Only Me

Mark Warwick.

The first glue-sniffing party at the Shirley’s barn may have inspired Phil Mayall to start a journal, but it also inspired Mark Warwick to write a song that soon replaced Jim Cole’s “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” as the Finchley Boy’s signature song.

You can tell from the artful pose that Mark had quite a lot of style. Those wide surfer-stripes were considered super-cool at the time. That’s about as long as his hair got back then, as he was the only member of the band who submitted to haircut rules. Mark was exceptionally talented and his psychedelic masterpiece, “Only Me,” expressed a firm belief in the intoxication of sacred substances as the true path to enlightenment.

It’s hard to explain today, but the garage-rock movement was an intensely spiritual event, more powerful, in fact, than our exploding libidos. And while the Finchley’s were all about scouting the fun vibe, they also reached deep into their hearts on occasion. Sure, Cole could make the girls swoon with a Stones ballad like “Lady Jane” (a phenomenon Flick Ford would later call “the pooey meter), but when they rocked hard, the band was more like an icebreaker or Sherman tank, leading our forces into the battles of the Generation War. It was at those shows that our tribe first collected and realized itself. Lots of people make the mistake of thinking vibes are something individuals control, but actually the most powerful vibes are always group emanations. That’s why great artists initially emerge from tribes. The really great bands are injected with energy from the crowd and become reservoirs of that energy, which is why all the girls wanted to rub up against the Finchley’s so bad.

Remember I told you there were two paths at the birth of the ’60s?  (See “Reflections on Older Brothers.”) Well, Faber and Cole represented those paths perfectly. Warwick was on a similar path as Faber.

Please don’t think any of this stopped those guys from being best friends, and nobody was aware of these energy fields back then, but Mark’s song was clearly suited for Faber, not Cole, and Faber would put an incredible spirituality into the song. He’d recently gotten a copy of a book on yoga, and was into health food and meditation. The song was so powerful it quickly moved to the encore slot, and Faber would start by assuming the famous “Tree” position. I was instantly transported to a most reverential church-of-my-mind. I’m sure any adults that might have been attending might have considered us  hypnotized zombies, such was our devotion and zeal during this song.

I’d be amiss if I didn’t also point out that the drummer, Mike Powers, was a tremendous part of the success of “Only Me.” In fact, he opened the song with a drum solo on mallets, and eventually added a large gong. Mike would take a long solo with mallets at the climactic moment of the song. He was a important part of the song’s spirituality.

True Origins: Stairway to Heaven

Early in the ’60s, Lenny Bruce appeared on Ed Sullivan and performed a skit about some kids on the West Coast who were caught sniffing glue to get high, which Lenny found hilarious. Little did Lenny know, by broadcasting that story, he created a sudden interest in the effects of glue across America.

When the Finchley Boys decided to hold their first infamous glue party (and there were really only two far as I know), they naturally selected the barn at Mary Shirley’s as the appropriate location. Mary was a gorgeous rockn’n’roll blonde who designed and sewed her own outfits—hooded purple velvet cape and Carnaby-street miniskirt was a typical look. Plus Mary had two gorgeous sisters close to her in age.

I never really penetrated their scene but once, for a ceremony in 1969, but the Shirley’s undoubtedly captured the center of gravity on the Finchley’s social life for a while.  The two lead singers of the Finchleys, Jim Cole and George Faber, were dating the sisters early on. Mary was an accomplished musician on many instruments, violin probably being her best. She was also an asset selecting songs and helping transpose them, as well as letting them know which worked and which didn’t. Mary’s opinion was pretty much final.

Mary was a huge fan of the Yardbirds, who weren’t really all that super famous at the time, playing gigs in small clubs, and Mary would get her dad to drive her and her sisters hundreds of miles just to attend a show. The first time she saw them, Jimmy Page pulled her out of the audience to be brought backstage. They treated Mary as an equal and for years, Page would call Mary whenever he was in the Midwest. It wasn’t a gushy teen fan thing either. They weren’t looking for sex and Mary wasn’t offering (until later, that is). At 16, Mary could go toe-to-toe with the biggest rock stars and command their respect. After Mary was done hanging out at these after-parties, she and her sisters would head down to where her dad was sleeping in the car, waiting to drive them a hundred miles back home. It was at one of these late-night hang-outs that Page asked Mary to transpose a sheet of classical music (Chopin). He wanted to work the melody into a song he was writing. (It eventually became the opening to “Stairway to Heaven,” by Led Zeppelin.)

But in 1967, that hadn’t happened yet, and everyone was going to the Shirley’s to get high on sniffing glue for the first time. Glue wasn’t like the ditch weed we’d been smoking, it actually got you high—way high. It was probably the first psychedelic experience for most of us. The second glue party was a relatively small affair arranged by Phil Mayall and attended by the band and their entourage. Mayall was occupying an empty apartment that was probably rented out by his father. It was a second-floor apartment on Green Street that ended up getting trashed. This could have been the earliest signs of the destructo-mania movement that would capture Cole’s imagination for the next year or so. Mayall was becoming known as Dr. Pheeoo and already seemed close to a junkie on the stuff, sniffing morning, noon and night, and keeping a journal of his experiences. His dad got suspicious, found the journal left behind in the trashed apartment, and called the police.

Next thing the Finchleys know, they get a message that the cops know everything, and it’ll “be a lot better for you if you turn yourself in.” So the next day, George and a few others go down to the Urbana Police Station and turn themselves in for sniffing glue. George’s mom was horrified. “Glue!” she said, “you won’t even drink a coca-cola because you think it’s bad for you!”

It would take another year or two before Phil completely gave up his obsession. For a while, he even holed up at my place, the Den of Iniquity, and did his sniffing there. But the most lasting influence was on the Finchley’s lead guitar player, Mark Warwick. The experience caused him to write the first psychedelic anthem I ever heard, a song titled, “Only Me.” This is what raised the Finchley Boys to an epic level, and it sure looked like they might become national rock stars.