Silver Metre inside cover.

Silver Metre inside cover.

1970. Silver Metre. Inside album cover.

Left to right:
Leigh Stephens (in back, Blue Cheer) me (in fore­ground with mous­tache), Micky Waller (in back, Jeff Beck), Harry Reynolds (Hair Band).
I had met Leigh and his old lady at the time Liz, when Micky Waller took me over to a mews cot­tage they were rent­ing in Lon­don around Jan­u­ary or Feb­ru­ary ’69. He had been there record­ing his “Red Weather” album. We got along well.
Leigh tore off a small tri­an­gu­lar scrap of paper and drew a dia­gram in pen­cil of Santa Mon­ica Pier near Los Ange­les. He drew in an arrow point­ing to an out­side door at the top of some stairs run­ning up the side of a build­ing listed as a Merry Go Round. That was it…no phone num­ber or any­thing.
Six months later I had saved up enough money for a ticket from Gatwick Air­port, which is south of Lon­don, to New York City. There I planned to change air­lines and fly on across the US con­ti­nent to Los Ange­les Inter­na­tional. The air­line was Loft Lei­der Ice­landic Air­lines who still used four engine pro­peller air­craft for their trans-Atlantic flights.
When my dad drove me to Gatwick to see me off he wished me luck and told me to be care­ful. He com­mu­ni­cated his con­cern and depth of car­ing through the look in his eyes, which is what Eng­lish­men do instead of hug­ging when say­ing good­bye to peo­ple they care deeply for. He shook my hand and asked me to write and let them know how things were going.
I was twenty one years old…being a par­ent of two chil­dren myself I now real­ize what inner tur­moil he must have been going through. Even though I’d lived a pretty full life up to that point, the unease he must have felt at see­ing his young son fly­ing off into the unknown, into what you know from per­sonal expe­ri­ence is a dan­ger­ous world full of peo­ple who would do you harm. It is some­thing that only now as a father can I fully appre­ci­ate. Jean­nette and I have gone through it with both our children…when Dylan first went off to India, and later when Natalie also went to India on her own, work­ing for women and children’s rights, as well as clean­ing feces of dying women brought in off the streets as a vol­un­teer at Mother Theresa’s in Cal­cutta. Pretty intense work for a woman trav­el­ling alone. Through­out your child’s life you grad­u­ally, step by step have to make that leap of faith and let the rope out a bit at a time. For me at twenty one it was all unbe­liev­ably excit­ing, and I felt the whole world was before me. I had gone through the psy­che­delic music and drug cul­ture of the six­ties; liv­ing all over Lon­don as a young rock musi­cian at one time or another and I now felt myself drawn by some imper­cep­ti­ble force to cross an ocean and a con­ti­nent into the unknown. I was armed only with the scrap of torn paper and scrib­bled dia­gram Leigh had given me six months ear­lier. No phone num­ber or actual address. I had no idea if he still lived there any­more. After my dad left me at Gatwick I found out our sched­uled plane had mechan­i­cal prob­lems and they had no other air­craft avail­able so the air­line split every­one up and put us on dif­fer­ent air­lines. It was storm­ing out­side that day and I and sev­eral other Loft Lei­der pas­sen­gers were put on an air­line called “Dan Air”…who flew Comet 4’s. This was my first time fly­ing in any­thing and I had vague rec­ol­lec­tions of hav­ing read about Comet 4’s being one of the first jet air­lin­ers put into ser­vice in the 1950’s, and hear­ing that they would some­times explode in mid-air due to cabin pres­sure prob­lems at alti­tude. This made me feel a bit uneasy to say the least, but I got on the plane any­way. I found out later of course that the air­craft had been mod­i­fied since those ter­ri­ble acci­dents and were sup­pos­edly per­fectly safe. The plane was sur­pris­ingly nar­row for an air­liner, two seats rows on either side and we were soon buf­fet­ing around in the rough air, packed in like sar­dines in a can. I tried to relax my white knuck­les, took a deep breath and did my best to stiffen my upper lip as Eng­lish­man are sup­posed to do. After an hour or so we were get­ting thrown around pretty bad; I noticed peo­ple were inhal­ing short