I lied to get the job and and then he wanted to give me the store.
College graduation is one of the few things that’s weirder than legend, even worse than “The Graduate,” because there’s no Mrs. Robinson and Katharine Ross to rescue you. You’re just going through the paces, stepping on the stones, and then they end, disappear, gone. Where do you go now?
Now this was back in ’74, a very different era from today. Nobody I knew saw a recruiter on campus, no one I knew went to graduate school, we were free, to do what?
I decided to move to Alta, Utah, for the most guaranteed snow in America, I lined up a job as a waiter and that…left me two months until ski season started. So I drove to L.A. to visit my sister and she said I could stay if I got a job. And in those days of a thick L.A. “Times” and no Craigslist I pondered the classifieds and found this gig at Star Sporting Goods on Highland Ave., right next to Hollywood High.
The owner was cheap. He said he was gonna check my false references, but he could never get up early enough to call the east coast before the rates changed, so he gave me the gig anyway. And, like I said, a month later, the store, but he didn’t know I was planning to exit for Utah at that point, which I ultimately did.
And my gig was to sell skis. Which I did quite well. Although I only sold what I wanted to, what I believed in, you can take the man out of his environment, but you can’t change who he is.
And throughout this rambling establishment there were speakers, attached to a stereo right by our department, and we played KLOS. KMET was just a bit too edgy for our customers, but KLOS weeded the weird and still satiated us and that’s where I heard “Junior’s Farm.”
Paul McCartney was coming off the massive success of “Band on the Run,” unforeseen after what had come before. He was wandering in the wilderness, “Wild Life” execrable, came back with “My Love” but that was wimpy, and then he returned to snatch the crown? And not long after the title track of McCartney’s apotheosis faded from the radio this little gem exploded on the airwaves. It kept me going. The energy. Carried me through as it was late September and I really should have been back in school, where I ultimately went, but that was a mistake.
I was talking to Eddie Izzard, who was surprisingly voluble, about the show, about the political situation, when I saw Paul and Nancy emerge from their dressing quarters and stride towards the exit. This was my chance, not because I needed to talk to a Beatle, but because I had something to say. There were fewer than ten people still in attendance, I wanted to praise his performance, I told him it reminded me of the live take of “Junior’s Farm” that was such a huge hit.
And Paul turned on a dime, twisted his head, as only he can do, as we’ve seen in so many stills and videos, and he looked me in the eye and said that was COMING UP!
So funny in a world where rock stars say they don’t remember, that they don’t own their own records, never mind don’t listen to them.
Of course he was right. The past instantly came into focus. How did I commit such a faux pas?
He took Nancy’s hand, swiveled back, and left.
There’s a studio take of “Coming Up,” it’s excellent, it’s exuberant, it’s got energy. But it wasn’t a hit, not in the U.S., because the live version from Glasgow had that little something extra, it wasn’t perfect, the intro wasn’t as in your face, the vocal wasn’t as spot-on, but it sounded like a band, on stage, trying to chase its own song. You felt you were in the audience trying to hold on to the railcar as it left the station, this is a show, when it’s not about documentation, but experience, about being in the moment.
And I thought of all this when I couldn’t fall asleep last night. I confused the tracks once again in my brain, thinking that “Junior’s Farm” was the live one, even though I remembered my conversation with McCartney. And as I’m pulling up the tracks in the services, I decide to do some research.
That’s when I found out there really was a Junior’s Farm.
The great thing about being a legend is there’s a dissection of your history online. And it turns out “Coming Up” was built from the drum track up on McCartney’s farm in Glasgow. This is a studio concoction, a story we hear all the time, writing in the room.
But Junior’s Farm was a real place.
Wings went to Nashville to cut and they stayed at Claude “Curly” Putnam, Jr.’s farm. He vegetarianized it for him. And the experience ultimately inspired McCartney to write “Junior’s Farm.”
Let’s got, let’s go,
Down to Junior’s Farm where I wanna lay low
Low life, high life, oh let’s go
Take me down to Junior’s Farm
Everybody tag along
And we all did. The track made it to number three, when those statistics were kinda irrelevant, everybody was listening to the FM dial, where the song dominated. We bopped our heads, sang along to the chorus, loved the cut, but didn’t know why.
Because it was real. Inspired from real experience.
We’ve been influenced by the techies, by the MBAs, all their b.s. which has nothing to do with art. They talk about pulling all-nighters, working 24/7, failing to achieve excellence, but that’s not how you do it in art. In art you hone your chops and wait…
You never know when it will strike. You’ve just got to be open to it. Catch it when you can.
You’re wandering through life and it takes a left turn and a synapse fires.
Hell, I wasn’t even going to write this and then I opened the front door to delivered food and it boosted my mood, VOILA!
If you’re an artist you’ve got to live. It’s more important than Facebooking and Instagramming, one moment of excellence can put you over the top. “Junior’s Farm” had no album in an era when all tracks on FM did. But it was good enough on its own to triumph. That’s the nature of art. When we experience it, when it’s done right, we can’t get enough of it, it resonates in some indescribable way.
Like “Junior’s Farm.”
P.S. “At the houses of Parliament/Everybody’s talking ’bout the President/We all chip in for a bag of cement” Nixon had just resigned. This contemporized the song. And illustrated a viewpoint. The more sharp edges in your song the bigger the chance they’ll pierce the audience, stick to them.
P.P.S. “I took my bag into a grocer’s store/The price is higher than the time before/Old man asked me ‘Why is it more?'” You may not have experienced inflation, but it was rampant back then. McCartney is illuminating a slice of life, which we can relate to. Or could.