Monday, January 8, 2024

Just Like A Woman…

It was quite cold as I drove to town this morning to make some doctor appointments and pick up some meds at the pharmacy. Since I live in a small town I find it easier to actually drive to the doctor’s office and make appointments in person rather than fight through the maze of button pressing that doing it on the phone entails.

Anyway, for some reason I went down the Blonde On Blonde rabbit hole yet one more time and Just Like A Woman smacked me right between the eyes. Spring and summer of 1966. I had just moved to San Francisco into a 3rd floor walkup on Divisadero Street in the Western Addition about three blocks from the Fillmore Auditorium. Jefferson Airplane was still a young band and when we went on the road, we scuffled. No one had any money yet and we still saw the world through young eyes.

As a band in its infancy that was lucky enough to get noticed nationally we were able to become a national touring act before we had a hit. I believe that band identities are forged in the commonality of shared poverty. It’s been a lifetime since I couch surfed but I believe that if you are a young artist you must be prepared to accept whatever fate the road offers you with a fierce hunger. That which does not destroy you will make you stronger in a way that cannot be synthesized.  There are dues that must be paid. As a much older artist I sometimes look back and realize that the heat from the forge of youth fades with youth. That’s a fire that will never burn that bright again and that’s OK.

I loved touring in those early days. It was a never ending adventure of open roads. From San Francisco to Fargo to Chicago or Boston. The sound in the clubs might suck but the scene never did. As much as I loved the panorama of America, New York was the epicenter of our touring world in those days. A two-week gig today would be called a residency. Back then it was just the way big city gigs in small clubs were. I remember our two weeks in Chicago at Mother Blues but that’s a story for another time. In any case, we were booked into Howard Solomon’s Café Au Go Go on Bleeker Street. We needed a place to stay. Mike Bloomfield touted the Albert Hotel as the go to musician’s hotel but it was too grungy even for the Airplane and our standards at the time were very flexible to say the least. We checked in, looked around… and checked out, moving to the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd St. It was the beginning of a residential love affair that would last for a number of years even after the bucks began to flow.

As our star ascended I met a number of people there I never would have met if were I not a member of well… a hit band. I met Salvador Dali at an Andy Warhol party. I mention this not to drop names but to note that Dali in that time had shaved off half his mustache as part of a new persona. It was, well… interesting to say the least.

As a young man, my life was in constant transition but the constant was always the guitar… even more than the music per se. I was immersed in the guitar, electric and acoustic 24/7. Then as now, the guitar has always told me what to do… and it told me a lot.

I didn’t need much back then except for the boundless energy of youth and creative friends. The banging of the steam heat radiators in the Chelsea hotel was the soundtrack of well… a lot of things. I wrote Third Week In The Chelsea there not long before the Airplane made it’s final flight.

Just Like A Woman bathed me in the memory from another time this morning. I got to thinking about old friends and acquaintances that I haven’t seen or even thought of for a lifetime and since memory is only a keystroke away these days I did some serious Googling. Sad to say, so many them are gone but if it is true that one lives as long as they are remembered, at least for this morning they walk the earth again.

The rigors of touring are much more evolved these days. kin ‘the day’ I didn’t have a ‘guitar tech.’ I was my guitar tech. There was no such thing as a professional roadie yet. Our roadies tended to be friends or family member who figured that the party roadshow was worth the somewhat meager wages. It was also a time when we all believed in ourselves which was more than compensation enough.

Well, life should be time well spent and all things considered, good and bad, walking in the light or inhabiting dark places if you survive… it has indeed well spent.

I think I’ll spend some time today walking in the light down at the Fur Peace Ranch and play some music with my pal, John Hurlbut!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Comments

  1. Comment made on January 18, 2024 by Howard

    Jorma you probably would have been one of the great American Writers, if you hadn’t become a musician first, Hemmingway, Capote and Kaukonen. You found a way to combine & hone the two. The clarity of your recollections, your memories lived, the the eloquence of your writing style, it hits you right right where it counts. Thank you.

  2. Comment made on January 16, 2024 by Paul Wasserman

    I remember that 3rd floor apartment like it was yesterday. Well maybe the day before. Sitting with you and Jerry drinking your good drip coffee, sharing a J and noodling on your guitar.

    • Comment made on January 16, 2024 by Jorma

      Yup… 1145 Divisadero St. between Turk and Eddy. Ted’s N&E Market was right there on the corner. Old School Western addition. I remember watching you change your son’s diaper in that old apartment.

  3. Comment made on January 15, 2024 by Todd C. Miller

    I am 58 years old and recently heard Water Song for the first time several months ago (I have been trying to learn to play it ever since). It was my first experience with Hot Tuna. Since then I have been making up for lost years. What a joy Jorma’s music is to this world. Thank you for sharing your talent! I have nice things to say about Jack, as well, but this isn’t his website.

    • Comment made on January 16, 2024 by Jorma

      Hey Todd… Water Song is in a G tuning… D G D G B D. The right hand really does most of the work here in the first part of the song it is 123 123 123 123 12 12. Note these are not triplets. They are four three note figures and two couplets. Thus adding up to 16, these are actually all 16th notes… anyway, you’ll get it I’m sure.

