Greenwich Village 1969; alive with genius and stylish desperation

Greenwich Village 1969; alive with genius and stylish desperation

“History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved

The Village 1969; alive with genius and stylish desperation. The greatest hive of creativity in the world, the main artery of art, pulsing up through your body, activating your mind. But everyone on the street looked almost colorless tonight, and soundless, as I peered out the soundproofed blacked out window, insulated in the backseat. Cruising through Bleecker and Macdougal, Sam, the  children’s clothing magnate and new producer /manager of my Florida folk rock band looked at me in the rear view mirror from behind his leather wrapped steering wheel. “Baahhdddy…” He drawled in Yiddish Manhattan. “…you going to be RRRich Man someday..” My  college girlfriend/ CIA recruiter was sitting next to me, squeezing my hand, letting me know she wanted sex, here in the backseat of Sam’s new El D. She had great plans for this kid. She was taking him around, showing him the sights, hanging out with the soon to be rock star but also, as per her unspoken agenda, underground antiwar informer for Spooks Unlimited.

We met with a music publisher, an old friend of Sam’s. He gave me a song he wanted recorded. It had been a hit in Sweden, or Norway or someplace up there. Lyrics were in Swedish but this Tin Pan Alley publisher guy had them translated by some cretin. He wanted my band to cut the song for an American release. I didn’t want to do it, but Sam was smoothly coercive, just like my girlfriend.

Back in our Tampa recording studio we reluctantly recorded a version of this very lame folk song about music being played in a very conservative church for the first time. The society was opening up back then, and this concept of live folk music in a church was big news. “The Beat” was pushing itself into the sacred domain of religion in cultures that had no youthful energy in their Sunday services. There were a lot of these kids, so the churches reluctantly opened up to the concept of live music as part of their service that had not changed for hundreds of years.  The groove was finally becoming undemonized. It was heartening news all over but I certainly didn’t like this arrangement, or the lyrics. It of course became our first single and it went up the charts on Billboard. It was humiliating. Our album was never released, probably because I decided that playing house with “Maggie May”, my college CIA coyote, was a little too rich and dangerous for my blood.  My mother had warned me about her, “Buddy, don’t get involved with a woman that has more problems than you.”

“History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm©2014 all rights reserved

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