Mourning Becomes Yoko: Part I

The Passing Of John Lennon:

Part One

by

R.E. Prindle

Main Texts:

Goldman, Albert:  The Lives Of John Lennon, Chicago Review Press, 1988

Green, John:  Dakota Days, St. Martin’s, 1983

Norman, Philip:  John Lennon, Ecco, 2008

Pang, May:  Loving John

Seaman, Frederic: The Last Days Of  John Lennon, 1991

Warhol, Andy:  POPism:  Harcourt, Brace, 1980

Numerous internet sites of  the many thousands, most of which I haven’t investigated, concerning principal and minor characters of which Warholstars is most prominent. 

Yoko One in Lennon Cap And Glasses

       There were many changes that ushered in the sixties, changes that made the sixties possible.  Not least of these was the introduction of the commercial jet fleet.  Gone were the much smaller, less comfortable propeller planes, slow and relatively uncomfortable with limited range.  The Boeing 707s, DC 8s, mammoth in their time quickly evolved into the flying cities of the 747s and DC10s.  With the big jets came the envy of the sixties, The Jet Set.  Golden people off to the capitols of Europe so stunningly portrayed in Hollywood movies and travel posters.  One can’t imagine the effect of travel posters today but then they created unfulfillable desires.

     With ease not only were the capitols of Europe within spitting distance but also the exotic cities of the East- Tokyo.

     The entertainment industry was about to spike as technology revolutionized the recording studio as well as the stage.  Guitar amps as the sixties began were small, portable units.  Amplifiers rapidly grew in size.  Massive arrays of Marshalls rose behind the first of the heavy metal bands, Blue Cheer, like a low mountain towering above the group.  Greatful Dead took the stage in front of tens of thousands of dollars of electronic equipment.  Four guys could sound like Krakatoa on that fateful day.

     In those far off sunny days when our world began the old world crumbled before the onsllught of bold intrepid pioneers, and behind them came the leeches and parasites.

     The sixties started slowly almost imperceptibly changing until the Beatles stepped off one of those big jetliners in 1964.  Seemingly innocuous, their arrival was to change the whole paradigm.  Through the fifties and early sixties, before the Jet Set, was the Avant Garde, those bold experimenters moving in advance, well to the fore, of the dull plodding Middletown Babbitry and those mental habits the hip, the aware, the Avant Garde despised.   There were still such things as modern art, experimental novels, cutting edge jazz.  They were all swept away in ’64 when the Beatles led the British Invasion.  All of a sudden the Avant Garde was turned inside out as Pop took possession of the field.

     The first intimations of change took place in Art.  As the 50s ended the dominant art form was Abstract Expressionism.  From those ranks rose what would be known as POPart.  Roy Lichtenstein with his comic book panels, Jasper Johns with his flags, Robert Rauschenberg with his messy effort and, of course, Andy Warhol and his soup cans.  Interestingly they were all homosexuals.  With the exception of Warhol they were all discreet, in the closet, Warhol was a man with an agenda, he wanted to legitimize himself and

Yoko, John, Andy

whatever he liked or did.  He was an advocate.

     One of the big changes of the sixties was the rise of the cult of the homosexual.  Let Leroi Jones as a Negro spokesman rail against the cult as he might he was powerless to resist its course.  Homosexuality was then illegal all over America until the great homosexual revolt at Manhattan’s Stonewall Bar in 1969 as the decade drew to a close.  Homosexuals were aggressively out of the closet roaring for revenge.  One item on Warhol’s  agenda in fact.

     Warhol began his fine art career about 1960.  By 1964 when the Beatles deplaned he had completed another item on his agenda, the destruction of fine art.  Thus, although few of us realized it at that time POPism was overtaking Euroamerica like a tidal wave lifting the level of the sea.

     The Beatles would of course be the core, the heart of the sixties.  They defined the sixties and gave the decade its form.  While they were busy conquering the world a little Japanese woman who desperately wished to incarnate and represent the Avant Garde was beginning her career on the Lower East Side as a ‘performance’ artist.  Zany beyond description was Yoko Ono.  By 1967 she will have entrapped the leader of the free musical world and the Beatles, John Lennon.  Together they will dominate what became of the Avant Garde until Lennon’s passing in 1980.

YOKO ONO

Yoko Lisa- One of many facets,

     A description of Yoko to begin.  A Spider Woman, a self professed witch, a psychotic obsessive-compulsive who was driven and completely organized to realize her goals.  She however lacked the talent to realize those goals.  As she searched for a way the seemingly unrelated success of the Beatles fortuitously occurred.

     The success of the Beatles was uprecedented.  Once their success had been achieved then the parasites and exploiters moved in to get whatever they could steal.  While the Beatles were revered for their success one member, John Lennon, was selected to fill the almost messianic needs of the sixties.

     Needless to say succes on the order of the Beatles who were after all of lower middle class origins with no preparation for dealing with success of the magnitude they achieved were completely overwhelmed while nevertheless comporting themselves creditably.  Still, as Paul McCartney’s song Fool On The Hill demonstrates their heads were swimming.  John Lennon even issued a musical plea in his song Help! which was a forthright request for guidance for whoever might recognize it while being able to fill his need.

     As it was, this young Japanese avant garde artist, Yoko Ono, understood the plea and acted on it.  John Lennon was tailor made to fulfill her own needs and ambitions.

      Yoko Ono was born in Japan in 1933 as the Japanese were initiating their plan to impose the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere on the whole of the East from India through China to Japan.  In 1942 when she was ten the Japanese made their move to annex the oil reserves of Indonesia, bombing Pearl Harbor at the same time in the attempt to secure their ocean perimeter.  The invasion did not come off as planned so a short three years later in 1945 the B-29s unloaded their incendiary devices over the capitol city of Tokyo where Yoko Ono’s family lived.

     Now thirteen she was aware of what was happening.  Moved to the country outside Tokyo Yoko Ono witnessed the massive clouds of smoke obscurring the blue sky, one presumes, for hundreds of square miles.  Within a few days Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been wholly obliterated by atomic bombs.  Yoko imagined the blue sky over those two cities obscured as was the sky of Tokyo.  This made an indelible impression on her mind causing a psychological disturbance.  She would be haunted by the memory.  Thus having appropriated John Lennon in the late sixties she and he created the Plastic Ono Band whose LP was a picture of a blue sky with fluffy white clouds.  After 1973 she had her office in the Dakota painted in replica of the cover.   Thus she would always have a blue sky above her.

     Even though the Japanese had attacked the United States first in this instance, not without provocation to my mind, thereby acquiring guilt for beginning the war there can be little doubt that Yoko blamed the West for Japan’s shame.

     While Yoko experienced some discomfort after the bombing of Tokyo, as her father was a banking executive with experience in dealing with Westerners, she shortly after the war moved to the US where she lived in luxurious circumstances eventually attending Sarah Lawrence College from 1957 to 1960 but leaving without a degree.

     As of 1960 Yoko Ono had experienced little of the hardships caused by the Wars in Europe and Asia.  Indeed, as Philip Norman points out John Lennon’s England suffered greater hardship from 1945 to the sixties.  Japan, once defeated, was given extremely benevolent treatment by the US.  The paternalistic approach of the US can be seen in the picture of the tiny five foot Emperor, Hirohito, beside the relatively giant protective figure of Douglas MacArthur.  Efforts began immediatly to rebuild the Japanese economy.  The millions of Japanese soldiers throughout the Pacific and China were repatriated to Japan without consequences, forgiven as it were.  In contrast to Europe where the carnage had been enormous there was relatively little damge to the Japanese homeland.  If you watch Japanese movies of the late forties and early fifties there is only a slight indication that there has been a war.  A few references are made to soldiers who never returned but the landscape is intact and undisturbed.

     In Europe Germany had been flattened, German civilians slaughtered in the millions.  Armies of German soldiers disappeared into the Gulag never to be seen live again.  The allies exposed millions of Germans in the depth of winter while depriving them of food.   The entire continent was desolated, England itself had suffered terrific bombing damage that was still being repaired into the sixties.  POP star Marianne Faithfull in her biography tells of sitting aove a bomb crater in the mid-sixties.  Thus any complaits of racism against the Japanese are ridiculous.

     In 1957 when Yoko Ono was beginning her cushy life at Sarah Lawrence I was sailing into Tokyo Bay aboard a US Navy Destroyer Escort.  We docked in Yokosuka across the strait from Yokohama.  There was absolutely no evidence of there ever having been war damage to Yokosuka.  Looking across the strait to the shipyards of Yokohama one was astonished at the glittering brand new derricks of the most modern design.  The stuff made ours look positively medieval.  Twelve years after the war Japanese shipbuilders were becoming the dominant force in that industry displacing the West under the guidance of the US which complacently ceded the industry to them.