  4. Comment made on January 10, 2024 by Art

    Funny Jorma should mention Dali … I was just in the Sarasota area and went to the Dali museum. Had a great time and learned a lot of new things. Dali is honestly not a favorite artist of mine, but he was indeed brilliant and extraordinarily talented and courageous and daring and original. We owe him a lot. And on another note, I used to live a block away from the Chelsea Hotel. I had a friend of a friend who lived there – in the mid-80s. If it were not for that person, I’d never have seen the inside of the place. It kind of came off as a sort of Michelin-starred bohemian flophouse to me … freaky and kind of dumpy but also weirdly regal. I don’t need to recite its storied cultural history here. There were also two notable things there on the ground floor: 1) the scrappy music store (mostly used gear) where Jack famously found his Gibson gold-top bass that was the sort of the prototype for the Epiphone Jack Casady model, and 2) the long-tenured Spanish restaurant with a little bar and inexpensive lobster dinners where I’d drag fellow (younger) grad students just to drag them out of their habits.

  5. Comment made on January 10, 2024 by alexander pepiak

    Sigh…. I need a Time Machine….

  6. Comment made on January 10, 2024 by Tom in St. Louis

    I had a long conversation with Michael Martin Murphey some years ago. He’s a fascinating guy and a real expert on many facets of the West. Native Americans, cowboys and their songs, the mystique, the ecology…you name it.
    As for “Third Week in the Chelsea”, I’m particularly fond of that song as it was my introduction to Hot Tuna. As I sat around with some friends listening to “Bark”, I mentioned how much I enjoyed that song. My old pal Jay said “If you like that, you’ll LOVE Hot Tuna”. I immediately bought the first two Tuna LPs, and shortly afterwards “Burgers” was released. My long fascination with Hot Tuna and Jorma had begun!

  7. Comment made on January 10, 2024 by Bruce

    for years I pronounced your first name with a hard ‘J’,like it looks,since i’d never heard an interview where someone pronounced it…finally heard Grace on the radio pronounce it correctly and freaked….funny thing is,I always referred to Jack as ‘Yack’….be well,pal….

  8. Comment made on January 10, 2024 by mikie

    To paraphrase Lennon, “Before Dylan there was nothing.” m

  9. Comment made on January 9, 2024 by George Anthony

    Hey Jorma,

    Thanks for Just Like A Woman blog… Beautiful song, a favorite, perfect harmonica, one of Bob’s best vocals, love the way he says:

    Queen Mary, she’s my friend

    Then, we see Vanessa filming you and John picking “Chimes of Freedom” in your workshop. Ties it together….

    From audience perspective, music moves us, takes us back and forward, sometimes emotionally whether Bob Marley, Dylan or maybe your 1969 song “Turn My Life Down,” Marty sings, but I also wish Aretha had a go at it.

    It’s wonderful to remember rite of passage, getting our drivers license, etc. It might be 50+years on, but hearing DJ Pete Fornatale play “Water Song” on NYC WNEW-FM radio was timeless. And the music is there for new generations to discover.

  10. Comment made on January 9, 2024 by Bill from Wisconsin

    Love hearing these recollections. Wondering if you or Jack ever had the chance to see Rosetta Tharpe? Maybe in DC or early on at the Fillmore. She was quite the musician and seems to be largely overlooked.

    • Comment made on January 10, 2024 by Jorma

      Never did Bill… but she is the mother of so much of what guys like me do. As I remember, she got married in Griffith Stadium… the ball park of my youth.

  11. Comment made on January 9, 2024 by Phil

    While you’e down the Blond on Blond rabbit hole and in Google mode dig around and check out Jason and the Scorchers version of Absolutely Sweet Marie

  12. Comment made on January 9, 2024 by DS Allard

    This remains one of my favorite memories ……. An 80s Starship tour stop at DIRT racetrack in Weedsport, NY, where You played Third Week in the Chelsea with Jack and Grace. It was magic, thanks.

  13. Comment made on January 9, 2024 by Greg Martelli

    This is a very late inquiry ,but when we last went to Fur Peace to see Dave Alvin and the guilty ones (who were great ), we noticed that the season finale was Michael Murphy .
    I heard Geronimo ‘s Cadillac not to long ago ,which prompted me to look up Michael Murphys book of work ,which is extensive and populated with great stuff.
    How was the Michael Murphy show ?

  14. Comment made on January 8, 2024 by Rob

    The Chelsea Hotel inspired not only “Third Week in the Chelsea” but also, speaking of Blonde on Blonde, “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” (and probably many other great songs). Skip Spence had an unfortunate incident at the Albert Hotel. Hotels like the Albert and Chelsea in NYC, the Continental Hyatt House and Landmark in LA, the Edgewater Inn in Seattle (mud sharks aren’t among the amenities) are part of rock music legend. Imagine staying at every hotel where Keith Moon blew up a toilet and documenting it on YouTube? There’s a concept i’ll bet no one has pursued yet!

  15. Comment made on January 8, 2024 by BrendanC

    Decided to take the Braun for a ride to Starbucks Saturday and ran out of battery after shaving only one side. It pinched when stopping, so I put it away and out of mind, then went in and enjoyed a decent blonde roast. Forgot about the beard and wondered why a couple of young ladies were eyeing me. Used to be, but its been years.

    Isn’t the Chelsea where Casady took that gold tinted bass from Leonard Bernstein in a poker game? At my last electric HT show, during Funky, I felt sad that most of us wouldn’t see or hear it again – not live anyway. Bye, bye guitar and give the drummer some.

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