Return of the Soul Assassins

Prior to the arrival of Cream and Jimi Hendrix, it was pretty much unheard of not to have a dedicated rhythm guitar player in almost every ’60s’ garage band. In fact, my former band, the Knight Riders, was actually one of those few since John Knight played organ. I played bass in the Knight Riders, a beautiful Gibson SG.

Twenty years later, when I started the Soul Assassins in my Upper West Side apartment in New York City, I began by playing cardboard boxes with drum sticks. Brian Spaeth was the first actual instrumentalist in the Soul Assassins, since he played both bass and sax. Bob Brandel, one of the leading guitar players from the original garage band scene in Central Illinois came in next on lead guitar. As soon as Brian Moores, a former drummer for the Finchley Boys came on board, it was only natural that I start playing rhythm.

One afternoon we were practicing “Just Like Me,” when, out-of-the-blue, I took a timid little solo on top of Brandel’s howling solo. And when we were listening to the tape later, the band went crazy: two guitars soloing at the same time! They thought it sounded great! Me, I had the exact opposite reaction. I thought the song lost all intensity the second the rhythm guitar dropped out and I vowed never to let the rhythm drop out of a song again. It was my first and final guitar solo.

Years later, I remember talking to Chip Znuff, who was a big Soul Assassins fan. I said something like, “I’m just a rhythm guitar player.” He looked stunned. He couldn’t believe I didn’t understand the crucial and central role played by the rhythm guitar in many bands, including the Soul Assassins. But as the Ramones proved so well, any band can get can by with no lead guitar. But few get by without a solid rhythm. In fact, it’s the rhythm guitar that defines the sound of many rock bands. The Rolling Stones would be a perfect example.

I was playing a Fender Telecaster out of a Fender Deluxe Reverb with trebles cranked up on both. The sound was super crunchy like a saw-blade carving up chunks of chords and spitting them out. Brandel’s lead guitar usually landed between me and the bass. That’s how far up in the treble atmosphere I normally resided.

Anyway, for those who care, the Soul Assassins are coming back for a grand performance soon. Dino Sorbello is on bass, Rodway on drums, Brandel on lead guitar and me. We’re all looking forward to loading up that old lumber truck for another ride down the mountain—two wheels on all the curves— a style also known as “r-r-r-real rock’n’roll.” To commemorate this occasion, I’ve been digitizing some of the old Soul Assassins tapes and I actually found that one and only guitar solo I ever took on “Just Like Me.” You can find it by clicking the link at the top-right column of this page that says “click here to listen to the Soul Assassins.”

http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Chakra-Candles/dp/B00BVMZ8U8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414952468&sr=8-1&keywords=candles+steven+hager

Support the eBook Revolution!

There’s a coming eBook tsunami, only very few people are getting surf boards ready to ride it when it finally does arrive. Unfortunately, most people still prefer to read paper books, not the much more sensible eBooks, and the few that have woken up to the future of the eBook revolution, are almost all using Amazon Kindles.

The problem is Amazon is intent on maintaining this near-monopoly and monopolies are seldom beneficial to anyone except the majority shareholders of the corporation holding them. And they have a way of back-firing. Remember when MySpace held a near-monopoly on social networking?

The first thing people need to do is realize eBooks are going to replace real books and this tipping point is very soon upon us. Just as fast and sudden as iTunes replaced vinyl records, eBooks and eMagazines will replace their paper alternatives. Remember the time when people laughed at the idea of digital files replacing records? After all, records sound much better. Who would give up audio quality for the convenience of digital files? Everybody, that’s who. The advantages of eBooks over real books are undeniable and just as significant as the advantages of digital music over vinyl. Wouldn’t you rather have your entire bookshelf located in a cloud? And wouldn’t you be better off if you could access every single book and magazine you owned on any device, tablet, cell phone, or computer, anywhere, anytime?

Some have already entered this new dimension. And the early arrivals will always have a leg-up all the slow-moving Luddites who inevitably follow. But there is a major speed-bump in the development of the eBook marketplace. Amazon Kindle does not a distribution deal with smashword, where I publish my eBook catalogue. Amazon seems to be trying to squeeze independent publishers practically out-of-existence.