      In 1960 as Yoko Ono was beginning her career as an avant garde artist in NYC the first Japanese autos were being landed on the West Coast.

     Now, Philip Norman tut tuts the English for supposedly outrageous racist comments against Yoko Ono in the late sixties as though the English had no grievances against their own racial treatment by the Japanese in WWII.  In point of fact the Japanese Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere was a racist organization directed at the West.  The Pacific war was a racist war if you wish to put things in those terms. There are other definitions.   This isn’t the place to discuss the racial antecedents to the Co-Prosperity Sphere so I won’t but one should look into the historical background which is very complex.

     The question is, did Japanese racism end with their defeat and if it didn’t how was the war carried on by other means?  In 1964 Yoko Ono published a small book of haiku style statements called Grapefruit ‘which aimed to make words like the commands of musical notation’:  “Steal a moon on the water with a bucket.  Keep stealing until no moon is seen on the water.”  Norman, John Lennon p. 475.

     I have a feeling the image is not original to Yoko but is part of Japanese culture much as Bob Dylan used commonplace mid-western phrases like It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue appropriating them to himself.  Of interest here is that Yoko used the verb ‘to steal.’  Her mental state then was one of taking what doesn’t belong to oneself much as in the Jewish prophecy that they will live in houses they didn’t build.  While the command seems nonsensical the results will not be.  The reflection of the moon on the water is beautiful but is only the image of the moon.  Removing buckets of water will not destroy the reflection unless and until all the water or substance on which the image is reflected is removed.  Thus the substance has been stolen while the image is disappears.  At the same time, one imagines, the moon is flattered by the attempt not realizing what is being done.

      Yoko Ono will apply the method to John Lennon while the Japanese applied the method to the US and the West.  All those unpunished repatriated Japanese warriors lost none of the hatred of the West now reinforced by the ignominy of defeat.  They could even believe that they were better warriors than the Americans being defeated by greater American resources for which there was some justification.  So, in 1957 under American tutelage the Japanese had lost noe of their aggressive hatred when I and my shipmates came ashore.

     Now, as Americans we were never allowed to celebrate our victory thus relieving the hardships we endured.  After three years of being taught ourtrageous racial caricatures of demonic enemies we were now the day after victory forbidden to call them Japs, for instance, upon pain of disciplining.  We were commanded to believe that our victury had been evil and unjustified.  Shortly after the war the Hiroshima ‘maidens’ were brought over to receive free medical treatment.  You won’t find anything in history books but there was a strong murmur of protest.  Less than a decade after ‘The Day Of Infamy’ we were commanded to shut up or we would be shut up and we wouldn’t like it.  I don’t know what the exact effect of  what this was on the American psyche but their was a serious reaction.

     Now going into Japan in 1957, ostensibly as conquerors, remember the Korean War had only ended in 1954, we were told that if we had any confrontations with the Japanese we would automatically be considered the aggressors, judged guilty and punished regardless of the facts.  This was Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation speaking to its sons.  So, our fathers castrated their sons for whatever idiotic reason they had.  Is it any wonder we revolted against the bastards in the sixties?

     The Japanese knew of the conditions imposed on us and used them to aggrandize themselves at our expense.  Of course, as epigoni we were callow teenage boys rather than the fierce warriors who had driven them through the islands.  As an example of what we were compelled to endure being unable to resist on pain of punishment was something like this.  As might be expected the souvenir joints exploiting us were set up next to the docks.  I entered a booth where I was treated insultingly by the middle aged female clerk.  As I turned to leave the booth she slugged me with a shore patrol baton, which they sold, between the shoulders on the upper vertebrae.  the sound was terrific but I was unhurt.  Expecting me to retaliate a couple of repatriated soldiers of the Bataan Death March started moving toward me to pound me to dust while mah fellow Americans moved away from me as though poison.  Heeding the advice of my Captain I walked unconcernedly away to the jeers of the former Death Marchers trying to further provoke me.  This is what the Greatest Generation did to their sons.  I would imagine that the lesson to the Japanese was that they had nothing to fear from Americans, young or old, while my own feeling of betrayal left me with an abiding distaste even hatred for the fathers that would turn me, a victor, over to the mercies of the defeated.

     So, by flattering the Americans (the reflection of the moon on the unresisting water) the Japanese began to ladle out the American substance itself.  With the simple minded Americans there to instruct them the Japanese studied American technological achievements and began to reproduce them much more cheaply because of their lower wage differential.  At first the reproductions were clumsy, the first cars were laughable but they quickly honed their skills even, eventually, making improvements.

     Because of their relatively quick and easy victory over Japan the American veterans in Detroit refused to take the Japanese seriously even though they were warned by quicker witted countrymen.  The Japanese kept ladling the image out until today the
American auto industry is all but defunct today while Toyota has replaced GM as the dominant auto maker worldwide.  I won’t say the bastards of the ‘Greatest Generation’ didn’t have it coming but I still regret it for my country’s sake.

     In 1960 then Yoko Ono left Sarah Lawrence as I left the Navy to attempt a career as an artist in NYC.  In 1960 John Lennon was at the very beginning of his career as, actually, an avant garde musician although he may not have realized it.  It would be six years before their paths crossed in London.

     In the meantime Yoko attempted to storm avant garde New York demanding instant success and considering herself so talented that she couldn’t contemplate failure.  She took up with the unlistenable avant garde composers, John Cage, the premier electronic composer Robert Maxwell and people of that ilk.  At one time I wanted to be avant garde so I actually listened to people like Cage, Maxwell, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich and people like that.  If you want to you can make yourself listen to anything but I don’t want to make myself do it again.  Once was more education than I needed.

     So, Yoko was breaking into a very minority taste, even at the height of my enthusiasm I couldn’t make anyone sit through the stuff.  At the same time Yoko was trying to appeal to the uptown crowd who cut her cold creating deep resentment in her.

     Having stormed the gates and failed Yoko fled back to Japan awhere she had a psychotic reaction, nervous breakdown or depression.  At any rate she was committed to a mental hospital where she was heavily sedated, massive drugging.  Interestingly Norman say that before she went to  London she had never used drugs.  I don’t know what you would call the stuff given to her at the hospital but I’d call them drugs.  Just because a dentist gave me Nembutal doesn’t mean I never had drugs although I never used them otherwise.  As incredible as it may seem a fellow named Tony Cox heard stories about Yoko in New York that he found so intriguing he hopped a big jetliner and flew to Tokyo to find her.  Real fairy tale stuff.  Maybe he heard she came from a fabulously wealthy family.

     And Tony did find Yoko stumbling through the halls of the asylum under the influence.  He discovered a means to get her released then only had to deal with her Japanese husband Yoko had picked up along the way.  Apparently a smooth talker Tony convinced hubby to form a menage a trois.  This, of course, disintegrated the marriage 1964 finding Yoko and Tony back in New York.

     Now, back in 1960-61 Yoko had been sleeping around, she had a menage a trois in Japan while subsequently not taking the marriage vows to Tony overly seriously.  Yet in Norman’s biography she repeatedly tries to pass herself off as some virginal girl unable to deal with the rabid sexuality of her third husband.   Clearly Yoko suffers from cognitive dissonance, meaning her version of things is always questionable if not immediately dismissable.

     Yoko as a feminist wrote the song Woman Is The Nigger Of The World.  In rebellion of what she saw as the status of women she became what we boys call a man eater.  She emasculated the men of her life assigning them traditional female roles while she assumed the male role.  Thus all three of her husbands assumed the role of house husbands, housewife being a demeaning term in her lexicon while she tried to play the role of provider through her art although unsuccessfully.  Needless to say that she was a failure as a provider in all three marriages although in her last she proved an efficient money manager of the millions provided by her last house husband, John Lennon.

     Cox and Yoko left NYC for London in 1966.  By 1966 the decade was well along in its formation actually tipping into its demise.  By 1966 the British invasion of musical groups was entering its second phase.  A dozen or so groups had succeeded very well chief among them the Beatles and Rolling Stones.  They had pre-empted the avant garde becoming themselves an avant garde.   The chief American representative who had survived the British onslaught was Bob Dylan.

