Friday, June 26, 2009

Au Revoir, Sky Saxon of The Seeds

It's been quite a week of celebrity death. I'm still reeling from the concept of a world minus Michael Jackson. I literally grew up hearing Michael Jackson (and his brothers) and have watched a lot of people joyfully dance and sing along to Michael Jackson. He was truly one of a kind and I will miss him, even if he was struggling for the last decade or so. There was something delicate and vulnerable to him, even as a confident child pop star. When I was child, I sensed a sadness there. He loomed large in my subconscious in troublesome, not very comforting ways, but I LOVED him and his phenomenal talent just the same.

Farrah Fawcett was an interesting sex symbol. She really did all kinds of stuff to avoid being called that, yet who was sexier in the 70s? It's always sad to watch someone fight against their natural abilities (in her case: photographing sexy), but she was so effortlessly "watchable" and that face! That smile! An Earthbound goddess. Another dark figure though. Leaving "Charlie's Angels" after only one season. "The Burning Bed"--yikes. Ryan O'Neal--I know the man is grieving, but I'm going to say it, "YIKES." We'll always remember her golden glow and although her bathing-suit poster is a classic, I liked the one of her on the skateboard better. I used to ride a skateboard, so that probably explains that.

Then there was Sky Saxon. His death made me personally sad because I briefly knew him in a surreal and perfectly Sky Saxon way. My band She Mob once played a Halloween show at the Purple Onion and he figured prominently that night. I can't adequately explain the atmosphere of early 90s-era Purple Onion, suffice to say, it's in a basement, so it was necessary to lug musical equipment downstairs in order to play there (once manager and famous nut-case Tom Guido showed up to unlock the gate and let you in).

As you descended into this literally underground realm, all sorts of oddball San Francisco history wafted around you, starting with the 60s comedy scene (think: Phyllis Diller, just starting out) and then rolling into a garage-rock venue that was passionately overseen by Guido and his intense need for 60s fuzztone soundz.

All that intensity played out in interesting and often indescribable ways. Like the time we opened for Brian Jonestown Massacre and watched as a member (ahem) of the band got a blowjob pretty much out on the floor in front of everyone before going on stage and blowing us all (ahem) away. These happenings were nothing compared to the bi-polar wrath that Guido could dish out at any moment to anyone for any (usually imagined) reason. He adored our band but it was an edgy sort of love.

So there we were, dressed as a bad acid trip (it was Halloween in North Beach!) with our friends dressed as an Easter Island statue, a port-o-let, a glamorous drag queen (made more so by the general disgruntlement of the drag queen being stuck in a basement in North Beach on Halloween), and memorably, death himself, who we thought was a Halloween prop until it moved and started dancing around to one of our songs. All went well. Even Tom Guido was thrilled by our newest 60s-inspired pop tune.

When Sky Saxon took the stage after us, Tom suddenly announced that we would be backing him. We looked around in our bad acid finery, saying, "Whu-WHAT?" until he explained that that's how Sky Saxon always worked nowadays. He played with whatever opening band was billed that night, sang over their songs in his own made-up-on-the-spot lyrics, and recorded it for his pending record release. Well, once that was explained, all became clear. As mud. Being up for anything (we once dressed as Power Puff girls, wearing towels as capes), we were happy to help out a 60s icon. It was a thrill to play music with the guy who sang "Pushin' to hard on meeeee" so urgently.

So we proceeded to play our entire set over again while Saxon did his thing out front. According to my friend, Laura (Easter Island statue of the night), it was beyond memorable. We were possibly suffering too much from a contact high from the entire evening to even understand what was being sung and spoken to our music. It was strange, surreal fun and I'm really glad we got a chance to play with the guy, who was a very nice, soft-spoken individual. I don't know if the record ever got made. I was so curious to listen to it over the years.

Eons later, we emerged from our Berkeley rehearsal studio one evening and there was Sky, hanging out with the guy who rented a the warehouse next door. He started explaining who he was to us before I interrupted with, "We know who you are. We PLAYED with you once! Remember?" He puzzled over that and admitted that he might remember us vaguely. I just loved that guy. Every meeting with him was funny in a pleasant and interesting way.

Here's some photos from the Halloween show.

Sky is sitting in the middle next to his (extremely sweet) wife. His friends all around him.
Sky Saxon at the Purple Onion, San Francisco
Here's our bad acid look. Classy as always.

This was the most popular costume in Castro Street history that week. Laura could work wonders with a laundry basket and paper mache.
Our friend Neo, holding the orb; a glowing, flashing, globe-on-a-stick that emitted thunderous sound effects. Neo really knows how to make an entrance.

The Seeds - Can't Seem to Make you Mine (Thanks Stereo Steve)


Tuckers said...

Ah yes, I remember that port-o-let costume! So many people tried to avail themselves of it's services while I was in it!

The best thing about the Easter Island head costume that Laura did was her sexy legs in fishnet stockings and the tap shoes. She tap danced herself into the hearts of Castro Street that year! Though I think she received repetitive stress injuries from the weight of it, all for the cause of art!

J Neo Marvin said...

Thanks for the memories. I wore out that orb, taking it to every show I went to. Setting it off was more fun than the usual clapping.

Was it you guys who told me later that Guido was upset because I took the good orb instead of the bad one? All I remember is he gave it to me quite ceremoniously and I got a lot of use out of it.

Coincidentally, "Feel So Good", one of my favorite Brian Jonestown Massacre tracks ever, just came up on the radio station.

Hope your resettlement is coming along fine.

Lisa Mc said...

Tuckers, I will scan that photo I have of you as a port-o-let. I ran out of time before the big move and it got packed away. But I will dig it out and memorilize your Halloween handiwork for as long as Blogger shall live.

Neo, Tom was angry about many things. The orb was just one more. I do remember he was wearing an orange shirt with a giant question mark on it that night and it all made some kind of perfect sense.