bursts of air and hold­ing their breath, and nobody was talk­ing. A few were throw­ing up. Sud­denly a stew­ardess ran down the aisle and looked anx­iously out the win­dow over the wing…I grabbed the seat a bit harder. The air­craft then began a grad­ual descent and you could have cut the ner­vous ten­sion with a knife…a sharp one any­way. We were sup­posed to be in route to Prest­wick Air­port in Scot­land so I assumed that was the air­port we were approach­ing. We finally landed in a dri­ving rain and tax­ied to a stop out­side a small ter­mi­nal which didn’t look big enough to be Prest­wick. Sure enough we’d landed at a small air­port about thirty miles away, appar­ently due to weather related air traf­fic congestion…although the thought of mechan­i­cal prob­lems had cer­tainly crossed my mind. Judg­ing from the looks on the other pas­sen­gers faces I wasn’t alone in these imag­in­ings. We all spent a rough night in the small air­port ter­mi­nal try­ing to get some rest on the hard plas­tic bench seats. There was not another air­line or plane in sight, and no other pas­sen­gers. We must have looked a sorry sight by then, a small bedrag­gled, slightly pissed off, shell shocked group of pas­sen­gers who were sup­posed to be on their way to New York City. We dozed off as best we could but could only sleep in snatches. The next day we were dri­ven across the Scot­tish hills to Prest­wick in a coach. It was all very bizarre…but I was young and it was an adven­ture. By this time we were all fol­low­ing each other’s bag­gage carts and the inter­com instruc­tions like dazed sheep. We were finally placed on a BOAC Boe­ing 747…back to Lon­don. So there we were, fly­ing over Big Ben and the river Thames bound for Heathrow on a clear bright morn­ing the day after we had left Gatwick. It was very weird. We were even­tu­ally trans­ferred to a British Air­ways 747 bound for New York. I was on my way.
The cus­toms offi­cer in New York checked my visa and asked me what I was plan­ning to do in the States. I told him I was vis­it­ing a friend in Los Angeles…he looked at my tobacco pipes, tin of Old Hol­born rolling tobacco with black papers, and the few antique weird odds and ends I had in my suit­case, all that I owned in the world basi­cally, and motioned me through with a wry look on his face. I made it…I was in the States. I strug­gled with my two bags over to the impres­sive look­ing TWA ter­mi­nal in the hot sun and caught a beau­ti­ful sil­ver Boe­ing 707 to Los Ange­les. It was a bright clear blue sky and I sat in my own lit­tle world next to the win­dow. I’ll never for­get the feel­ing of adven­ture and ela­tion as we climbed to 30,000 feet over the mag­nif­i­cent US con­ti­nent while I lis­tened to Hayden’s Unfin­ished Sym­phony at full vol­ume on the head­phones. The pilot had one of those won­der­ful reas­sur­ing mil­i­tary astro­naut drawls…I was in heaven. To top it all off a beau­ti­ful girl called Nancy who I rec­og­nized as one of the orig­i­nal Dan Air pas­sen­gers grace­fully slipped her­self onto the seat next to me…she had been vis­it­ing Europe and was on her way home to Ana­heim just out­side Los Ange­les. The sky was clear the whole way across…the Rocky Moun­tains, the Great Salt Lake, the Sierra Moun­tains and finally I caught site of the blue Pacific Ocean as we approached for land­ing. After pick­ing up my bags I real­ized I was stuck with very lit­tle money in a coun­try with lousy pub­lic trans­porta­tion and had to some­how make my way to Santa Mon­ica from LA Inter­na­tional. Nancy came to the res­cue and her par­ents offered to drop me off at the Pier on their way home. We spoke the same lan­guage, but it felt as though I had landed on Mars. Nancy’s won­der­ful and kind par­ents looked exactly like a fam­ily from a 1950’s, early 60’s TV sit-com…her father wore Bermuda shorts, crew­cut, and drove a large sprawl­ing fake wood sided sta­tion wagon.

BBC tele­vi­sion used to carry shows like Perry Mason, The Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, Jack Benny, Father Knows Best, Flash Gor­don, and Super­man. Like many peo­ple vis­it­ing the US from Europe for the first time, my image of Amer­ica was largely based on stereo­typ­i­cal images forged in the cyn­i­cal fires of self-righteous arro­gance.