     The art scene Yoko was trying to influence had been taken over lock, stock and barrelo by POPart whose leading representative was

Andy In Full Are Mode

Andy Warhol who had a zoo of addicts and perverts known as the Factory.  Warhol, himself a homosexual, had always been a connoisseur of pop music playing 45s constantly.  He would have been aware, perhaps uniquely, of the significance of the British Invasion for POPart and the old Abstract Expressionist avant garde.  By 1965 he had aligned himself with the musical scene by adopting the Velvet Underground as the Factory house band.  He attempted to form connections with all the top musicians from Lennon, Mick Jagger, Dylan and on to Jim Morrison of the Doors not always successfully.  Most of the musicians waere as psychotic as he was, recotgnized him for what he was and were too canny to become involved with him.

     Yoko on her return from Japan, then, was dealing with a very different art scene than in her first foray.  She had to at some time between ’64-’66 make contact with Warhol.  As she left NYC in ’66 for London Dylan’s evaluation of her relayed through George Harrison  as quoted in Norman p. 671 must refer to this period:

     George by contrast, despite long marinading in soft-tongued Buddha-speak, was his most bluntly charmless.  “[He] insulted [Yoko] right to her face in the Apple office,”  John would remember.  “Just being straightforward, that game of  ‘Well, I’m going to be upfront because this is what I’ve heard, and Dylan and a few people said you’ve got a lousy name in New York and you give off bad vibes.’  That’s what George said to her and we both sat through it.”

     Dylan would have been speaking of Yoko in NYC from ’64 to ’66.  During the latter part of that period Dylan was in conrflict with Warhol and his Factory crowd because of Edie Sedgwick.  That Yoko Ono could have come within his ken is interesting.  Yoko wouldn’t have know of Warhol during her first assault on NYC but as she kowtowed to Warhol on her return after 1968 that might indicate that she might have visited the Factory, which was open to all, met and conversed with Warhol.  I haven’t found a mention of her on the main Warhol site, Warholstars, as yet but there must be a connection no matter how slight.  It is impossible to know what was said between them but as Yoko got into making Warhol style avant garde movies she must have at least made some notes.

     Whether music in relation to the avant garde came up with Warhol’s preference for Rock n’ Roll and possibly he Beatles isn’t known although she did drag Lennon down to do obeisance to Warhol when they eturned.  Then, too, she used Sam Green,  Samuel Adams Green had presented the Warhol exhibition at UPennsylvania a couple years previously, as her agent for acquistion of art.

     In 1980 she was thick with Sam Green leading Lennon to express discomfort because of Green’s association with the Warhol crowd.  There seems to have been a rather strong conection of Yoko to Warhol.  Certainly her husband of the time, Tony Cox, was well known around the Factory having stolen one of their cars and taken it to California.  Cox, who had criminal tendencies, is worth a little study too.  It would seem impossible that he knew nothing of the Beatles- I think Yoko Ono’s claim to have never heard of them can be dismissed too- as Cox seemed to have been always scheming he may have heard Lennon songs like Help and I’m A Loser and drawn the obvious conclusions.  Lennon in the right hands could be used.

     In 1966 then, Cox and Ono left for London presumably to take that art world by storm.  I think it quite probable that Yoko believed she could get inside Lennon’s head to use his wealth to further her art career.  Her bagism notion was well conceived by 1965 in NYC.  Her displays at London’s Indica gallery seem designed to get Lennon’s attention.  An apple on a stand priced at 200 pounds…how obvious can you get?  The tinyYES on the ceiling.  Yoko was very good at hypnotic suggestion.

     How did she find her way to the Indica anyway?  The gallery had just opened in 1965 and would only survive for two years, which isn’t to say Yoko’s exhibit  killed it.

     Her claim that she had never heard of Lennon before the show is contradicted by both John Dunbar, the owner, and Barry Miles, who wrote under the name of Miles.  He says that instead of coolly walking away not overly impressed with Lennon she actually tried to force her way into his car.  Certainly flooding his mailbox with cards and letters doesn’t indicate indifference.  No.  Yoko wanted access to Lennon’s money and she got it.

     There’s no need here to recount how she forced Cynthia Lennon out.  Suffice it to say that she quickly captured Lennon; by 1968 they were back in ‘her town’, NYC.  For a person who was there for maybe two years in 1960-61 and two more years in ’64-’66 I think it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to call New York ‘your town.’

     Once in New York she had Lennon dependent on her while with the acquisition of the Dakota Apartment in 1973 the real action began.  First let us do a character review of Lennon before beginning the denouement.

     I am assuming that any readers will be familiar with the main lines  of Ono’s and Lennon’s biographies.   If I’ve glided too quickly over certain points don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.  There are literally thousands of websites dedicated to all principals and minor characters, some of them very extensive so my exploration of all these sites is ongoing.

 

    

 

A Review

Catherine James

Dandelion: Memoir Of A Free Spirit

by

R.E. Prindle

James

I looked at the sea and it seemed to say,

“I took your baby from you away.”

I heard a voice cryin’ in the deep,

Come join me baby in my endless sleep.

Ran in the water, heart full of fear,

There in the breakers I saw her near.

Reached for my darlin’, held her to me,

Stole her away from the angry sea.

-Jody Reynolds- The Endless Sleep

Texts:

Des Barres, Pamela: Let’s Spend The Night Together, Chapter- The Elusive Miss James, Chicago Review Press, 2008

James,  Catherine: Dandelion Memoir Of A Free Spirit, St.  Martin’s, 2007

https://idynamo.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/a-review-pamela-des-barres-lets-spend-the-night-together/

     Dandelion by Catherine James is an excellent read whether you consider it a memoir, a novel, or based on a true story.  As a memoir it is a little too sketchy, while as a novel it is a charming read with some effective, real touches of pathos.  The tenderly related death scenes of  her Grandmother and mother may not rank with the passing of Little Nell but they do choke you up a bit.

     Dandelion was apparently written by Miss James unaided by a co-author.  When one considers that she had no schooling beyond the seventh grade this is a remarkable achievement.  In the explanation of her skill, apart from a native intelligence, at a rather advanced age she returned to Jr. College where she took a writing class apparently with good effect.  After a remarkable childhood and youth she is now entering an equally remarkable old age, uh, maturity.

     Miss James had a childhood a bit out of the ordinary in its horridness, a crazy mother, and a succession of housing changes including a stint in a reformatory and a couple years in an orphanage.  My own childhood experiences parallel those of Miss James to some extent so I think I can write of her situation with some sympathy.

     Miss james’ narrative is a coherent psychological whole progressing from beginning to end in an impressive manner, but I am only going to deal with the first half of her memoir.

     I understand the following:  Catherine’s mother, Diana, was vain of her appearance while aspiring to a recording and performing career.  She did succeed in recording an LP titled Dian And The Greenbrier Boys.  I’m guessing that she had no intention of having children but as she married at seventeen on an impulse Catherine is probably a result of that impulse.

     Diana probably then resented her daughter for inhibiting her ability to realize her ambitions.  She then took her frustrations out on her child.  She apparently developed a Hydelike personality in relation to her child.  Mad to the nth degree.  On her death bed she c0nfessed to Catherine that ‘the witches got her.’  One assumes then that Diana was what in the old days was known as being ‘possessed’ by the ‘witches’ when she was around her child.  In a manner of speaking she wasn’t responsible for her actions toward her daughter.  She was severely psychotic.

     By all rights Miss James should have developed into a schizophrenic.  That she didn’t is the result of peculiarity of mind that I share.  Like Miss James I had some difficult years and like her I was able to maintain a separate identity in a world seemingly insane.

     When Catherine’s mother divorced her father she was placed in a high class orphanage, call it a boarding school perhaps, for a period of time.  Understandably Catherine’s notion of time is hazily remembered at this period although she seems to have retained startlingly clear memories beginning from about the year two.  Catherine has no memory of an explanation being given to her for the removal to the boarding school.  It just happened one day.  She was inexplicably dropped off where she remained uncontested by any of her family until one day Grandmother Mimi picked her up from the home.  Catherine lived for perhaps two years with her grandparents without any communication from mother until for some reason her mother reclaimed her.  Perhaps because she had remarried.  The marriage flopped and after some time her mother took up with Travis Edmundson (deceased this year) of the Bud and Travis folk duo.  Her mother had aspirations to be a folksinger having, as mentioned, actually recorded an album as Dian And The Greenbrier Boys.  Dian was shortened from Diana.  More exotic.

     According to Catherine Travis was as bizarre as her mother with the result that at the tender age of ten or eleven she left the house.  The police picked her up but she refused to give them any information.  Stangely they sent her to Los Padrinos Girl’s Reformatory in Downey, California.  She either was or believes she was committed until she was eighteen.  This seems extraordinary to me, although stranger things have happened I’m sure.  But to lock a very young girl up without charges, trial and sentencing for six or seven years boggles the mind.

