Thursday, April 9, 2015

This Town Wasn't Big Enough for the Three of Us

The three subjects nearly all new acquaintances most want to discuss with me are, in order, my not liking the Led Zeppelin, my once, many decades ago, having loved The Kinks, and my brief membership in the combo Spots, which, after years of getting nowhere in Los Angeles, relocated to the United Kingdom and had a big hit record, and have, in the subsequent 40 years, apparently made a living performing it at state fairs and what have you. I have of course written here at length about the Zeppelin and The Kinks, but only now will I spill the beans about Spots.

I first encountered the younger of the two brothers, the singer, in a beginning Italian class at the university we both seemed to be attending, I to avoid conscription into the armed forces, which at the time were fighting the North Vietnamese, he for reasons unknown to me. You’d have imagined that, by virtue of our being the only two long-haired males in the class (and two of maybe 20 on campus), we’d have bonded sharpish, but Rusty, as I divined his name to be, took no more notice of me than Susan Pursell had in junior high school. He seemed to have eyes only for another classmate, a sandy-haired rowing team type with blues eyes and a square jaw. By and by, it became clear that I would have to take the bull by the horns.

One afternoon I noticed that the rowing team type was absent, and approached Rusty after class. I said he looked stressed out, though that locution wouldn’t gain traction for another couple of decades, and wondered if he might enjoy a massage. He sighed, “Why not?” and we repaired to a shady, secluded spot behind the big research library. He took his shirt off, revealing himself to have the musculature of a former high school quarterback. I kneaded his lovely shoulders. He murmured, “That’s nice.” Somewhere not too far away, a bird sang. A gentle breeze ran invisible fingers through his auburn curls. One thing led to another, and then to a third.  It was a first for both of us. It felt a little bit wrong, but so very, very right.

We shared our hopes and dreams. He aspired to become a rock and roll star, as I did too, as did every young  man who had seen A Hard Day’s Night. We both aspired to remain non-combatants in Viet Nam. We had so much in common!

Later, I met his elder brother Rob, who would play the piano in Spots, and be celebrated both for his Charlie Chaplin/Adolf Hitler moustache and his implacably witty lyrics. He had had inscribed  Pinball Wizard in the rear side windows of his VW Bug, in the manner of local Latinos, though local Latinos commonly went with something more doo-woppy, like Pledging My Love. I found that sublimely droll. His moustache tickled when we kissed, but it was a small price to pay. I knew there would come a time when I would have to choose between the brothers, but that day would have to wait.  

They formed a musical combo with an engineering student who played the guitar. Rusty played the bass, minimally, and sang lead. They invited me to be their drummer, though at the time I barely knew which side of the kit on which to sit. We did some recording together. They mixed the drums so low that I might as well have stayed home. In accordance with their wishes — and of course my own too — I got a groovy “layered” haircut from their camp follower Diane Mallory-Jamieson. The sole "cover" in their repertoire was Jan & Dean's "Gas Money."

They seemed to be striving too hard for cute eccentricity. My suggesting that we aspire instead to the scariness of The Who visibly displeased Rob, who hadn’t yet had the idea of repurposing Chaplin. I was soon invited to find another group for whom to drum, and did so, though there was no keeping one of my inexorable sexual charisma behind a drum kit for long.


  1. Now I am dying to know the name of the hit record.


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