To preserve a democratic marketplace, it’s essential consumers support the alternative platforms, like  iTunes and the Nook Store, both of which support smashwords.com. Start building your eBook collection, now! I promise you won’t regret making the switch from paper.

Most of my eBooks appear at Amazon, Smashwords and iTunes. Half of my eBooks are free to download, and all of those are on Smashwords. EBooks cost a fraction of their paper counterparts. So let’s stop cutting trees and start reading eBooks!

On Magic and Religion

After I posted my take on Alex Jones’ ridiculous Madonna-Illuminati conspiracy theory, I got this response on facebook: “Illuminati conspiracy, today, revolves around the idea that some groups have been in touch with higher intelligence….”

Anyone who claims special access to information from other dimensions and or galaxies (ala David Icke), is a guaranteed 100% fraudster. This hoodwink is nothing new, by the way. It’s been going on for centuries and never seems to fail to capture true believers. In fact, this is how all religions start out. When spirituality moved from tribal shamanism to organized religions, the first thing the corrupt priesthood did was claim a special relationship with god. All religion is really magic. You can claim your messiah’s miracles are really real, but there isn’t any fundamental difference in the way Christianity, or Scientology, or Mormonism, or Aleister Crowley actually works—it’s all magic. And magic does work—if you believe in it, so it’s pretty much self-fulfilling.

I don’t doubt that telepathic energies exist, and some of those energies even travel through the dimensions of time and space. Also, some people, usually known as “psychics,” can occasionally tap into these telepathic energies. A good example would be George Washington Carver, who had the ability to “talk to plants.” But for every real psychic there’s always been ten thousand fraudsters, all claiming special access to hidden knowledge they will happily share with you—for a fee. Why anyone would ever believe any of this hogwash is beyond me. One thing about real psychics like Carver: they don’t use their abilities to manufacture religions or profiteer in any way from their special talents. And if they did, they’d likely lose those talents right away. So please don’t make the mistake of thinking the ruling elites have any special access to other dimensions or worlds in outer space or are really lizard creatures from another dimension. This is simply a hoodwink story made-up to justify their monopoly on power and keep the populace in a state of shock and awe, and prevent them from realizing the truth—that people have the power. It’s just a matter of waking up and shaking off the mind control mechanisms being manufactured to prevent that global wake-up from taking place. And claiming the Illuminati have contact with other dimensions is not part of the solution, but just another rabbit hole leading to nowhere.

$21 Trillion in Treasury Bond Corruption Plots

When I opened up google news today, I was pretty stunned to find zero mention of the massive corruption involving Treasury bonds going down today. The $6 trillion seized in Italy (from a safety deposit box in Zurich) may be just the tip-of-the-iceberg.  This one case represents half the USA public debt. Apparently, these funds were going to be used to buy plutonium from Nigerian sources, which sure sounds like a possible intel-op approved at the highest levels of National Security. You see, I have the crazy idea that the terrorist networks are actually a creation of the same octopus controling the world banking system and they engineer most of the terrorism, as it has long been known as an effective method for keeping populations in a state of shock and confusion. Wars are managed for profit and terror is needed to drive the populations into war.

Then there’s the other big news story coming out of London: Lord James of Blackheath reveals a $15 trillion money-laundering operation involving Treasury bonds, more than twice the USA public debt. Is this evidence of a  global shake-down with worthless paper being dumped at alarming rates for pennies on the dollar?

Here’s what the Lord had to say about the source of all this phoney money: “First, there may have been a massive piece of money-laundering committed by a major Government who should know better. Effectively, it undermined the integrity of a British bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, in doing so. The second possibility is that a major American department has an agency which has gone rogue on it because it has been wound up and has created a structure out of which it is seeking to get at least €50 billion as a pay-off. The third possibility is that this is an extraordinarily elaborate fraud, which has not been carried out, but which has been prepared to provide a threat to one Government or more if they do not make a pay-off.”

Note suspicion falls first on the obvious culprit: the guiding forces currently ruling the Treasury Department. Second is a rouge element inside an intelligence agency. It seems more likely, however, that MI6 already knows all about this corruption, and may even be a willing participant.

