Early Years

I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a small university town 50 miles west of Detroit.

As a kid I loved all rock and roll music. At age 8, that would be 1959 or '60, I was

given a small transistor radio. Solid state technology was new then. I listened to that

radio all night long, and fell asleep on the bus on the way to school.

 

In the early sixties I was into surf instrumentals, by bands like The Ventures,

The Surfaris, Dick Dale and the Del Tones. Also movie themes like James Bond and

Mondo Cane, Ennio Morricone stuff. I liked the British sounds that were available,

especially things produced by Joe Meek like the Tornadoes. I didn't learn of the

Shadows until much later. I loved the girl groups like The Crystals, The Chiffons,

The Shangri-Las. The Philly sound - The Dovells and The Orlons. All the Red Bird

stuff, the Ronettes. The Phil Spector wall of soundamazes me to this day, production

wise. How they did it with just 2 mikes and everything live.

 

About the only thing I didn't like was some of the folk stuff at the time, apart from the Kingston Trio. Hot rod music was cool. Radio was pretty good back then, things weren't very commercial or market driven because really big money hadn't found it's way into music yet.

 

I just kept listening to everything that came along until the British invasion in 1964-65. After that I was much more focused on the big groups, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, and The Kinks. That was it for a while. I went to a mostly black junior high school and so at school we listened to a lot of Motown at lunchtime and at dances. I dug that too but liked the beat groups better.

I loved all of the one hit garage band stuff that started cropping up around '65 and '66, like the Shadows of Night. I thought their version of Gloria was the only one. Never knew about Them at that time. All these gaps in my early listening were filled in by Rob Younger and his extensive singles collection later on.

 

Those early garage bands in the mid sixties presaged the punk movement of the mid to late 70's in that here were guys that couldn't really play, just going for it. Anybody could be cool if you grew long hair, dressed like Brian Jones and played electric guitar. At that time that was the coolest thing you could do. Now, kids want to become computer hackers or just ride skateboards and dress like gang bangers. That's what is cool now. No kid wants to play guitar or drums in 1998.

 

I started playing the guitar around 1964 at age 12. In '65, I got in a band with Roger Miller. We did Kinks songs. We never really played anywhere, maybe a couple of parties, mostly just practiced in our basement at my parents house. Roger went on to be in many bands including the famous Mission of Burma and now still makes great records on SST. His little twin brothers Larry and Ben were in Destroy All Monsters with Ron and Niagara. Roger showed me the possibilities that were there.

 

The first actual live band I saw was the Rationals who had a hit locally with their cover of Otis Redding's Respect. They played at our school. Most of the other bands I saw up through 1966 were other kids' bands at parties.

 

I spent 1967 in Australia with my parents. Didn't see any bands, just listened to the radio. That was when I became aware of great stuff like The Masters Apprentices, The Purple Hearts, Phil Jones and the Unknown Blues. Music TV was so awful then. Little Patty, Tommy Rowe. I can't count that stuff as "influences" except in a negative sense. Music TV now is no better.

 

When I got back to the USA in 1968 I had missed the "Summer Of Love". Everything had changed. The radio was full of Hendrix, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver, etc. Everybody was smoking pot and taking acid. It had not yet degenerated to speed and heroin, although that was inevitable. FM radio started, and all these little local independent stations started up. There was some great ones out of Detroit. The greatest was WABX, transmitting from high atop the David Stott Building. The DJ's were rebel outlaws, they played anything, there was revolution in the air. Again, a fantastic time for listening. The great DJs were Dennis Frawley and JC Crawford.

 

The other thing I noticed when I got back to Ann Arbor was a new batch of local bands that were pretty good. The local version of psychedelic rock and roll was way harder, faster and more blue collar influenced, while being much farther out than the west coast stuff. The possible exception is Blue Cheer who should've been a Detroit band. Our local bands could and did bury anything coming out of SF, LA or NYC at that time. They included the Stooges, from Ann Arbor, and the MC5 who came from Detroit but moved to Ann Arbor around '68. There were others but the Stooges and the 5 stand out.

 

I was deeply influenced by these bands and a huge light bulb went on inside my head when I saw what they could do to people in a live performance. The attitude and spirit was beyond anything. People were driven to madness. "That", I said, "That is what I want to do." When these bands played out, in New York or San Francisco, they destroyed the competition and the audiences, even when the competition were bands like Cream, The Yardbirds, etc. All who witnessed this music were influenced by it. It's where I got my live performance ouvre. It's all well documented.

 

In 1969 I went to see the Rolling Stones play in Detroit at a small ice hockey stadium. I had been a Stones fan since "Satisfaction" hit in '65, my only regret was not seeing them with Brian...he was the coolest...at least I saw all the Ed Sullivan Show performances with him. Anyway they were tremendously powerful. There was nothing like them. Keith's rhythm playing is probably my biggest influence, technically speaking.

 

OK, so it's Keith for rhythm, Fred and Wayne for lead, Iggy for vocals, and Brian Jones for look. Unfortunately I could never have that hair ... wrong genetics.

 

I moved to Australia in 1972. Nothing was going on much musically in Australia. No good local bands. All mired in the post hippy, drugged out phase. There were the occasional mega groups on tour. I went to see Zeppelin, was unimpressed. I lived in a student house where I was introduced to Captain Beefheart. I liked the craziness of it, but didn't really incorporate it into my own stuff at all until decades later.

 

The next year, I became friends with Rob (Younger). We got into records. He had heaps. We would sit around and play records and smoke and drink and marvel over this or that or the other cool sound. We filled in each other's gaps, although Rob knew about a lot more stuff than me.

 

The next big influences were the release of Raw Power, the first three Blue Oyster Cult albums, and the New York Dolls. We listened to them as much as anything and I guess that was, on top of everything else up to that point, the springboard for a lot of what we did in Radio Birdman.