Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jail Bait

When I was in eighth grade, and my sister was in eleventh grade, we threw our hats in the teen pop queen ring for a few months. One night over Christmas break 1982, while we stayed in Denver with my Dad and his wife,Jane, my sister and I started writing a song. My Dad also helped us write some of the lyrics.I have no idea what prompted us to write it but here are the first few verses:

License to Kill

"too close too close for comfort
no one understood
diagnosis pyschotic
crazy lust for blood
caught a ride to Argentina
saw my name in the neon lights
couldn't get any meaner
CIA in the CIA in the CIA
I went throught the training
taught me all the skills
bizarre graduation
license to kill
license to kill
license to kill
(chorus)
Psycho psycho in the CIA
If you're on my list
You'll never never get away
If you think you can run, do what you will
'Cause you know I'm a lady
with a license to kill


They gave me my first assignment
People to die
Killing is so easy
when you don't ask why
blood on the windshield
headlights in the rain
after the first one
they all look the same"

You get the idea.No love ballads or popcorn fluff here,folks. We were raised on The Runaways,The Rolling Stones and The Who, after all.

My Dad had been in a psychedelic band in the late sixties called Lothar and the Hand People that had a whole lot more success than he will admit to.He sang and played the theremin. He was in the heart of the New York music scene and played with or hung out with most of the music legends that defined the Rock generation-Clapton, Hendrix,Sam Shepard,Velvet Underground to name a few.His band had a few records and toured all over the country. He opened for The Grateful Dead in 1966 when my sister was born and and one of the songs bubbled under the Billboard charts for a spell.. I mention this because when he discovered us writing songs, he must have been thrilled.I know he was thrilled because he arranged for us to record  at a professional studio with real live musicians. My sister was much better at singing and writing (and pretty much everything), so she wrote two more songs "Crying All Night"  and " I Don't Wanna Deal With Love".  In hindsight, I might have suggested a therapist were I in the parent role. There was nothing remotely popcorn  about her content, even though she was no more brooding or nihlistic than the average teen.But let's be honest-she co-wrote a song about becoming a professional assassin, a song about crying all night from a broken heart and a song eschewing love of any kind. Hell, we would have eaten Miley Cyrus for breakfast.

The guy who ran the studio called himself Bruzz (Henry, but Bruzz is way cooler), and he had a musician friend named Donny, who I thought was just dreamy-he looked exactly like a member of Kagagoogoo- emaciated with gigantic blonde rocker mullet.Very hip in 1982.

We were also given a song to record written by a local singer in Denver, named Lannie Garrett, called "Signs of Love".In total four songs were on the schedule. We memorized the songs at home and practiced in the shower( separately) and the car. Then the big day came.

The recording studio had a sound bay with the glass window that overlooked the sound proof room where we sang.It looked just like the studio in every movie you've ever seen where someone is making an album. We put on the gigantic headphones and did sound checks for volume. It was all very ,very, very cool. Our tone was pretty good but Simon Cowell would definitely have had some notes. Because this was before all of the current technology that can take an average singer, like Ashlee Simpson, and make her sound radio worthy, we recorded each song multiple times and Bruzz would dub our performance over itself to sweeten the sound.  I was the Ann Wilson to my sister's Nancy and was simply too young to command the microphone like she did. I feel I should mention that I wasn't nearly as large as Ann, just sort of the more natural back up singer.
The recording sessions were long and tiring and there were a lot of those moments right out of a movie where the singer( me) can't quite get the note right, or forgets that the mike is on and the booth can hear every word. My favorite moment was,after about forty five minutes of singing "Signs of Love", with Donny, my sister and I-all big gaping exhaling mouths holding long extended notes into a single mike, three inches from one another.Donny took a break and my sister whispered "your breath smells". Everyone in the booth looked up, and I turned beet red. It explained why Donny's expressions got so pained sometimes when he sang,something that was hard to miss when standing that close to someone.  I guess that must also be why he never asked for my number.It couldn't have had anything to do with the fact that I was thirteen, nah...this was rock n' roll,after all. He actually died a few years later from heart failure.Evidently something genetic, but I was really glad it hadn't happened while we were recording.I always would have wondered if my fetid breath had done him in.

