Monday, February 16, 2015

Terry Kirkman - The Soul of the Association Get's Real


                                                                              



Terry Kirkman

The Soul of the Association

Remembers….

 

Terry Kirkman is an anomaly in the pantheon of pop star narcissism; he does not gaze at his reflection nor does look into the abyss. He has a clear-eyed perspective about his past life as a successful singer and songwriter, with just enough faux gravitas that can confuse as well as delight. He has a fine tuned tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that can give the listener a foggy notion that here is something much deeper. It’s Kirkman doing Mose Allison and nailing it to the cross. The Association was birthed in 1965 and Kirkman was there to nurture the talents of the Men that joined the band. It wasn’t a perfect fit, Kirkman is a card carrying civil rights activist from Kansas who may have more in common with Pete Seeger and Tom Joad than his pop star alter ego. Kirkman is now 75 years old and he knows deeply that life is all that is and all that is not. We are one limitless yet limited. The shift is from I have a soul to the soul has me. It is being everything and nothing. For Kirkman there is love and a sense of healing. Here is his story, it is quite a sojourn.

 

How did it all begin for you?

 

Well, first of all I want to begin with the Troubadour which in the early mid-60s, was arguably the most powerful program enhancer, nightclub, career-enhancer nightclub, simply one of the top three in the United States, certainly in the top ten in the world. By the time I came on the scene, there were the Monday night hootenannies, which was what we called an open-mike in those days. I don’t know if anybody knows what a hootenanny is anymore. They had become by 1964, they had become showcases for powerful agents. Everybody fought politically to get their new acts, their new discoveries, whether they were from another state or from Orange County 50 miles from LA, whatever the deal was, people were trying to get on that hoot because the hoots were so powerful and so popular that they would be filled with agents and record companies, people trying to find the next best thing. They were just shilling acts outside of traditional classic pop stuff which was the folk craze of the early ‘60s, the mid-‘60s with the Kingston Trio, Bob Dylan, and then Joan Baez. That’s where everybody thought that the money was, and it was. And the Christy Minstrels were the biggest act in the world. They could perform anywhere in the world. So the Monday night hoots were really powerful things, and by the time Jules Alexander, co-founder of the Association with me, by the time we started hanging out there, the room was full of people anxious to get up and play and to be seen and to put it together 30 or 40 of whom on any given night were going to become relatively droppable names in American music history.

Doug Dillard, banjo player from the bluegrass group, the Dillards, who we all thought of and most of the studio contractors thought of as the best banjo player we’d ever heard. Doug was doing The Andy Griffith Show, so they were all in Hollywood. Doug was really appalled that the Monday night Hoots at the Troubadour had just become showcases, political, so he decided to do something about it. He went around and he pitched to everybody he could in the room that night, say there were 200 people in the Troubadour on a Monday night, and Doug would go around saying, “You want to get up on stage and play some real folk music, go ahead and do it.” So it went down, and they said, “Well, you have to have a name for your act.” Doug said, “We’re called the Inner Tubes,” and so the MC at this hootenanny gets up and says, “Okay, here’s the Inner Tubes,” and about 20 of us got on stage. And all we did was pick about four or five songs that everybody could play and sing ‘em, and then the whole audience sang and made it into a true hootenanny. So it wasn’t just the 15 or 20 or 25 people who might happen to be on stage. From then on every Monday night it was the Inner Tubes, but the whole room was singing these songs. On stage everybody wanted to get a piece of the Inner Tubes. There was David Crosby, Mama Cass, you name it. Anybody that was in the room said, “Sure, I’ll do that,” and grabbed their instrument or their voice and came out of the Troubadour kitchen where folks like Spanky McFarlane were working. They’d get on stage and sing their four or five songs, all the verses, and play the solos, and give everybody a shot. It became one of the biggest draws in town. Everybody wanted to come and see this because nobody else was doing it. It was like real, real folk music.

 

 

Describe how the Inner Tubes evolved into The Men?

 

Doug Weston, the owner of the Troubadour, sent an emissary sent an emissary to announce that if anybody wanted to make the Inner Tubes into a real act, he would be willing to talk to us next Wednesday at 2:00. So everybody interested in that showed up next Wednesday at 2:00. Instead of 25 people including a lot of women, it was 13 of us and we were all men. So we became known as The Men. Nobody famous was in The Men. It was all the stragglers who were the only ones who showed up because nobody else wanted to get under his domain. Thirteen of us stragglers, and nobody knew who we were, with the exception of one guy, thirteen of us showed up and we joined forces and became … The Men. We were billed as American’s first folk rock chorus and orchestra, the first act that we know that was ever called folk rock.

