dimanche, octobre 10, 2004

Long View Farm 1981

Jane Rose
"People think I get my way a lot more than I do," Keith continued." You don't know what it's like dealing with the people I have to deal with. If it wasn't for the music, I wouldn't be doing it.""Oh, Keith! Keith!" Jane Rose tends to shriek a bit when she talks. Her job is to take care of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and she's very protective of them. "Oh, I knew I'd find you in here, in this ice-cold control room, talking to Greg and listening to records." Keith hit the "mute" button on the console, lowering the volume level in the room. "Gil's his name," he said. "Gil, then. Listen, Keith-eee, we simply must begin to think about getting on our way. Greg, here — Gil, I mean — has those two pilots waiting inside that gorgeous airplane, and we simply can't keep them waiting, can we? You know what you have to do for tomorrow. There's the dentist again, and there's the Consulate, and there's Renaldo, in Rome, and we're way up here in goodness-knows-where. And I know Patti must get back to the city, too, mustn't you, dear, and I know ..." "We're not going anywhere," Keith said, returning the level of the studio monitors to full, undistorted blast. "We're not going anywhere," he said again, I think, judging from the way his lips moved. I smiled, having only moments ago taken Keith behind the moose head in the library with our two full glasses of Stolni' and orange juice. "You don't have to go anywhere tonight, Keith," I had said. "It just starts to get fun here after supper. You can hang out, listen to some records, fool around, anything you want. The place is yours." "Yeah," he muttered through a smile. "I don't have to go anywhere, do I?" "No, Keith," I said, "you don't." And he didn't go anywhere. Jane brought the word back outside to Alan, who was tired and just as happy to stay, and the pilots were released from any duty within Gil's gorgeous airplane. Keith stayed, and stayed largely inside the control room, playing and listening to music, for the better part of three days.
"Get Jane up," he said at one point. It's always dark in the control room, particularly when the black velvet curtains are pulled, and so it's difficult to tell what time it is, or whether it's night or day. I think it was about 5 AM. We had just gone through a half a dozen versions of Merle Haggard's "Sing Me Back Home," Keith singing and accompanying himself on the piano. "Tell her to get Woody on the phone, and Bobby Keys, too." "Keith," I asked, "do you know what time it is? I don't." "Doesn't matter. I never get a chance to do this. You don't understand. I suppose you think it's all fun being me. Listen, I never get a chance to sing by myself like this — play the piano — without some bastard weirding out and asking me why I wasn't playing the guitar, and looking mean. People have their ideas about me. I bet you didn't think I could play the piano, did you? Or sing classics from the thirties. Well, I can, and I want to talk to Woody. He'll love it here. Where's Jane?" "Upstairs, Keith, in the Crow." "I'll go, Keith," volunteered Patti Hansen, and she slithered out the door and up the staircase to the bedroom we call the Crow. Muffled female voices indicated that Jane had not been sleeping all that soundly, if at all, and that she had some reservations about calling Woody and Bobby Keys. "I know what you mean, Keith," I continued down below. "It's not all that great when you get what you want. Me, I've got a lot of things happening, but also a lot of screwed up relationships, like with my girlfriend, who's the mother of my kids."
"Me, too," Keith said, slapping his vest pocket and looking about for something he had obviously misplaced. "I did the same thing. Her name's Anita. Kid's Marlon." "Here's what you're looking for," I said. "Use the razor in the editing block." "People think I get my way a lot more than I do," Keith continued. "You don't know what it's like dealing with the people I have to deal with. If it wasn't for the music, I wouldn't be doing it." Sniff! "Let's do 'Dream' next, what d'ya think?" "Let's do it, Keith. Gimme a minute, though. I want to put some two-inch tape on the big machine for this one. Something I want to check on the machine first, too." "No hurry, man. No... hurry." Keith stretched out the "no's" until they wouldn't stretch any more, and addressed the mirror once again. Sniff! Patti Hansen leaned her full weight on the heavy studio door, opening it a crack and looking in on Keith and me. "Look at the two of you. I mean, I can't leave the room for a minute. I need to talk to you, Gil. Come here, will you?" "What's up, Patti?" I asked, a bit blinded once outside the door by the early morning light. "What's up?" "You've got to invent some excuse, Jane says. He may never leave here if you don't. You don't know Keith. He likes it here, too much maybe. But he's got to be in Rome before next Monday to get his visa fixed. Jane's worried. Can't you say something about the plane, or something? Really, Gil, he may not ever leave here, at all." Patti Hansen is a very beautiful woman, and it was clear that she was asking me to take action, too. Not just Jane. "Something about the plane?" I asked. "Like there's bad weather coming in, and we'd better make a move soon." "That would be great," Patti said, eyes flashing. "Not before the Everly Brothers' tune," I said, somewhat automatically. "He wants to do the Everly Brothers' tune, and he really should. That's next. Don't worry, Patti," I said. "He's really doing fine in there." "O.K., Gil, that's all great. But what do you think, I mean, what should I tell Jane?" "Tell her after the Everly Brothers' tune," I laughed. "O.K., Gil," Patti said, smiling. "You know, you're not bad for forty-one. That's how old you are, right?" "You read the article in the magazine in the plane?" "You put it there for us to read." "Yeah, I guess I did. Listen, don't worry about Keith. I'll get him out of here somehow. Just so long as it's not before we do the Everly Brothers' tune, O.K.?" "O.K.," Patti said.

