WITH A LITTLE BIT OF HELP FROM OUR FRIENDS
On July 16. 1969, the date of the Moon landing, Yosha & Barry got married at “The Builders of the Adytum’” Temple in Highland Park. Their oldest daughter Violet Aurora was born a few weeks later, the first of their 6 children. It was a happy occasion with many friends from far and wide present, including Yosha’s parents from Amsterdam. During the evening celebration atop their Studio City hill house, we watched the television with bated breath when the announcement came: “The Eagle has landed”…
While working on the “Summer Sunday” project Simon and I had been writing more songs and Graham Nash wished to record another album with us. During this time we had been introduced by Rita Coolidge to her sister Priscilla and her husband Booker T. Jones, the genius musician of “Booker T. and the MG’s” with the immortal hit “Green Onions” among many other achievements.
They really loved our artwork and liked the songs too. Priscilla, gorgeous Cherokee princess like her sister, was herself an astounding singer whose voice could move mountains and blow out amplifiers! Booker was very quiet, both of us are Scorpios and we understand each other perfectly. Booker was signed on “A & M” with his own “Homegrown” label and he approached co-founder Jerry Moss about joint producing an album with Graham Nash for us with our new material. This idea came to fruition when we signed the contract at the “A & M” office on Booker’s label for our next LP; “The Son of America”, with a second album to follow thereafter.
The title song, the “Son of America”, alluded to a Vietnam war veteran and Simon was materializing his idea for a life size statue by casting a fiberglass resin copy of movie stuntman Jack Tyree, to conceptualize our new album. Jack was a Vietnam war veteran himself and to be engulfed in Vaseline and then plaster of Paris for a few hours with a straw in his mouth to breathe was a walk in the park to him. We were the Rainbow Warriors…
Once the figure was cast in resin Simon painted it the spectrum of the rainbow, symbolizing the variety of human races, and then placed it on a circular pedestal with colored spotlights around the rim. It was an impressive sight! Eventually we added a hot pink neon sign on Jack’s outstretched arms that spelled “Hollywood” and ideally we wanted it reproduced a 100 feet tall in the Hollywood Hills near the HOLLYWOOD sign as a memorial to the Vietnam war veterans, yeah, good luck with that!
One afternoon the great John McRebbenack came by for a visit and after listening to Simon play his latest tune, he offered some chord changes and ideas, playing them on the piano but Simon stubbornly did not appreciate Dr. John’s suggestions, which he later regretted not taking to heart! We started to practice with our close friends Richard Fortune, a great guitar player and his wife Colleen and her twin sister Maureen (aka the Gemini twins) who could sing lovely harmonies and were a lot of fun to have around, so pretty that they modeled my clothing lines too. Graham Nash would drop in and give some hints here and there to improve the songs and rehearsals.
Priscilla and I became fast friends, there was an ancient connection between us. I had just finished a large circular oil painting ”Madonna of the Evolution” which she and Booker bought for their ranch in Malibu. When we brought it over to install over the fireplace we met Booker’s small son T and Priscilla’s children Paul and Laura Satterfield, all from previous marriages. We were blessed to have such wonderful and extremely talented friends. Simon and I were writing most songs together, each contributing partly the lyrics and partly the musical ideas while others we co-wrote with Richard and the twins.
Once we got the basics down and Booker thought we were ready to start recording he booked the Wally Heider studio and hired Johnny Barbata on drums, Chris Ethridge on bass and “Sneaky Pete” on slide guitar to add to Richard Fortune’s hot rock guitar sound. The engineer was Larry Cox. The songs had a multi-ethnic global feel and accordingly we hired studio musicians suited to each song’s particular cultural ambience. We had a great accordion player, steel drums, mariachi players, a zither, santur and darbukah player and an enthralling violinist. Simon played the bazouki, balalaika and bass clarinet. We both played piano and percussion and Graham, Rita Coolidge and Joni Mitchell sang back up on a few tracks. Of course we were ecstatic about Booker T. playing the Hammond organ on “Room 44”.
The cover was supposed to feature a picture of the “Son of America” statue but the decision makers at “A & M” thought its nudity was too risqué. Thus Simon proposed a photo by Gary Burdon for the cover of us sitting on our rooftop terrace, overlooking Los Angeles, that I was not wild about but featured Simon at his best in Marsia Trinder’s white leather outfit! The back cover had a photo taken by Graham Nash of my vanity dresser mirror displaying pictures of all the studio musicians and participants on the album. However, we were allowed to use the “Son of America” image for the inside sleeve.
Once the album was finished, to celebrate, Graham, Joni, Simon and I drove to Palm Springs in Graham’s big comfy Mercedes and rented horses from the Aqua Caliente Cahuilla Indian reservation’s “Smoke Tree” stables with instructions how to get to the Palm Canyon Oasis about 4 miles away. It was a wonderful ride on handsome well-trained quarter horses and when we arrived at our destination, hot and sweaty, we gave the horses a drink, ground tied them and plunged into the sparkling cool spring water hole by the waterfall and then dug into our picnic basket. It remains a marvelous memory…
On February 9, 1971 at 6 AM we had a rude awakening by the magnitude 6.6 Sylmar earthquake. It scared Simon out of bed and he ran out the door without his clothes on while I stayed where I was. Some time later I had a worse shock when I realized that we were supposed to go on an extended tour to promote the new album, including Europe and we would have to give up our living quarters! I really did not want to leave California but was contractually obligated to do so. I guess I was too spaced out when I signed the agreement and had not paid attention to the details.
I felt boxed in and suffered from insomnia but eventually accepted the situation and decided to go along with the wave and let it be…In order to have some extra funds we planned to have an art sale so we rented a space on la Cienega Blvd. which we called “Gallery X” and silkscreened some posters to sell and advertise the event.