While we were first on the big stage of the Troubadour, the Beefeaters, who would become the Byrds, all of them had played in the Inner Tubes. They were rehearsing their new act, trying their best to be British and had British haircuts. David Crosby was even going around speaking with an English accent. Everyone wanted to be the Beatles. They were brand new. The Troubadour just became this hub of people making a new sound out of old ideas like the electric Rickenbacker guitar that Jimmy Webb played. We were the first folk group that we knew of, to have two electric instruments. We had an electric bass and an electric guitar and drums, Ted Buechel played drums but nobody had drums in a folk act. Everyone else was playing an acoustic instrument, so quite literally if you were an orchestrator or an arranger, you literally had an orchestra. You had the same internal range to draw from that a regular orchestra would have. The banjo’s become like a trumpet section, you’d have five guys just playing single notes, like a trumpet section, a reed section, a string section. Wonderful. It was so much fun to write for and to arrange for. We used not only all the traditional folk stuff, but we leaned very heavily on piecing the voicing of the act the way Henry Mancini would use his instruments to rule an arrangement. We were doing the same thing, basic harmony. You’d want to build and have that. The trumpets come in on the third verse and then the strings come in on the second verse, and like that. We could do that. We could completely orchestrate a song. We played all over southern California. We had a folk house that we rehearsed in. There was an old actress on the radio by the name of Faye Emerson. When she died, she had a fully furnished house, a small kind of bungalow, maybe a three-bedroom bungalow in southwest Hollywood. Beverly Hills was adjacent. We moved into that house with all of its furniture, and there were probably 15 people that lived there, the Smothers Brothers, Ruthann Friedman who wrote One Day, she ended up living there. Acts who were coming through the folk clubs in LA, they’d find a place on the floor. Jules and I slept in the garage.

 

How long did The Men last?

 

It lasted probably close to a year. We were playing everywhere. We could sell places out, but you can’t keep 11 to 13 guys together with that kind of stuff. We ended up breaking up in rehearsal in Westmont Village one day. I had been elected the leader of The Men and said, “I don’t want to be stuck in the middle of this. We don’t have the money to keep this up, and I don’t think there’s any way around that as good an idea as this is, as exciting an idea as I think it is or we know it is, we’re not going to be able to stay together and rather than sit here and try to referee the arguments that are naturally occurring among the 11 of us, I think I’m going to just walk away from it.” I walked out of the room and Jules walked out of the room, and while I’m standing out on the sidewalk on Larchmont Avenue, I’m thinking, “What the fuck did I just do?” I turned around and there were five more guys with me. They had walked out, half of us had walked out, and we went to my apartment and smoked a joint and drank some wine, and tried

to figure out what we were going to do, and either Bob Page or Brian Cole said, “Don’t look now, but there’s two baritones, two tenors, and two basses, and we could form a group. Then a joke came out, “What would we call ourselves?” While we were looking up the word “aristocrat” which is the punchline to a horribly obscene joke, the woman I was living with was looking up the definition of aristocrats, and she found the word “association”, and that’s what we were named. That was in ’64, ’65.

 

 What happened next? Is that when you got to know Dean Fredericks and the Valiant label?

 

Dean Fredericks was already involved with The Men. We had dropped Doug Weston, so Dean Fredericks came up with $25,000 which was a lot of money in ’65. And we got another house to live in on Ardmore. We rehearsed because we had this money to subsidize us. We had money and two cars. We rehearsed every day, eight hours a day, five days a week, for nine months. Wrote songs, played the songs, thought about what we should do, and then we debuted ourselves at the Troubadour and the Ice House in Pasadena where I live now. We debuted ourselves at both those clubs within about two weeks of each other. The Troubadour debut was like out of an MGM movie. It was just astonishing, the response that we got. We went

back to the Monday night hoots and unloaded this whole new act and literally tore the house down. We were 24 or 25 years old at the time. We would show up and do a concert at all these high schools. We had a fan club of 20,000 kids signed up, card-carrying members of the Association Fan Club, and we could not get arrested by a record company. Maybe the most interesting thing about being a crossover folk to pop act at that time, particularly the Association, is that there was no market-ready definition for the music we were making. That meant that there was no delivery system for our music in terms of the airwaves. There was no designated slot in the record stores.

People would look at us and say, “I really, really like your music. I don’t know how to sell it.”

