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The Songwriter Who Tore Time Asunder - Part 1, Amboy Dukes / Who - 1967 Southfield High

Original DIY GANG promo picture (Steve Farmer in shades) next to Greg Arama.

I had awoken a bit groggy this morning. No surprise, considering my excursion with the SRC at the Magic Bag the night before. Brewing some coffee, I ordered up for breakfast, then checked my calendar just to confirm the date. Ah yes, present time, I thought to myself. This is good—or is it?

I opened the hotel curtains and stood at the window for several minutes, gazing at Windsor on the other side of the glistening Detroit river.  Figuring that some music might perk me up, I turned on the bedside radio. Some local station was spinning psychedelic classics—just the ticket to stimulate my drowsy mind.

I was really enjoying the retro ‛60’s tunes. But then a song came on that really blew my mind:
‟You’re got to redefine yourself...If you wish to find...The crystal visions of an open mind...And it’s easy, it’s easy, it’s oh so easy to do....” 1
Astounded, I turned up the volume on ‟Starvation” by one of acid rock’s most eternal bands—Golden Dawn. Their groovy sound and insightful lyrics filled the room.... I was diggin’ the way the music was opening up my eyes and mind. How much better could this get? What a way to start a day!

An original GANG flyer '63

Lighting up a joint while still groovin’ with the tune, I spied the card on my hotel nightstand that had been handed to me the night before by Satori Circus. Was it possible he could assist me in my time-tripping? I was still very much a novice in this, and knew that my trans-dimensional moves were ‟par chance”, under only modest control at best. Satori Circus had, without question, made quite the appearance at the Michigan Palace, and I surmised that he was way more experienced in this than I.

With that thought in mind, I flipped open my cell and began to hit the digits—3-1-3—and so on. Damn, I thought, it's ringing....    

“Satori Circus speaking. Bonjour Mischa!”

‟How did ya know it was me?” I asked, surprised.

“I have you scheduled at this time for a call!” came the matter-of-fact reply.

Before I could say another word, he stated that he would be waiting for me at the hotel front in an hour. Just as we ended the call, the waitstaff arrived with my omelet and morning wine.

Feeling renewed after my breakfast and a refreshing shower, I made my way downstairs and outside the hotel just as the Lincoln pulled up, with Mr. Circus behind the wheel. The concierge opened the car door and I stepped inside.

Once seated, I pulled the card Satori Circus had given me from my billfold, glanced at the tag-line, and inquired, ‟Monsieur, what does it mean—‛Gets You There On Time’?”

Smiling, he replied, ‟Wait and see.... See and believe! Relax Mischa—Turn on the radio and enjoy the ride!” I did just that—or tried to, anyway—as we motored down I-75. Problem was, I couldn’t seem to tune in to a station—all I was getting was a bunch of annoying static.

Soon, Satori announced, ‟Next stop—Southfield High!”

‟Southfield High?” I was curious. ‟Why there and who are we going to see?”

‟Exactly!” he exclaimed.

His answer confused me, but before I could ask him to explain, the static from the radio increased in volume to near unbearable levels. Just when I could take no more of it and reached to turn the device off, the tuner suddenly landed on a clear signal, and I heard the words: ‟Many things will come to pass / And the smoke shall rise again / To the place above where it began....” Ah yes, groovy, the Bubble Puppy, I said to myself. I’ll leave it here. It’s good to hear a band with a keen appreciation of Aldous Huxley.

‟Time will bring the fire and flame / As surely as it brought the rain / But in the gardens of the moon / Time is held within the silver spoon.” 2

I was firing up a joint as the song faded out, but just as my lungs had filled with the heady vapor, my ears were suddenly blasted with that incredibly annoying static, back in full force. I exhaled, and through the thick cloud of smoke, I saw my hand reach out to switch off the sound system...and a multitude of colorful trails following behind. I froze, uncertain. I hadn’t taken any hits from the Grande Ballroom card, so what could be up?