Keith Richards
Keith looked up at the chimney, then back at me. I saw a gleam in his eye. We had this one.Keith ambled out of the airplane, legs stiff from the 45 minute trip from Teterboro. He smiled. Keith looked like warm, friendly leather. Soft eyes. "I'm Gil Markle, Keith. Welcome here." "Hey, yeah. Nice, man. Nice trip." "And I'm Alan Dunn, Gil. Sorry for the delay, but here we are." I was then introduced to Jane Rose, who was talking to Keith and looking at him while shaking my hand, to Alan's comely wife Maureen, and to a smiling Patti Hansen, who looked me right in the eyes. "Let's go," I said. "Black car, over there. " "We all going in one car?" Keith asked. "Yes," I said. "We'll all fit." I made a mental note to investigate the purchase of a second black Cadillac. (Except they didn't build big ones anymore.) We squeezed into the car. Keith, Patti, and Jane Rose in the back seat; Alan Dunn and his wife up front; me driving. "Car got a radio?" Keith shouted up. I flipped to WAAF, The Police; then to WBCN, an old J. Geils cut; then to some Hartford station, Jerry Lee Lewis. "Yeah," Keith erupted. "Yeah." I turned up the volume, and by the end of the tune, which was "Personality," we were gliding up Stoddard Road, past the Long View pond and rowboat, and up the long gravel drive. The Farmhouse glistened white, and the enormous barn glowed cherry red under a dark but very starry summer's night sky. There was a new moon. It was silent, except for the crickets. "Welcome to Long View, Keith," I said. "Yeah," Keith replied. "Nice place." We were scarcely inside the house, drinks ordered up but not yet in hand, when Alan Dunn motioned to me and took me aside, behind the fireplace. "Look," he said, "this has got to be quick tonight. I've got to be back in the city for a day's work tomorrow. So does Jane Rose. Keith's got to be in Rome before the weekend, and he's nowhere near ready to go. Just got evicted from his apartment, and there're a lot of loose ends to tie up. So give him a quick tour, and let's take a look at your plans for the loft. Don't get your hopes up. There's just not time for us to do much tonight." "Here's your wine, Alan," I said. "And here's a screwdriver for Keith. Where'd he go?" "Into the control room, I think. With Patti. Let's meet up in the loft in ten minutes, and you better call your pilots and tell them to be ready to depart Worcester for Teterboro at eleven, at the latest. Sorry it's got to be so rushed, but this was your idea, not mine." "Ten minutes, Alan, in the loft." It took us twenty minutes to get up there, not ten. Keith was in no hurry, and neither was I, if you want to know the truth. We hung out in the control room for a while, and I explained to him how we have tie lines between the two studios, and how we sometimes record over across the way, in the barn, but mix here in Control Room A. We then took a look at the bedrooms upstairs, the balcony overlooking our antique Steinway, and our collection of records. "You keep all your fifties in one place, too," he remarked with apparent relief. "Easier that way, isn't it? That cassette deck work?" "Sure does, Keith. What you got there?" "Bunch of stuff all mixed up. Starts with some Buddy Holly, I think." Keith slammed the cassette into the cassette deck, which hangs at eye level just as you enter the kitchen, and hit the "go" button. "Select tape two on the pre-amp," I shouted over to him, which he did. On came Buddy Holly, as expected. Keith turned it up, loud, very loud, until it began to distort the JBLs hanging overhead, then down just a notch. Maximum undistorted volume, that's called. He extended his glass to me, which now had only a bit of yellow left in it, way down at the bottom of the glass. He needed a refill. "Good idea," I said. "Then let's go across the way and I'll show you what we have in mind for the stage." "Yeah," Keith said. "Let's go over to the barn. Got to find Patti, though. Hold on a minute." Patti materialized, and we headed out, through the library, under the moosehead, past the fish tank, and out onto the driveway. "Look down there, Keith," I said. "Those lights down there are Stanley's, and he's our nearest neighbor. Farmer." "Hope he likes rock 'n' roll," Keith laughed. "He better by now," I said. "He's been hearing it from us for almost eight years now. Up these stairs here, and straight ahead." Alan Dunn and Jane Rose were waiting for us in the loft, and had already been briefed by Geoff Myers, who was talking in an animated fashion, and moving his arms in wide arcs. He was explaining how deep the stage was going to be, and how strong. Keith listened for a moment, then walked over to one of the massive support beams, and kicked it. He looked up, whistled softly through his teeth, and spun around slowly, on his heel. "Yeah," he said. "What's down