 

That is so hard for people to get their head around now. It’d be like if you were the first sitar act that showed up. We were passed on by every record company. What I could see was a little bit

more dramatic, certainly a much more evolved thing, happened like it happened with The Men. Instead of being 11 guys, there were 6 guys and we had our costumes, our suits, our instruments, and we were electric. We still only had two cars. Dean Fredericks couldn’t get us arrested any place, any time. There was an ad for an open audition at, of all places, the Troubadour!

They were renting them room, these guys, they were renting this room. They wanted to form a record company around a couple of acts, and Dean didn’t put this together. The guys in the group argued about it. I was still the leader of the group, and I was pretty much in the same place I was when I walked out. I said, “I don’t want to go down and sing for people who look at us once again and say, ‘We don’t know what to do with you. I don’t know why in the fuck we’re doing this,’” but we did it anyway.

We did three songs into our little audition, us standing on stage in our suits in this place that we had already torn the roof down maybe a half dozen times and waiting to be recognized by somebody with a record deal. Barry De Vorzon and Billy Sherman and Buddy Chandler were the three main honchos with this idea for a record company, and they said, “Okay, you’re it.” We said, “Well, you think we’re it, but who are you?” Billy Sherman was a big publishing company, one of those guys who walks around with sunglasses all day long. Barry De Vorzon was this very handsome, successful pop song writer. He was a trust fund baby

with a lot of money, and Billy Sherman was an arranger. So we thought about it, and we said, “You know, we’ve been passed on 

by Columbia, by RCA, by Warner Brothers.” The only company that had shown any interest in us was Motown, and Motown

wanted to change our name, change our clothes, and change our music. We said, “We’re going to have a fucking act. Just make the act. Don’t talk to us.” It was really frustrating, a really bizarre thing to actually be the purveyors of a whole new designation of sound, of music.

                                           

 
 

The sessions turned out to be “And Then…Along Comes the Association.” It was our first album. We released “Along Comes Mary” and it got to number five, but we previously released a single “One Too Many Mornings and “40 Times” by Jules Alexander (one of my favorite Association songs), that was our first record. So we did the album, and we hooked up with Kirk Dutcher and we recorded it at R&B Studio and then we did the basic tracks on the bus in Gary Paxton’s driveway. We were trying to figure out how to record music in a way that it hadn’t been recorded before. The largest machines we had were four tracks, and we were playing games back and forth between four tracks to make the eight tracks, and that was an unthinkable thing to do at the time.

 

I was going to ask about Larry Ramos because when he came in the band I thought he brought some energy. I thought he was a great singer too. How did he fit in when you brought him in?

 

Larry was fresh, I mean literally fresh from the Christy Minstrels.

And we had stopped by a recording studio to help a friend of ours, Mike Whalen, who was also, he’d been in The Men but then he replaced Barry McGuire in the Christy Minstrels. Mike was going to record a Jimmy Webb song, “Playground Susie.”And everybody was down there to help Mike record this song, and then he said, “How are you guys doing?” We said, “Jules Alexander just left the group, so we’re looking.” Someone turned around and pointed at Larry Ramos and said, “He’s just left the group. Grab him.” It was expedient. He had all the performance jobs. He’d been the ukulele champion of Hawaii when he was like nine years old or something. (Laughter) He’d been singing all his life, and it was a no-brainer. We almost didn’t rehearse with him. We gave him a bunch of recordings. He picked up the parts he was singing, and we were off and running. Larry is Larry. You’d connect him to one of the harder working, most experienced. He’d been performing his entire life, his entire life. He was in the original King and I roadshow. He’d been on the Arthur Godfrey Show as a child playing the ukulele with Arthur Godfrey. He’d been performing since he was just a toddler.

 

You shared the lead vocal of “Never My Love” with Larry Ramos.  What gave you that idea, to insert him there?  

 