     With her child safely behind bars, Diana renounced her daughter making her a ward of the State.  Good God! Talk about cruel and inhuman.  One can’t be sure exactly what Catherine knew of what was going on but Diana and Travis refused to allow the girl to be released to her grandparents care.  Since her mother  had made the girl a ward of the State it isn’t clear what she would have had to say about it.  Her grandparents now sought to reclaim her but after legal maneuvers the best they could do for her was to get her released to an orphanage.  Orphanages are slight improvements over lockups.

      Here Catherine becomes intentionally vague.  Her grandfather was named Al Newman and he wrote musical scores for the movies.  The only Al Newman who wrote for the movies I have been able to locate over the internet is Alfred Newman.  Alfred Newman wrote scores for about a hundred movies receiving an incredible amount of awards.  Catherine mentions that when she was staying with her grandparents a large number of Hollywood film people visited the home including Harpo and Chico Marx.  I would assume that she is coyly indicating that her grandparents were the Alfred Newmans.

     If that’s so then her mother’s maiden name was Diana Newman and Randy Newman must therefore be Catherine’s cousin.  Now, she was placed in a country club Jewish orphanage.  Her grandfather Al Newman, she tells us, was a benefactor of the orphanage, so she assumes that is what got a Catholic girl into a Jewish orphanage.  If Al Newman was a benefactor then whether he was the famous Alfred Newman who was Jewish or not, Al Newman must have been Jewish.  In that case it shouldn’t have been that difficult to place her in the Jewish orphanage.  Even so, she says, she was not allowed to visit her grandparents on weekends.  An inexplicable lack of clout, but this is Catherine’s story.

     She implies that efforts were made to convert her from Catholicism to Judaism which she stoutly resisted.  This all requires some clarification here.  She nevertheless learned Hebrew and could at the time recite some Jewish prayers in the language.  She was in the orphanage for about two years from eleven or twelve to fourteen.

     Once agains this seems odd.  Things are done differently in different places no doubt but I also spent a couple years in the municipal orphanage which was much less posh than the place she describes.  She says they gave her good food; the food in our place was so execrable that I virtually didn’t eat for the two years.  She implies she had rather been in a Catholic orphanage but I do believe I can disabuse her of that notion.  An orphanage immediately declasses the inmates placing them outside society so that upon entry a child becomes a societal outcast.

     In the municipal orphanage we were pretty free to come and ago as we chose provided we were back for dinner but even if  we hadn’t I’m not so sure anything would or could have been done about it.  We were a coed facility but the kids were moved out into foster homes at ten to avoid the inevitable sexual problems of old boys among younger girls and boys so I’m surprised Catherine was allowed to stay until she was fourteen.

     I have a little experience with a Catholic orphanage.  There was one down the street from our place.   This place was a hell hole.  The municipal orphanage had a chain link fence around it but the Catholic place had a ten foot high brick wall.  The difference between that and Los Padrinos was non-existent.  Los Padrinos guards probably were more lenient than the nuns and priests.  The latter were not lovely people.  We used to be invited to the Catholic home for special occasions like Catholic movies and other events.  They used to show the Catholic kids what the world outside their institution looked like through the movies.  Like they say, no matter how bad off you are there are others worse off but of course that doesn’t improve your own situation.  I was very happy to return to the municipal home after visiting the Catholic home.  I think I ran all the way back.

      Theirs was a rough life.  I’ll tell you a little story.

     Catherine mentions that kids at the Jr. High she attended didn’t want to have anything to do with orphans.  True in spades all over the world.  We had this kid, all this happened to him in one year, who began the school year with the Catholics.  Those kids were schooled on premises, I’m not kidding you, they never saw the outside world, never.  His parents transferred him to the municipal home where he had to try to fit into the public school we were abused at.  Then he was transferred back to the Catholic home.  I was never so happy to see anyone leave as I was him.  He was already stark raving mad.  Then they transferred the kid back to the municipal home.  Barely holding unto to my own sanity the bastard was pushing me over the edge when fate intervened once again and he was sent back to the Catholic home.  I have no idea who or what he imagined he was by that time.  I had enough trouble surviving in the public school without switching back and forth.  Of course, with the right attitude it would have been a real learning experience but I hadn’t learned to dissociate like that yet.  I lived in total fear he would return.

     A couple years later after my mother remarried and we moved into a garage I was reading the paper where I read that this kid, having returned to his parents from the Catholic home, locked all the doors of the house one night and torched it incinerating parents, siblings and himself.  I was shocked when I recognized who they were writing about.  I understood the situation expliclitly.  I had to keep my mouth shut of course but I lustily cheered what he had done although I certainly would not have burned myself up.  What could they do to you that already hadn’t been done?  It would just be a move from one institution to another.  I’m sure this kid was thought of as the ‘monster.’  Nobody knew the trouble he’d seen, man’s inhumanity to man.  Well, we all have our crosses to bear.

     He was an extreme case but not that far gone compared to the rest of us.  Getting to my point with Catherine.  The boys in the orphanage tended toward violent reactions, rebillion as it was amusingly called.  I would imagine most of them became criminals of one stripe or another.  The girls on the other hand responded to their emotional neglect by offering themselves to anyone who would give them seemingly tender attention.  And there were a lot of them waiting to do that.  The fence of the orphanage was lined with perverts hitting on their preference- either boys or girls eight to ten years old.  Cops said there was no way they could run them off.  Free country.  Whoever said this wasn’t a great country, right?

     So, at puberty, Miss James fled the orphanage, unchaperoned, into the great wide world with an instiable desire to be loved and somehow regain her social status as provided by the Al Newmans.  She fled into a world of rock ‘n roll where unlimited opportunites with guitar ‘gods’ existed.  This was a unique historical opportunity to realize her desires.  A couple years earlier…?

     The story she tells must be a severely edited and corrected version of the reality.  One wonders what really happened.

     Let me explain the genesis of this review.  I wrote a review of Miss Pamela’s ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ in which I was critical of Miss James’ claim that she met Bob Dylan while in an orphanage.  She appended a comment to the review suggesting I reread Miss Pamela and then read her own book- Dandelion.  As she said, she doesn’t make things up.  All right.  I did both.  As I say, I am sympathetic to any former alumnus of Orphanage U. but you don’t want to drift too far off the band in your reminiscing; that way lies madness.  Who wants to burn their own house down except for the irretrievably damaged- destroyed.

     Miss James’ book of adventures is very tightly edited to produce a certain effect or opinion of the author while not all her memories check out.  Not terribly unusual in itself but she tries very hard to convince you that she is absolutely truthful and accurate.  I will say I’m getting a heck of an education checking her stories out though.  As they fit in with my agenda I have no problem with that.  The extension of my folk knowledge through the investigation of Bud and Travis has been very beneficial.

     Miss James career was essentially from 1965 (possibly very late ’64) to 1970.  That’s five years more or less.  She managed to live two or three lifetimes in those years.  Ah, the sixties, weren’t those the times though?

     Her mother’s agent who was hot after a ten, eleven or twelve year old Catherine was named Jim Dickson (Catherine says some names have been changed so…but then there was a Jim Dickson, talent scout and producer who helped work up the Byrds around LA at that time.)   He was working with the Byrds in ’63-’64 and he had something to do with Dylan according to Miss James.  The orphanage would barely allow Al Newman, a large benefactor of the home to visit his grand-daughter and yet they allowed an adult unrelated male to pick a 13 year old girl up and drive away with her.  Well, OK, if Catherine says so…

     Dickson then took her to a Dylan concert.  Dylan was in LA in May and/or June of  ’63 for a short time according to biographer, Sounes, and again in ’64.  In ’63 Catherine, who certainly must have looked young, if Dickson hadn’t told Dylan that she was 13, says that Dylan asked her to a party where he spent, she says, several hours sitting talking to her while ignoring the big girls and execs.  Well, I don’t know, but I doubt it.  I can’t imagine how Dickson explained things to the orphanage when he brought Catherine back in the wee small hours of the morning.

     Dylan was interested in her, she says, to the extent that every time he came to town he called on her at the orphanage.  These were in addition to the ’63 and ’64 visits so it is difficult to account for them.  Hard to believe, but as we’ll see she says all these famous rock musicians beat a path to her door, she didn’t pursue them.

     Al Newman’s influence with the orphanage notwithstanding his large contributions was pretty limited so that he would have been unable to prevent Catherine being sent back to the reformatory which was then proposed.  One night she scooted out the back door to take her chances.  Brave girl; I shudder to think of it.