there?" "Come on, I'll show you," and I scrambled down the rickety ladder into what we now call the Keith Richards bedroom suite. Keith followed, with Jane Rose telling him to be careful. "We don't really know how strong that thing is, now, do we? Gil, are you sure you need Keith down there? Why don't you just leave Keith up here and you can talk to us from down there. Keith, are you all right? Keith!" "Figured we'd do a bedroom and living area down here," I said. "Right beside the chimney here. A place for people to hang out during the rehearsals, but still be out of the way. Look up there. The stage will be on the level of those transverse beams. You'll be able to see the whole thing from down here. We'll build staircases, fix it up nice. Cassette deck will be over there; speakers hanging so, on either side of the chimney. Should sound good down here." Keith looked up at the chimney, then back at me. I saw a gleam in his eye. We had this one. Keith and I made our way back up the ladder, Keith first, much to Jane Rose's pleasure and relief. Geoff Myers was jumping up and down on the plank floor, trying to make it move. "See? And this is just one layer of two-inch pine on top of two-by-eights. Nothing compared to the strength of the stage, which will have three layers: beams of hemlock, pine sub-flooring, and oak finish. You could drive a truck up there and the floor wouldn't give a bit." And that's all Keith needed to hear. He walked up to Geoff, and gave him a friendly slap on the lapel with the back of his hand. "It won't bounce, right?" "No bounce, Keith." "We're coming, then. What a place I found!" "We're what?" Alan interrupted. "We're coming to this man's barn. Where's Mick now?" "India, Keith." "Let's go ring him. What a place I found!" "How's your screwdriver, Keith?" I asked. It was plainly down to its ice cubes, and needed refreshing. He looked at me, and at my screwdriver, which was still quite yellow, and full of Stolni'. I poured my glass into his; he laughed, and we walked back across the driveway to the Farmhouse. Keith and I were getting on just fine.

Charlie Watts
Charlie Watts turned, looked me straight in the eye, and lifted his glass of Tequila. "Think if I ever grew up I'd get out of rock 'n' roll, too," he said."Charlie Watts," I said. "What are you doing up this early in the morning?" It was 7 AM, and I was getting no sleep at all in the water bed in the Flat. I had been dreaming my nightmare, which had been recurrent for me now ever since the Rolling Stones arrived. Was always the same. Nancy, my sweetheart, making love to some other guy, yet smiling at me with her tender, enigmatic Mona Lisa smile — checks becoming ever more flushed — until I would end the dream and wake up terrified in the heaving, sloshing water bed, aware once again that it was the Rolling Stones playing upstairs on our new and gleaming sound stage, and that I had gotten my wish. I mean, that the Rolling Stones had come to Long View Farm. Charlie Watts was alone in the kitchen in the Farmhouse, looking out over the valley toward the east, and toward a sky which was now gray, streaked with orange, just a few moments after sunrise. "How'd the practice go last night, Charlie?" "Gil," he said, "let me look at you." Charlie was swaying slowly back and forth, seated on the wooden bench overlooking the front porch and the deep valley below. There were patches of mist in the low spots in the valley. "Let me look at you," Charlie continued. "I want you to tell me this one thing, Gil." "What, Charlie?" "What . . . and I want you to tell me the truth . . . what are you going to do, Gil, when . . . when . . . " "When what , Charlie?" "When you grow up, Gil. What are you going to do when you grow up?" Charlie said each word by itself. Distinctly, and without any consideration of count, or cadence. "Jesus, Charlie," I said. "I'm already forty-one." "Know that. Know that, Gil. Know that very well. But the question still remains, what, Gil, are you going to do, when you grow up ?" "Think about getting out of rock 'n' roll, for a start. I can now." I was amazed that I had said that. "Ha, ha! Watts spoke. Ha, ha. That's already a beginning my good man. A beginning for us to con-tem-plate, the two of us. Out of rock 'n' roll. Which way, Gil? Which way is out of rock 'n' roll? That way? Down past the riding ring? Ha! You really forty-one?" "I don't know, Charlie. Sometimes I lose track. That's what it says in the papers — in the articles. I guess that's how old I am." "Treated you easy so far, rock 'n' roll did. Unless you have an aging portrait upstairs in the attic. Ha! Knew someone like you once. Looked great, he did. Didn't show it all as much as me. And I've been showing it a bit. But was that bastard ever miserable! You miserable, Gil?" "Charlie," I said, "what kind of a thing is that to ask?"
