My girlfriend, my sister and I arrived back in Detroit from London on Saturday April 17th which was really depressing. There were no more castles, quaint shops, fog or cobblestones, but I could finally have a great cup of coffee, great food and go back to the rock clubs in Detroit for more music. The English bands were playing in America more than England. I found that out.
It was as though I had awakened from a dream. My new British clothing reminded me where I had been. I rested before returning to work the next Monday where I was employed as a secretary for a life insurance company. While in high school, I studied business courses in shorthand and typing therefore, I found a job easily after graduating.
(Since I haven’t spoken to some girlfriends in ages, I’ll refer to them as A and B)
About a week after being in London, my girlfriend A called and wanted to go to the Eastown Theatre rock club in Detroit. I really didn’t want to go out yet because I was still tired from jet lag and travel fatigue. I hadn’t caught up with my normal sleep pattern yet and I loved my sleep, but I was the one with the car and I didn’t like saying no to friends.
I drove to A’s house and she had her girlfriend B with her. She was someone I’d never met before. B was wearing short satin hot pants, high heels and had nice legs that caught a lot of attention from guys when we stopped for gas and she got out of the car.
The girls both seemed excited about something, but I didnt pay much attention. It was something about Keith Emerson from the Nice playing that night at the Eastown with a new band. I had heard of him and I liked his music. So, I decided to just go and do my best to get through the night.
I wore my new brown crepe pantsuit with the bow in the back that I bought from Biba’s, pink suede boots and pink sweater top. I always dressed a bit conservative because that’s the kind of person I was.
A little later after we entered the Eastown, A and B vanished somewhere so I roamed around the crowd looking for some friends to talk to. Strangely, I don’t remember watching the band play. Many times I didn’t watch bands play. They were background music to walking around and socializing with friends.
At the end of the night, after almost everyone had gone, I was waiting on the dance floor area where the theatre seats had been removed and where young people danced or stood to watch the bands. I was dancing around under the lights coming from the ceiling. Then, in the distance, I saw the girls talking and laughing with two guys and they were all walking towards the door.
Then I thought Are those two guys from the band? Then I quickly thought Aren’t there 3 guys in the band or something, so where is the third guy? My tired brain couldn’t keep up with it all. I felt like I was waiting again for someone I didn’t know, like I did at the Marquee in London. I felt stupid just standing there on the dance floor, so I started spinning around with my arms out and looking up at the lights in the ceiling. Then I heard a voice and I stopped and saw a very cute long haired guy coming towards me with a big smile that lit up the dark. I fell in love immediately, but I quickly turned around and started walking away. I felt a huge broken heart was inevitable and I wanted no part of it.
Then this guy said to me “Don’t you talk?” And I said “yes” and he said “Well say something”. I froze up and quickly tried to think of something to say, but I was so stunned that all I could think of was, “Do do goo goo da da”. And I kept walking. It was like I had talked, but it was more like baby talk. It was really silly and funny though. I can’t recall the next question but I remember saying “That’s all I want to say”. I felt that I didn’t make a very good impression.
He asked me who was driving and I said “I am”. And then he yelled out “shotgun”. So we caught up with everyone and we all got into my car. I had a very roomy blue 1964 Mercury Monterey. It had a power operated breezeway rear window. And when we drove down the road, it felt like a hardtop convertible, as the wind flowed through the interior.
At that time, I still didn’t know the name of the guy sitting in the front seat with me. My girlfriends and two guys in the backseat seemed to know each other well and were obviously having a good time, from all the laughing I could hear.
We arrived at the hotel and everyone got onto the elevator. Hearing the British accents of these guys, I figured they were the members of Keith Emerson’s new band, but I still didn’t know the names of the other two. I asked the guy, that I was supposedly paired off with, to say the word book. He said “book” and I said “Oh you don’t say bewk like the Beatles” and then he laughed. In the movie “A Hard Day’s Night”, Paul’s grandfather’s words to Ringo were “Would you look at him sitting there with his hooter scraping away at that bewk”. The experience of walking down the street, driving in a car and riding an elevator with a funny British rock band, who were laughing and acting silly, was like hanging out with the Beatles in the movie “A Hard Day’s Night”.
The elevator door opened and one of the guys got off with the hot pants girlfriend B. Then I realized that my girlfriend A was with Keith Emerson. This was rather weird as I didn’t even know these guys but my friends did.
I didn’t want to be a real prude and leave and drive home by myself. That would be even more dangerous and besides, all the British guys I had ever met seemed harmless.
