Individualists Doing Their Own Thing

That day as I walked into the entrance of the Capitol Records tower I was tingling. We were going to record in the studios where legends such as Frank Sinatra, The Kingston Trio, Ella Fitzgerald (I pause here while people under 50 consult their history books. But take my word for it. They were icons in their day.) This place was Mecca for creative musical performers back then. You could sell a record album (Pause again for the young and middle aged to look that up. A record album was a flat black plastic disc the size of a large dinner plate that could hold almost one 500th as many songs as you can store in an I Pod. You could also sail them like a Frisbee. You could almost sail an album from the top of the Capitol Tower down to the corner of Hollywood and Vine, two star studded streets second only to Broadway in New York for show biz fame and glory.

Even the building itself was a creative symbol, built to resemble a stack of records (see previous explanation of records.) Not to make any old fogy comparisons, but you don’t see any famous music buildings today shaped like a stack of MP3’s.

I thought, “Surely this building must be constructed on springs to hold the creative energy exploding inside its round walls.”

The receptionist took our names and the purpose of our entering this hallowed hall. She called upstairs to make sure we were legitimate, and the security guard bade us pass. I wondered how long until we were on a first name basis with these people and so famous that this identification stuff would be ridiculous..

The glitter began to fade as I walked around (literally) the building and saw desks and behind them people on phones, typing memos, and shifting papers. It was looking suspiciously like an insurance company’s headquarters.

Many people looked “cool and far out” to use the vernacular then in vogue. But after awhile they began to look uniformly cool and far out. I overheard two people shocked by one of the middle managers wardrobe. “He wears white socks.”

Can you believe it?”

He says its doctor’s orders for a foot condition.”

“Whatever. You’d think he could wear something over them.”

Seemed to me an odd conversation from people involved in the non conformist pop music scene of the 1960’s. The stars of that decade seemed bent on reshaping not just the music, but the world into their creative image. They were proclaiming “Don’t trust anybody over 30.” Many of them professed to be not just entertainers, but intellectuals and philosophers with expertise in social relationships, foreign policy, and military tactics. As Truman Madsen, an authentic Harvard Ph. D. in philosophy once said to me, “The question today is, shall we follow the advice of Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan, or rely on military commanders, none of whom have a single hit record.”

Some of these pickers and singers were also learned theologians, preaching from their on stage pulpits that “God is dead.” Not everyone joined in the wake. I followed one bumper sticker that read, “My God is alive. Sorry about yours.” Apparently some people had replaced God with the Beatles; John Lennon once proclaimed, “We [the Beatles] are more popular than Jesus, and we will outlast him.” How did that turn out? A few years ago I read an account of. Paul McCartney being pulled over for speeding by a patrolman in Australia. The officer took one look into the car and said., “Hey I know who you are.”

Paul smiled a nonchalant “Who in the universe doesn’t?” smile.

The patrolman said. “No really. I know you. You used to be in The Rolling Stones.”

Other pop stars included psychological counseling with their music. The answer to the world’s problems they advised was free love and listening to Mother Mary (-juana’s) wisdom, “Let it Be.”

The overriding theme of this new wave in music was, “Do your own thing.” But the subtext seemed to be, “But it better be like our thing.” Someone suggested a slogan for the time, “Individualists of the world unite.”

The Three D’s didn’t fit the mold. With clean comedy, upbeat music, and unabashed flag waving we were paddling upstream many experts in the business said. But we chose to be true to who we really were. Fortunately, a fair number of people liked the direction we were paddling, and the little stream we chose to float on. Our first Capitol Records release contained our own musical recipe for happiness, “Give Said the Little Stream. I’m small I know, but wherever I go, the fields grow greener still”

Even if we had tried to join the mass march of the individualists we probably couldn’t have pulled it off. Somebody would have peeked into my cowboy boots and spied—you guessed it. White socks.