is too tripped out to play, man. Would you play keys for them? They are up next.”

“Sure, I’ll play for them,” I agreed. I had no idea who this band was or what they played, but I was having a great time on stage at that point and didn’t want to stop.

At the end of our set we received an ovation that may have altered the orbit of several asteroids. Then, the bustle of changing the stage for the new act burst into motion. A new hippy girl, entourage from Vacant Lot, stuffed a cigar-joint between my lips. There I stood near the back of the stage smoking a doobie in front of 50,000 witnesses. The gal rubbing against me had breasts cut from a perfect mold for breasts. I wouldn’t have cared if there were 50,000 FBI agents out there. This chick was drop-dead gorgeous from top to bottom and stem to stern and she wanted to smoke dope with me in front of half the universe.

“What’s going on? Why did they ask me to play,” I choked out looking like I was sending her smoke signals as well as words.

“Ally Simpson took about 30 hits of acid or some shit, man. He’s freaking out, man. Marcie, is taking him to the hospital. She’s his chick, man. He can’t do the show, man. So, you’re going to fill in for him?”

“I guess so. I’ll always help out fellow musicians,” I replied.

“That’s cool, man,” she said. “Where’s your hair? How come you’re all shave-headed? You kind of look like a narc, man.”

I couldn’t believe it had taken so long for anybody to ask me this question. “I’m a beatnik, narc’s don’t smoke weed, girl.”

“Cool, man. That’s so cool. A beatnik, man, that’s so groovy.”

“What’s your name?” I tried looking at her face but she had boobs that worked as a pivot point for her sundress pushing it out about foot with clearly visible nipples accentuating the drop-off that just demanded close attention.

“Melanie,” she replied.

“Happy to meet you, Melanie. I’m Armond, Armond Blackwater. Are you with anybody?”

“I’m with nobody and everybody, man.”

What the fuck did that mean? It would take another year before man walked on the moon, but I sensed that this chick was already there. “Cool,” I choked as I handed the jernt back to her.

The cat who had asked me to play interrupted my discourse with Melanie. “Hey, man, I’m Vince. Thanks for doing this man. You’re really saving our asses. Here’s the set list. Do you know any of these?”

Scanning the list of songs I nodded yes to all of them. I knew their entire list. I was amazed to see Light My Fire on their list. Rock scratched the rest of our Doors songs except Light My Fire for this concert in favor of more James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and even Fontella Bass (Rescue Me). Now, Vacant Lot was going to play the song, too? “Don’t worry, man. We do it way different than you cats,” the guitarist assured me.

Vacant Lot’s first song was the Van Morrison classic Gloria. My mind flashed back to New Orleans and Gloria begging the guys to, “Fill my pockets.” Nearly naked hippy chicks did pirouettes across the stage. The jam on the song lasted forever, 15 minutes or more, causing it to get a little monotonous. But the stoned crowd grooved along with us. Between songs I could see Ted, Tim, and Rock making out with hippy chicks backstage with their hands covering all the bases. They weren’t the only sexually active beings backstage. There was a major orgy going on back there.

Why the fuck was I out here playing with what proved to be a pretty average band instead of backstage fucking? I flashed back to times when I’d be inside eating lunch or dinner as fast as I could while watching other kids playing baseball. Only now, I couldn’t speed the process up. It was going to be at least 90 minutes before I’d be able to join in the fun. I tried to focus on the music but there were nearly naked hippy chicks everywhere, especially out in the audience.

Light My Fire went on for over a half an hour. It was a fun jam. I played the Manzarek solo note for note. The guitarist started with the Robby Krieger solo but soon took it in many different directions. He was improvising, which was a technique that I wasn’t very good at, yet. He wandered over my way urging me to join him in the jam. He played a passage of notes that were way beyond me. I mean this cat was out there. I stayed within the A minor to B minor framework. What this cat was playing was jazzy and brilliant, like Colltrane or Bird or Miles. I was way overmatched. The cat was right. They did the song way different than Dynasty.

The band following Vacant Lot was named The Vurve. They weren’t ready when Vacant Lot finished their 90 minutes so we had to stretch while The Vurve got ready. They weren’t stoned enough to play yet and I was sure that one or two of their members were participants in the orgy backstage, the orgy I was missing. We jumped into a blues jam in E minor. After nearly twenty minutes of jamming, Vurve members began joining our jam one by one on their side of the stage until their full complement had assembled so that both bands were playing at the same time. Then, Vacant Lot players started dropping out – first the bassist, then the drummer, and finally the guitarist. The jam ended and Vurve’s lead singer called to the crowd to give us a big hand. I took a quick bow and fled the stage as their keyboardist stumbled up to my Hammond.

Finally, I was free to participate in the offstage activities. I looked around for Melanie, but she was already involved with another guy. Sandy Lindstrom was similarly involved as were her entire band. I didn’t find any willing carnal participants so I asked around for members of The Loading Zone. They were up next but I didn’t see Kenny or TJ or George Z anywhere. A guy pointed toward a guy and said, “Check with Paul, he’s the lead singer and keyboard player.” That’s when it dawned on me that there was another band named Loading Zone in the universe. I’m a little slow at times.

I talked to Paul Fauerso while The Vurve played trippy psychedelic in the background. Paul was a great guy, intellectual and very knowledgeable about the Hammond organ. We exchanged our favourite drawbar settings and had an extended discussion of the emotional use of the Leslie speaker’s fast/slow switch. I told Paul that I had played in a band called Loading Zone back in Duluth. He laughed and explained that his band was originally called The Marbles, but then they lost a few, “We lost our marbles,” he chortled. I laughed at his pun. Eventually, Paul introduced me to the other members of The Loading Zone, relating to them the band by the same name in an alternative universe called Duluth.

It turned out that The Loading Zone were very popular locally and had opened for Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Cream, The Byrds, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Sam & Dave, and The Who. It struck me how small the world of rock musicians actually was.

The Loading Zone was followed by the headliners, The Box Tops who had a big hit with their song The Letter. Their keyboard guy, John Evans, complimented me on the sound of my Hammond and Leslie. “It’s really great of you to let us use it, man.”

His beautiful Southern accent came as quite a surprise to me. John and several other members of The Box Tops were from Memphis, Tennessee. He dug that I was originally from New Orleans. We knew a bunch of the same people in NOLA. It was like Old Home Week.

The Box Tops put on a great show. They were all pretty phenomenal musicians. Their live version of The Letter was an amazing rendition. It was like they made their own song their own, which is even harder than that was to read. The studio version was short and contained a nauseating string and horn section. The live version was way funkier, stuck to basic guitar, bass, keys and vocals, and lasted a good ten minutes.

Fireworks lit the night sky as the concert concluded on a beautiful night, the perfect wrap to a great trip.

My first major outdoor concert started out a little shaky, but I managed to pull it together and represented myself quite well.

Rock decided that he’d take the train back to Superior. His father worked for the Great Northern Railway so he had free transit in a sleeper car. The rest of us were stuck breaking down equipment, packing up, and loading the van. We said goodbye to the gals of the Hippy Haven and set off on our two day trek back to the Land Beyond Reality, sorry to be leaving, but eager to get back home.