The opening attracted a lot of attention. We played the “Son of America” album over and over while all those present danced on the black and white tiles. We were able to sell quite a lot of paintings and prints, practically our whole inventory. The “Son of America” statue was purchased by John Phillips of the “Mamas and Papas” and after the exhibition closed a month later we installed it in the “Chateau Marmont’s” penthouse where John lived at the time.
Soon thereafter we packed an Econoline bus with our clothes, instruments, art supplies and our three dogs, two Dachshunds and a German Shepherd. Our managers Ben Stagg and Simon Hayes accompanied us, playing gin rummy on the way. Our first radio interview occurred in Denver, Colorado but in the end the disc jockeys just didn’t catch on to the anti-Vietnam war message of the “Son of America” song and concept. After more radio station stops across the US we arrived back in New York once more to board a flight to Amsterdam on KLM.
“A & M” thought we might do well in Europe and had released the single “I saw you” on the German “Ariola” label. At “A & M” Jerry Moss and Herb Alpert had already decided that Booker would produce yet another album with us on his “Homegrown” label and we had signed agreements to that effect before we left so I was consoled and pacified by the knowledge I would return to California in the near future but it still took half a year before I was back where I wanted to be.
Although very Déjà vu, it was nice to be in the beautiful hometown of Amsterdam again, walking along the canals and visiting old friends and family. We were invited to stay with the prestigious writer Simon Vinkenoog and his wife Reineke in a guestroom of their big four story house on the Koninginne Weg. I was thrilled to visit one last time with my dear old foster mother and my three foster brothers and their family while Simon was happy to go see his family.
After the 1972 New Year celebrations we made a TV appearance on the Dutch “Top of the Pops” TV show, lip sinking the song “I Saw You” with the dogs on set. One has to be passionate to be a performer but I was not comfortable doing any of this and it was Simon who was keen to pursue a musical career. I would have preferred to be home painting but you can’t always get what you want… At least our song “I Saw You” went to number 2 on the Dutch hit list.
We bought a used Fiat station wagon so we were able to get around and rented an apartment for a month on the beach in Zandvoort to have nice long walks with the dogs by the grey North Sea. We gave interviews and visited with friends like model Loes Hamel, the Dutch Jean Shrimpton. Fred Williams and Lynn Taylor came over from Los Angeles on a tour of Europe, they had purchased an old Peugeot and when at the same time Vogue photographer Maurice Hoogenboom and his girlfriend Edie Baskin appeared on the scene, all of us decided to hook up again in Paris a week later.
Paris is my favorite city in Europe! We stayed at “Hotel Palais d’Orsay” on the left bank of the Seine. It was a somewhat sinister old building, scene of Orson Welles’ film “The Trial”. Fred & Lynn enjoyed the usual tourist sights and Maurice and Edie took us all for a memorable dinner at “Elaine’s”. It was the last time we would see Maurice. Our dear talented friend tragically died falling off “Mount Corcovado” (with Christ the Redeemer) in Rio de Janeiro during 1973 while stepping back to take a shot of his fashion model.
We decided to drive to Morocco to write the new material for our third album, to be called “Mediterranean Blues” and rented two rooms in a rustic country house in the “Orangerie” at Marrakech from a French lady. There was an enchanting garden with an abundance of roses, oranges and peacocks. The house had electricity but we had to draw water from a well, basically a hole in the ground, with an earthen jug on a rope.
We rented an upright piano from our landladies’ cousin, which was transported on a wooden wagon pulled by a mule and wrote several more tunes there. It was wonderful to swim in the nearby river and let the current carry us downstream while the dogs ran alongside us. Ben Stagg came from L..A. to enjoy the exotic surroundings and having spent 6 weeks in our little paradise it was time for a change and the three of us drove to Estepona, a small town on the Spanish “Costa del Sol”, just south of Marbella. We rented a beach cottage and I was happy to be able to paint several paintings there besides working on the music. Since it was summer, Roselie came over to spend her school vacation with us, which was always delightful and she posed for the painting above.
On a side trip to a small town we came across a miserable stable where a guy had a huge black horse in cross ties that Simon insisted to mount but the horse promptly reared and threw him. Then he made the irresponsible decision for Roselie to get on the poor abused animal and would not listen, no matter how strongly I objected. Of course as soon as she was up, the horse reared again and she fell, breaking her collarbone. We rushed her to the Emergency Room and my sweet girl bravely endured the pain and wore a complicated brace for the rest of her vacation, poor baby.
We also ran into designer Misha St. Maux again who introduced us to Alfonso von Hohenlohe-Langenburg, the owner of the acclaimed “Marbella Club”. Alfonso commissioned us to produce about thirty canvases for the resorts’ bungalows, which we painted together in rapid succession in a psychedelic, yet minimalistic style. I also painted a wooden room divider for Alfonso’s relative, princess Honeychile von Hohenlohe, depicting her lounging in a tropical setting surrounded by a tiger, leopard, birds and other animals.
By summer’s end it was time to get back to the U.S. and begin recording “Mediterranean Blues” so we said farewell to our friends and drove the Fiat, on its last legs, back to Amsterdam. She had served us well! I couldn’t wait to get on the plane at Schiphol, dogs in tow and was relieved to finally land at LAX to see Booker and Priscilla’s smiling faces waiting for us and then driving to their ranch home on Winding Way in Malibu where we were welcomed by whinnying horses, happy dogs, 7 year old Laura and 9 year old Paul, who graciously offered us his bedroom for the duration of the recording of the new album.
To be continued…