Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Farnham Chronicles - "The Band Years"

One day, I believe it was in the summer of 1979, a rumor went around the neighborhood that there was a Genuine Rock Band living in our midst. Naturally, this was very exciting news for our little forgotten neck of the Long Beach woods. Sidenote: our neighborhood was the result of a surveyor's screw-up and which led to our street being divided into completely separate towns and counties. The people who lived on THAT end of the street went to different schools and their property values were much higher than those of us who lived on THIS side of the dividing line. If you want to see for yourself, go to Google Earth and type in 3521 Farnham Avenue Long Beach Ca 90815. That surveyor must have done his surveying after a three martini lunch to screw up that badly.

Ok, back to the topic. So. There was a Rock Band living on our street but where? Which house? Who was it? Was it anyone famous? We went down the list of unfamiliar faces on our street but came up blank for anyone who fit the Rock Band image. Oh, there was this group of scruffy, oddly dressed characters who had moved into the Langston's old house a few doors down but obviously, they weren't Rock Star material. I mean just look at them! Straggly, pasty white, dressed in obvious thrift store threads. So not a Rock Band image. So who could it be? Only one person knew:
but Tippy had been sworn to secrecy because The Band, as they were referred to from Day One instead of their "real" name, didn't want to be disturbed by screaming fans. But after consulting with The Band (not "The Band" of Robbie Robertson and The Last Waltz fame), he agreed to introduce us. And it WAS the scruffy and pasty cast of characters living in the Langston's old house. Really? SUCH a disappointment in the looks department, especially as I was hoping for something along the lines of Robert Plant meets David Lee Roth. But hey, a Rock Band is a Rock Band and this rock band had Connections. Hey! Maybe we'll become good friends with The Band and they can get us into concerts and maybe even backstage!

As it turned out, that's exactly what happened. It wasn't hard to make friends. With three attractive teenage daughters and parents who prided themselves as being "hip", it was only a matter of time before The Band and the Perkins Family were thisclose. We provided them with meals and a place at the Famous Dining Room table and they provided us with free concert tickets AND backstage passes! When you're 16 years old and you're backstage without having to provide sexual favors, you are on top of the world!

During The Band Years of Farnham Avenue, several events stand out in memory. The first was when The Band played a gig at Knott's Berry Farm (of all places). As they were concluding their set, they announced that everybody was invited back to the house for a post-concert party and by God, everybody came! Hundreds of people streaming in and out. I can't believe the neighbors didn't call the police.

Event Number Two was when The Band was chosen to be the opening act of one of the big summer concerts held at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Journey! Black Sabbath! And The Band opening the show! And again, free tickets and backstage passes to THE concert event of the summer!

Another event was meeting the man who was their Tour Manager. Joe was quite a famous tour manager, Van Halen being one of his groups, and he was full of energy, which I'm sure was enhanced by the use of Peruvian Marching Powder but he was a heck of a nice guy. A little story about Joe: one night, we, meaning our family, The Band and whoever was hanging out at the Dining Room Table, ordered pizza for dinner and someone had to go and pick it up. Joe tossed me the keys to his vintage Camaro and told me I could take his car. After standing there gaping at him for a minute or two, I had to confess that I did not know how to drive (since nobody in my family could bother teaching me, Bitter Moment #61). Joe still let me drive to get the pizza (it was only a block away) and for the next few weeks, he would be waiting outside of school when I got out so that we could continue my driving lessons. How many teenagers can claim they were taught to drive by Van Halen's tour manager?

But the most memorable event of The Band Years was the infamous Halloween Party of 1980 at the local Elks Lodge. Music was provided by Johnny and the TV Dinners From Mars (The Band's alter-egos) performing their hit, "Can I See You Marie?" which was inspired by one of the road crew's unrequited love for Marie Osmond. There was also the surprise appearance by Flo & Eddie, aka "The Turtles" who sang their classic hit, "Happy Together" (Me & you and you and me...). This Halloween party was THE Social Event of 1980 and everybody begged to be invited. It was quite amusing to go back to school and hear the Have Nots claim to have been there and everyone knew that *I was one of the Elite and they Were Not.

The Band put out two albums under two different names but neither cracked the charts and they never really "made it." Eventually, the members all went their separate ways as did the Perkins Family.

After a couple years of fun, excitement and chaos, The Band Years of Farnham Avenue had come to a close.

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