Chris Palladino:
Record Detective

Notorious Byrd Brothers


ANNOUNCER: The Record Detective peered down with red variegated peepers at the half-empty goblet of stale orange pekoe staring back up at him from the floor. Transfixed by contemplating his own image reflected in the cold calm after his all-night highly caffeinated private platter party, he sat there half hypnotized by the glistening glass ashtrays prisming the first rays of the rising sun. As always, they were as immaculately empty as his life, for he doesn't smoke, and no one who did dared to show up for his thrilling lectures on the lost worlds of the LP. He thinks about it though, smoking, that is. Perhaps as just another prop to hold up his sagging ego, like Sammy Davis Jr. and many others whose lips wrapped around a butt seemed give them reassurance that one day they'd make their mark, even if it was only as a statistic in the ever growing genealogy of the cancer census. One does a lot of thinking about inconsequential things when you're a defect disc dick with nothing better to fill up the vacuum of your life but the accumulation of pressed plastic.

Our hero thinks he's really onto something though, and in his personal excitement he wants to share it desperately with somebody, anybody, anybody who'll listen, even if it's just a face rippling in the bottom of a cracked cup. The roles are cast. The house lights have dimmed. You're in your seat and the curtain is rising on yet another unrelenting episode ripped from the tea stained typewriter of... The Record Detective.

RECORD DETECTIVE: Questions, questions, questions... More questions than answers. Time is not tangible or as countable as the little tiny divots on a tangerine peel. Is the proof in the platter, or am I just paddling the pudding? Denuded and deprived of any downright meaningful relationship, I hunker down here on the floor like a squashed slimy salamander with a helluva hallucinogenic hangover on the highway to hell. My misguided mistresses, well stacked and lined up on end, stare back at me, aching for me to take them into my arms, hold them to the naked light of day and spin them, needle in groove on the turntables of my mind until I'm all played out, a polygamous pontiff of polyvinyl pulchritude.

I'd been pouring over the back pages of an old Firesign fan magazine, like an overloaded bedpan in a beer bladder ward, when I fixed on this missive from a fellow fanatic who said he had a Byrds reissue CD with liner notes that claimed that the 4 or 5 Krazee Guys supplied "gunshots" to one of the songs. That was it, no more info, nor was nary a reply given. One didn't have to be eight miles high to get a jolt from a statement like that. It seemed a little too specific to be dismissed out of hand. A Byrd in the hand is worth two in the bush, but I couldn't dwell on such things, as I was hard on a case now. I re-fastened my belt and walked over to the record rack.

I had a couple of Byrds albums I hadn't used for skeet shooting, so I gave them a gander and found it, plain as a purple bubo in the pit of a plague pigeon, popping up in the program notes of a compilation CD called "Never Before". It claimed that from July 31 through August 3, 1967, while recording their album "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" in the Columbia Hollywood Studios at Sunset and Gower, the flighty flyboy warblers laid down a track called "Draft Morning" with gunshots courtesy of, you guessed it, THE FIRESIGN THEATRE. It was produced by Gary Usher, the same guy that put together "Waiting For The Electrician". What was this? Another tattered psychedelic remnant from the faded tie-dye of the "Summer of Love"? I dropped the dingus disc in the seedy player and dittoed the ditty's digits and waited for the cannon fodder from the Firesigners. In the background of the Byrd's dreary dirge were some battlefield sounds and I thought I heard David Ossman shout some commands to the taped troops.

So I did my self dedicated duty as a down and dirty disc dick and did the dialing deal once again to the senior 'signer, David Ossman.

DAVID OSSMAN: THE FIRESIGN THEATRE doing gunshots on a "Notorious Byrd Brothers" album? I remember that album. Not me, I never had anything to do with it. How bizarre,? No, I don't know anything about it, nor do I have a copy, I think, of "The Notorious Byrd Brothers".

RECORD DETECTIVE: I struck out like an Baltimore Oriole ogling a screwball pitched by a Toronto Blue Jay. I batted an eye at my little black book and got on the horn to blow the blues to Phil Austin, the next batter up.

PHIL AUSTIN: I think that that is probably true. In other words, I don't know what Gary used from us, but probably something. I don't have a copy of it and it's one of those things that I know about as much of as you do. I don't know. I can confirm, yeah we worked with Gary. He was doing some Byrd's project at the same time. We were all loosely in the same social circle at that time. I would imagine that that's true, but I can't for the life of me think what it would be. I have no idea, I don't have a clue, I don't know.

RECORD DETECTIVE: A bunt, but I was thrown out at first. I didn't have to spit in the face of an umpire to know that I was about to be tossed out of the game. Next up to the plate, Peter Bergman. I balked before phoning the preppy pitchman of the Firesign team. He had a swing that could knock you out of the park, and send you to the showers for good. What the hell, you only live once. A quick query landed only an answering machine that would never get you an answer. A walk. I sighed a relief and stepped back up to the rubber. I saved my best pitch for last and hurrahed the fast ball king of Firetalk, Phil Proctor.

PHIL PROCTOR: Never heard of it. Yeah, that's possible. I was a friend of David Crosby, at that time. So that's possible, but it could have been through me instead of the whole group. But boy, I forgot that. That's ancient history, I forgot that one. It's resonating, like gun shots do in my head, but the details, I'm not sure. I would have to get in touch with David Crosby to find out. That was the time period when we were playing around because at that time, Columbia had a lot of people in the studio. It was like a real artist's commune. You would look out and see some star waiting to use the studio or using another studio and that was real nice. I mean that made it feel like a record company, which is all gone now, of course.

It's around that time that we did Chad and Jeremy's "Of Cabbages and Kings". Of course the Byrds were very popular and were wandering the halls as well. So it's very possible that we supplied them with some gun shots. But that's a wonderful memory, I've forgotten all about it. "Draft Morning", "BEAT THE REAPER", I don't know. The Draft, "BEAT THE REAPER". The reason I said "BEAT THE REAPER" with the Draft was, Yale used the "BEAT THE REAPER" concept. You remember when they had the Lottery. The class of '72 or whenever the hell it was, one of the classes at Yale used to use "BEAT THE REAPER", as their synonym for the Lottery. You would beat the Reaper if you didn't get chosen to be sent to Vietnam. That's why I said the Draft, it might be connected with that, you see.

RECORD DETECTIVE: THE FIRESIGN THEATRE on Chad and Jeremy's "Of Cabbages And Kings"? But I don't have that record! I'd better get my Nick Danger hat and hit the Rescue Mission, pronto!

ANNOUNCER: What was the FIRESIGN / Byrds connection? The studio logs show that the House of Usher was built by many artisans, THE FIRESIGN THEATRE, Chad and Jeremy, The Byrds and who knows who else. And who isn't talking. Once again, just when our boy feels he's got a handle, shoveling the dirt on the situation, he finds he's just dug another hole for himself. And so, we leave our guy, at home, but not alone. No, he's got all the company he feels he needs; empty ashtrays, a teapot, a telephone, a typewriter, and enough records, tapes and CD's to just about balance his feverish passion with phantom fixity. Or does he? All he's REALLY got for his efforts this episode is a few non-answers, more questions, and a Chad and Jeremy album to find, but that's another case for the bulging files of... The Record Detective.