The buzzing in my ears had increased now to a roar, which, oddly, wasn’t as uncomfortable as I would have expected.  In fact, it was strangely soothing...reverberating and expanding...filling my head completely until there was nothing else...nothing at all....

‟—sorry about that, Mischa.... Mischa! Are you alright?” And the voice of Satori Circus came forth, lassoing me, pulling me back from the void.

‟Yes—I’m...I can’t explain...”  My voice trailed off, struggling to comprehend.

‟You’ll be fine, Mischa. Just a little ways more to go!  In the meantime, take a listen to this—I think you’ll really dig it!”

The psychedelic sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators burst through the speakers.  But in my fragile state of mind, the lush, overlapping instrumentals were almost more than I could bear. Instead, I lit a cigarette and zeroed in on the lyrics, which soon pulled me in, carrying me along their exuberant groove.

‟She lives, no fear
Doubtless in everything she knows
Through time unchecked,
The sureness of her flows.
She leaves herself inside you when she goes.

She lives in a time of her own....

You have always heard her speaking,
She's always been in your ear.
Her voice sounds a tone within you,
Listen to the words you hear.
Her time has no past or future,
She lives everything she sees.
Her time doesn't spin outside here,
It's in every breath she breaths.

She lives in a time of her own....” 3

Damn! Stunned by how the lyrics had captured my innermost visions, I felt renewed and completely alive in the moment.... Smiling, my eyes met those of Satori Circus, looking back at me in the rear-view mirror. And it was as though he was reading my mind, and wordlessly declared: Yes! I knew you’d dig it, Mischa!

As the song wound down and began to fade, we pulled into the parking lot at Southfield High. My door opened and Satori Circus extended his hand, saying with a gleeful smile, ‟Got ya here on time! Enjoy the concert, Mischa. I’ll be back to pick you up at midnight.”

But what concert was Satori referring to? Before I could ask, he was gone.

I scanned my surroundings as I strolled toward the auditorium, and immediately noticed several mimeographed fliers that were taped up all along the building.

Oh my gawd, it suddenly dawned on me—the mimeographed fliers—November 22—The Who! Oh, fuck yeah! This was the famous Amboy Dukes and Who concert of 1967. This was freekin’ far out! Unbelievable...but happening indeed. How could I ever on this green earth ask for more!

This was going to be way cool. I would be witness to the Dukes in their original incarnation.

I had arrived at just the right time to be able to hang with the members of the bands in the gymnasium’s changing room during the supporting act’s performance. For some reason or other, the Who’s stage outfits had never arrived. This minor issue was solved when the Amboy Dukes’ girlfriends supplied the English lads with some cool looking clothing of their own.

It was not long after the weed was lit and the incense was flowing that Steve Farmer began reciting the story of how the Amboy Dukes had come to be. This had occurred when members of the Gang, led by Steve Farmer, had united with the Lourds, led by Ted Nugent. We all sat spellbound as the Brian Jones look-alike continued on.

Early days of The GANG, one of the first bad boy bands in the Motor-City.

‟We had this musical competition going between the Gang and the Lourds,” Steve stated, ‟as we were from the Detroit area, and the Lourds hailed from Chicago. However, here was the caveat—one of their members had grown up in Detroit, and he had a cool rep—everyone had heard of him. This, of course, was Ted.” Farmer paused briefly, taking a heavy toke from a joint just handed him. ‟The Lourds dressed more in a stylistic hippie manner, whereas us members of the Gang wore the Brooks black leather jackets. We believed that our look, and most importantly, our attitude, captured the reality and vibes of the Motor City,” he stated with a grin.