Paranoid Delusional Break-Down

Doug was a university student for about one semester before he decided to drop out of the U of I. He applied for a job as a disk jockey at one of the local radio stations and got it. Doug soon moved to an apartment near Uni High. He put an extra mattress on the floor in his two-room apartment and I was always welcome to crash there. He was still sniffing toluene at the time, although Doug had his sights set for bigger and better highs. After extensive research, he and a friend from Uni High decided the easiest psychedelic to self-manufacture was DMT and they set about collecting all the ingredients, supplies and equipment necessary, all of which was being stashed in secret panels above his kitchen cabinets. They were stealing this stuff by going into the steam tunnels and entering labs late at night (see my eBook, “The Steam Tunnels”). They would always dress up in lab coats and act like graduate students while breaking into these labs. Sometimes they would just brazenly load up carts of supplies and wheel them around in full view of anybody. The secret was that white lab coat, which gave them an aura of respectability despite their long hair.

Doug was at work during the afternoon, and I had a set of keys, so first chance I got, I invited Carole and her friend Alice over to check out my new hangout. Larry was also with us on this particular day. Doug had completely covered one wall with record album covers and he always had the best records, including lots of really obscure stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else. Around this time, Doug turned me onto the little-known West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and H.P. Lovecraft, a split-off band from the Shadows of Knight. I played my favorite cuts from both albums. The girls, however, seemed more interested in a campy “Hobbit” record that had been churned out to cash-in on that craze. It was really silly and they laughed while playing one particularly silly song over and over. It was about Daffodils.

Carole and Alice were also interested in the toluene, never having tried glue, so I showed them how that worked. Before I knew it, Larry and Alice were deep into their bags and had crawled under the covers in Doug’s bed. Suddenly, Carole put down her bag and french kissed me with great passion. It was the first time I’d ever kissed a girl and my mind sort of exploded. I was super aware of the mistake I’d made the first time around, so I pretty much kept my hands to myself, while Larry started balling Alice right away. I just kept making out with Carole. She probably was wondering why I didn’t make any serious moves, and she actually ordered me to get high at one point and handed me her bag. I pretended to take a few whiffs, but I really had no interest in the glue high. I was a lot more high from that french kiss.  I was extremely conscious of the fact Carole was in a compromised state and was determined not to take advantage of the situation. Mostly, though, I was just a typical virgin, I guess, too shy to make a serious move. Eventually, Carole and Alice had to go somewhere and they both split rather suddenly. A few minutes later, I noticed the bottle of toluene was missing.

That’s when I had the first major paranoid breakdown of my teenage existence. Before long, I’d convinced myself that the whole make-out session had been a ploy to steal drugs. I was a very sad chuckle-head back then because I’d soon sabotage any potential relationship with Carole by concocting the most evil scheme imaginable. When Doug came home I told him about the missing bottle. Doug just opened his secret cabinet and pulled out a giant gallon container of toluene he had stashed there. But after I explained my plan to Doug,  he readily agreed to play his role. So I called Carole and said Doug had gotten back, the bottle of toluene was missing, and Doug was going into withdrawal. I acted really crazed while Doug painfully moaned in the background. Before long, I had Carole in tears. She called Alice and Alice’s story was the bottle had been tossed in the bushes or something. We never got it back. But my torturing of Carole over this stupid bottle was really over-the-top, although in my paranoid delusion, I couldn’t stop myself.

After the phone calls were over, and Doug and I were laughing about what great actors we were, Doug mentioned that the news director at his new job was a really cool guy who wanted to meet me. His name was Don Clark and unfortunately, he would soon radically change all our lives.

Jock is Beautiful

The first issue of The Tin Whistle could not have been more explosive and the first two articles in that first issue actually set the stage for a lot of what would happen for the rest of the year. “Jock is Beautiful,” was written by Charlie Geron, and made reference to a beating inflicted on a prominent member of the U-Club.

The blacks, it seems, had finally taken sides in the jock-longhair conflict Smitty had been fomenting, and decided to side against Smitty and with the longhairs. Charlie also took a swipe at the U-Club Parent’s Association, run by Smitty and the fathers of his white stars.

The other (unsigned) letter to the editor was titled “Racism and Discontent” and mostly concerned the systemic racism in the athletic department, and the fact black parents were never invited to the meetings, most of which were held at Smitty’s house.

