At the Spicewood Springs House, early spring, 1970-
We've made the decision to move to Los Angeles, and chaos rules our lives. Incoming, all directions. I.A. has threatened to claim our equipment- amps and p.a.- bought with the advance that lured us back into their studio for the "What Do You See" sessions.
Let's fill in the blanks, shall we?
Equipment advance, $8k, previous advances, maybe $10k, and I'm being very lenient here. So, say $18k- like we've stolen this from 'em. John T Potter, Sr- Todd's dad, has filed legalities to force a true accounting-- now, I.A.'s idea of an accounting turns out to be the first class in "how badly we'd been taken."
In Johnny's words "apples and oranges in the same column."
Now, JT Potter,Sr was secretary to the State of Texas' Legislative Council for many years, and this fiasco was beyond endurance. As I've said, lawsuits flew. My point, however-- even if advances totaled $30K, what's that , compared to the profit take from a six-week, global #1 hit? Peanuts! So, then- the stage is set--Amid this insanity, like some crazed Norse mariner we pack the pieces of our lives in a tandem U-Haul trailer and our faithful '68 Dodge van and head west.
The standard Texas- California drill--too long, too far, too hot. But we'd left our senior roadcrew chief, my high school best friend, Gene Corbin, to follow in two weeks with the bulk of our equipment. (back to that in a moment.)
In due course, we arrive in the city of angels, take rooms at (where else) the Tropicana hotel, Omaha Beach for all the incoming rockstar hopefuls, as well as groups like ourselves --upper-echelon rockers come to break into the L.A. scene. From that base of operations, Nick steered us toward our balance, and booked us a week at the Valley's "showcase club" Irma's Hotel. Now, I'd lived out there before--Pop was a topgun aircraft mechanic, and from Lockheed to Rocketdyne, I spent my tender years moving from Azusa to Burbank to Chatsworth, some five years. Pop loved to see the country, so every weekend we'd check out some new spot; it was cool then- I guess I was young enough to appreciate the good stuff and forget the smog and traffic. So I wasn't particularly intimidated by LA. As such, however, my life experiences didn't prepare me for Irma's Hotel. A small room in the Valley, maybe 100 people, max. Out the gate, we've got a large problem--our amps are sized to fill 2 to 4 thousand-seat halls, and now we're expected to do our fine-tuned act in what was, literally, a coffeehouse .
Nick rented some small amps, and we somehow managed to pull it off. So much, for so little--- the gig paid $90 a night for the whole band. We looked amongst ourselves, wondering... Still, as Nicky said we would, we got our ABC/Dunhill deal. That label's A&R hotshot, Marv Helfer, came several nights and we were made to believe. God, Irma's was brutal for us, but like all else in LA, good with the bad. Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong shared the bill with us once or twice----very sweet people indeed.
On, then--now the recording contract looks like a done deal, still we must attempt to secure legal aid from our Musicians Union, Local One. Please, let me back up for a moment here.
In the past year or so, at all of our performances in Union-Strong states, the AFM would have a rep. at the door to collect the AFM's share of the take (it was never like this in Texas) and as we'd done many, many east & midwest shows, the AFM certainly got their share. With these things in mind, we approached the Local One business office with a plea for help. In due course, we're ushered into top-floor sanctum of the Local#1 president, a large man with a very large cigar. We state our case, making sure he understands our faithful union standing, and the money the Union's been allowed to take at so many shows. He hears the tale, then makes a phone call. (does anyone remember the three reptilians at IA?) yeah, I thought you might-- He hangs up, looking remorseful.
Says "Boys, I wish we could help, but there's nothing the AFM can do in this matter." We say, "what about our loyal contributions-, our years of faith in the AFM?" "Sorry, we just can't help you in this '---SLAM.....
Back to Nick's..what now?? But Nicky has a plan! We'll change our name to Demian (like Steppenwolf, another Herman Hesse novel), sign with ABC/Dunhill, and fuck 'em. Cool--an assumed name! And so it was done. Bubble Puppy is masked as Demian for the sake of legalities.
Now, Gene's story....
Almost the LostBoys--our #2 crewmaster, Lynn Leas, somehow sees what's coming and decides he's done all that can be done. Lynn won't do the LA thing for any money, not that money was ever a point of reference. In my heart, I believe Lynn had given all his great heart could give, and wished to walk away before the ugliness he saw coming could tarnish the purity of his service. A good man, Lynn-and a very close friend. Strangely, to this day, he vanished completely. Gone, as if he was an imagined being. But, I wonder…
Consider Gene's plight. The band's in LA, and he find himself alone with the rather large responsibility of somehow getting all the equipment to LA as well. Somehow, he meets Mark, aka Electric Leon-- for he's from the other side of the fence, so to speak. In '67, Austin had two distinct cultures-- the longhairs and the goatropers. Now Markus was both, a cowboy attitude with a passion for hot rocknroll--a groundbreaker, that one. Very soon, most of the Texas Puppyfans were like Mark, country hearts, rocknroll souls. Brutal, as I've said before. By '70, a good part of our carnivorous fans were beerdrinkin', acideatin', speedsnortin' rednecks who loved our music.
