I will always have the music inside me. It’s like the ending of Casablanca, where Bogart and Bergman stand by the airplane in the fog saying goodbye to each other. He doesn’t get on the plane, she does. She knows he’s not coming, she cannot do anything about it. She has to go with her husband. There is no ending at that point, even though it’s the end of the film. Then, at the last moment, he hugs her and tells her just before she boards, “We’ll always have Paris.”
And so their love will live on, even though they’ll forever be apart. Paris was their past, their interlude—away from the harsh world of WW2. Paris, where they had their love affair before she got married. The ending of the film a cinematic masterpiece. We’ll always have Paris. No one can take that away from them. And so I will always have the music. No one can take that away from me. I’ll never see any of the famous (and infamous) rock groups I saw back in 1967-68, but the music lives on. I have it inside of me. My interlude.
Denver was a lava bed for great music back in its heyday. In those halcyon days we could go on down to The Denver Family Dog and see the likes of Cream, the Doors, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, or Canned Heat. The latter didn’t perform the night I was supposed to have seen them; they were busted and hauled off to jail right before going on stage. Someone told me the pot was planted by a narc, and I believe it. Their song “My Crime” rose out of that experience. Van Morrison and the Grateful Dead also made appearances, just to name a few. All these shows—for peanuts, three or four bucks a head, a fraction of what you’d pay today to see top-rated bands that, frankly, aren’t as good as the old ones of yore. That’s my opinion, anyway. The Denver Family Dog—just a stone’s throw away from where I lived on East Evans Street. September 8, 2017 will be its fiftieth anniversary.
Today I sit in a rocking chair on my deck, looking out over the green where I live. Out here on the West Coast. Far away from Colorado. Back then, I’d be sitting on a back porch in Denver on South Williams Street, a Triumph 650 Bonneville TT parked out back on a brown lawn turning to sand in the relentless sun, the bike raked and ready for a sleek flight across the country. Or just a hop, skip and a jaunt to the 7-Eleven for some more beer and Ripple. The turntable inside would be whirring out an album, spinning the Doors or the Beatles or some Bluegrass band, maybe the High Lonesome sound of Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys. Stoned on Bluegrass is a trip and a half. Whatever I was playing was turned up so high the rafters rocked. The speakers placed, as usual, on either side of my head. I’d roll a joint, light it up and settle back until I was one with the chair, a can of Millers on the coffee table in front of me. The table was made out of an old tree trunk I found in a ditch. My feet up, head back, a copy of Bukowski’s Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live with Beasts on my lap, drifting….
The Past is Never Past
I prefer to vape now, my old, scarred lungs not able to take much smoke and fire. Or I’ll munch down on a brownie or a cookie made by a good friend. Then, it’s off to find Alice in Wonderland when we wandered together back in Denver—if I can keep my mind on such delicacies. If I could I’d travel back in body, not spirit…time travel, if you will. I’d still have my bike and I’d ride it through the wormhole big enough for a Buick. The bike would morph into the Jabberwocky and I’d end up in the Land of Sun, Colorado 1967 and ‘68. To hear Cream again, or the Doors. All of them seemingly churning the mists of time, so we could hear them today as they were yesterday. As real as my fading memory—which is sketchy, at best. I can’t pretend to recall all the concerts I attended, nor can I remember the set lists, but I can remember what I believe are the better parts of the performances. Still, the music seems blurred, blended together as though someone had stitched a tapestry together, the many bands all playing at once, ending up in the same place at the same time—but, of course, on different dates. If that makes any sense. Only if you’re stoned. Only if you’re stoned.
Denver Family Dog
The Denver Family Dog was a short-lived enterprise, the sibling of the San Francisco Family Dog, its big brother night club. Lasted a less than two years, but what a two years it was. A mysterious affair, even back then, when I went to some of the shows. Now it’s a strip club in a rectangular building. Still, the original footprint remains; but of course, in my psychedelic mind, it’s nothing like the original. Although I cannot for the life of me dredge up what the hell it looked like back then. I have no photographs, nor can I find any. I ask my friends who went with me and they draw a blank as well. We didn’t have smartphones. We went to hear music, and the folks I was with didn’t think to bring cameras. Too bulky, got in the way.
I was too stoned to remember what happened on those nights of starry wonder, what with the liquid light shows that accompanied the bands and the sometimes overwhelming volume of the music. My eyes and ears have never been the same since. The crowd was out of control most of the time, raucous and loud. Even though there were no drinks served inside. We went fortified to the hilt. Snuck smokes on the sly—inside—away from the shadowy narcs we knew were lurking nearby, ready to plant evidence in your back pockets. You had to watch your back. The next day—if you got through the night—well, that was always headachy, good-time-was-had-by-all blur, because I knew, even though I felt like I had wastewater on whatever brain I had left, that I had had the time of my life.
The Music Will Never End
Today, the music is still is inside me. There is no day the music died. Or will ever die. I can still bring it all up at will, liquid poetry of ascending and descending notes rolling through my head. Tripping back to 1967-68 at the Denver Family Dog. I will always have the music—like Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman will always have Paris.