12 Step Program, chapter 5
Bob Jansen was exhilarated by the day’s recording.
He was making a record. It’s all he ever wanted to do.
A rock ’n’ roll record.
He loved singing and performing for people, but he had been exposed to rock’n’roll through radio and radio played records.
All his heroes were on records. That’s how he’d come to know them,
So, to make a record was to be with his heroes. It was a seal of legitimacy, and a sign that you are serious. Jansen was serious and he wanted to be like “them,” his heroes.
His recording was a first step toward legitimacy.
In the studio, he finally got to hear him singing. You couldn’t tell onstage. Too much to overcome: the volume of the band, the needs and demands of the audience, the additional showmanship. Singing became a small part of the whole and there were so many distractions.
In the studio there was clarity, albeit sometimes sobering. Bob quickly had to learn about what worked and what didn’t, his phrasing, what to emphasize, when to lay back. How to focus.
Also, he was curious to know who he sounded like: not as instinctively right as John Lennon or Paul McCartney, nor as gruff as Gerry Roslie of The Sonics or Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere And The Raiders. Elvis? No. Gene Vincent? No. Little Richard? No. Gene Pitney?
Bob didn’t know. Maybe his voice was unique. He liked that possibiilty.
Maybe the recording would tell him.
He hoped he would stand out from the many L.A. bands coming up, Love, The Leaves, Standells, Seeds, The Merry Go Round and others. So many others.
The first day he and The Hi-Steppers did four songs, tweaking only a few of them and only a little at that.
It couldn’t continue to go as smoothly as the first day.
It didn’t. Among the songs was Living Without You, the Randy Newman song Abe Stern so believed could be a hit. The Eeries wouldn’t do it so The Hi-Steppers did it as a show of good will. Besides, thought Bob, Abe might be right.
The band couldn’t get the sound right and had trouble getting the right feel. A shuffle didn’t work. Neither did rhythm and blues, nor jazz. Jansen suggested using Heartbreak Hotel as a blueprint and that came close. At least it provided something with which to work.
The other new song was Bob’s 12 Step Program. This had ballooned into a crowd pleaser that could go as long as 20 minutes. The Hi-Steppers cut out the lengthy guitar solo and the tension building quiet that came after, hinting at it only slightly.
The Hi-Steppers got an arrangement that was about an acceptable three minutes long.
Similarly, the organ solo on 96 Tears was cut back and there were other similar such changes. At the end of the session, Levin, Jansen antdThe Hi-Steppers were satisfied. The final day would be for overdubs, if necessary, and mixing.
Jansen had learned Barb wasn’t playing by the book.
Normally, a label might release a single or two and then maybe want an album.
He had to conclude that Barb was confident, didn’t want to be caught by surprise, and therefore be ready without a delay that might kill any momentum.
Maybe that’s why Barb wanted a stockpile that could be an album. It, too, seemed aware of all the rising bands and wanted to get ahead of them.
The album would be called Hi-Time For The Hi-Steppers, the front cover showing each member of the band lifting one foot high as if taking a giant step. The image was corny, Bob sensed, but lots of bands were doing something similar like leaping in air or hanging out of cars.
Apart from Living Without You and 12 Step program, the rest of the album was contemporary hits, most well-known. 96 Tears, Lonely Weekend, Money, Treat Her Right, Long Tall Texan, High Heel Sneakers, Barefootin’, Farmer John, Bo Diddley’s Road Runner,, Richard Berry’s other well known song, Have Love Will Travel. Some of the songs were about travel or related to movement in some way, more or less adhering to a high stepping theme, but not slavishly.
That was incidental. The songs were picked because they went down great in the club and the band played them well.
As soon as The Hi-Steppers was finished, Leven got the record mastered and gave each of them an acetate so it could listen, ideally approve or, if not, make suggestions. Jansen used the night club’s turntable but really didn’t know what he was listening for. None of them did.
Leven, however, thought the record was too bass heavy and could be brighter.
The record was recut and a pleased producer gave the thumbs up.
When he got it, Bob just stared at the acetate. He saw something magical in the flat and round disc and didn’t want to break the spell by playing it.
Barb moved quickly, releasing Living Without You as the first single. It disappeared even quicker, not even getting airplay in L.A..
Oddly, Jansen wasn’t too disturbed by its failure.
Living Without You wasn’t representative of the band and possibly too sophisticated, or adult, for The Hi-Steppers’ largely teenaged audience.
The b-side, a respectable but workmanlike Long Tall Texan, was one of the album’s throwaways, little more than filler.
At least it introduced the band to radio.
Berk liked what he’d heard. Leven had heeded his warning by not trying anything trendy, not laying on extraneous stuff, nothing misleading. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that, as accurate as it was, there should be something more. It seemed to lack ambition, which was partly true. Jansen and the band just wanted to make a record and, for now anyway, that was enough.
Stern liked it even more but Barb didn’t do anything to promote the band more than it usually did. Hipped radio, promoted to the teen mags, tried to get the band on TV. Barb just didn’t have enough money and lacked the necessary clout that comes with a track record. Stern hoped that Living Without You would be the hit he thought it could be and would change all that.
When it didn’t Stern had to think again. Barb’s future might depend on it.
Bob placed more weight on the next single.
But first came the riot.
In retrospect, everything was building to this night in November.
The big businessmen wanted to retain the high tone of such areas as Rodeo Drive.
It didn’t want the strip clogged by long-haired kids called hippies, wearing clothes they got from trendy but, in their mind low brow, boutiques that dotted the strip, flaunting drugs, jamming coffee shops and restaurants.
Because they, too, were confused, the police were only too happy to clean up what they thought of as a mess. A curfew was imposed, id was checked.
The kids protested. They saw the curfew and the random id checks as a violation of their rights.
The Pandora’s Box was on their side. A coffeehouse, The Fifth Estate, printed flyers decrying “police mistreatment of youth”. Those youth would meet at the juncture of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights, where Pandora’s Box was situated, November 12.
Jansen saw one of the flyers, but didn’t think much about it. Nonetheless, he showed up at the club. There were at least 1,000 demonstrators, many carrying signs, protesting recent police activity, even war in Vietnam but all seemed peaceful. Jansen figured he might as well go home, but then 100 or so police showed up.
He was horrified when the police dived in wielding truncheons and roughing up the protestors.
At least one celebrity, Peter Fonda, was rooted from a pack that included Jack Nicholson and Bob Denver, shackled in handcuffs and carted off to jail.
Jansen saw a policeman about to hit a girl and stopped him. The police man reacted with surprise and raised his baton to beat on Bob. Just then the girl ran off and the police man took off after her.
Shaken and shaking, Bob lit off, too, heading for his hotel room as quickly as he could.
The demonstration had turned into a riot, illustrating for him what was meant by “generation gap.”