Point of fact, Gene now had an apprentice-- one who didn't know dick from downtown Dallas, but would challenge anyone to the death for Bubble Puppy's good name. Pay attention! Comes a day at the Spicewood House. Five members of another IA band, Endel St. Cloud and the Rain, come down on our home, sent by IA to take our gear. As you might imagine Gene and Mark told 'em to bite and be gone, but much sad crap ensued, the Sherriff came, Gene was jailed. But oddly enough, our equipment wasn't stolen. Years later, Alan Mellinger called me to apologize for that day. He told me (and I don't doubt it) that the company told 'em we'd gone, and anything they could grab was theirs. Alan was much shamed by these things. When he called me in '73, he'd quit music and was working with disabled children, a licensed therapist-- it's a strange world, don't you think?
Now, when Gene was arrested for guarding our gear, and word reached us of the fiasco at our former home. It was very hard for us to remain in LA (as one might imagine), for we all wished to claim bloodfeud, and return to fight. Still, Nick calmed us- and soon Gene, Mark, and all our gear arrived safely. We rented a small house and began the "Long Wait". What I mean by this is, simply put, we'd been so used to our brutal rehearsal/performance regime for years that we truly knew nothing else. Now, here's the sprawling LA met-trop-olis, in which we must RENT a place to rehearse. No more freedom to wake up in the morning and play- now ideas must be saved for a specific time.... the ultimate heartbreaker! Still, we held faith, and the Demian sessions at the Record Plant came.
Initially, the label had tagged a young producer, Bill Szymzik of Eagles fame, to pilot the Demian recordings. Sadly, Bill and Nick didn't mesh- Bill walked , leaving Nicky as producer.
Now, as you know, we'd done this shit many, many times, and an LA topflight studio situation was one, if not the main reason for our move to the coast. Sadly, the available time slot was 10pm to 6am. Still, we took 'em as they were given.
Stay with me for a minute, this is guitar player stuff- - at that time, very few players had been given the knowledge of the lubricated nut (top of the neck) that would enable almost any guitar to hold its tuning. The "Hot Smoke" Gibson 335 pinged and popped for lack of lubrication, and in my blind ignorance, the '35 had let me down. In rage, I slammed that Axe to the floor, trashing the guitar that had given us "Hot Smoke"..."Windy City" is the last track done with my Longtime friend.
Nick bought a black '67 LesPaul "fretlesswonder" custom that suited my new tastes very well indeed, and on the rest of the Demian LP, that's the guitar Rod played. A fine axe it was, and like all else, we moved farther away from the Puppy feel, and began to create Demian from the wishes of our dreams. Ah, it was hard, hard to unlearn the Puppy method- but in LA , that just wouldn't work-- this wasn't a family-band town. So, predictably, we brought our ladies to join us. Still, we were used to our free lifestyle in spite of what LA had done to us. The strictures imposed on us by simply living there caused the first rifts we'd ever known. Suddenly, four separate dwellings materialized. Me, Betsy, and the crew- Roy and Mickey- Todd and Vicky, etc, etc. Instead of our former communal arrangement, each faction (and we'd become a set of factions by then), must have its own separate space--miles away from each other.
Now, this was an affect of the LA scene; by this time I think we'd all given up hope of any continuation of the old ways. Our thoughts were turned more and more inward as the LA blight sank deeper into our souls.
The Demian album was done, and for that time, was as close as we'd yet come to capturing our live performance on tape. There was a mood on us, like suicide almost now or never-- Bring it on!
Sadly, the promo money wasn't there--like IA, our opening tour as Demian was "send 'em to Texas, play the bars." In truth, we were happy to come home, our turf, y'know. But we still couldn't seem to lose the distance we'd wrought among ourselves in LA, and very little was achieved. In six weeks time, ABC/Dunhill had cast us adrift promo wise. Our old fans didn't understand our loss of heart, and chaos ruled all.
Roy and I managed to stay close, however-- our songwriting magic was undimmed. We recorded demos for the 2nd Demian LP in Austin, and sent 'em west, hoping for a decent recording budget. In the past months, our remaining crewmembers had taken all they could stand, and walked away with their sanity un-dimmed (well, no dimmer than it ever was, heh. Rod loves ya!) After this passing, things got truly out of hand.
Without Gene to mediate, our petty grievances against each other began to achieve epic proportions. Rod did this, Todd did that, Roy did both, Fuzzy didn't--- as before, chaos!
Now, you must understand our level of frustration--- to give up a lucrative lifestyle, musical freedom and success, loves and hopes still acknowledged without strife, our "group entity" to mediate all disturbance. Gods! To have had that and lost it was truly unbearable to me, and I know the rest of my brothers felt the same.
So, we come to an afternoon in Hollywood, and in the best very best Deja-vu style we find ourselves at the Tropicana hotel. In, of course, the restaurant. (deadly cuisine, doncha miss it!) In hand is the check for the proposed 2nd Demian LP budget. I remember looking around the table for signs of life---in truth, we'd been so battered psychologically that there was nothing left of the fierce Puppy spirit, the "against all odds" heart set that had held us up through the worst of times. The moment reached climax, Todd tore up the budget check and threw it to the floor----the last die was cast, and the Puppy was no more....
Rod Prince---- 8/18/00