"Aw, fuck," Charlie said. "Wasn't asking. Trying to say something. Trying to say something to you, Gil, who's just forty-one. Played drums all night, trying to say something in the morning. In Massachusetts. I don't know why they make such a fuss over us. Never did understand it. Still don't." "You're the Rolling Stones, Charlie. That's why." Charlie Watts turned, looked me straight in the eye, and lifted his glass of Tequila. "Think if I ever grew up I'd get out of rock 'n' roll, too," he said. He then rose unsteadily to his feet, acquired some stumbling momentum in the direction of the fireplace, the staircase, and his bedroom two flights above us, just across the hall from Mick's room. "G'night, Charlie," I shouted after him. "Nite, Gil," he said softly. "Nite, Gil."
Mick and Freedom
Mick's eyebrows arched. He's still holding his empty plate in one hand. I could see that this was going to have to be quick. Just time enough for the abridged version of my prepared speech.It was time for the Rolling Stones to leave Long View Farm. Their first really big show — the first of two back-to-back performances, and in front of 80,000 persons, was scheduled for Friday, in Philadelphia. So they would leave Long View on Thursday. It was now Monday, or Tuesday if I'm wrong. Dr. Rose, who's Jane Rose's father, and a semi-retired physician, had stopped by with his wife and had given vitamin B-12 shots to all the members of the band. That's a no-nonsense measure designed to eliminate the possibility of any sore throats, fevers, or other infectious diseases. It's almost impossible to get sick once you've had a shot of vitamin B-12. Billy Maykel, the local Svengali and chiropractor, had stopped by and had cracked all available backs. Mick requested the treatment, but once Billy was on the premises, his popularity spread like wildfire. Keith, once "cracked" and relieved of a bothersome shoulder pain, instructed Woody to "get cracked, too." Bill and Astrid came next. Patti Hansen officiated at the assembly-line back-crackings, which occurred downstairs in the barn, just outside the sauna. She "got cracked" herself, and immediately joined the ranks of the proselytizers and converted. The Rolling Stones thought Dr. Billy Maykel was a genius, and he's still prescribing adjustments and diet changes for them by mail. I "got cracked," too, over in the Flat, and was briefed by Maykel on the state of the spines of the members of the band. " Mick's the worst," Dr. Billy said, gravely. "Don't see how he can carry on, in the state he's in. Internal organs? I don't want to talk about it. He's better now, though. Three consecutive sets of adjustments I've put him through, and he's obviously improved. Now, Gil, breathe out. That's it. All the way out." "CRACK!" "Hmmm. Not doing too well yourself, if you want to know." "How so, Billy?" "Liver, Gil. I've been telling you this now for years. Liver." "Whaddaya mean, 'liver'?" I asked Dr. Billy Maykel. "You know, Gil. Without my telling you. You're also not doing the pressurepoint exercises either, like you've been told. There, get up. That should loosen you up for a while. Your fourth lumbar was way out. Not as far as Mick's though. His was practically out of joint. Keith, he had another problem altogether..." "Please, Billy, don't tell me things like that. They're all better now, though, you say?" "No problem. They'll perform in Philly, if that's what you're asking." That was good for me to hear. Didn't want it said that we'd sent the Rolling Stones out into the world in anything less than fighting shape. I thanked Billy, and made my way across the driveway to the Farmhouse, feeling particularly light on my feet. The cracking had been a good one. It was now suppertime, or just a bit later than that. Cracking of the back loosens up the mind, that's why I'm a fan of chiropractics. I was thinking particulary well, all of a sudden. Hallucinating for a start; then tying the rush down to earth, in the form of a determination — of an intention. Always works, that. If you start with an hallucination, and then focus, you're home-free-all. The thing will then happen. Some shrinks will charge you $250 per hour, and still not tell you that. Tonight, I intended to say goodbye to Mick Jagger. Mick and I had been circling around one another for almost two months now — keeping our distances, playing our roles, each very well. We had only good things to say about each other, but had never done so directly, to the other, one-on-one. That would have been superfluous, and possibly dangerous to boot. Mick Jagger wasn't a person for me; and I wasn't a person for Mick Jagger. We were instead two intelligent men caught up in rock 'n' roll, with clearly defined objectives. Mick figured temporarily