|EVERYONE ELSE IS GOING OUT WEST
The stars are in the sidewalks, as you walk you read the names
Like never-ending tombstones of a long-forgotten age1
I worked for two years in the biggest folk club in the country, Doug Weston's Troubadour, in Hollywood. Judy Collins and James Taylor and Bob Gibson and Hoyt Axton played there, Phil Ochs and Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles hung out in the bar. I was the janitor.
I was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Culver City, a suburb of L.A. I lived a block away from the MGM Studios for fifteen years, saw the inside of them once when I was eighteen, on a guided tour.
The first time I got on a stage with a guitar was an election assembly in high school, with a buddy. We sang "Lonesome Traveller" and "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" and I got elected junior class president.
But it was not until I was twenty that I began to twig onto music as a career. Then I was hanging around in a black-and-white striped house on Santa Monica Boulevard with a group called the Wildflower Witch Family Acid Rock Bell Band. We were a true underground band: we used to practice twelve hours a day and never played anywhere. Finally there was a producer who begged us to let him do an album with us. We condescended to look over his track record, but all he had to show was one weirdo act. We were thinking big, so we turned him down. We never got anyplace and finally we broke up. The producer was Richard Perry. These days, as I hear, he is booked up two years in advance. His weirdo act was Tiny Tim.
I wander down the neon street with no one else to blame2
Over the following years I had other encounters with record company executives, managers, groups and producers.I was falling into the dangerous Neon Dream of Hollywood: that tomorrow you could meet the right person, write the right song, be in the right place at the right time, and go from obscurity to stardom, living room to Hollywood Bowl, with nothing in between. They don't tell you that every overnight success has been working at it for half his life. So I was dreaming, but I wasn't playing anywhere. And for a guitar-picking single, there were few enough places to play. The truth is, largely, that you can work in Hollywood if you are a rock band or a cocktail pianist. And you can go there and make it big if you are David Bowie or the Eagles.
Twas a wonderful experience, but ... 3
The year I was twenty-four I worked four months in Texas as equipment man for a rock band; then four months in a latter-day rendition of the Serendipity Singers. With them I was a performer, but it was crazy with disorganization. One fortnight we played Bowling Green, Ky., Spokane, Wash., Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Los Angeles, in that order. It fell apart, and I got a job singing in a restaurant until they swapped me for a pair of high school kids who worked for a sawbuck a night apiece.
When I was twenty-five and twenty-six the gigs and the dedication slipped. I found two places to sing in the two years. The dreams hung on.
And when I was twenty-seven I was back in Hollywood. This time I got into the recording studios --- delivering pizzas.