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.
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.
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).
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.”