     She says she took two hours to hoof it down to the Troubadour Folk Club at the junction of Melrose and Santa Monica.  Doug Weston founded the club in ’57 and this was early ’64.  Catherine is usually shy about identifying the seasons so one can’t pinpoint time within any given year.  She says because her step-father Travis of Bud and Travis was a performer there she was also allowed to perform at the troubadour as a twelve or thirteen year old.  Seems like a trifle of a stretch; she gives us no idea of her repertoire, Mary Had A Little Lamb or whatever.

     In two short hours the orphanage had missed her presence, not very likely in my experience, divined that she was headed for the Troubadour, called the plice who were already on the spot passing her picture around:  Seen this here thirteen year old around here, anywheres?  OK.  Sure, why wouldn’t the cops have her photo already on file? Handy.

     Rather than turning tail she slips into the club ascending the balcony to the right rear seat that just happened to be the only seat left.  I didn’t get to the Troubadour until the early seventies.  Saw Pentangle there.  I din’t go back.  The club was already on the way to becoming the rough place it became.  Anyway I know where she’s talking about.

     This girl cannot possibly have looked, spoken or acted any older than she was.  She tells the guy next to her to pretend he knows her.  She later describes this guy to be in his early twenties although he was only nineteen.  He obligingly wraps his arm around a 13 year old.  Alright!  That’s a chance I wouldn’t have taken.  Probably worth twenty to life in California and we had been terrorized at the prospect of statutory rape.   That was when you looked cross eyed at underage which was against the statutes.

      Catherine tells him all those cops swarming the place are after her.  Can he get her out of there?  Nothing daunted by anything like a statutory rape charge he throws his jacket over her shoulders and he and 13 year old  Catherine stroll out right under the noses of the coppers.  I think I saw that movie.

     The Good Sam turns out to be the brother of John Stewart of the Kingson Trio, Michael.  In 1964 he was up at San Francisco State where he was forming the We Five but at the time he hadn’t.  You Were On My Mind was a year in the future.  He first drops her off at a house with a whole bunch of guys way back in the hills but she was not afraid.  Michael then drives her North to Mill Valley, remember those statutory rape laws if caught, and brother John’s house where she is taken in as a nanny, and California’s Most Wanted Child, for his kids.  The Stewarts want to adopt her which is her cue to split.  It is amazing how lovable this troubled child is.

     As I say, I’ve been researching these astounding stories.  The problem with this one is that John Stewart was single at the time not marrying until 1968 when he wed Buffy Ford.  This story is definitely on the shaky side so that affects Catherine’s credibility a little more than somewhat.

     Traveling to Berkeley with some ‘hippie’ kids she hit the high spot of fabled Telegraph Avenue.  Hippy kids seem a stretcher in ’64.  Now, we’re on home ground though.  I was around Berkeley a bit from ’64-’66.  she appears to be describing a later edition of Telegraph.  In ’64 the street was in transition from trad collegiate to what it later became.  It was the first time I  had ever been panhandled.  Some girl wanted 3.98 to get her dog out of the vet.  Could have been Catherine for all I know.  Naw, this girl was well past 13.

     On Telegraph she chances into the son of Barbara Dane and Rolf Cahn.  Cahn, a guitarist, is living up at Inverness on the ocean side of Marin County.  The younger Cahn puts her up at a sorority, which might seem plausible unless you’ve met some of those stuck ups.  To get her over to Inverness he invents the story that the police are passing pictures around.  Well, they couldn’t find Patty Hearst a couple years later either.  Not to worry, his bed in Inverness awaits.  Just one look was all it too, having his fill of her he splits the next morning with no intention of returning.  His dad also splits leaving her alone in the house.  A different world than I grew up in, no offense.  These things can happen, I don’t say they don’t, but ten or fifteen in a row is worthy of Guiness.

     The next day this guy from Boston shows up looking for Rolf, he’s a music lover.  Likes the stuff, flew out from Boston to listen to Rolf for an afternoon.  He is vastly amused at this endlessly charming 13 year old offering to fly her back to Boston with him which offer she accepts.

      Once in Boston she’s hot to get to NYC so someone going that way offers to drive her down to the East Village while Dr. Cummins, for that was his name, gives her a twenty for bus fare back.  Am I going too fast?  Catherine tells a fast paced story.

     Now, in NYC where Dylan mostly hangs out she has to locate this lad who found her so charming in California.  We’ve moved up from ’63 to very late ’64 or early ’65 so Bob is heading into the thick of his ’64-’66 epiphany.  Thanks to Peter Paul and Mary he is now – Somebody.  Things are rollin’ for Bob.

     At this point Catherine tells two different stories.  In her memoir she calls Woodstock where she says a woman answers and informs her that Dylan has gone on tour.  In Miss Pamela’s book she says she asked some kids where to find Bob Dylan.  Dylan obligingly pulls to a stop in front of her, slow moving traffic.  She runs over to say hi.  Dylan rolls down the window, coldly says he’s on his way to a concert, driving off.  She made no further attempt to contact him and he would have been easy to find.

     Alright, I read and reread.  What am I supposed to believe?

     So, this is 1965, the next five years are truly spectacular.  Unlike any other groupie I’ve ever heard of the rock stars gravitated toward the now fifteen year old Miss James with no effort on her part.  She doesn’t have to shriek for their attention or bare her boobs, she’s stunning and they come running.  Here she makes another minor error.  She says she sees Morrison and The Doors performing Light My Fire in NYC.  A couple of years ahead of the facts.  A small error doesn’t mean much but what about the rest.

     From this point on in order to create an impression of herself Catherine severely edits the facts distorting the reality at the least, what one puts in, what one leaves out.

     In ’65 she met Denny Laine, make-up naturally fooled him, although still young she is now 15.  Close but still statutory.  I’m surprised the Moodies were in the US in ’65 because Go Now, their first hit, didn’t make that big an impression.  Still, on their website the Moodies describe themselves as part of the British Invasion.  In my experience they didn’t hit until ’68.

James 2

     The two met more or less formally at a party so the meeting was formalized rather than a groupie-star existential encounter.  Catherine always wishes to create a meeting Southern Belle style where the stars are impressed by her as much as she is by them.  “Oh, Rhett, you don’t mean it?’

     Laine forms the central theme of her groupie years.  She has a child by him which carries her into seventeen and 1967.  It isn’t easy creating a time frame or setting for her cast of characters.  During the three years 1967-1970 she has relations of some sort with the following  without mentioning Bob Dylan who dropped off the radar in 1965.

Roger Daltrey

David Gilmour

John Mayall

Jimmy Webb

Roman Polanski

Jimi Hendrix

Jimmy Page

Eric Clapton

Jackson Browne

Ginger Baker

Mick Jagger

Geno, partner in Granny Takes A Trip

+ Denny Laine

     As you can see it is a regular A list.  George Harrison could be included but she had no relations with him, just a friend.

Catherine doesn’t mention Geno or David Gilmour herself.  Miss Pamela provides that in Spend The Night.  The gig with Geno and Miss Pamela also took a couple months.  Miss Pamela came to England with Geno’s partner.  The four then took up residence together all sleeping in the same bed with baby Damian in a crib in the corner.  He must have a Freudian memory or two.

Catherine artfully tells her groupie career bringing the story to a grand climax before she throws in the towel and tries to establish a life as a respectable hausfrau.  The apex of groupiedom was Mick Jagger.  A story made the rounds at the time of a groupie who finally made it to the bed of Mick.  When asked how he was the next day, her reply was:  Well, he was OK, but he was no Mick Jagger.

Catherine characteristically was wooed by Mick, herself doing no chasing.  She was staying at Eric Clapton’s when Mick came over for a party.  Catherine tells it this way:

     I remember being engrossed in a book in the study when he peeked in and said:  “You’re pretty.”  With a blush, all I could think to say was a faint “thank you”, and went back to reading my book.

Just like a debutante Catherine was engrossed in her book.  As the party got into swing and as the mescaline punch was about to hit Catherine thought to call Denny Laine while still coherent.

     As I was speaking with Denny, Mick came into the room and closed the door behind him.  I was seated at the desk in a regal, antique high-back chair with ornate carved arms.  Mick walked up next to me and just stood there.  He was wearing these delicious black-and-white checkered houndstooth wool trousers with a soft cotton white shirt.  When I looked over, all I could see was the undulating moving pattern of the houndstooth.  Mick didn’t say a word, but I felt the electricity.  He was clearly waiting for me to get off the phone.

