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.”

The Importance of John Cage

Some people wonder how I turned out the way I did growing up in a middle-sized town in Central Illinois. They don’t seem to realize Urbana, Illinois was a hotbed of counterculture activity during the 1960s. And I think I know a possible reason why.

After Jasper Grootveld launched the Provo movement and started creating “happenings” in Amsterdam, a handful of other artists in the world began pursuing similar concepts. There was Andy Warhol on the east coast, doing multimedia happenings with the Velvet Underground as his house band. There was Ken Kesey on the west coast doing acid-drenched multimedia happenings with his house band, the Grateful Dead. And then there was John Cage, artist in residence at the University of Illinois, who, for a few years, was organizing the biggest and best multimedia happenings in the world in my hometown of Urbana.

In order to understand the impact this undoubtedly had, consider the way energy fields work. For example, if a forest is attacked on its perimeter by a predator insect, hundreds of miles away, trees on the other side of that forest will almost instantly start producing chemicals to fight the insect invasion. Similarly, if a group experienced with meditation technique holds a meditation in a town square, violent crime can go down in that town for several days after the meditation. This has been proven by science. Similarly, the events (ceremonies) John Cage instigated in Urbana helped turn my hometown into a haven for counterculture thinking and creativity.

Cage staged a “happening” at the Stock Pavilion that included one of Smitty’s Blasters.

On March 19, 1965, “Concert for Piano and Orchestra,” was performed, the first John Cage production at the U of I. It was conducted by Charles Hamm, with Ellsworth Snyder on piano. (Snyder would go on to become the first person to write a PhD thesis on Cage five years later.)  At one point during the performance, Snyder crawled under the piano and began banging the bottom with a mallet. Some conservative members of the audience began screaming with rage. One even began throwing folding chairs onto the stage in an attempt to stop the performance. Suddenly, the violinist smashed her violin over her music stand, an act worthy of a Who performance. From there the concert turned into a complete melee, with the audience out of their seats and the performers improvising general chaos.

Despite intense opposition from some elements of the faculty, Cage would continue to stage performances at the University for several years, culminating in his grand finale, “HPSCHD,” which was held at the Assembly Hall, the largest indoor venue in Central Illinois. It involved 208 tapes running through 52 tape-players, 59 amplifiers and loudspeakers, 6,400 slides (5,000 from NASA), 64 slide projectors, 40 films, 8 motion-picture projectors, 11 100’x40′ silk screens, and a 340′ circular screen made by Calvin Sumsion. The show included a lot of black light and fluorescent astrological designs. It lasted about five hours and the audience was encouraged to participate in the show in every way possible. About 8,000 attended, many of whom stayed for the entire five hours.

If you go to Urbana, you won’t find much counterculture activity today. But thanks in large part to John Cage, this wasn’t the case between 1965 and 1969.