Much of these were formed by the movies, 1950’s early 60’s TV shows and the image of the ugly loud Amer­i­can tourist throw­ing wads of cash around and smok­ing a green cigar chewed to mush at one end. Of course we were all aware to vary­ing degrees of thank­ful­ness, and for some resent­ment, that Europe would be a very dif­fer­ent place if the US hadn’t entered WW2 and helped save our col­lec­tive pos­te­ri­ors. We had won the Bat­tle of Britain air war against Hitler and Goering’s Luftwaffe…but could never have man­aged the Nor­mandy inva­sions and lib­er­ated Europe with­out the USA.
But the coun­tries of Europe have treated each other with biases, dis­trust and arro­gant cyn­i­cism for hun­dreds of years, so why would they be any dif­fer­ent with their treat­ment of the USA. The sheer size of Amer­ica with its diverse polit­i­cal and cul­tural belief sys­tems never fails to astound me…something that can often be dif­fi­cult for peo­ple liv­ing in close quar­ters in coun­tries that would fit into the state of Texas alone to under­stand.
Amer­ica has been very good to me, but it is still a young coun­try and is still find­ing its feet. There is still much work to be done…so much cor­rup­tion, greed with its own brand of cyn­i­cism and short sight­ed­ness. Mind numb­ing Orwellian “newspeak” spew from cor­po­rate con­trolled media out­lets; most things that air on radio and Tele­vi­sion are rat­ings dri­ven at any cost, and we have an archaic health care sys­tem in spite of being one of the wealth­i­est coun­tries in the world.
But there is also so much that is good: non-profits and respon­si­ble busi­nesses that pick up the slack where irre­spon­si­ble and short­sighted gov­ern­ments fall short, along with health care and social work­ers, edu­ca­tors and grass roots activists…all grossly under­funded. A coun­try that can place a man on the moon, but can’t sup­ply qual­ity health care for all income lev­els like almost every other coun­try in the devel­oped world should send up a glar­ing red flag. Short term gain for the few seems to drive our country’s pol­icy mak­ing deci­sions; exploit­ing the population’s nat­ural sense of patri­o­tism by call­ing any­one who ques­tions those deci­sions “unpa­tri­otic”. A sort of blind patri­o­tism. The United States of Amer­ica is a land of inno­va­tion, but also a land that needs to come to grips with some of the ter­ri­ble wrongs it has per­pe­trated. Like on its native inhab­i­tants who have been sys­tem­at­i­cally abused since we occu­pied their land in the name of progress. Until we offi­cially acknowl­edge the many mis­takes we have made as a young nation, try to make amends and heal the wounds…we will never be able to truly grow. Amer­ica is the land both my chil­dren were born into…and I love it.

Nancy and her fam­ily dropped me off on Santa Mon­ica Pier to the sound of sur­real merry go round music pump­ing out of an old car­ni­val pipe organ. It was the boil­ing hot sum­mer of 1969 and there I stood in my big old black Lon­don over­coat, my worldly pos­ses­sions in two suit­cases lying next to me, and try­ing to come to terms with my pecu­liar sit­u­a­tion. I had about five bucks in my pocket, a few pound notes, and a hand­ful of British coins. I was turn­ing the lit­tle scrap of paper Leigh had given me six months ear­lier this way and that, try­ing to match the stair­case and door he’d drawn with what I was see­ing. It felt a bit like a strange dream, or like the early stages of an acid trip…just as you are com­ing on. Mus­cle Beach was off to one side, which I just couldn’t come to grips with, and these beau­ti­ful brown bod­ied Cal­i­for­nia women and hip­pie guys off to the other. Then there was the Pacific Ocean stretch­ing off as far as the eye could see…and the waves were calm. I walked up and down the pier a bit…past old for­tune telling machines, hot dog stands and men sell­ing cot­ton candy. The Santa Mon­ica area and Venice Beach were like ghost towns in ’69…with one foot still in the early part of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. Faded and peel­ing paint on old wood, warped with age…young hip cul­ture every­where, and the only sleazy ele­ment to be seen were the poor old winos lying around drink­ing rot-gut Red Moun­tain wine. There was inno­cence to it all back then…before ren­o­va­tions and new apart­ment com­plexes destroyed the charm and purity of nat­ural aging. The hip­pies drank cheap Rip­ple wine which wasn’t much bet­ter than Red Moun­tain.