“An impending crisis hangs over Urbana High School and no one really realizes the seriousness of the matter,” wrote the anonymous author. “The White racism and Black discontent that are so prevalent in our nation and community is manifested in the actions and attitudes which make Urbana High a potential area for racial disturbances.” These words would soon prove very prophetic.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but those two articles were extremely offensive to Smitty and he immediately called a meeting of the entire U-Club. After they were all assembled, he entered the room and exploded: “I put more niggers through college than any coach in this state!!” was just one of many inflammatory comments made during his emotional tirade. It’s only recently that I’ve come to realize these meltdowns were likely the result of PTSD from his years as a tail-gunner.

Coach Warren “Smitty” Smith.

During most of the speech, Smitty was staring straight at Jim Wilson, who was the starting end at the time, and Harvey Treat’s favorite receiver. In fact, Harvey’s favorite play was a bomb he threw to Jim. So far they’d run the play three times and it had scored a touchdown on all three tries.

It was clear Smitty felt sure Jim had written that letter as he had taken on a rather erudite style recently, likely a result of his being influenced by the oratory of Fred Hampton.

“And if you see some kid with his shirttail hanging out, smoking a cigarette on school property, you have my permission to punch them out,” concluded Smitty.

Although Smitty didn’t actually say “longhair,” I think those final comments were aimed at me and my cigarette-smoking crew. Smitty had watched me grow up because we went to the same Lutheran Church for many years, until I defected, something that would have certainly not gone unnoticed by him. The U-Club meeting was Smitty’s way of declaring war on the counterculture and especially on me and The Tin Whistle; and the first casualty was Jim Wilson, who’d continue suiting up for games for the rest of the year, but would never play football again in his life. Such was the punishment for writing a letter to The Tin Whistle that Jim actually didn’t write! Many years later, John Reinhardt (who was white) confessed that the prophetic letter was his and he left it unsigned because he suspected what Smitty’s reaction to any sort of criticism might be.

Jim Wilson (wearing beret).

The tragedy was that Jim was talented enough to get a football scholarship. He placed third in the State in the high-jump that year and could basically out-jump just about anybody, a great asset for an end. He was around 6′ 4″ and had blazing speed. His dad, a track coach at the University, had been grooming Jim for a possible professional career, but then Jim’s dad died unexpectedly, and then Smitty silently blacklisted Jim off the football team for a crime he didn’t commit. Jim could have folded his cards and given up on life. Instead, he decided to run for senior class president. And you know what? Not a single member of the U-Club ran against him. I think it was an amazing display of their respect and affection for Jim. As well as their realization that maybe Smitty was wrong. But Smitty had been right about one thing: Jim was the alpha male on the civil rights movement in our class. And if he could get a chance, he intended to confront the racism so prevalent in our school at the time.

The Monks of Mayhem

I already told you about how Iving Azoff—the most powerful person in the music industry—got his start as Bob Nutt’s associate at Blytham, Ltd., in Urbana, Illinois, in 1967.  (And thanks to an original Blytham business card sent-in by Guy Maynard, we now know Irv had a short-lived predecessor in that role named Dan Dailey.)

Gary Pini is another important character in this story, and he too would eventually rise to great heights in the record industry, producing dance music singles and early rap records. The photo shows Gary on the Quad at the University of Illinois. In the background you can see the round building we used to sneak into via the Steam Tunnels that ran underneath the entire University campus (see my book, 1966). Gary is the one who took me to see the John Cage installation at the Stock Pavilion.

Gary was going out with Caroline, who lived in a house at 1003 South Third Street with three other girls (Paula, Elke and Claudia), one of whom was an occasional lover of Jim Cole’s, which is why Cole spent a lot of time at that house.

John McNaughton

Cole’s brother had an immaculate used Cadillac with minor issues parked in the driveway. After a few beers, Cole’d go into Destructo-Mania and jump out the second floor window onto the hood or roof or trunk, inflicting as much damage as possible with his booted feet. A sledge hammer often played a role in this game and the car was soon transformed into a worthless pile of junk. Bob Brandel removed the dashboard for use in an art class but flunked that project. “Why are you in school?” asked his professor. John McNaughton had a similar art class and the moldy mattress he pulled out of the Boneyard Creek so disgusted his professor that McNaughton flunked his assignment. But those two practically unknown masterpieces now constitute perhaps the finest examples of the short-lived Destructo-Mania Art Movement and would probably sells for millions at Sotheby’s if anyone could find them.

