Sometime mid-afternoon, I wend my way by taxi to the Royal Albert Hall to meet Kansas and return John's keys to him, as well as to briefly say hi to my buddies in the Mothers, who were scheduled for performance that night.
I spend that Christmas with Jim in Lancaster, meet his Dad, Cecil, and a few of the old compadres from his Antelope Valley High school days, who were also friends/players with and of Frank's and Don Van Vliet's (Captain Beefheart).
After driving around the neighborhood in Jim's MG, I understand why one might want to be from Lancaster in those days. Something spooky about the high desert. Gravity roads. Great lonely expanses of sky and empty land. An odd Irish castle, transported by a millionaire to be plonked down in the middle of nowhere. Unexplained deaths and disappearances.
(Photo: The Mothers 1969: L-R Ian Underwood, Frank, Don Preston; back row L-R Bunk Gardner, Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood, Roy Estrada, Jimmy Carl Black - "the Indian of the Group," and Art Tripp.)
I also make friends with Lowell George, who had been recruited into the band by Frank to replace Ray Collins for the Ruben & The Jets project - Lowell and Ray were both high-falsetto doo-wop singers. I don't believe Ray claimed superior guitar skills as part of his resume. Frank did. Lowell did.
As rock history has recorded, Lowell and Frank never hit it off as bandmates, and during a rehearsal at the Lindy Opera House on Wilshire, Frank told Lowell to stop messing about and go put his own band together, which of course Lowell did in the coming days. And I'm sitting on the window sill in the rehearsal room watching the whole thing go down. (Photo: a rare performance with Frank, Lowell, and Art Tripp on percussion.)
I'd already seen the upheaval of the status quo at work in the big British bands in the 67-69 era in London.
The whole Brian Jones/Rolling Stones thing was a scandal in the making, and it was all about to blow high wide and handsome as we slid into the late spring of 1969.
The Beatles were also teetering on the edge of goodbye, and the Hollies the same, with Graham Nash going in one musical/artistic direction and Allan Clarke still wanting to stick to the tried and true formula. But I digress ...
After returning the keys to Kansas, I walk into the impressive auditorium at the Royal Albert Hall. The sound-check is not yet happening, and I couldn't see anyone from the band, not even manager Herbie Cohen. The crew are at work on stage, but that's about it. (Photo: Kansas and Frank.)
However, smack in the middle of the house, I see three guys sitting. When I get closer, I see that one of them is Mick Taylor, who I hadn't seen for about two years, since we gave up the flat on the Gloucester Road. I walk up behind them and tap Mick on the back of the head. He's delighted to see me, as I was him of course, and wants to know what I've been up to, and so on. We get the brief updates out of the way, and then I casually announce that I have a message for him from Mick Jagger. At this point, Taylor obviously thinks I'm teasing him. "Oh yeah? What did he want, then?" "He wants you to join the Rolling Stones."
Mick laughs uneasily, still thinks/hopes I'm joking. "Right," he says. "Honestly. I was at Mayall's last night, flat-sitting, and Jagger called this morning. I've left a message for John about it. You'll probably hear from him when he gets back into town." "Do you have his phone number? Mick's?" "No. You'll have to wait for John to get home." I probably told him to talk to Kansas to get hold of Mayall on the road, which would have been logical. At this point, I think he starts believing me. He had done some session work with the Stones in the very recent past, so ... "But, what about Brian?"
Yes, Mick, damn good question. And why Mick Taylor was at the Royal Albert Hall in June 1969, waiting for a Mothers' sound-check is another one, because we never got to that.
In ironic answer to Mick's question about Brian, almost exactly one month later, right before midnight on July 2, 1969, Brian Jones was found drowned in the swimming pool at Cotchford Farm, his house in Hartfield (formerly the home of A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh, and childhood home to Christopher Robin Milne), under circumstances that have never been satisfactorily explained, although a death-bed confession from a contractor working on the house at the time indicates that in fact Brian was murdered by this individual.
Some of the associated drama leading up to this sad ending also swirled through the doors at Bywater Street, but more about that later ...