I think that’s pretty effective writing for a girl who barely finished grade school.  Obviously she put her time to good use after giving up the life.  Just picture sweet Lady Catherine sitting there as her Prince Charming came into her life, ‘regal, antique, high backed chair with ornate carved arms!’

The above passage is for the girls who never made it with Jagger.  You can just hear Miss James cooing: Eat your hearts out girls.

Catherine not only has one night with Mick but moves into the mansion for ‘a couple of months’.  The absolute untopable climax comes next.

     For the event I wore my long, whimsical, gypsy dress from the posh Ozzie Clark’s boutique.  The velvet bodice was formfitting, buttoning down to a billowing skirt of colored silk layers.  My pale pink platform boots with appliqued silver cresent moons and stars from Granny Takes A Trip went perfectly with my outfit.  Stevie Wonder was the hottest ticket in town, and I felt like a female divinity sitting between Mick and Eric, taking in Mr. Wonder’s stellar performance.

Yes, there was the fairy princess sitting with not one but two Prince Charmings watching Stevie Wonder.  There was no way to top that so apparently Catherine’s philosophy was quit while you’re on top.  I quite agree with her if you know when that is.  And thus perhaps after having gratified one compensatory fantasy she returned to the US to begin her redemption by hard work.  As she has written this book she apparently did that too.

After knowing all those rock gods so intimately I think it noteworthy that only Roger Daltrey deigned to write a blurb for the jacket.  He and Miss Pamela.

The book was a very interesting read leading me to some other interesting discoveries that added substance to my understanding of the era.  I have Miss James to thank for that.

As an alumnus of the orphanage, and believe me orphanages are all one form of horror story or another, I have solidarity with Miss James and wish her well.  I’m sure everything she wrote was based on the facts but I still want some corroboration for the Dylan bit.

Miss James’ book has enjoyed some success.  My copy is of the second printing so she sold out the first.  At the last check the title was listed as about the 100,000th best seller on Amazon.  I’m not sneering, mine is at about 5,500,000.

If anyone likes horror stories of this nature may I direct them to my description of  an orphanage- Far Gresham Vol. I- that can be found at reprindle.wordpress.com.  May I also direct your attention to my The Sonderman Constellation by R.E. Prindle published by iUniverse available through alibris, Amazon etc.  I need some readers and sales too.  I probably don’t need more than two sales to jump up to the 1,000.000th best selling.  C’mon help a fellow out   It’s a good book, you won’t regret it.

7/27/12 Update.

The Book

Here is corroboration for Catherine’s liaison with Mick Jagger.  The following quote can be found on pp. 223-4 of the Tony Sanchez/John Blake memoir Up And Down With The Rolling Stones, 1979, John Blake Publishing (6.95) originally published as I Was Keith Richard’s Drug Dealer.  Reprint 2010.

While I have no reason to doubt Catherine, corroboration is always a good thing.  This corroborates both Mick and Eric Clapton. Quote:

     Then along came Catherine.  She was an exotic-looking Californian who’d enjoyed a brief affair with Eric Clapton.  Eric introduced her to Mick at a party, and a couple hours later Catherine was tucked in Mick’s huge three-hundred-year-old bed in Cheyne Walk.  The two of them stayed in bed for the next twenty-four hours, and after that, Catherine moved her things in.

Jan was piqued.  She seemed to have fallen in love with Mick.  Next to him other men lacked imagination and energy.  I had seen other girls, even tough little groupies, entranced in much the same way, Jagger’s feminine qualities seem to give him an unusual insight into women, and he uses that insight to give him total power over them.  But Jan said nothing- to do so whould be un-cool, and Mick hated uncoolness in women.  Besides, she was a paid employee- no strings attached.

The friction between Jan and Catherine sent sparks flying almost every day.  Jan hated Catherine because she had won Jagger’s body.  Catherine hated Jan because she seemed to have captiviated Jagger’s mind.  The situation was untenable, and when Mick was out, the girls would have bitter, screaming arguments.  In his presence they attempted to feign sycophantic devotion.  For Mick it was a perfect set-up.  He had all the sex and company he wanted without involvement.  Neither girl was secure enough to dare complain….

Mick loved to set them against each other until they were at the screaming point.  It was as if he had become the person he pretended to be on stage, he needed his fans fighting over him, even in his living room.  He was so egocentric now that he couldn’t love anyone except himself.  He was emulating mad, debauched , oversexed Turner, the character he had played in Performance.  With Marianne gone, Mick’s last link to earth was severed and his image swallowed him up.  Michael Philip Jagger had ceased to exist.  Now there was only Mick Jagger, Superstar, twenty-four hours a day.

The farce at Cheyne Walk couldn’t drag on forever.  Mick’s cosy menage a trois came to a stormy close when he announced in August that the Stones were off  on a tour of Europe and that Catherine would not be coming.  “Sorry, darling.”  he told her.  “It’s a band rule, always has been, I don’t take my old lady on the road.”

…Catherine wept for days.  She knew it was over.  Jagger wanted her out of the house by the time he returned from the tour.  All her dreams of being the next Marianne Faithfull were flying out the window.  When the final explosion came she lashed out at Jagger, kicking, spitting, scratching and trying to tear his hair out by the roots.  It was, of course, a very uncool thing to do.  Catherine left quietly that night.

A slightly different version than Catherine’s which was ultra-cool.

By the way, disregard any negative criticism of this book.  It is authentic.  Sanchez was inside and his co-author, John Blake, was a very well informed, intelligent journalist from an outside perspective.  Essential for Stones’ fans.

Update 8/11/12

Another version of Catherine’s stay with Mick comes from Christoper Andersen’s Mick, Gallery Books, 2012.  Anderson does not give his sources.

     (Mick) preferring instead to amuse himself by rotating among the members of his floating harem.  Among them:  Janice Kenner, a stunning blonde from LA, ostensibly hired to be a housekeeper cook and “personal assistant”; New Yorker Patti D’Arbanville, a nineteen-year-old model and actress; another leggy California, Catherine James and Brian’s ex-girlfriend Suki Poitier.

Even for these women, there were limits when it came to sharing Mick.  When one girl came upon Catherine James in bed with Mick at Stargroves, he merely suggested a menage a trois.  James, furious, stormed out.  After hastily making love to the interloper, Jagger spent the rest of the evening trying to talk James out of catching the next flight home.  He succeeded, but it wasn’t long before James decided she “definitely wasn’t the right girlfriend for Mick.  “Eventually I would have killed him in his sleep.  I’ve a jealous nature.”

A different version than that of either Catherine or Sanchez.  Anderson goes on to provide corroboration for Catherine’s account in which she called Mick after Bianca moved in.  This paragraph refers to the account of Miss Pamela but is nevertheless confirmatory:

     Now ensconced with Mick at Stargroves, Bianca began cleaning house.  One by one, she ordered the other women in Mick’s life to stay away from her man.  When Miss Pamela called, she was surprised when a husky voiced woman answered the phone.  “You are never, ever, under any circumstances to call Mick, ever again.”  Bianca said.  “Get the picture.”

So, we acquire richly varied accounts of Catherine and Mick.

Update 9/13/12

Ronnie Wood, Ronnie, 2007, St. Martin’s Press.  This from Ronnie Wood page 69:

     On the subject of women, on another Beck tour I fell for Kathy James, who is famous in rock and roll mythology because she was the original groupie.  And absolutely gorgeous woman, believe me, she had a special feel for special musicians.

Update 10/4/12

Philip Norman: Mick Jagger,  Harper Collins, 2012  pp, 402, 405

For a time, just like Performance’s Turner, he had two live-in female companions, albeit in this case both Californian rather than French and polyglot Danish.  The first to be installed, a bubble-haired blonde named Janice Kenner, had found herself alone with Mick in the back of his car and received a well-tried Jagger line:  “Do you like waking up in the city or the country?”  Replying “the country,” she had been spirited away to Stargroves, there acquitting herself well enough to be asked to wake up in the city with him as well.  Soon afterward, he also brought home Catherine James, a solemn-looking twenty-two-year-old who had taken the same roundabout car ride via Berkshire.  The two coexisted in Cheyne Walk without rancor, each fixing on a distinct role for herself”  Catherine was Mick’s girlfriend while Janice was his cook, but available for the occasional “romp.”  In fact, their easy relationship rather irked Mick, who preferred the women around him to be at loggerheads for his attention.  One day, to their bemusement, he got them to plaster each other with strawberries and whipped cream like a polite English garden-party version of mud wrestling.