I found the steps that ran up the right side of the wooden build­ing that housed the Merry Go Round. I lugged my bag­gage to the small land­ing at the top and rang the door­bell. I rang a cou­ple more times until the sink­ing feel­ing that had begun to creep over me was cut short by the door slowly swing­ing open. An attrac­tive woman, about my age appeared. There was a faint hint of a smile adding a touch of mys­tery to an aura that was all too famil­iar to me…the look of some­body com­pletely and utterly stoned. She was dressed in a flow­ing rust col­ored dress and shawl that looked like they belonged to the roar­ing twen­ties. Her look per­fectly matched the ethe­real sounds float­ing up in the with­er­ing heat from the old pipe organ below.
She didn’t say any­thing.
“Hello, I’ve just flown in from Eng­land; I’m look­ing for Leigh Stephens…does he still live here? He told me to look him up if I ever get to the States?“
Silence…just the sound of the pipe organ and children’s laugh­ter.
“Leigh…he’s a musician…I met him and Liz in Lon­don.“
Still noth­ing, but her smile and eyes opened just a bit wider.
More pipe organ…and then.
“Yeah, Leigh, he doesn’t live here anymore…I live here with his friend and man­ager, Char­lie. Char­lie rents the place.“
“Do you know where he is?“
“He and Liz live near here…they might be rehears­ing.“
I was get­ting very hot…I’d never expe­ri­enced that kind of heat before…I was just stand­ing there out­side her door with all my stuff and I was fad­ing fast…I’d been up for two days.
I said “look I’ve just come six thou­sand miles…could you at least ask me in for a cup of tea?“
It was like she sud­denly woke from a dream.
“Yeah, of course, come in…I’ll make some tea“
We walked into an old planked painted hall­way with a bal­cony over­look­ing the Merry Go Round below…she motioned me through the door to their apart­ment. It was full of rus­tic old world charm…it felt like it should be float­ing under full sail in mid-ocean instead of stuck on dry land…the whole pier had that vibe. The win­dows were oval on top and every­thing was painted cream with red trim. She made me some sort of herbal tea with­out say­ing much of anything…no ques­tions; noth­ing. She did tell me her name was Ginny. Then she just sat star­ing out a win­dow on the other side of the room with that faint smile of con­tent­ment on her face. I sat down and pon­dered my sit­u­a­tion again…things def­i­nitely looked bet­ter than they had ten min­utes ago. I was no longer stand­ing in the hot sun, I’d taken off my big old black great­coat, and I was sip­ping some sort of hot liq­uid that was sup­posed to pass for tea. There had also been some name recog­ni­tion at the men­tion of Leigh’s name…which at that time meant a lot me.
I hated to dis­turb her reverie, but it was get­ting late. I fin­ished my tea and asked if she had a phone num­ber for Leigh…she said she did but didn’t have a phone. “There’s a pay phone down­stairs.“
She handed me a coin I didn’t rec­og­nize.
“Thanks”.
I walked back down the stairs…the music was con­stant but happy sound­ing and it lifted my spir­its. I found what looked like some sort of pay phone con­trap­tion and spent some time try­ing to work out how to use it. I lifted up the receiver; put the coin in and the dial tone mag­i­cally appeared. I dialed the num­ber. It rang a cou­ple of times.
