Goddess with the Dark Hair

Chris Swing.

Despite her many accomplishments, Mary Shirley did have competition for greatest garage-rock goddess of Urbana, 1967, and that competition was a dark-haired beauty named Chris Swing.

I was walking down the hall one day when Chris and George Faber bumped into each other unexpectedly and began having an animated conversation with their immense sexual auras in full power.

Man, everybody in that hall just stopped what they were doing and froze in place so we could concentrate on what those two were saying. That was the main difference between junior high and high school, the sexual hormones were bouncing off the walls once you got to high school.

And having the Finchley Boys, the greatest garage band in the state, in my high school was a lot of like having the Rolling Stones hanging around all the time. Their charisma was that strong.

But the charisma coming off Mary Shirley and Chris Swing was just as powerful! I didn’t dare to speak to either one, as they were both way out of my league, although Chris was going steady with my bass teacher at the time, Jim Brewer.

I got completely plastered drinking beers in the parking lot at the Tiger’s Den one night. I’d just heard that Carole had driven off in some sports car with some rock’n’roll upper-class-man, and tried to drink myself into oblivion.

Jim found me passed out in the alley. Chris got down on the ground and put my head in her lap to comfort me. That’s how I woke up…with Chris stroking my hair, telling me how cute I looked.

At first, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. But then I woke up and got really embarrassed. Chris wanted Jim to drive me home, but I waved them off and started hoofing it back to Delaware Street. When the sun came up hours later, I woke up again, passed out in somebody’s lawn half-way home.

Funny how Chris Swing lived out in the country, just a few blocks from me and the Shirley’s. Her mom Pat, remains a stunning beauty to this day, defying any effects of age whatsoever. Pat makes 80 look like the new 30. She had two daughters, but the little one wasn’t on my radar in 1967, although that would eventually change.

Finchley Boys versus The Seeds of Doubt

The Tiger’s Den was a one-story wood building located in downtown Urbana, Illinois, with a large, empty room that was used for a wide variety of functions, including weekly live music performances. In 1966, two local bands emerged, The Finchley Boys and the Seeds of Doubt, and they were among the first bands in Illinois to be influenced by beat music and the British Wave, what we know today as garage bands. The picture above is a performance of the Seeds of Doubt at the Den with a psychedelic light show in full effect.

Guy Maynard.

The Seeds may have come first, I’m not sure, but the Finchley’s sort of roared by when lead guitarist Mark Warwick wrote the first of many originals: “Only Me.”

James Cole and Guy Maynard, the respective two lead singers, were the most charismatic teenagers in town, but they had different personalities. While Cole bedded what must have been dozens of the most nubile teenagers (who were throwing themselves at him), Maynard decided to save his virginity for a great love affair. Both were 16 at the time.

“Only Me,” shifted the balance of power inside the Finchleys. Previously, the highlight of every performance had been Cole’s rendition of “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” during which he would prowl the stage and sometimes even come out into the crowd. Many of us were facing extreme battles on the home front (see my book 1966), and Cole expressed our intense commitment to preserve our hard-fought long hair and counterculture principles.

But “Only Me” raised the bar. Obviously written after the effects of the glue party the Finchley’s had secretly held at the Shirley sisters’ barn: “Only Me” championed our belief that the emerging psychedelic substances could open doors to true spirituality. It was the first psychedelic anthem I ever heard, although the style would soon be much imitated.

I felt like I was in church whenever I heard that song. But it wasn’t really Cole’s style and didn’t suit him. So the harmonica player, George Faber, took over singing it. Faber was already a showman, but he took “Only Me” to another level, eventually incorporating yoga positions and a live boa constrictor into the song.

One day a minor dispute broke out between Cole and Faber and Cole left the band instantly, saying he wanted to play guitar. He wanted to move beyond being just a vocalist, and may have had Jeff Beck on his mind. Some weeks later, Cole joined the Seeds and for one performance in Danville arranged by Irv Azof as his first solo production, they were the greatest live rock act around.

Jim Cole.

Cole would put down his guitar for one song: “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” But, in truth, he missed his old band, especially Warwick and Powers, and this attitude was evident, so the Seeds fired him. He roadied a few gigs with the Finchleys, hoping to work his way back in, but that wasn’t happening.

In 1967, I joined the Knight Riders, which was junior class version of The Finchleys and Seeds. We hung out with both bands when we could and were booked by the same managers (Bob Nutt & Azoff).

Carole.

The Knight Riders introduced me to Carole, who I quickly resolved was the greatest teenage goddess in the universe.

One morning I showed up at Urbana High with some LSD. I’d been up all night tripping with Doug Blair, my first experience with the psychedelic state-of-mind. The Knight Riders were horrified when I showed them the extra capsules, and kicked me out of the band on the spot for being a drug addict, even though they’d been smoking the local ditch-weed (which didn’t get you high) for weeks and would eventually evolve into huge potheads.

That same afternoon I took those extra LSD tablets to Uni High and gave them to Carole. Within minutes, the entire school heard through the grapevine that Carole had LSD and Steve Hager had provided it. My brother was a junior there, and I’m sure he must have been greatly concerned, for he told my parents that night before dinner, which precipitated the most violent response from by father, known to my friends as “Bad Dad.”