As further proof of his rather lonely state, he also asked “Miss Pamela” on the tour (she decided to return to her boyfriend, however) and took along one of Cheyne Walk’s two resident houris, his “cook” Janice Kenner.  The other, Catherine James, was dismissed as she lay in bed, with a farewell kiss and instructions to lock up the house before returning home to California.

Update 1/22/13

From Scaduto, Tony: Mick Jagger, Everybody’s Lucifer, David McKay Company, Inc., 1974. pp. 348, 349, 350.

Eventually, however, Catherine came along- introduced to Jagger by Eric Clapton- and she moved in, a replacement for Marianne in a way. Catherine is a Californian, outstandingly beautiful, but Janice didn’t think she was especially sophisticated. Catherine is a super-groupie, the elite of the groupies: Instead of flying on her own to meet a superstar, the superstars send her plane tickets so she won’t forget to come to them. Jagger impressed on Catherine the fact that she was living in a grand house, had a lot of money to spend on it, and must learn to be a real English lady, Janice recalls. But Catherine seemed to have no idea how to be a lady: she took to flickering her cigarette ashes on the floor because there was someone around to clean them up, Janice felt. Catherine appeared to be trying to play the role Jagger was forcing on her, telling Janice it was all so romantic to be Mick Jagger’s lady and how madly in love she was with him. And Janice thought: Mick’s not in love with you, he’s just interested in fucking you and having a good time. He’s fucking around with your head, and you’re going to be terribly hurt when you wake up. Jagger’s games made Janice angry, and she tried to warn Catherine about it, gently. Catherine refused to permit reality to get in the way of romantic dreams, Janice felt, and the two women started getting into arguments over it. Janice later said: “Mick knew it and loved it. he played it up and instigated arguments between us. I remember thinking: “The guy is fantasizing that we’re fighting over him.”

The Stones were going off on tour again- a month in Europe through September and part of October. Catherine appeared furious because she was being left behind, and even Janice was being taken along, a last minute assignment to help Anita take care of her baby because Shirley Arnold had sprained her ankle and couldn’t go. They were up in Jagger’s bedroom, packing his clothes for the tour. Catherine sat on the bed crying that she was being left behind, and Jagger seemed to be feeling sorry for her. He leaned over and stroked her hair very lightly. “Let’s go downstairs to the other bedroom,” he said. Turning to Janice: “Finish packing this shit.” They left the room, and Janice sat on the bed, lit up a huge joint, and thought: He’s giving her a farewell fuck. She sat there a long while, smoking, getting too stoned to finish packing. And she thought: I’m really glad he took her downstairs because it’ll make her feel a lot better; she’s done nothing but cry for days.

Suddenly, Jagger came rushing back into the bedroom, shouting: “I don’t understand her,” followed by a tall, willowy and very exotic woman, a friend who had dropped in to visit. She also shouts: “I don’t understand.” Catherine rushes in, screaming: “I hate you, I hate you.” And Janice, stoned, sits there thinking: It’s like a fucking movie comedy. When everyone quiets down, and the woman goes home, and Jagger leaves the room for moment, Catherine explains what the commotion was all about:

“We’re in bed, fucking.” she tells Janice, when in walks this bitch and makes some remark, and Mick invites her to get in bed with us. I guess I just got hysterical and I started screaming and kicking Mick and scratching. My last night in bed with Mick, and he wants another chick to join us.”

Update 3/29/13

Hodkinson, Mark: Marianne Faithfull, As Tears Go By, 1991, Omnibus Press

p. 136

On his visits to England, Jagger began sleeping with a succession of girls, and Stargroves, the grandiose emblem for Jagger and Marianne’s love, became the setting of his numerous one night stands. He had a longer romance with Suki Potier, a former girlfriend of Brian Jones, and spent several weeks in the company of a Californian girl called Catherine James.

Update 4/21/14

Eric Clapton:  The Autobiography, 2007, Broadway Books

On the first day, while I was sitting in the theater during rehearsals, watching the various acts do their turn, a very beautiful blond girl came and sat next to me.  We struck up a conversation, and at some point she asked if I would like to stay with her while I was in town.  She was gorgeous, and seeming to sense my shyness with women, did her best to put me at ease.  Her name was Kathy, and she took care of me the whole time I was in New York.

She had her own apartment, and I moved in with her.  She showed me around, taking me to the various places where I could tick off the list of things I wanted to experience.  I remember her taking me to various coffee bars in the Village, and we went to one or two music stores, like Manny’s on Forty-eight Street  She also took me to a big saddler’s called Kaufman’s which sold western gear, where I bought my first cowboy boots, and with this beautiful girl on my arm, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

 

 

 

A Review

You Really Turn Me On

Rock Odyssey

by

Ian Whitcomb

Review by R.E. Prindle

Whitcomb, Ian: Rock Odyssey, 1973

     I don’t suppose too many people today remember Ian Whitcomb.  He surfaced in 1965 with his hit song

Young Ian

Young Ian

‘You Really Turn Me On.  In 1965 I was a very old twenty-seven but getting younger every day.  I saw Whitcomb once while visiting my wife’s relatives.  Her young cousin was watching the Lloyd Thaxton show out of LA.  I’d never heard of Lloyd Thaxton either but according to the cousin he was the hottest thing on TV.  If I remember correctly the Kinks had just sung Dedicated Follower Of Fashion that I thought was very OK.  The Ian came on and did his breathy falsetto androgynous song:  You Really Turn Me On.  At one point after suggestively fondling the microphone stand he shot down out of sight like a tower from the World Trade Center resurfacing moments later.  Pretty startling stuff at a time when nearly every new group was an actual mind blower- The Rolling Stones, Animals, Dave Clark Five and this was just the beginning.  More and even stranger and stronger stuff was to follow quickly only to begin a slow fizzle even as it peaked ending in the Rap and stuff that passes for music today.  A very old Bob Dylan trying to bring light into the heart of his growing darkness.  After the startling sixties came the sedentary seventies.  But then Whitcomb disappeared like his fall from the microphone stand and I never saw or heard of him again.  A true one hit wonder.

     Years later I came across his LP Under A Ragtime Moon.  Then I knew why he had disappeared.  He was into that English music hall stuff.  But then, I didn’t mind that.  He sounded quite a bit like one of my personal favorites The Bonzo Dog Doo Wah Band.  Of course they didn’t really get that far with that stuff either.  You have to be a member of the cult to really dig it.  In order to like the Bonzos you have to have a fairly eccentric side to your musical taste.  A little out of the mainstream which  is where I preferred to live my life.  I thought the Bonzos were wonderful, still do.  But I was pretty much all alone out there.  I liked and like, Neil Innes and the late great Viv Stanshall, two of the Bonzo stalwarts.  ‘Legs’ Larry Smith.  Ragtime Moon lacked the modern rock foundation the Bonzos infused into their music but to this day I couldn’t tell you whose version of Jollity Farm I’m familiar with.  Anyway I have a soft spot for this sort of thing so over the years I’ve played a side of the Bonzos fairly often and dusted off my copy of Ragtime Moon occasionally.

     You Really Turn Me On always stuck in my mind, great song.  Kinda struck my lost chord and made it gong into the distance.  If you’re only going to have one hit you might as well make it a good one.  And then for some reason, I don’t know, I googled Whitcomb and saw that he’d written a few books, including this autobiographical sketch cum pop history so, as it was cheap on alibris, I sent for a copy.  I was delighted with the volume as I read it through.  As biographies go this is one of the better ones, right up there with Wolfman Jack’s not to mention that of that phony Jean-Jacques Rousseau although I stop short at Casanova.  Casanova is one hard one to top.  As a history of the period it is more balanced and beats the hell out of that crap from the Boys Of ’64.

     Ian took offense at being a one hit wonder; he really wanted to be up there with, say, Jim Morrison of the Doors, Mick Jagger, people of that ilk.  I have to believe that stories Ian tells are true although some are stunningly improbable but then those things can and do happen that way, you know.  It’s all in how you see what goes on around you.  Toward the end of the book he’s pondering on where he went wrong, he’s sunk into a fair depression over this, he flees from his apartment in his pajamas one early morning to take a stool in a coffee shop.  That’s depression.  But, let Ian tell it in his own inimitable fashion.  As improbable as it may seem he took a stool next to Jim Morrison who recognized him first.

     When ‘Light My Fire’ had reached number one, Jim had gone out and bought a skintight leather outfit.  At the Copper Skillet, it wasn’t so skintight anymore.

     “How do you do it?”  I asked.

     “I never dug Jerry And The Pacemakers.  How do I do what?”

     I wanted to kick myself for bringing up my obsession with pop success, but I plowed on:  “How do you stay intellectual and still be a hit with the kids, the masses?”