 It was just we sang, often sang double lead vocals. So Larry and I took a whack. Otherwise he would’ve been singing with Russ which he did on ‘Windy.” We would just look for little sounds, that Association sound of the double vocal. That was all.“Never My Love,” we had spent maybe 12 hours in New York City on the road, exhausted, trying to get vocals down for the Insight album. The day was a complete disaster. People had called, they had the flu, they were exhausted, they were pissed off, “Why were we playing on the road, why don’t you schedule this better?,” etc., etc When we were done with this horrible day, and I’m hanging around the studio in New York, and I looked at Howie, and I said, “Did you bring that Yester brothers song with you?” He said, ‘Yeah, I brought everything.” I said, “Could you put the basic tracks to that up and just let me hear it while you’re doing this?” …he’s cleaning everything else up and plays it. I said, “Do you still have a mike on there?” Larry was just leaving the studio, and I said, “Larry, would you do something with me for a second? This is my idea for the lead vocal on “Never My Love.” It was what I called a sub tone. “It was singing like this,” you know (voice at higher pitch). “Cherish is the word I, you ask me if, then will come a time.” It was almost like a stage whisper. Larry said, “Cool.” We went out, and we just nailed that. “Never My Love” is always forgotten. Well, it was almost a forgotten song. We had started out recording that album with Jerry Yester that we did for the Renaissance album. Warner Brothers pulled the plug on Jerry. I was very disappointed. Bones Howe was essentially the producer. … was the  engineer for the Mommas & the Poppas. We grabbed him, and he certainly knew how to do the vocals, knew the genre of music we were into. We were allotted no time. We allotted ourselves no time to do an album. We would do an entire album from the actual beginning of song selection. Instead of sitting there for days and listening to everything that you could listen to, trying to figure out what you were going to do, which were 12 songs we would’ve done, and then we would arrange the songs, and we’d work like crazy on that song. We would do an entire album in 40 days.

 

“Requiem for the Masses” was that the flip side. That was just a Stone masterpiece. How did you come up with that? Did you see that as one of your greatest achievements?

 

Rick Lance did that. This would go all the way back to The Men at the Troubadour. The idea of using the little four and eight-bar things of The Mass, the implied thing of singing the Mass key thing: “Lee A Laaay, Laaay…” like that. That was my idea. My idea was to originally do that with Bob Dylan’s “Who Killed Davey Moore?” I was listening to this thing, “Who killed Davey Moore?” This was one of Bob Dylan’s less popular songs, and Davey Moore was this boxer that died in the ring, and it was a super scandal. Everybody wanted to stop boxing. “Why the fuck are we paying all this money to sit around and watch two guys try and kill each other?” So Bob Dylan’s song was “Who Killed Davey Moore? Why’d he die? What’s the reason for? ‘Not I,’ said the referee. Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.”

It’s an inquiry, like a grand jury inquiry. Who killed this guy? The fan, the other boxer, the referee, the promoter, society. So I wanted to take that like Greek theater. I wanted to take that and put after say, he’d have two “who killeds,” and then you’d have Rex Tremaine, then you’d have Requiem. I had always been in love with Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor which I had sung a lot in college. It’s one of the most powerful pieces of choral music ever written. You hear it in movies all the time. You hear excerpts of Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor. The people that I took that to, the idea, were, ready, drum roll, please, were the Christy Minstrels.They were perhaps the five additions that included Larry Ramos, that group of singers, those nine people on stage, were perhaps one of the best-sounding group of raw singers I’d ever heard. They could do anything. They loved the idea, but can you imagine the Christy Minstrels singing “Who Killed Davey Moore” in the middle of their good time Riverboat song? (Laughter) So I went, “Okay, great idea,” and it wasn’t anything we were going to do with The Men. Then I started writing a poem about a soldier in Viet Nam, this is early Viet Nam. This is three years before the Tet offensive. The poem is about a kid who is dying in a far-off land and what’s the last thing he sees? What’s the last thing he thinks about? I’m writing this poem, and then it occurs to me smoking a joint in front of the Troubadour one night that they go together. I’m going to put my little Requiem thing in here. We go along about 1966, ’67, and then we’re on a tour with the Lovin’ Spoonful, and we have a day where we take off in a chartered DCHC from Milwaukee in a blizzard.It was supposed to fly 45 minutes to Davenport, Iowa, and so the Lovin’ Spoonful are on this big four-engine airplane, and we take off and with about 30 minutes of fuel left, eight hours later we landed in Minneapolis. We almost became the legends of those airplane crashes. I think Ricky Nelson was in a DCHC when he died.We got on a bus in Minneapolis. We split up that night. We had two separate shows to do, and the Association got on busses in Minneapolis and we drove all night to Chicago. I sat up in the luggage rack on the Greyhound bus and finished “Requiem for the Masses.” It was a great day to sing a Requiem because we almost had died.

 

 I wanted to ask you about the Monterey Pop Festival. What was that like for you?

 

It was big. It was an honor. It was historical, and it was really bad.