on the horizon of my objectives; I figured temporarily on his. And that was fine with the two of us. All this aside, I still wanted to say goodbye to the man, and had been rehearsing my goodbye speech for at least a month now — tinkering with it, scrutinizing it for any remaining traces of ego, bombast, and bravado, and waiting for my moment. It was now very shortly to arrive. People were just getting up from the table, after an evening meal which must have been fish, since there was a profusion of empty wine bottles in evidence. White wines, from Bordeaux. I know. I selected most of the titles. A fire — large for the month of September — was raging in the fireplace. Keith would occasionally throw on a log. So would Woody, and Charlie Watts. One of them, at least, had done so. I rounded the corner by the fireplace, toward the table, just as Mick was rounding the fireplace, empty plate in hand, heading toward the dishwasher. It's a sign that guests are fully at home at Long View, and aware of what has to be done to keep the place running, when they take their empty plates back to the dishwasher. Mick was doing just that, which impressed me. Now was the time. He knew this, too, and we stopped, facing each other some six feet in front of the blazing fire. "So," I said, jauntily, "looks like you're on your way. Seems like you just got here." "Right, Gil," Mick said. "Very pleasant stay, I'd like you to know. Very pleasant." "Something I wanted you to know, Mick, on your way out. Something I've been meaning to say to you, for some time." Mick's eyebrows arched. He's still holding his empty plate in one hand. I could see that this was going to have to be quick. Just time enough for the abridged version of my prepared speech. "Thought you'd like to know that you've made me a free man. "People often say the opposite to you — I know that. Complain that the Rolling Stones captured them, dragged them along, imprisoned them in a series of events they couldn't control — burned them out. I've heard it all." Mick was now listening intently. "But you did the opposite for me, I want you to know. Finally, after years, I don't have to worry any longer about bringing a bigger and better band to Long View Farm. That cross is off my shoulders, once and for all. And that's a very liberating feeling, and I wanted you to take the credit for it. There's one man, at least, whom you've made free." "Very nice, Gil," Mick said. "A very nice thing to say." I believe Mick would have said more, had he known that this little ceremony was going to occur. We smiled at each other, we shook hands, and he continued on his way to the dishwasher. He was thinking about what I had just said as he slid his plate onto the counter. I could tell.

"Lemme tell you something. I've been in the band for years now. I never ate with them all before. All at one table, I mean. I never saw 'em all together over a bottle of wine before I came here."
Ron Wood, who's sometimes called "Ronnie," and at other times "Woody," is by far the friendliest member of the Rolling Stones. He will always say hello to you, for example — even go out of his way to do so. And he will address you using your first name, and in a manner which is always upbeat, happy, confident, and selfless. Selfless. Yes, that's exactly the word I wanted to use. Woody — who's a most talented guy — doesn't make you wrestle with this fact day in and day out. He seems interested in you, instead. He hangs out with fellow guitarist Keith Richards almost all the time. Keith beats on Woody, which is funny most of the time, and a concern to Woody's friends for the remainder of it. The door to the Game Room was closed, and I figured no one was in it, since it was 11:30 in the morning, so I burst through as though I owned the place, figuring I'd check things out a bit, and see if the Advent TV was working. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't. "Woody," I said. "Fancy meeting you here!" Woody was prowling around the pool table, taking an occasional shot. He'd not yet been to bed, as I could tell from the prowl, which was a touch unsteady. He relaxed his aim on the ball, which was teetering on the edge of falling into a pocket, straightened up, and smiled broadly. "Hi, Gil!" he said. Woody was genuinely happy to see me. "Howya doing?" he asked me. "O.K., Woody, I guess. You'd know the answer to that question better than me. I'm just hoping things are going well for you guys, and that we're doing a good job for you... " "You mean, you don't know already?" "Well, Ronnie, I've been staying out of sight, mainly — not jumping into the middle of things, you know?" "Gil. The band loves it here. Loves it here. Honored to be here, Gil. First time I heard talk like that from any of 'em."