     “You could have done it.  You were into the theater of the absurd.  I saw you on ‘Shindig’ and ‘Lloyd Thaxton’ goofing off and telling the audience that rock n’ roll was a big joke.  That the whole of existence is a big bad joke.  You were too comic.  Tragedy’s the thing.  Western civilization is ending and we don’t even need an earthquake; we’re performing crumble music for the final dance of death and you know what?  Truth lies beyond the grave. I’ll pick up the tab.”

     I couldn’t have put it better.  Ian’s problem was that he was working from a different ethic.  He didn’t understand that the singer and the song was the show, the whole show.  Nothing else was needed. We were only there to see the singer sing his song.  It’s nice to know that Jim and I were watching the same Thaxton show together.  If I hadn’t seen Ian on Thaxton I wouldn’t have been as impressed because on that show singer and song were a single projection.

     Due to the wonders of the internet I was recently able to catch several versions of Ian’s song but not the Thaxton one.  One had him and a half dozen other guys charging around a series of pianos.  Completely missed the point of the singer and his song.  Not even good entertainment.  Ian considered himself an entertainer bacause of a childhood encounter with a music hall comic named O. Stoppit.  Fateful encounter.  Because of it Ian wanted to be a comic, ended up a singer and as Morrison noted the two were too dissimilar to work.

     Ian was probably headed for depression from the age of five or six or so as he came to terms with bombed out London in ’46 or ’47.  His biographical sketch is a wonderful tale of a seemingly cheerful man’s descent into a deep depression.  By book’s end Ian is nearly out of his mind.

     He quotes a psychoanalyst for his definition of depression:

     It was the great Serbian psychoanalyst Josef Vilya who concluded that chronic depression is the result of a head on collision between dream and reality.  The patient dreams of becoming King but goes on to become a member of the tax paying public.

     That’s probably what Morrison meant by tragedy.  Life always fails to meet our expectations so that humanity responds by assuming at least a low grade depression that makes comedy an adjunct to tragedy.  Thus in the Greek theatre  there was a terrifically depressive tragic trilogy followed by some comic relief.  The burlesque of an Aristophanes.

     Ian’s problem was as Morrison noted that he saw the absurdity of the human condition but was too jokey about it.  Absurdity is a serious thing and has to be so treated.  O. Stoppit taught Ian a silliness unmixed with tragedy.  A tragedy in itself.  When silliness such as You Really Turn Me On met the tragedy of a one hit wonder Ian began his descent into depression as Vilya suggested.

     I’ve never been depressed myself, never had the blues, but I have visited the lower depths as a tourist so I have some notion of what Ian’s talking about.  Dirty Harry in drag.  I just never got off the bus that’s all, except once, to walk through Haight-Ashbury where I saw first hand how horrible true depression could be.  Boy, did Ian find out about that.  Good thing he never found his Debbie.

     In his narrative combining grim humor with his developing depression Ian gets off some rippers.  I had a good many uproarious belly floppers.  Try these few lines.  Two good ones in succession.  You do have to have the same sense of humor.  The North and South are those of England.

     These frightening stories of Southern travelers stranded in woebegone depressed cities and suffering under the rough natives.  For example a well known Shakespearean actor, having missed the last train out of Crewe, knocked on the door of a hotel.  “Er, do you have special terms for actors?” the traveler asked.  “Yes- and here’s one:  Fuck off!” 

     And if they weren’t being aggressive, the Northerners were acting daft.  One heard of a Lancashire lad down in London demanding another helping of dressed crab (in the shell):  “Give us another of them pies- and don’t make the crust so hard.”

     Of course Ian can’t do that on every page but laughs are liberally sprinkled throughout the underlying depression.

     Ian’s book opens with his youthful encounter with O. Stoppit and ends with another unifying his theme nicely.

     In between Ian enters the world of rock almost serendipitously with his one hit song:  You Really Turn Me On.  After that his story is a search for a sequel that he can never find but which he pursues somewhat as Alice down the rabbit hole.  He loved his one brush with fame so much that the clash between his cherished hopes of finding his sequel and the grim reality of not being able plunges him deeper and deeper into depression.  Personally I would have gone out and found a songwriter.  There were thousands in LA.

     However his odyssey, as he calls it, Brave Ulysses ne Ian, led him through the heart and soul of the Golden Age of Rock And Roll from the Beach Boys and Beatles and Rolling Stones through Morrison and the Doors, Procol Harum, Cream, Pink Floyd, Donovan, you know, like that.  After that crescendo followed the diminuendo ending in Rap and the current rather laughable music scene.

     Ian has encounters with the aforementioned Morrison, Mick Jagger and others.  His observations of the social scene are trenchant.  He makes an acute observation do in place of a couple hundred pages of twaddle a la Todd Gitlin and Greil Marcus.

     Along the way he sprinkles the little known odd fact:

     Procol Harum is Latin for ‘beyond these things.’  Have no idea what that has to do with Procol Harum’s music.

     …the name Pink Floyd was taken from a record by two Georgia bluesmen named Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.  Amaze your friends with that one.

     And in conversation with Bobby Vee he confirmed a question about Bob Dylan that I needed confirming:

     The afternoon I taped “Hollywood A Go Go” a syndicated TV rock n’ roll show that’s allegedly seen as far away as Rhodesia and Finland.  The set was sparse- cameras, lights and a few rostrums.  The empty spaces were filled with boys and girls who danced or gazed.  All the acts had to lip synch their records.  Chubby Checker (the Twist King) was on the set and, when he heard my record he pronounced it “bitching!”  Bobby Vee was a special guest and looked every inch a star in his sheeny silk suit.  He really had his hand movements and head turns down to an art.  We chatted during a break and I brought up the subject of Bob Dylan and my concern about him.  To my amazement, Vee told me that Dylan- before he got into the folk kick and when he was plain Bobby Zimmerman back in Minnesota- had played a few gigs with Vee’s band- as pianist!  Vee said Dylan was very good, in the Jerry Lee Lewis sytle, but he could only play in C.  He said he knew a lot about country music, too.  As it was hard to find pianos at their gigs Dylan didn’t play with Vee very long.  But as he has fond memories of him and said he was really well versed in current rock n’ roll at the time of their meeting.  He had the impression that Dylan was very hip to whatever was happening.  ;I wondered if the young Zimmerman had ever been a Bill Haley fan.

     So, that would confirm that Dylan did play with Vee in the summer of ’59 after his graduation.

     The book is a great read, a very good book, as Ian struggles and fails to find success.  In a fit of depression he returns to the seaside pier on which he had seen O. Stoppit.  An old poster is hanging that he secures then finding his model’s address he visits him to present him with the poster.  O. Stoppit tells him bluntly to stop living in the past.  A fine thing to tell a historian but Mr. Stoppit was apparently a blunt, unfeeling brute.  Also well past the sunny side of life.

     Has Ian ever adjusted to his being a one hit wonder?  I’m afraid not.  It still rankles.  As late as December 1997 in an essay written for American Heritage Magazine Ian quotes a letter from fan Arlene:

Dear Mr. Whitcomb:

     I have watched you several times now and I want to say that sure you have talent and you’re magnetic, but why, oh, why, do you screw it all up by horsing around, being coy, by camping, as if you’re embarrassed by show business?  You could be great if you found your potential and saw it through, but that would take guts.  Instead you mince, and treat it all as big joke.  Come on now!

     Well, that was the same thing Morrison told him thirty years earlier; the vaccination didn’t take then either.

     I think Ian entered his depression early in life, as many of us do.   Then one has to face it.  Some become phony chipper optimists in their attempt to overcome the conflict between expectations and reality.  Some become goofs and jokers.  Something I fought for years.  Some like Ian become silly.  The most extreme type of this I ever saw was Red Skelton the ‘great’ clown who was painful for me to watch.  In fact I couldn’t do it.  I saw too much of myself in him and ended up hating the bastard.

     If Ian wants that second hit and more he has to master his silliness.  Weld the singer and the song like greats like Jagger and Morrison.  Be to some extent what his fans want.  A good sense of humor on songs done with respect for the song, himself and his audience.  Scratch Red Skelton.  People want to love Ian, just as Ian wants to be loved, but as the saying goes, he won’t let ’em.  I’m not criticizing or demeaning, I know where that’s at too.  I am recommending the course of action however.  I, Arlene, Jim of blessed memory and others want a sort of closure that has been left hanging.

     The book is a great one through Ian’s struggles to come to terms with his times, himself and the future.

 

Ian Later On

Ian Later On