We were coming out of, we had just finished recording “Requiem for the Masses.” We had just finished the “Insight Out” Album. We weren’t doing those songs yet because we hadn’t had rehearsal time to put them together for stage. The whole thing had been created in the studio, so we were not doing “Never My Love.” We were not doing “Requiem for the Masses” yet. We literally went from the studio to home, grabbed some clothes, got on a plane, and flew to Monterey. All we knew was that we were included in this thing, that John and Michelle Phillips were doing, that it was in Monterey. We hadn’t really thought about, and I don’t think there was anybody else who thought about what the fuck it was really going to be like because nobody had done it yet. And Pat Colecchio thought he’d scored a really big deal for us and got us in there as the opening act. We were the sound track and lighting check for the Monterey Pop Festival. I think that one of the worse mistakes that we ever, ever, ever, ever did was to do the Association Machine which I had begged not to do. “Don’t do that here,” and the next thing I know Brian is starting off with the Association Machine and here we go. It knocked us out of the film. John Phillips just said to me bluntly a couple of years later, “So sorry you weren’t in the film. You didn’t fit the image.” On a really self-serving, coulda, woulda, shoulda note which I’m careful to talk about because it sounds so egocentric, I’ve often thought had we done “Requiem” at the Monterey Pop Festival that it would’ve changed how we were perceived by the public forever.

 song. 
                                                                      
 

Everything That Touches You is one of your greatest songs. How did it some to you?

 

Everything that Touches You came to me while I was preparing a can of cream style corn. It was like it was … over about a year and a half period, maybe two and a half years by the time it was finally done. I said, “Hey you, let’s try this as a song. “Everything That Touches You.” I came off the road. I was exhausted, and we were allotted another one of these productive 40 days to do a fucking album, that I didn’t have anything, and I was riding on airplanes and buses always. Sort of like Emily Dickinson with her poems written on butcher paper. I hard barf bags from airplanes, I had ticket holders, I had inside paperback books. I would just grab a piece of paper and start writing an idea, and I would tear off the piece of paper and I would put them in a bag. I wouldn’t look at them. I wouldn’t go back in and do them. I’d take this bag and I’d empty it on this great big library-size table that I had had made, and I dumped it out on the table and I would sort through the little ideas, sometimes a holder, sometimes just an idea for a title, sometimes just a word, just a bunch of something. I would divide them into different thematic piles, so this is again love, this is out of love, this is psychedelic, this is protest, hate the war, civil rights, this is something else over here. What I learned is that if I just allowed myself to free-flow in that way, it wasn’t like I was five different heads trying to think of, you know. I was using the same words, the same imagery. The ideas were trying to come out, and they would repeat themselves over and over and over again. So I took this one pile over here, and I had a guy who became a very successful songwriter for Hall & Oates, among others, a kid by the name of Jeffrey Commoner. I brought him out from New York

Yeah, he was living with us. He was standing behind me, and he just started to play with it, like a puzzle. He said, “Take this and put this with that, and this with that.” I said, “Cool. Where are you going with that?” That became “Everything That Touches You.” The baseline for “Everything that Touches You,” the “bop-a-dop-bop, bop-a-dop-bop, bop-a-dop, bop-a-dop-bop,” was originally, I had written that for piano.

We were in the demo studio, and I had these great players, all guys that I’d known forever. Jules was playing guitar, Jim Cochrane, I think, was playing drums, and Randy Sterling was playing bass. We’re trying to put this idea together, and Randy stopped and said, “Can you hold it just a second?” Okay, can I have the left hand of the piano, please? Can I have that on the bass?  Then “bop-a-dop-bop, bop-a-dop-bop, bop-a-dop.”

So I’m sitting drinking my coffee while Randy thinks about his ideas, and he said, “Okay, everybody listen up,” and one, two, three, and he begins to play. There were about six of us in this great big booth in this studio. As soon as he started to play that song and laid into it, we just turned around and said, “Thank you, God.”

 Bill Osborne did the riff when we recorded it. Bill Osborne had to ask that we give him 10, 15 minutes. Everybody just left the studio with the wrecking crew guys playing our basic tracks. He had to get comfortable with that.

 

 

I understand you were involved in Jimmy Webb’s “McArthur’s Park”

 

Bones Howe brought Jimmy into the studio at the end of the end. Let’s go back to the 40-day concept again. We are 35, 36 days into a 40-day allotment for this. I’m saying this hypothetically.