"Lemme tell you something. I've been in the band for years now. I never ate with them all before. All at one table, I mean. I never saw 'em all together over a bottle of wine before I came here. Here, take this." Ron Wood passed me a large and healthy-looking cigarette. I can only assume it contained English tobacco and black hash. Then he grabbed a cube of blue chalk off the shelf, applied it to the business end of his cue stick, and continued his playful taking-of-shots at whichever ball seemed closest to him on the pool table. "Never happened under one roof before," Ronnie continued. "No problem if more than one roof is involved. Bill and Astrid, they'll disappear almost right away. Mick'll be up in his penthouse with his friends, and his telephone. Charlie not far away probably. Keith and me'll be messin' up in some dungeon downstairs letting out our energy. People in different places, usually. But under one roof? Never saw it before." BLAM! The door to the Game Room flew open, propelled by Keith Richards's right boot. It slammed against the wooden wall, and bounced back again, catching Keith on the elbow, and partially spilling the orange juice and vodka Keith was carrying in that hand. "Ronnie, that was yours. Always carry yours in my right hand." Keith gave the half-filled drink to Ronnie, slapping him on the back as he did, and causing him to spill even more of the screwdriver onto the cement floor. He spied me on the other side of the large TV couch — an infrequent visitor here in the Game Room. "Hey, Gil, whaddaya doin' here in the crypt?" "Just checking out that everything's working, Keith," I said lamely. Keith swings a leg up and over the couch. It lands right in the middle of the cushion. Keith steps up onto that leg. He's now standing in the middle of the couch on one foot, Advent video projector immediately to his right — three circles of blue, red, and green, shining cone-like through the air, and illuminating Keith Richards in three basic colors. Keith lands on the floor beside me, cat-like, and now on two feet. "Haven't seen you to talk to since the time before, when Patti and me were here." "I know. I've been concentrating on the gig. There's not been much time. I want to talk to you about that tape of yours, however. I haven't found time yet to do the edits. So how are we doing, Keith? I mean, the Farm and everything." "Yeah," Keith said. "Everything's fine, man. Just don't schedule any more 'a those meetings down here, or Ron and me'll revolt." Ronnie looked up, smiling over his cuestick.
"Meetings? You gotta be joking, Keith," I said. "You must be joking." "Wasn't much of a joke in here yesterday. A dozen of Mick's clothes designer friends in here watching videos on that damned wide-screen TV of yours. Who brought 'em down here anyway?" "I did. Keith," I confessed. "Yeah," Keith acknowledged. "Good thing you like rock 'n' roll, or Ronnie and me'd gang up on you." Ronnie had just got off a shot from the far end of the pool table which had miraculously put three balls into three different leather pockets. He smiled up at us once again. "Don't listen to him, Gil," he said.