‟My friends and I were all in high school together, right here at Southfield High, and it was my fascination with the bad boy look of the Rolling Stones that really gave me the drive to form a band,” Farmer recalled. ‟The Beatles were just too clean cut and more of a girl’s band. But the Stones, you see, had that image and style of the working class that we all identified with. It was with this in mind that I began developing my first band, the Gang, with Greg Arama, Dave O’Brien, Jim Butler, and Don Henderson. We jammed around the Detroit area and soon came across others of the same mindset. I’m referring here to our camaraderie with the Fugitives, who, by the way, were to evolve into the SRC. Any show in which we shared a stage with the SRC was always a great show!” At this point Rick Lober nodded in affirmation.

‟There were places we hung out at that really fit the image, such as The Cellar and The Hideout, which was in all actuality Hideout Records....” On and on Farmer went. Both the groupies and even members of the Who sat listening attentively, taking in all the groovy background on the band as the joints were passed.

‟It was when Ted moved back to the Detroit area with his band, the Lourds, that the melding of our two distinctive outfits took place. Much like the pulp novel, we united and formed the Amboy Dukes. The band was rockin’ tight for our first three albums. And everything seemed to gel when ‛Journey to the Center of the Mind’ hit number one nationally.”

What? Wait a minute—first three albums?  If this was 1967—and I was fairly certain it was—the Dukes had only released one full length album so far. Looking around me, I noticed puzzled expressions on the faces of some of the listeners in the room.

But Farmer carried on, giving detailed impressions that he knew of what was to happen in times yet to come. Launching into a history of the Amboy Dukes from the vantage of ‛72 to ‛86 and then on to 2001, he painted pictures so vivid there was no question he had already lived it all. What the hell, I thought. I knew the history of the Dukes, as I had traveled from the future to be here, but could there be others in the room who were time-travelers as well—in particular, Mr. Farmer himself?

It was all here: the beginnings of the Dukes, how this had brought about the subsequent formation of the Wilson Mower Pursuit, and Ted’s recognition of the talented ‟Wheatgerm” as the only guitarist in Detroit he felt could hold a candle to his own expertise. Steve spoke of the legendary Grande Ballroom with such passion that it came alive. There were details of the Dukes’ tour with Hendrix, the recording of their first albums, and the origins of and inspirations for both ‟Journey” albums, from ‟Journey to the Center of the Mind” in the ‛60s to the band’s comeback sans Ted on ‟Journey to the Darkside of the Mind” in 2000. And get this—the time Ted did LSD (did I hear that right?)!

All the while, Ted himself had been unbelievably quiet, tuning the strings on his guitar off to the side of the room (thank God for small favors)!

Mesmerized by it all, I was completely absorbed with the energy of the room. Then it hit me—I was not the only LSD time-traveler here. This was evident by the words and expressions I was hearing from some of the others. It seemed they had also returned for this historic event.

Damn! This was one step beyond the twilight zone! What an incredibly freekin’ treat this was turning out to be! Farmer became more than a storyteller; he was rendering a private viewing, in 3-D technicolor, of the history of the Detroit music scene—and we all had front row seats.

Beatle Bob (front) along with Wheatgerm, George Korinek and newest member Bob Franco hook-up with ex-GANG spin-off members Dave O'brien and Jim Butler to form the Detroit psychedelic rock outfit The Wilson Mower Pursuit.

So, my fellow time-travelers, tune in for the next exciting feuilleton chapter in this band’s most incredible journey, where you will witness the conflict between Hendrix and Nugent, and ride with a youthful Ted high on the gonzo waves of  LSD. Get ready to revel in the rebellious adventures of one of Detroit’s most galvanizing bands, and marvel at the never before talked about exciting escapades of one of the finest outfits to ever emerge out of psychedelia. All this and more, coming to you from one of the most creative musical eras and grooviest locations to ever exist on this planet...the 1960’s Motor City!

Stay turned on for part 2

1.Golden Dawn – Starvation –  George Kinney / T. Ramsey 1967
2. Hot Smoke and Sassafras – Bubble Puppy - Fore / Prince / Cox / Potter - 1969

3. She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own)  - 13th Floor Elevators –  Roky Erickson / Tommy Hall 1967

Column made by Michele Dawn Saint Thomas/2014
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