But that’s just for your frame of reference since I’ve already established this core that we operated under. We were on the 36th day of the 40 day finishing this really complicated album, the Birthday Album, and we’re almost in an entire new kind of music that’s a real departure from any song that anybody else was doing, in terms of voice and everything. We’re on a whole new ground and Bones Howe at about 10:00 on Sunday night brings Jimmy in and says, “Jimmy wants to play this for you, and Jimmy sits down in the Studio Three Steinway which everyone wanted to buy that piano. Brian Wilson wanted it, Jimmy Webb, Larry Knechtel wanted it. Every great pianist that ever walked into a studio wanted to buy that piano. That’s how amazing it was. He sat down at that piano, and he sings “McArthur Park” for us, 10:00 at night on the 35th day of a 40-day schedule. We’re listening to this incredible piece of music and we looked over and we said, “What do you want to do?” Bob said, “I want to do this on the album.” I said, “You’re talking about 15 minutes of music.” You’re talking about 15 minutes of music that’s whatever it ran. It certainly ran eight minutes, and the prerequisite for a song to get on the air was still two minutes and fifteen seconds. I said, “You’re talking about a whole concept for an entire album here.” Again I’m hypothesizing, and we’re on the 36th day. We had like three days to finish this album, and he wants to bring this in to put it on that album? I said, “We can’t do that.” I mean, we all said that. “Jimmy, there’s nothing wrong with this song. This is an incredible song. We can’t do it.” All of a sudden it became the Association turning our backs to a great musical composition.  I have actually looked into suing people who printed that story, over and over again. Look magazine had a special issue that was on the sound makers, and it wasn’t just the acts. It was eight or ten of the top record producers from pop music…  Bones Howe was one of them. He did us; he did the Mamas and the Papas. He did the Fifth Dimension. His interview in Look Magazine wasn’t about all the great acts that he recorded. It was about that story that we had rebuffed him on McArthur Park.

 

I’ve gone up to Jimmy Webb, and Richard Harris to ask about it.

It just so happened that one day Richard Harris at Pink’s Hot Dogs in Hollywood. I was writing “Name That Tune,” and I had just heard him on the air telling this story that the assholes turned down this great song. I’m at Pink’s, and I look up and there he is, sitting and eating a hot dog sitting across the patio from me. I thought, “Well, here I go.” I stood up and I walked over, and I’m standing above him which is the wrong idea to do with a man like Richard Harris, and I said, “I’m a member of the group, the Association, and you told a story again on the air that’s absolutely not true.” He essentially said, “I’m going to give you three seconds to get the fuck out of my face.” I thought… “I’ll leave.”

                                           


Let’s talk about the double Live album. I saw the Association three times in its heyday, and I thought you were a great band, but the Live album didn’t quite capture it. Does this make any sense to you?

 

The Live album was recorded in the middle of the tour.

Catch as catch can. There’s the Wally Heider Trunkers now leaving Los Angeles. Wally Heider Trunkers driving to Salt Lake City, Utah. You get there. The Association is going to fly in to Salt Lake City, Utah in the middle of the tour. Ready or not, here we come. Does anybody have a cold? Does anybody have the flu? Where are we at? We just got one more show, but we’re going to record it, and baby flies 100 feet in the fucking air. We’re not at home, you know? So we actually had to re-record it but we couldn’t re-record it, so we double recorded it and turned it in. It was just a horrible idea, and then we were stuck with it.

                                                  


 The Association was elected into the Vocal Group Hall of fame in 2003, you deserved a lot more than you got. What’s your thoughts? 

 

I agree with you…and it’s just business, business and a hype. That’s why I’m not in the business. That’s why I have not been in the business for 30 years. The business is set up, you go all the way back to the beginning of the Association being pop-starred by everybody. There was a radio station, KFWB or KMTC which would have been CBS at the time. It was when the long-play sets were first being introduced to radio. Johnny Magnus was the disc jockey. He did a protest, sort of in honor of us. He played three versions of the new song “Cherish” back-to-back on his show, and the point was that “here is this number one song in the country. These are three other artists who have covered it but I am not allowed to play the original version by the act the Association because of this …it’s music that we don’t play, but here I am playing it. I could make a list of people who just got up and said, “Fuck this.”

 

I’m just going to go away. I’m going to go home and I’m going to write songs, and I’m going to make them with John Hartford, for one. I’m going to go back and I’m going to play the music I want to play. Forget the business end. If someone wants to come along and discover me while I’m off doing this, then that’d be cool. Maybe I’ll get discovered in Saginaw, Michigan. We used to run into people on the road who were the stars of a 200-mile area in South Dakota or something, and they were making four times as much money as anybody in the group.