A Typical Rehearsal
"Always a bit rough around the edges. You expect them to be." The band forges on, and starts "Hang Fire" all over again from the top.""Oh, they're playin' tonight, Gil. No doubt about it. Didn't last night, even though everybody was here and ready. Think it was Keith who just couldn't get it together. The night before it was because Mick didn't get back from New York. So that was two nights people were basically just lying around. They'll play tonight for sure." It's Jesse Henderson speaking, Long View Chief Engineer, standing up against the Dempster Dumpster in the shed, nursing a beer. He caught my attention as I walked past. It was now after supper for the "regular schedule" eaters and their guests, of whom there were many tonight. A Saturday night in mid-September. Kurt Loder from Rolling Stone magazine had arrived, hoping to get some material for his cover article on Keith Richards. Nancy Griffin, who wrote the copy for the eventual spread in Life magazine, was also there, demure, out of the way, and taking notes. Abe Brenner and Mark had just arrived. These were friends of Keith's, as best we could tell. It was rumored that Abe Brenner —who looks old enough to be Keith's father — had once gone to jail for Keith in some drug-related police action. We didn't ask too many questions about Abe Brenner and Mark, who didn't seem to sleep much — either of them — and who always seemed to arrive just minutes before the best parties began. They had somewhat sallow complexions and traveled via a different chartered airplane each time. "Yeah," Jesse repeated. "Gotta play tonight. Piano's tuned. Rhodes, too." "Space heater for Bill Wyman?" "That's up there, right beside his stool. He should have no bitches. Works great." "And overall, the place looks O.K. up there?" "Except for the butts on the floor. They won't listen to me, Gary and Chuch. They put 'em out on the floor on purpose. Their way of getting even, I suppose. Everyone else beats on them, they beat on the studio. Weird, but I can understand it." Gary and Chuch were roadies, and this was not the first time that they had worked for the Rolling Stones. They were in charge of all the gear — like the amps, and guitars, and the dozen or so packing cases full of assorted paraphernalia. They also functioned somewhat as court jesters whenever they were in presence of the band. They would do errands, roll joints, and — most important — absorb punishment otherwise meant for the band members themselves. Gary and Chuch would lose things that were somehow fated to be lost; it's either Gary or Chuch who would get his front tooth chipped on the corner of the pool table in the Game Room, not Keith Richards. A door swinging open unexpectedly would catch one of them square in the forehead, not Mick Jagger. Hangovers the morning after? Not the band members, as best we could tell. Gary and Chuch would suffer instead. They provided Karmic insulation, you would say, in addition to the usual services provided by professional road men. They rendered themselves up for poundings and punishment in service of the myth, and that's what they were really paid to do, if you ask me. And they put butts out on the inflammable wooden floor of Studio C — at one point almost prompting an ultimatum from me which would have been served up to Mick himself. Fortunately, this never had to occur. "Thought I'd hang out up there a bit tonight, Jesse," I said. "See how things are going." "Might as well, man. They won't kick you out. That's for sure." "I've been trying to set an example, Jesse. They don't need us up there, even though they say we're welcome. We're welcome, but we're not either, if you know what I mean." Jesse knew what I meant. He'd seen Long View staffers hustled quietly away by Jim Callahan or Bob Bender upon the raising of an eyebrow from Mick Jagger, and hadn't seen me up there very much at all. Oh, I'd take a tour through, once a night, but these were official visits only, not listening visits. As owner, I'd appear sometimes during the first few hours of the rehearsal, pass a remark or two in the company of lovely Patti Hansen, take an approving puff of the everpresent "joint a l'anglaise", dim the house lights a touch in evidence of Owner's Concern for Creative Environments, and then get the hell out of there. In a straight line, no detours, no dallying about, no mesmerization even .nh contemplated, much less acted out. I had to be the one to lead the charge in this whole area of professional self-image. We were doing this as paid "pros," and that left no room for any personal displays — affected or genuine. They didn't come here to see us, or hear our theories about their music, their personal lives, or whatever. Nor did they coome here to be friends with us. So enter, bow, depart; and don't get your feelings hurt if you fail to establish eye contact with all five members of the band. It was a bit earlier than usual that night, when they started playing. Patti Hansen had appeared in the kitchen about 10 PM, willow-thin and a touch wan, wearing only a robe. "Keith's up," she said to John Farrell. "Wants his breakfast." "Usual?" "Usual," Patti said, and John disappeared into the pantry for some raw hamburger and for the potatoes to make the home fries, and for the bottle of H. P. sauce. Patti would bus the completed "breakfast" over on a tray. She didn't mind; it gave her something to do "in the morning."
An hour later, Keith was up on the stage — wire-haired, crazed looking, and full of Long View protein. He stands still as Gary slings one of a dozen or so guitars around his shoulders, which are bare, and rippling with muscle tone. The guitar settles down and hangs low — as low as Keith can reach with his long arms. Keith slices across the metal strings with a guitar pick, and a massive, barn-rattling "SPRONG" issues forth from the Cerwin-Vega monitors. "SPRONG . . ." Keith goes again. That "SPRONG" was in the key of "A", I thought, which made sense, since "Hang Fire" was the first tune on the top of tonight's "list." Mick's list, I mean. He kept it over on the packing case behind the piano, and he referred to it constantly during the night. Mick was very organized, and was writing things down all the time. It's unusual to see people "write things down" in rock 'n' roll. Practically unheard of. We "feel" in rock 'n' roll, and don't need to think. Keith's ready, and the band lurches into "Hang Fire" — little Jade's favorite tune off the new album. The barn sounds great. Loud. Wooden. Almost cathedrallike. There's natural "slap" on the snare drum — echo from the far wall — and it sounds just like the "slap" engineers labor to synthesize in the studio, using delay lines. About a third of a second. House lights are off; only spots illuminate the stage. Red night lights — the sort that glow in the cockpits of bombers and supersonic jets — shine warmly over each of the Rolling Stones packing cases beneath the stage. Some of these cases are open with their drawers slid out —others half open, guitar cords snarled inside — others closed, but with a visitor sitting on top, fidgeting, looking about, and trying to stay out of the way. You'd find your reporters on top of these cases — those few who, after cooling their heels for as long as a week in Sturbridge, were finally allowed in.