“Hello“
“Leigh is that you“
“Yeah, who’s this?“
“It’s me, Pete Sears…you remem­ber you told me to look you up if I ever got over to the states…well I’m here“
“Pete…you gotta be kiddin!…where are you?“
“I’m on Santa Mon­ica Pier…I just met Ginny; sort of, she let me in…gave me your num­ber. Where are you?“
“Wow, I can’t believe you’re here…I’ll come down and get you right away“
“Fantastic…see you soon“
And that was that…I had started what turned out to be a life­long love affair with Cal­i­for­nia and the rest of the United States. I moved into a small rented apart­ment with Leigh and Liz in Venice Beach. They put me up on the sofa in the liv­ing room…there was only a bed­room and a liv­ing room. I shared the room with a crea­ture I was unfa­mil­iar with, they called it a Rac­coon. I once watched it push aside a chair they had lean­ing against a food cup­board to keep the door closed, some­how wrig­gle its way up onto the shelf and begin eat­ing. It was morn­ing and I had just opened my eyes…I lay there com­pletely fas­ci­nated by this wily crea­ture that looked like a Cal­i­for­nia ver­sion of some­thing from “Wind in the Wil­lows”. The first I fully real­ized it was a wild ani­mal was when the neigh­bors called the police on Leigh and Liz and it was taken away. A dan­ger to chil­dren in the apart­ment com­plex they said.
I was recently told of another inci­dent that hap­pened at that apart­ment; although I per­son­ally have very lit­tle rec­ol­lec­tion of it. Leigh and Liz were appar­ently lying in bed one morn­ing when they heard me yelling “How the &%$@ did they find me here”.
A man from “Sears Roe­buck” was deliv­er­ing some­thing just out­side the front door and was yelling “Sears…Sears”.
I remem­ber watch­ing the Moon land­ing on their small black and white TV set…that was some­thing to see.
“One small step.….
Leigh’s old col­lege friend Char­lie Osborne was our man­ager and lived with Ginny in the Santa Mon­ica Pier apart­ment.
We started jam­ming together day and night in a rehearsal room below the “Whale” bar on the land side of the Chee­tah Ball­room Pier in Venice Beach. I cut the legs off my jeans and would walk in and out of the ocean when­ever the mood took me. Leigh would take me down to a place on the boule­vard that sold Lox and Cream cheese…which I couldn’t get enough of. A beau­ti­ful half Chero­kee Indian woman called Dani from Okla­homa bought me break­fast a few times. I caught the clap for the sec­ond time in my life…the first being dur­ing my crazy years with Sam Gopal Dream. A shot of peni­cillin at the San Vicente clap clinic took care of that. I remem­ber walk­ing into a liquor store once and ask­ing for a packet of fags…the guy behind the counter thought I was being funny until I explained “Fags” meant cig­a­rettes in Eng­land. It was while I was hang­ing out in the “Whale” rehearsal rooms that I first met Larry Rainer…a sweet giant of a guy who had recently returned from a tour of heavy com­bat in Viet­nam. It was my first expo­sure to the hell those guys went through over there…I saw the shrap­nel wounds on his back. I give money to every vet I see on the street ask­ing for money…you can tell who they are. Larry even­tu­ally died of a heroin over­dose in New York City…a habit he’d picked up in Viet­nam. I was told he expired lying on a bed with Dani nod­ding out in a chair next to him…oblivious to the fact Larry was dying right next to her. It wasn’t really her fault…that’s what it was like in that world. I had last seen him at a Brewer & Ship­ley ben­e­fit con­cert I was involved with (they were talk­ing to me about pro­duc­ing a record for them) for Native American’s on the West Coast back in the seventies…I still think about Larry from time to time.
Micky Waller and Bryn Howarth later came over to help form the band…but Bryn didn’t stay.
There was this young girl who was madly in love with this guy; I won’t say his name in case he reads this. Some­thing hap­pened between them one day and a guy named Doug and I heard her cry­ing hys­ter­i­cally from inside this small locked room off the rehearsal room. We broke down the door and found her sit­ting with her back against the wall in a pool of blood…she had made deep gashes all up her arms and legs. Not deep enough to hit a major artery…almost cer­tainly a cry for help and not a seri­ous sui­cide attempt…but enough to per­ma­nently scar her emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally. We car­ried her sob­bing to an old Volk­swa­gen one of the guys had and took her to the near­est hos­pi­tal where they refused to treat her because she wouldn’t give her parent’s name and address. It came out that she was only six­teen years old. I couldn’t believe that a hos­pi­tal wouldn’t treat some­one and ask ques­tions later…this would not hap­pen in a Euro­pean hospital…so we went on to another hos­pi­tal and they wouldn’t treat her either, for the same rea­son. Her sit­u­a­tion was not imme­di­ately life threat­en­ing as the blood in her open gashes had con­gealed by then. But she was a mess. No one would treat her…so we took her back to the apart­ment over the Merry Go Round, which had shut down for the night and put her in the one spare bed­room. She could see a reg­u­lar doc­tor in the morn­ing. We all tried to get some rest on the liv­ing room floor. We told the fel­low who will remain name­less he ought to go and check on her…which he did. He was gone for about ten min­utes when we heard her cry and slam the door to the bath­room. Some time went by and we heard her slip back into the bed­room. Then the name­less fel­low appeared and said “I think she’s cut her throat”.