I wouldn’t want to do it. I wouldn’t want to be in a band 30 years later and singing the same five fucking songs over and over again.I appreciate the fact that there are lots of people out there with the Association and all the rest of those acts that it’s an archway. You earned it. They were your songs. You got to do it. I’ve never sung “Cherish” alone except at a musician’s party one night, never in my life in front of an audience.

It’s just I don’t want to be that artist that goes out there and all you’ve got is “and then I wrote and then I wrote.” It’d be nice to do that occasionally. It’d be nice to do that in the theater. I’m not in

business. I’m 75 years old. But it’s 50 years later that we’re talking about this music. That’s pretty cool.

 

The last LP with Brian Cole was “Waterbeds in Trinidad.”  What did you think of the LP?” What was your memory of that?

We were really, really burnt out. It was the one and only album that the group did for Columbia Records. Then they moved on without me, and they did a follow-up on a Columbia subsidiary with two producers. I was out of the group by then. Clive Davis was the president of Columbia, and he pulled me aside at the Rainbow Bar and Grill at lunch and he said, “What is wrong with your manager? Why is he screaming at me over the telephone?” I said, “I don’t know Clive, and I’m really sorry. I don’t think I’m going to do this much more, so I’m not going to devote a lot of time to why somebody would be screaming at you on the phone.” “Waterbeds in Trinidad” was Brian Cole’s last song. In the middle of that album he had Day-Glo yellow hepatitis. He was addicted to heroin and speed-balling. We were all crazy. The Allman Brothers had just dropped us from a tour. A producer from New York, some guy we had but didn’t know, he seemed okay, but he was also manipulating us. I’ve heard many stories in the aftermath. He actually started a fight between Larry and I one night. He triggered it. He told the engineer in the room, “Watch this. It’ll tell you how crazy these guys are.” It would’ve been an interesting album to do if we were stable and if at least one of us was dying. In reality probably two or three of us were in the midst of a near-death experience. When I talk about the state that we were in psychologically, addictively, marital, all the stuff. We were absolutely a mess. I went off on Larry Ramos and I picked him up, I didn’t hit him, I picked him up and I threw him across the studio. I did that, and right then and there I thought, “Just go home, call everybody, and wrap this up. We’re done.” I didn’t do that, and then Brian died. I was just sitting there thinking, “What the fuck are we doing?” Then people would come around, and they’d want to talk about the aesthetics of the album. The album wasn’t really interesting. We had Benny Golson as the arranger. We had no energy to do all this musical stuff. We had Benny Golson, we had Clark Burroughs, and we had these musicians that we’d never worked with before. Benny Golson is in that photograph taken in Harlem of all the great jazz stars standing on the doorstep that has Charlie Parker on it… great, great, great musician. We had these wonderful musicians playing for us, and we’re playing a more East Coast kind of approach to the music than we had ever done before. I thought it was really interesting, and my brain was so fried. I was so burnt, I was so exhausted. That was the last album I ever recorded with the Association. “Come The Fall,” which is about apologizing for my part in everything that I had done which then 12 years later would become the spiritual therapeutic bedrock of my recovery program just amazes me. Do you know anything about the eighth and ninth step in the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous where you write down everybody you’ve harmed and then you become willing to make amends to them all? The third verse in “Come The Fall” is “take a look inside your soul and sort out all the things you stole and return them to their owners, if you can…then you tell the truth. I think they’ll understand.

That was my last song. It was a great song. It was a swan song

Yeah, it really is about the Association. People come back to me, I’ve had people come up to me and quote me lyrics from “Come The Fall” and “Hard Way Down.” People I’ve never met before in my life. I have no idea that they know who I am. It’s been 20, 25 years since I’ve been in the group, and we never performed that song live on stage. It was sung in the studio, that was it, end of song. Nobody will ever hear that song. It’s never going to be played on the air. It’s never going to be sung live on the stage. I’ve had people come up and quote lyrics to me from those songs. “Come The Fall” and “Hard Way Down.” I’ve had people come up to me and say, “These are my favorite songs ever by the Association. I think about them all the time. I sing it occasionally to myself once or twice a month,” whatever the deal is.

It was never, ever, ever performed by the group live. Sang it in the studio; end of the deal.  I was 32 years old when I left the group for the first time. That is 45 years ago. Forty-five years ago when I was 32, I had 36 dead friends.

