Part II – “The Dream Begins”|
When I got back to New Jersey that Summer of ’77, I joined a southern rock band called Red Hurn Young that my best friend Dan “The Bass Man” Goitein was in. I sang lead and played harmonica. We played some great gigs that summer in Edgewater and the Jersey Shore. We were doing covers of Allman Brothers, Johnny Winter, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Joe Walsh and other popular groups of the day. We had a great slide guitar player named Danny Batch. He ruled the band with an iron fist but got things done and I learned a lot from his Dr. Doom evil eye style of leadership. I told Dan what I wanted to do and we convinced his parents to let him go to Sonoma State in the fall. We made money and tried to begin writing some songs but we mostly ended up jamming to old Herbie Hancock records and covering a song called "Chick Boswell and the Bongo Boys" from our favorite local group from Tenafly, the Burnt Vegetables.
That was also the Summer of Sam and the year Punk Rock and New Wave took over. We didn’t care. We were on a mission and when summer was over we loaded up the Scout with all our gear on the roof rack and took off for California. Somewhere, I think in Blue Moon, Wisconsin, we pulled into a drive-in diner because we’d never seen one before and that was the end of the roof rack and our sleeping space in the back of the truck. When we got to California we picked up two girls hitchhiking on Highway 101 on our way up to Cotati. They said that they were going to a party in Kent and invited us along. Dan had to splay himself spider-like in the back on top of all the equipment but we were up for anything. The party was all black guys and white girls except for the girl who’s birthday party it was. They did a soul-train-like dance where each person took a turn dancing down the corridor of people doing their favorite moves. We all took turns dancing to the song “Slide” by Slade. Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon played too. It was funky and I was turned on to funk big-time. I got into a heavy conversation with the birthday girl’s father on the porch and he said “Son, you’ll always do alright in life if you remember to never let the FIGS get in your way; FEAR IGNORANCE GUILT and SHAME.” When the party finally ended and we drove north to the coast somewhere randomly, we looked out from the rocky edge onto the raging Pacific ocean and saw huge sea lions swimming. We took a dip and knew we had arrived.
I got my job back on the dairy farm in Petaluma and lived with the Native American Indian milker in the haunted house where he said we could rehearse. Dan got an apartment and we began classes at SSU. The first day of guitar class we met our guitar player from Pasadena Mike Cunningham a/k/a Mick Cunning and knew that this was the missing third piece of our yet to be named band.
|Our teacher, Alan Weintraub, was a guitar wizard who thought we were clowns but he eventually joined the band and gave us some of his unique guitar artistry on the first four songs on the “Gladden Fields – The Saturn Return.” This album has just been released on CD for the first time on the Blind Fox Music Records Label, after collecting dust for 28 years. |
So the nucleus of the band was formed right there. The core three of us started jamming out at the farm and then together with many other students at SSU decided to do the First Trips Festival & Dance Concert Psychedelic Music Revival in that same dorm cafeteria where I arrived at SSU that last winter. Everyone in the dorms was excited and Eva Starkey and Dan together came up with the name after looking at a map of Mordor in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It fit because Sonoma County is a magical and beautiful place. It was also the valley at the foothills near the Misty Mountains of Led Zeppelin fame. Then Mike and Dan created the Gladden Fields flag and we were off. We rehearsed and added a lot of people from the dorms and did many songs that we loved from the sixties. We performed songs like "Volunteers of America", "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane; "Machine Gun", "Voodoo Chile" and "Foxy Lady" by Jimi Hendrix. We started putting in a few of the originals, and to me the best song of the SF psychedelic scene, the Quicksilver Messenger Service version of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” from the Happy Trails album. The show was a raging success with the peak being an acoustic version of John Mayall’s harmonica foot stomping “Room to Move” into a spontaneous electric version of Mayall’s “The Laws Must Change.” Steve Berry's drumming on that song elevated us to a musical level we had never thought imaginable. Alas, I lost that tape somewhere long ago but the memory lingers and another live version in the key of A I did years later in NYC is included on the album for auld lang syne.
But one gig does not make a band so a bunch of us caravanned up to band photographer Bill Dude’s parents mountain lodge for a Gladden Fields private party where after getting off to a real slow start we just started improvising Queen’s “We Will Rock You” over and over again in a jazzy jammy way stopping every once in a while to do the now very trite but still famous chant. Everyone joined in and we had just barely avoided the sophomore gig slump. The party went all night long and by the end everyone was thoroughly rocked. In the morning after there was Teri Hopkins riding Bill’s parent’s horse topless Lady Godiva style but unfortunately that picture has been lost as well. Not much else can be remembered from that night except that something in the band gelled. Now we were a real band with real friends of the band and a growing history. At this point I said goodbye to the farm to concentrate on the band and moved into the Gladden Fields apartment in Rohnert Park which became our rehearsal space and living quarters.