The four of us went into Keith’s room. I felt a little uncomfortable about being there, but I liked the guy who I was with.
While everyone was talking, I couldn’t hear a word. I was quietly focused on the guy that I hadn’t formally met yet, but had fell in love with at first sight. He smiled a lot and had a happy easy going personality. He had a lovable, quirky sense of humor.
I was getting some pleasant vibes from him and wondered if he was getting them from me too. He had a noticeable childlike quality of wonder and excitement and I could relate to that easily because I still had mine too. He reminded me of my first childhood friend, the boy that lived next door. He obviously didn’t seem to be after sex which was a good thing, because I really didn’t know him.
Then finally, I asked him “So what is your name?” He seemed shocked and said “You don’t know who I am?” I said “no, I don’t”. He still couldn’t believe I didn’t know who he was. Then he said “I’m Carl Palmer”. I shouted out “You were at the Marquee Club in London the other night and so was I!” And he smiled.
It was really strange and so obvious that I was destined to meet this guy. Both of us being in the same place in London, then meeting each other 10 days later in Detroit. The strangest part for me was that I actually looked for him at the Marquee because I heard a guy say “Carl Palmer is here” and I liked his name and was curious as to who he was.
I can’t recall everything he said because my mind was in a whirl just talking to him. He said that he had been in the band The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Then I said “I saw them at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit”. (Years later I found out that drummer Drachen Theaker is the drummer on the hit song “Fire” and that Jeff Cutler was their drummer at the Grande when I was there)
So, the band that I hadn’t really bothered to watch that night was Emerson, Lake and Palmer and I was talking to their drummer. I think I may have asked him which instrument he played because I don’t think I knew at the time. That night, April 23, 1971 in Detroit, was the bands second gig of their first American tour as a supergroup.
We laughed and talked on the bed with our heads propped up with pillows against the headboard and he asked if I was going to take my boots off. And we laughed about that and so I took off my boots and jacket but that’s all.
I didn’t want to say that I liked him, but I know I gave it away with my smiling face and eyes. He said that I had fox eyes and he acted afraid. I didnt know what what he meant but I said “the better to see you with my dear”. He said that my eyes were green, but I said they were blue.
He was 21 and I was 19, but we were both like kids giggling under the covers and reciting nursery rhymes. He kissed me and it was nice. I knew I’d never forget his brown eyes.
I dont know when, but I fell asleep. I knew that my girlfriends would let me know when it was time to go home. I woke up and it was morning but he wasn’t there. Maybe he just wanted to go back to his own room. He wasn’t a stranger to me anymore.
The next night, I was back to the Eastown in Detroit and this time I decided to actually watch the band play. I sat on the fire escape steps on the side of the stage. That area was always a great spot. No one to get in your way. I knew I liked Carl a lot, but now I wanted to see how well he could play. He went way beyond my expectations. I fell in love with his drumming too. The band was amazing and I sat there stunned and in awe.
There was something about his drumming that was so much more intriguing than any other drummer I’d ever heard. He incorporated a military style to progressive rock music. As a kid, I loved to march along to the sound of drums in parades.
It was the instrumental piece called “Aquatarkus” from their second album called Tarkus that really caught my attention. The title track “Tarkus” has seven movements and “Aquatarkus” is the final one. (By 1977 ELP improved on that piece, playing it much faster and making it much more complex and Carl plows right through it with precision and speed) I would have to say that that album was my favorite. They played tracks from the album before it was released.
This night was when and where I was inspired to take up the drums. I didn’t really care about getting in a band, I just wanted to learn how to play drums a bit like Carl. Watching him play from above was incredible.
My first drum teacher was a jazz drummer. So I had a good start learning all the rolls, flams and paradiddle rudiments. I loved playing and bought my teachers Rogers drum kit.
After that concert, I can’t recall what was said or who I talked to. I had fallen in love again, with the drums this time and I was in a fog, probably from the joint I was smoking on the fire escape.
I know I went home after the concert though. Maybe I couldn’t wait to buy some drumsticks.
One Saturday night at a party at the home of a friend’s brother, I was sitting on the sofa and was actually thinking about Carl when I looked to my right and saw his face on an album cover. He looked so cute. There were many other albums situated against a shelf, but the back of this album was in front. I picked it up and looked it over. The album was a 1970 British import and the title of the album was Atomic Roooster and the cover art was of a big green bird in a glass display case and it had women’s breasts. The name of the band was Atomic Rooster. One of its band members was Vincent Crane who was also in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown band with Carl and who co wrote their famous hit song Fire.