Bob Brandel

Destructo-Mania had to end, however, since that particular lifestyle is not really sustainable. But it sure went out in a blaze of glory. A bunch of people were tripping and drinking beer late one night when Tony Byrnes sat in a chair and it broke accidentally, spilling him onto the floor. Everyone froze for a second and then broke into laughter and couldn’t stop. This accident had a somewhat inspirational impact on Cole, who pretty soon smashed the nearest object with his foot. Of course, this produced gales more laughter and it sort of escalated out-of-control from there. In order to keep the laughter going, objects were ceremoniously brought into the center of the room and ritualistically sacrificed. This was Destructo-Mania of the highest and most spiritual power. No object was spared by these Destructo Monks. The girls ran around in a frenzy, moving their sacred pieces into rooms under their control, trying to save whatever they could. Small things like cups and dishes went quickly, obviously, but then even the largest pieces of furniture were eventually stomped into submission by the Monks of Mayhem. And before you knew it, virtually everything in the house was turned into a broken pile of junk on the living room carpet! At this point the Grandmaster of Mayhem himself, Jim Cole stood atop this glorious pile of destruction, armed with a jack-knife and matches delivering the final coup-de-grace, some by sword, others by fire. By this time, however, dawn was breaking and the girls were teary-eyed, so weary were they from trying to hold back the Monks. No longer could they feed this sacred fire of destruction, as there was nothing left to destroy. So they decided to help clean-up the mess they’d created and dragged the carpet with all the junk out the kitchen door and into the backyard.

Jim Cole and his chopper.

This house was surrounded on all sides by the most clean-cut fraternities and sororities. In fact, the backyard was really a huge park used by fraternities for touch football games and frisbee throwing. The carpet was dragged to the center of this immaculate field where Cole set the mess on fire. I don’t know if the Fire Department ever arrived, but I’m sure the neighbors must have wondered where that huge smouldering pile of junk came from when they woke up hours later. The next weekend, I’d kick an empty beer bottle, trying to set off another round of Destructo-Mania, but the girls threw me up against the wall, threatened to punch me out, and announced the next person who tried to break anything was getting tossed out permanently. It was the end of Destructo-Mania.

Another detail completely missing in all ’60s films and docs: many of us were riding the new super-cheap Jap bikes. You could get a used 50cc model for $50. Here’s Cole (above) with his chopper. Larry and I had similar bikes, as did a few others in our scene.

(Excerpted from Magic, Religion and Cannabis.)

 

Birth of Destructo-Mania

Bob Nutt (wearing hat).

Bob Nutt threw a famous New Year’s eve party in 1967, sort of a celebration of the fantastic success Blytham Ltd. was experiencing with their two main acts, The Finchley Boys and the Seeds of Doubt. There were cases and cases of champagne available, a real rock’n’roll blow-out. Nutt had basically cornered the market on garage bands in central Illinois and was forcing most of the venues to book only his bands exclusively.

Guy Maynard got into a discussion about “hangups” and decided to take off his clothes as a political statement. He walked around the party naked encouraging others to cast off their mental slavery and join his nudity.

Everyone assumed he was drunk out-of-mind, but within a few months some of those same dudes would be streaking through campus while high on LSD as a political statement. Like I said, Guy was always ahead of the rest of us.

Meanwhile, down in the basement, Cole discovered a hammer and spots a bunch of empty glass bottles. He turns into a robot machine and starts saying the words “destructo-mania.” But everytime he says the words, he robotically smashes a glass bottle with his hammer. Eventually, the host, Bob Nutt comes downstairs, sees what’s going on, starts laughing and is soon joining Cole in this new game called Destructo-Mania.

Jim Cole, leader of The Finchley Boys.

It was the birth of the Destructo-Mania craze that overtook the twin cities for a few months, at least in our scene, but the apex of Destructo-Mania would not take place for over a year, and then it would be at the infamous house on Third Street where almost all the greatest parties of the decade took place.