We called ourselves Jail Bait, which was so far from reality in any practical sense that it was kind of funny.Neither of us were very Drew Barrymore in  "Poison Ivy". We were no Lolitas, either, though perfectly capable of looking the part, but unlikely to trade sexual favors for a music career or be seduced by a bald middle aged producer with grey mutton chops left over from the previous decade. My sister was destined to do something great ( now a surgeon) and I was headed for LA to act eventually,but, even later, the casting couch wasn't my thing. I wanted to be taken seriously.I guess I wanted to do it the hard way. And no one ever patted a couch cushion in my direction anyway, so it was just as well. Nothing worse than an actress in search of a casting couch.

We scheduled a photo shoot at a beautiful mansion outside of Denver that was owned by an antique collector,Otis Taylor, who later became a  very well known blues artist. First we went to the salon,Shear Productions, or something equally hair salon-ish. I got a groovy mullet, just like Donny's, and dabbled with dying the tips electric blue.With the make up looking so cool and the funky clothes and the whole vibe feeling so fucking groovy, I almost did it.Then I remembered the time a few years back that  I got all groovy vibed into putting on my mothers electric green lame`( read lam-AY) disco pants and a hawiian shirt and letting her friend do peacock green eye shadow up to my eyebrows for the fifth grade dance. I was having a blast until they dropped me off  outside the pizza parlor where the dance was held, under aggressive over head lighting, and everyone stared when I walked in, like I had a hachet buried in my skull. I felt like a drag queen who had accidentally walked into a Youth Ministry Mixer, but  I couldn't escape because my heels were too high to walk home. That experience reminded me that after all the fun, I had to return to my real life in eighth grade, with my  preppy, WASP-y Montecito bred classmates. I declined the blue tips.

We returned to school and sometime in March, my Dad called and said that an "A and R"  person wanted to meet us. The date was set for mid-April  1983, and my sister and I met in LA somewhere on Melrose,back when it was actually a grungy but hip spot. I have no recollection of how I got there,or who escorted us. The record company was called Dudley Gorov, and they were in "independent promotion" in Hollywood,whatever that means. They were A list and we were, well, two private school kids who had a really cool Dad. We had lunch at an italian place that  I imagine was filled with lots of polite well educated "teen to adult professional" conversation.Neither of us wore nearly enough black eyeliner to the meeting and, from what I recall, were hopelessly preppy.My sister's Topsiders probably reeked of horse manure ( she went to horsey boarding school) and the only black fishnets were in the photographs we sent them months earlier. It never occured to me to dress that part, and I am not sure why. Needless to say, they passed, which was really a blessing in disguise. Who knows,we might have ended up like Amy Winehouse or Dana Plato or any of the young women who get sucked in, chewed up and spat out by the entertainment business. I still have the music:
click here

Though the meeting was a bit of a blur,  the telling part is the photo booth picture we took minutes before going to the meeting.It is four consecutive photo booth shots of my sister and I just goofing- no cool rock star shots . I think we are even sticking out our tongues in a couple of them.We look like two puppies clamoring for a chew toy, tongues lolling around, our little hearts beating too fast from all the excitement.

2 comments:

  1. Dear Sahm,

    I am your biggest fan having followed you down Sunset that fateful day and watched you from afar. I was the one wearing Girboud jeans and wrestling shoes. I loved your first album and want to know if you can sign a poster for me. You are my hero.

    Sincerely,


    Donna

    ReplyDelete
  2. You made my day with your comments on my blog and your overall wonderfulness. And shit, your A and R photos are braziliant, as is your writing! Shhhhh, hero worship on my part. Please don't tell.

    Love you!

    D

    ReplyDelete