I hadn’t recalled Carl mentioning being in this band, but it was so cool how I found the album by coincidence. I went to a record store to special order it and it was great to add to my collection. The music on it is brilliant. Years later I wasn’t surprised to learn that Carl was hesitant to leave them to form the new band Emerson Lake & Palmer. He and Vincent Crane left Arthur Brown to form Atomic Rooster. My favorite songs on the album are Winter, Decline and Fall and Friday the 13th. For me, this album really showcases the distinctive drum style of Carl Palmer. I still listen to this album today. Vincent Crane (Vincent Cheesman) who played Hammond organ and piano was a very gifted musician and song writer.
While writing this I looked up the concert dates for London’s Marquee Club and on April 13, 1971, Atomic Rooster played there. That’s the night we were both there, but didn’t meet. He must have gone to check them out before going on the American tour with ELP.
I believe the date was May 14, 1971, that I and three of my girlfriends went to the Public Hall in Cleveland Ohio to see an Emerson Lake & Palmer Concert. I was basically going to see Carl, but his drumming and the music was an added bonus. The two girls that had been with Keith and Greg, when we first met them all, didn’t go with us.
When my girlfriends and I got there the band hadn’t arrived yet, but the promoters allowed us to wait in the dressing room, which was pretty cool.
I was wearing a really nice brown suede jacket with snakeskin trim and had a purse to match. I bought them locally in metro Detroit and I was thrilled to find it. My snakeskin boots hadn’t arrived from England yet, so I needed boots to match. I found a beautiful pair of brown suede boots that laced in front up to the knee. They were a bit similar to the style that Emerson usually wore. And under my jacket was my crimson red hot pants suit.
The dressing room had several tables with the usual bright lights over the mirrors. So we made ourselves comfortable. I was tired from all the driving, so I put my feet up on the table and started to take a nap, when all of a sudden the doors flew open and all the members of the band walked in. I quickly took my feet off the dressing table, sat up straight and smiled very innocently, like I didn’t steal anything.
They were all happy to see us though. Carl immediately came over to me and asked if I still had that car I had driven them in. I said no that I had a new car. He had an interest in cars and driving that’s for sure.
They started to get undressed, so I left the dressing room. I was walking around backstage and there were rows of thick velvet theatre curtains and I started mindlessly walking up and down them and started wondering whether Carl liked me or not. Then I couldn’t find my way out and I tried to find the opening. When I finally did, Carl was standing there as if he was looking for me.
Without saying anything, he walked straight up to me. We were standing face to face and eye to eye and he moved forward and kissed me. We were the exact same height. Even though it was a pleasant moment, like we became one, I had an eerie feeling that it would be part of a much bigger picture and would affect future events. I brushed it off but never forgot about it.
We started walking together and talking. I remember telling him that he was a great drummer and that their song “Knife Edge”was my favorite. He talked about what touring was like for him and where he’d be going next.
During the show I was standing on the side of the stage watching them play. Then during Carl’s drum solo, Greg Lake came over and stood next to me and put his arm around my shoulder. I felt horribly uncomfortable. I didn’t want Carl to think I liked Greg. Some of the people in the audience could see us. I’m sure some other girl would have been thrilled by it. I hated it and was afraid if I made Greg angry he’d would have had me thrown out of the place. You never how some rock stars might react. Maybe he did it to make Carl mad so he’d play faster. I think it worked.
After the show in the dressing room, when Carl saw me look at him, he quickly looked down at the floor. So I figured that he wasn’t interested in me anymore. I thought what kind of game are these guys playing? Greg was only like a friend to me. Then Greg wanted a ride to the hotel and he followed me to my room where I was staying with my girlfriends. He walked right in with me and started looking around the room and even walked across the bed. One of my girlfriends who didn’t go to the concert was standing there with rollers in her hair wearing one piece pajamas with the trap door in the back. When she saw Greg she screamed and ran into the bathroom. She was so mad at me.
The whole time I kept asking Greg what he wanted. Then at the elevator, he finally looked at me and rolled his eyes and left. Maybe he was looking for B, the girlfriend that he was with the first night we met them. But she didn’t come with us on this trip. Or maybe Carl was trying to pawn me off onto Greg, so he’d have an excuse to dump me. But I was loyal the whole time.
It was more than just the drummer, it was drums and the music too.
So, I continued to follow the music, my heart and what I thought was my path. Pleasant or not, it all seemed like the road I was meant to be on.
Coming soon.. chapter 5 more ELP, meeting Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd