Before The Pits who altered the course of popular music in our time, those depicted in my Facebook timeline photo, there was an earlier version, comprising the author on organ, a Billy Cobham-styled drummer from the Palm Springs ghetto (I hadn’t realized there was one), a prematurely balding guitarist who looked unnervingly like the hippie icon Wavy Gravy, and the bass-playing rich kid at whose house in the Hollywood Hills we rehearsed. At various stages, I hoped to replace everyone but the rich kid (I didn’t want to have to pay for a rehearsal studio), and held auditions, at one of which Ben Tench, who’d go on to international acclaim as a member of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, watched us play a couple of songs, made the face of someone who’s just eaten something ghastly, and beat a hasty retreat.
We attracted a very unlikely groupie, a young black woman from Compton, from which the gangsta rap pioneers NWA would emerge 13 years later. She was skinny, with very shiny processed hair. Her name was known to the balding guitarist to be Shirley, but she called herself Taurus, which happened to be my astrological birth sign.
I have always regarded astrology as sheer silliness, and am proud to report that even as a drug-addled faux hippie in my college student days, I would reflexively sneer and say, “No births allowed in here,” when asked, as everyone was asked 158 times per day back then, under what sign I’d been born.
Taurus would come to our rehearsals and leer at us. I suspect she might have found us exotic. She slept with the rich kid bass player, who eagerly reported at the following day’s rehearsal that she’d been like the Grand Canyon at night — black and very big. I knew at that moment that I would have to sleep with her too so I could say, “Gee, I don’t know what you’re talking about, Paul. I found her really tight.” Locker room humor! Obnoxious, but incontestably zingy!
It happened. She turned up one night at one of the clubs at which I would forage for girlies and offered herself to me quite brazenly. Because I was a bastard, and wanted to see if I could get away with it, I suggested we meet in front of the club at evening’s end. I wanted, you see, to try to do better.
I didn’t do better, and she was waiting in front of the club at the agreed-upon hour. As we walked toward my car, a trio of black guys took considerable umbrage at the fact of our apparently having designs on each other. One of them called me an ofay. That was a first for me, and a last. I didn’t turn around to advise them that my antecedents had been in Russia trying not to be raped or murdered in pogroms during the latter decades of slavery, and that I personally deplored racism. I thought they might be unreceptive.
We weren’t sensational together, Taurus and I, and I felt a little bit used, having surmised that she thought I’d introduce her to white rock stars even more glamorous than myself. I think she might have been one of those who, having heard that I wrote for Rolling Stone, thought I was actually a member of the Rolling Stones. What, if that were indeed the case, did she imagine I was doing in a garage in the Hollywood Hills with a balding guitarist who looked like Wavy Gravy?