Beatles or Stones?


Haven’t seen Not Fade Away yet, but I’m super interested in this just-released attempt at capturing the garage band movement of the 1960s, although the initial reviews are not great, so I guess it won’t be creating a new franchise for Sopranos creator David Chase.

Immediately after Beat Street, I tried to launch my own garage band movie, and even had a great script titled The Runaways. I have a habit of walking away from energy centers at peek levels, and could have had a successful career as a professional hip hop journalist, but, instead, right after Beat Street and my book Hip Hop came out, and inspired by my new South Bronx friends, I decided to return to the music of my roots. In both cases (garage, hip hop), huge creative vibes were unleashed initially by kids age 14-16, with no one else involved, except our inspirations, which, in my case, initially emanated from England mostly (although Amsterdam had a scene just as good as Liverpool’s or London’s). Yes, it was the Beatles who made me want to pick up a guitar, but when I finally got that guitar, it was Rolling Stones songs I actually performed on stage with the Knight Riders. I was still in junior high when I saw their first performance at a sock hop at the end of the school year. I had no idea a bunch of kids my age could engineer such a mind-blowing rock sound. They only played one or maybe two songs, but I was changed forever. I didn’t recognize the song at the time, but later discovered it was Get Off My Cloud, although it could just as easily have been Gloria, the chords are similar and that now famous garage rock anthem from Them and Van Morrison was actually picked up by a local band in my town before the Shadows of Knight covered it. Within a year I was playing bass in the Knight Riders.

So when I talk about the 1960s garage band movement, I lived it, not as a star, but as a teenager struggling to take on a new cultural identity against intense resistance, mostly from my own father. They call it a “generation gap” today, but it was really a generation war.

Although I’d later learn to embrace non-violence, that wasn’t the way it started, and if you read my first short story (East Village), which is free on smashwords (and now illustrated with my art from the period), you can get inside my 16-year-old mind, and it was certainly chock full of violence, the love of which may have been initially planted by the mainstream media. Many teens of the era, me included, had to run away in order to become ourselves. And those adventures often led to big cities, like New York, where some freaky movies and weird shit always went down. After some of those adventures, we became jaded, cynical, old souls pretty quick.

My next short story, also on smashwords, and also recently updated with photos and illos from the period, covers my climactic battle with my parents, which occurred in 1967. The cover photo (left), taken by Bugsy, reveals my regular uniform at the time: black double-breasted leather jacket, jeans and long-sleeve white shirt. I think every black kid in my high school coveted that jacket, and some even warned me never to leave it in my locker unguarded. The fact it was double-breasted is what made it so distinctive. If you want to experience the raw emotions unleashed during the era, you will find them here, although it will cost 99 cents, as I need to get something back from all this art I’ve created. The next one, however, is free.

My final short story in this trilogy from the 1960s, is a dispatch I wrote while hiding out from the Vietnam War in Stockholm, Sweden, where I had a wonderful apartment and gorgeous girlfriend (left), and a brief gig as an extra in a film (Joe Hill), but still felt strangely empty upon being separated from my beloved homeland for such a long stretch. This was near the zenith of my nihilistic tendencies, and the story lapses back into the black humor of East Village, a much needed relief from the trauma of The Steam Tunnels.

Hopefully I’ll soon post my original garage band script that bounced around Hollywood for over a decade. I almost got a low-budget version done through High Times, and even had a cast assembled and a $100,000 budget drawn up, but then the funding fell through. The main thing about this post though is if there are any people out there interested in 1966-9, you might want to check out these three eBooks because they were written during the period. In other words, it’s the real deal. Us hippies were a lot tougher than you think.

The Stockholm Manifesto

Marta was my first real girlfriend.

Thanks to mom filling out an application to Valparaiso University, I briefly attended college after barely graduating high school. Mom figured I’d jump on it since my favorite cousin, Tom Hutton, had just returned from Vietnam and enrolled there on the GI Bill. I ‘d kept up a correspondence with Tom during his entire tour, a time during which he went through some heavy, heavy changes and emerged as an ardent anti-war activist.

I’d been living in Oakland when I got the news I’d been accepted, so I hitch-hiked back east, and checked out the Lutheran college both my parents graduated from. Unfortunately, I felt tremendously isolated from all the devout Christians, although I did create two lasting friendships with fellow searchers on the path of illuminated fun I’d been scouting the past three years (The Merry Pranksters being my ultimate role model). We discovered a hay-filled barn with a giant rope swing and it became 24-hour party central. A lot of swan dives into the haystack while intoxicated on LSD, beer or both. After the Kent State Massacre, however, I stopped attending class, and just spent my time studying the art of having fun all the time. When the school music building burned (suspected arson), it came down the grapevine I was the number-one suspect being investigated.

Eventually, my dad caught wind of the situation and cut me off completely, having already wasted $5,000 on tuition fees alone. The best thing that came out of Valpo was an encounter with Joseph Heller, who clued me into Louis-Ferdinand Celine, a tremendous influence on Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Heller, J.D. Salinger, to name but a few.

Maybe I wasn’t attending class,  but I was educating myself in my own way and I burned through everything Celine wrote (that I could find) in a few days. My draft number was low, so when my cousin Tom discovered my circumstances, knowing I’d be inducted straight from the physical exam into bootcamp, plunked down $350 for a one-way ticket to  Stockholm, where his army buddy, Ed Keeling, was attending the university.  I had very few possessions, just a letter from Tom explaining my hasty exit from the States and could he help me out? I had virtually no money, and slept the first few nights on the floor in Ed’s tiny dorm room, with Ed wondering what the hell was going on and when was I going to get the hell out of there?!

I was soon rescued, however, by a couple of amazing Swedish goddesses, one blonde, one brunette. Eva, the blonde, took me under her wing and introduced me to her revolutionary cellmates. She put up with my cynical rants and was even amused by them. Eva sensed I was going to evolve into a great, great revolutionary. In fact, I think she was convinced that’s exactly what was going to happen. This made me laugh. I loathed Marxism more than I did organized religion!

Eva was certainly beautiful and I undoubtedly had a shot with her, but I chose Marta, who was a dead ringer for a French movie star. Or maybe Marta picked me? In a way, she became my first real girlfriend. Marta was a year or two older and gave me some necessary schooling in art of making love. I was living my down-and-out-in-Europe fantasy and having a blast! I even got some extra work in the film Joe Hill, which gave me enough money to buy a typewriter so I could commence creating the first great counterculture novel of my generation, the rock’n’roll, garageband, go-for-broke generation that actually created the sixties.  I never got beyond the opening chapter.