When I was 18, I had a dream of leaving Mississippi for California, fueled in large part by the songs below, vague images from various beach movies, and little snippets of information I had heard about places like the Troubadour. Not really that much to go on, come to think of it. My plan was to get a patchwork rabbit fur coat, which were all the rage at the time (late 70s), buy a plane ticket with the money from my first job at the mall, take my mad flute-and-piano playing skills along with my shaky harmonization abilities, find “someone out there” who needed a flute-and-piano-player, and somehow break into the music industry. Good plan, right?
I knew I lacked the talent or discipline to become some kind of superstar rock chick, like Ann and Nancy Wilson or what have you, but I pictured myself sort of in the background, a studio musician or something. Anything. The person who made the coffee or whatever. I really didn’t care what I did (with the exception of being a groupie – wasn’t going to do that, thank you very much) as long as I was “near the flame”, so to speak. That’s how much I loved the music.
I went so far as to go around telling everyone that I wouldn’t be back for my second year of college, because I was going to be in California. The only problem was that I lacked the courage to go by myself. I needed a partner – someone from home to go with me. I asked everyone I knew. Everyone. Multiple times. I bought the patchwork rabbit fur coat (I would never do that now, this was before I became enlightened and sensitive and so forth), saved my money, and waited for someone, anyone, to come forward. No one ever did.
Also, my parents, wonderful though they were, didn’t support this dream. They knew about all my laziness and failure to actually practice piano and whatnot, so I think they knew my chances of success were pretty much nil. They didn’t come right out and tell me I couldn’t go, but when I would bring it up at dinner, yammering on about how I needed to go to the library to look at the want ads in the L.A. Times or whatever, a heavy silence would descend. I’d have to leave the table and go make some more calls, double-checking to make sure no one had changed their mind. But no. It wasn’t meant to be.
It’s okay – don’t be sad for me, dear friends. I have a happy life. But I still think about my rabbit fur coat and what would have happened if I’d shown up at the Troubadour. In retrospect, I imagine I would have been completely overwhelmed and scared to death and been on the next midnight train to Mississippi.*
This song, “Ventura Highway”, by America, still gives me that old California feeling. Ah, Ventura highway, in the sunshine….
The great Joni Mitchell, “California”…California, coming home…make me feel good, rock and roll band, I’m your biggest fan…
And of course, I must include this masterpiece, by the Mamas & the Papas. Mama Cass (that voice!) breaks my heart. The unrequited love for Denny and beautiful Michelle’s shadow and everything…it’s just too painful. Oh my gosh, I’m getting all verklempt looking at this video and the images of her. Let’s not think about it right now. Let’s just enjoy…John, Michelle, Cass, and Denny…”California Dreaming”.
*Did you catch it? Of course you did. More bonus points! “Midnight Train to Georgia”, by the fabulous Gladys Knight and the Pips. L.A. proved too much for [insert “Marie” instead of ‘the man” here]…he’s [she’s] leaving on the midnight train to [insert Mississippi instead of Georgia here]…
Comments or Thoughts? Any other California dreamers out there? Please share!