Back to "Hang Fire." The harmony "doo-doops" sound terrible; and everyone in the band knows it. They stop playing, and Mick, Ronnie, and Keith try to figure out who's going to sing what. It's easier in the studio, where you can overdub voices, taking them one at a time if you want. Live, it's much more difficult. The three of them reach a consensus. Now they sound better, but not really great. "Always a bit rough around the edges — the Rolling Stones," to repeat what Keith Richards said later that night to Kurt Loder — the writer from New York City. "Always a bit rough around the edges. You expect them to be." The band forges on, and starts "Hang Fire" all over again from the top. "Here, Gil. Do you want some of this?" It's Patti Hansen who has materialized at my side, out of the shadows and the thunder, and she's extending a large cigarette to me which is quite lit, and giving off lots of smoke. She's holding her breath, about to exhale. "Don't mind if I do, Patti," I said, taking the joint from her. I see Gary the roadie only a few feet away, dusting specks of tobacco off the top of the packing case. He winks at me, and gives me the "thumbs up" signal. He had created this cigarette only moments ago, and he was proud of it. We'd get to smoke it for a minute or two — to "warm it up," as it were. Then, upon a signal from the stage, Gary would snatch it away, run with it up the stairs, and feed it to Keith, on whose lower lip the thing would dangle, through several re-lightings, until it was all gone except for the cardboard mouthpiece. This cigarette was not ours forever. So I took another toke. "You ready to give all this up for the movies, Patti?" I asked. Patti was going to be in a movie soon, and there was some question as to how much time she could be on the road, with the band. "I don't think about it," Patti said. "It is great, though. I know what you mean. I've never seen them play this way before. Never. They actually seem to be enjoying it." "Here," I said. "Do some more of this." Suddenly, Jane Rose appears out of the darkness with a screech. "Hi, every-body. Well, don't the two of you look comfortable there. I was wondering where you ran off to, Patti. Here, Gil. Come here, please. I want you to meet someone." I get to my feet, and am given to meet Lisa Robinson — noted rock 'n' roll gossip columnist. I say hi to Lisa, and we chat for a second as best we can with "Hang Fire" playing live, just twenty feet in front of us. Behind her, moving quietly along the wall, are two Japanese photographers. A satellite tracking lens has been adapted to fit a standard Nikon, and brought all the way from Tokyo by these gentlemen. It's set up behind us, shooting over our heads toward stage center. A third, small Japanese gentleman is fussing with it, tinkering, and staring into the viewfinder. Pictures of Mick Jagger for an All Nippon Rock Extra. Printed on glossy paper and sold in millions of copies in Japan. Kurt Loder from Rolling Stone magazine is down by the fireplace, banging loudly in time to the music on our antique oak table. Nancy Griffin from Life is sitting on a packing case, legs crossed at the ankles, wondering how to package what she's seeing for Middle America. A new gaggle of visitors appears in the doorway of Studio B. They nod respectfully toward the stage, and disseminate themselves in ones and twos along the walls — timid, silent, and awed by the dimensions of the room, the loudness of the sound and the spectacle before their eyes — the Rolling Stones, live.
Suddenly the lights come on, the music stops abruptly, and at least two dozen reporters, photographers, fashion designers, free-lance writers and other assorted Stones watchers freeze in their tracks — checking nervously over their shoulders in the direction of the stage. As well they should. Mick is not pleased; that much is clear. His eyes run over the faces in attendance — the writers, the reporters, the gentlemen from Japan — and his scowl deepens. He puts down his wireless microphone, and walks in careful measured steps down the beamed staircase, around the oversized packing case at the foot of the stairs, through the door to Studio B, and out into the night. It's break time.