Battle of the Bands

Even better than seeing a Finchley Boys’ concert was seeing the Finchley’s battle the one other famous garage band in town, the Seeds of Doubt, fronted by Urbana High senior Guy Maynard, a very influential figure in the twin cities in the late ’60s. I really need a higher resolution jpeg of this flyer for their first public encounter. Even at this resolution, however, I can tell this picture is priceless, revealing a very young Jim Cole, and somewhat more mature-looking Guy Maynard facing off, with their bands behind them. Within a few months Cole would have his growth spurt and morph into the local version of Bob Dylan/Mick Jagger rolled into one.

Guy was way ahead of most of us on a lot of fronts. He deplored the whole jock/longhair terminology, for example, as he knew the words contributed to the polarization taking place, a polarization that would erupt in violence in the fall of 1967, and grow worse the next semester following the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination.

Funny, though, Guy had been a known conservative,and stanch supporter of Barry Goldwater his last year in junior high, but when he moved to high school, he suddenly started looking and acting a lot like Brian Jones! Guy was following the first garage band in the twin cities, most, if not all of whom, were from Champaign Central High School. They were doing a version of “Gloria” before the Shadows of Knight, and Guy was their biggest fan. Eventually the band decided they wanted Guy to be their lead singer, and that’s when they came up with the name “Seeds of Doubt.”

The Outcasts

The first issue of The Tin Whistle included my endorsement for Larry Green for Senior Class president, our counterculture attempt to take over the political structure of a school that had always been dominated by the winners of the annual Daughters of the American Revolution awards.

You’ll notice Larry wears the magic cross that was also the secret symbol of my elementary school streetgang (see “From Violent Streetgangs to Merry Pranksters”). I took both photos the same day, cut them up and glued them together to create the effect of Larry as teenage monster towering over Urbana High.

The story “Tales from the House on High Street” is an obvious  reference to Eric Swenson’s pad, our favorite hangout. After the Knight Riders kicked me out of the band for being an LSD addict (or so they thought), I toyed around with the idea of starting a band with Eric and we held a bunch of rehearsals at his house, but I soon came to the conclusion being in a band with Eric wasn’t really going to amount to anything real, as Eric was more than content to just jam in his living room and nothing more. He always had a cigarette in his mouth when he drummed, and used an overturned cymbal on the floor as his ashtray.

Meanwhile, The Finchley Boys were going through their own changes. Somewhere along the line, they started doing an Animals’ cover, “Outcast.” Actually, “Outcast” was originally an R&B love song Eddie Campbell and Ernie Johnson recorded in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1964. The Animals version was faster and they dropped the horn riff and replaced it with a guitar. The song rocked hard, had a powerful hook, and it instantly became a major highlight of the Finchley’s set, eventually becoming their new signature song. It was no longer a silly love song, either. Now “Outcast” stood for the position we longhairs found ourselves in, as we were not being accepted by the establishment.

Faber was the lead singer on “Outcast.” Although Faber had started as the roadie, then played harmonica on one song, he was now singing the two biggest hits the band had. One day when the band was arriving in a car together at Urbana High, Faber and Cole got into a little dispute over some minor matter and Cole announced he was leaving the band so he could concentrate on becoming a guitar player. Cole soon left high school and moved into a room on the second floor of Eric’s house, right across the hall from the padlocked room Daddy Swenson slept in.

Carole

One day I brought Larry with me on one of my visits to Carole’s house. We were sitting on the floor of her porch talking, when Larry went into his imitation of Timothy Leary. Carole started cracking up. It was the first time she noticed how smart and funny Larry was. I had this idea we should cover ourselves with a blanket and pretend we were all in a womb together, about to be born as a set of triplets. I don’t know where I came up with this shit, maybe I was already aware of the Living Theater, because this was essentially an improv-exercise right out of a Viola Spolin handbook. We went to the back yard, threw a blanket over us, and curled into a ball, all spooning each other. I was on the outside, and, of course, Carole was in the middle. It was all very innocent, really. But I could tell right away from the way Carole was petting Larry’s hair, that she’d taken a sudden interest in him.

When she went back inside, her mom was super pissed. “What are the neighbors going to think!” Carole stood her ground, however, saying we were just playing a game and nothing sexual had been going on at all, which was true, sort of.

I could tell there were speed bumps ahead with my grand scheme to make Carole my girl friend, as she seemed easily distracted by other dudes.