We’re all lay­ing on the floor in the dark…someone said,
“You gotta be kid­din“
The name­less fellow…who I shall never name…went and laid down in the liv­ing room.
“Bet­ter check it out” I said.
I went in and opened the door to the bed­room. She was lying on the bed with the white sheet held tightly up to her chin to hide her throat. The light was on. I imag­ined all sorts of hor­ri­ble things were lurk­ing under that sheet. I spoke to her softly, and grad­u­ally coaxed her hand and sheet down away from her neck. She had cut sev­eral shal­low gashes with a razor blade side to side clear across the length of her throat…she was obvi­ously in no dan­ger of bleed­ing to death, but the risk of infec­tion all over her body was clear. She was an emo­tional wreck and shiv­er­ing badly. I told her to lie still and went to the bath­room to look for some­thing I could use. I found a tube of white over the counter anti­sep­tic cream and began smear­ing it in all the many gashes she had made on her arms, legs and throat. I then gen­tly stroked her fore­head, telling her every­thing was going to be alright until she finally fell asleep from sheer exhaus­tion a cou­ple of hours later. Three years later in 1972, I was liv­ing on my own in a small room I was rent­ing from Doug and Shel­ley McGuire on Morn­ing Sun in Mill Val­ley when I received a letter…it was from her. She had some­how tracked me down and was thank­ing me for look­ing after her that night. The let­ter meant a lot to me…it sounded like she was in a bet­ter place and had got her life together.
The band became “Sil­ver Metre” and after spend­ing three months in Venice Beach we drove a cou­ple of cars up to Big Sur and spent two weeks in Charlie’s stepfather’s cabin on “Big Creek”. We had no elec­tric­ity and I would sleep out­side in a ham­mock slung between two trees in the pitch black night lis­ten­ing to the ancient creek relent­lessly roar by. The rest of the guys slept in the cabin…although I did exchange places with them a few times. We’d some­times light a fire on some rocks in the mid­dle of the creek and hang out in a nat­ural hot spring made from a cir­cle of stones fed from a pipe car­ry­ing hot water from a nat­ural spring. The pool of flick­er­ing light from the fire burn­ing on the rock above our heads barely made a dent in the ink black dark­ness sur­round­ing us.
It was all so amaz­ing; I knew I wanted to go north.
The band rented an apart­ment on Buchan­nan Street near Japan Town in San Francisco…we’d often eat at Tommy’s Joint…famous for their Buf­falo Stew. We later moved across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County and stayed at a house in Ross with a bunch of other musi­cians, includ­ing the great key­board player Howie Wales. The house was owned by Buck Sum­ski, an attor­ney. We’d get high on this hor­ri­ble stuff I’d never heard of before com­ing to Cal­i­for­nia called “Amoeba Weed”…I was cer­tain I could hear my brain cells pop­ping. It turned out to be our circle’s name for Angel Dust…or PCP…parsley soaked in horse tran­quil­izer. Char­lie handed over man­age­ment to FM Rock DJ big Tom Don­ahue, who got us a record deal with National Gen­eral Records and a small record advance…so I had come over to the states with five bucks in my pocket, and gone back to Lon­don with $5,000. My only regret was being so caught up in the oth­er­world­li­ness of it all that I didn’t write home to my par­ents or Lucy soon enough. I was twenty one and liv­ing day to day. I felt like I was on another planet…but I knew I’d be back. California’s like that.