 I wrote a poem once. It started out just being, it was an anecdote that I wrote in the really strident rhyme sequence that we would’ve written songs in those days. It was about a tableful of us at the Teen Angel Café about two weeks after Martin Luther King died, and it’s a tableful of successful songwriters, Phil Oakes, Tim Harden, guys from the Lovin’ Spoonful, and two or three of us from the Association. We were successful. Everybody has music that’s on the air. Everybody’s had really phenomenally successful songs in their genre, and it’s 1968, and unbeknownst to us all, and I did not realize this until I was writing the poem, that every one’s career was over in 1968. No one did any better than they had already done, and almost everybody was going to die or go to prison or kill themselves. In 1968, everything else was just an afterthought. So when I see people out there on the Oldies but Moldies tours, which I did for four years. The last time I sang with a group from ’80 to ’84 which almost killed me. I felt like, “It’s 50 years later? This is it, when you become a caricature of yourself?”

It would be like if you were a wonderful ballet artist and the only thing you were ever allowed to dance was the fucking Nutcracker Suite, over and over and over and over again.

The audience; “I get to go see the painting and the guy that painted the painting, and I get to see the guy who painted the painting, paint the painting,” and on like that. There’s no artistry involved in it. No creativity involved in it. There’s almost no life involved in it, and I know guys out there who think they’re the luckiest guys in the world to have this to do for a living. I don’t particularly disagree with them. I just can’t imagine doing it.

 

 I appreciate your just being yourself in this and you laying it out there. That takes some guts, I’m really happy we had this chance to meet. Is there anything…

 

I’m not in the business anymore, so I really don’t have anything to lose, do I? I’ve reinvented myself maybe five times. I’ve been a television writer, I’ve been a drug and alcohol counselor for five years I’m more interested in the pursuit, trying to foster a community of artists who are just as dangerous, just has high-strung, just as crazy without being self-sanitizing and self-destructive and dead.

To be a different kind of role model for people out there so you don’t have to wear this particular costume and you don’t have to shoot back a particular drug, and you don’t have to be this crazy, and you don’t have to throw television sets from hotel windows and just go out and make art as opposed to pretending or showing us how crazy you really are and how frustrated you really are and that you need a place in life.

 

Terry, what do you think is your enduring legacy? You’ve written these great songs that will be remembered. Sometimes we won’t be remembered, but the songs will. You’re this great songwriter and singer.

 

According to whom? (Laughter) Well, that would make a nice tombstone thing. We’ll never forget what’s-his-name. My whole name for 45 years was “I would like you to meet Terry. He wrote ‘Cherish.’”  That was my whole name. I was telling somebody that about two months ago, at 75 years old, and I said, “Wait a minute, after all this time. I’m just going to shorten my name to Cherish.”

That song, I’m not even sure that I like it that much. (Laughter) I didn’t particularly like the music that we ended up doing. The music that I was writing, as I said, I didn’t want to have arguments with anybody about that. I am a natural-born civil rights activist from Kansas, and I was on the road with three guys who were really conservative reactionary people. I stood back thinking, “That’s cool. That’s completely fair.” You know, walk and talk, live your life but it’s not the art that I want to make. I want the art to be about something besides jumping in the back seat, kiss me. Doo-wop, doo-wop.

 
                                                                  
 
 
 
Many of your songs resonate to this day; For instance the aforementioned “Requiem to the Masses.”

 

Well, it was the B side of “Never My Love.” About a dozen or so major markets flipped the record over.

Murray the K was playing Requiem, the number one disc jockey in New York, was asked not to play the record. He said, “You know, tell you what? Fuck you.” He not only played the record about every hour on the hour, but he put live recordings of Wartime Horrors in front of it and on the back end of it. I never met Murray the K, but it was played every hour on the hour on the moratoriums in New York and Washington D.C. It was the song that preceded Daniel Ellsberg to the stage in fund-raisers for his Pentagon Papers.

 

Any last words?

 

Yeah, do good.

 

Amen, Brother.

 

 

5 comments:

  1. every time I drive by or thru Salina, KS along I-70 I think of Terry and his music.

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  2. Just stumbled across this...excellent interview. Terry, thank you for the music and the history. Peace!

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  3. I lived in Pasadena studying music at LAMA,I wish I knewcTerry was living there.As a musician I'd love to have met him and chat with him.Love the interview.Best.Rodolfo Bass Player living in Brazil

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  4. I met Terry once in Fort Lauderdale, Florida back in July 1967. The Association was playing a club on US1. Terry and his band mates were walking back to the stage after an intermission when, Terry stopped and talked with me and my future wife. What a class act he was, I loved talking with him. Loved reading the interview, brought back fond memories

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