1974. Part of “Smiler” inside album cover shot outside pub in London.

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1974. Part of “Smil­er” inside album cov­er shot out­side pub in Lon­don.
Left to right in front:
Ken Jones, Pete Sears and his future wife Jean­nette, Ron Wood, Ron’s mum & Dad, Ian McLa­gen, Rod Stew­art, Spike Heat­ley, Rube.
The album had tak­en quite a bit longer to make than expect­ed due to Rod hav­ing some sort of prob­lem with his record label. Although I was paid very well for a ses­sion musi­cian, the rel­a­tive­ly long gaps between record­ing dates made it dif­fi­cult for us to stay afloat much of the time.
I would take oth­er ses­sions to pay the bills, to buy food (Jean­nette is a won­der­ful cook), tobac­co for my pipe, and cig­a­rettes for Jean­nette. We’d dri­ve to Lon­don to buy her favorite brand “Turk­ish Spe­cials”, but when she ran out, the local grocer’s got used to Jean­nette dump­ing pen­nies on the counter and count­ing out enough for a pack­et of Dunhill’s. They liked this beau­ti­ful, intel­li­gent Amer­i­can woman who was respect­ful of the ways of the village…she got on with all the shop keep­ers. Some­how we always stayed afloat, and we always paid our rent on time.
We had this won­der­ful woman right out of an Agatha Christie nov­el liv­ing next door to us…she was a spin­ster who wore tweed skirts and lived alone. She once asked if I’d help her pass her dri­ving test…I of course said I would. It was only then that she told me she had tak­en and failed the test many times before. She had this lit­tle old Mor­ris Minor sta­tion wag­on and we’d go out togeth­er with Jean­nette in the back seat. It was a bit unnerv­ing to say the least…she wore glass­es and would lean her body for­ward over the steer­ing wheel which she clutched firm­ly with both hands, and peer through the wind­shield as if she couldn’t see where she was going very well. When she had to make a turn she would bend her entire body in the direc­tion she want­ed to go. We almost hit some­thing or some­one many times…but she nev­er did, and even­tu­al­ly got her license. Her name was Peg­gy and she loved Jeannette…they would talk for hours or pick flow­ers togeth­er. I was mow­ing Peggy’s lawn one day when I sud­den­ly heard this pan­icked scream­ing from our gar­den next door. Jean­nette and Peg­gy were pick­ing flow­ers togeth­er. I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes…Jeannette was fran­ti­cal­ly tear­ing her dress up over her head and jump­ing around in her under­wear with no bra like some­one pos­sessed. And Peg­gy was help­ing her. It took me a few sec­onds to process what I was see­ing, and to real­ize that my Amer­i­can girl­friend hadn’t sud­den­ly lost her mind. It turns out that a yel­low jack­et had flown up into her dress and was sting­ing her mul­ti­ple times…Peggy was won­der­ful and knew exact­ly what to do. She was one of those can-do Eng­lish women you like to have around in an emergency…hardy stock. It was very painful for Jean­nette, like mul­ti­ple yel­low jack­et stings can be…but for­tu­nate­ly she had no aller­gic reac­tion of any kind, and soon recov­ered. She was lat­er stung the day before our wed­ding, again with no seri­ous reac­tion. But in 1977, when our baby son was ten days old she stepped on a yel­low jack­et in our bath­room in Cal­i­for­nia and went into ana­phy­lac­tic shock. It took the emer­gency room doc­tors three hours to sta­bi­lize her heart…it would stop, and they’d have to give her anoth­er shot of adren­a­line to get it going again.
It hap­pened while I was up north in the state of Wash­ing­ton buy­ing an old open cock­pit bi-plane and I wasn’t con­tactable. For­tu­nate­ly Jeannette’s moth­er was stay­ing with us and she called the ambu­lance. When I came home I put our new son in the car seat and drove to Marin Gen­er­al to see Jean­nette. She was hap­py to see us. She had a scar­let red streak run­ning from her foot up the entire length of her leg to her heart…they kept her overnight for obser­va­tion. It was very scary. She has to car­ry Epi­neph­rine every­where now. She lat­er devel­oped a seri­ous seafood aller­gy as well…I used to go fish­ing for our din­ner. No way now.
Jean­nette and I were out dri­ving with Peg­gy one day when out of the blue she said,
“I’ve had my roll in the hay you know”.
“Excuse me”? Jean­nette said.
We fell silent…not sure we’d heard cor­rect­ly. It seemed so out of char­ac­ter.
“I just want you to know…I’ve had my roll in the hay. My Joe and I were engaged before he went off to the war…he was killed in action”
We felt very sad for her. Liv­ing next door to Jean­nette and me…it seemed impor­tant to her that we didn’t think she was an old prude that had nev­er loved.
We nev­er saw Peg­gy again after we moved back to Amer­i­ca, but we exchanged Christ­mas cards until she passed away around 1995. She told us she had start­ed play­ing organ for the local church in the vil­lage of West­er­ham, and had even­tu­al­ly mar­ried a man named Ian whom we nev­er met. We miss her.

One dark, and stormy night I was on my own in the cot­tage when I received some very bad news. I was in the bed­room upstairs when I received the phone call. My emo­tion­al state was such that I start­ed shout­ing out in anguish to the emp­ty room, my cries blend­ing with the howl­ing wind and rain beat­ing against the win­dow panes. It insti­gat­ed a meta­phys­i­cal expe­ri­ence which I can only describe as a vision of light. It was too intense for me to go into now, but to say it was a life chang­ing event that has tak­en me years of spir­i­tu­al search­ing to try and make sense of, and to come to terms with.

In June of 1974, the album was final­ly fin­ished; it was time to fly to Cal­i­for­nia for Jeannette’s sister’s wed­ding and for me to check out Jef­fer­son Star­ship. We had to come up with the air­fare some­how and all my ses­sion pay from Rod had been spent on bills. Paul and Grace had offered to pay our way over, but I want­ed to stay inde­pen­dent and not com­mit to any­thing yet. I had impro­vised this lit­tle harp­si­chord inter­lude between songs on “Smil­er”. Rod sug­gest­ed I come up with a name and pub­lish it through his com­pa­ny so he could give me an advance. It was an instru­men­tal piece about thir­ty sec­onds long…pretty short; right on the lim­it of being able to pub­lish. I decid­ed to call it “Lochin­ver” after a beau­ti­ful lit­tle vil­lage on the north east coast of Scot­land that my moth­er and father loved to vis­it.
Rod gave me a healthy advance…enough to buy our tick­ets to San Fran­cis­co and more.
We bid a sad farewell to our close friends and my moth­er and father. It was espe­cial­ly hard for them. They loved Jean­nette and had been hop­ing we would stay in England…perhaps even live near them. We loved our vis­its to their house in Hayes for Sun­day din­ner.
But half of me belonged to Cal­i­for­nia now. I will always love Eng­land, the land I grew up in…the land my dad fought for; the land my grand­fa­ther died for. But I had grown strong roots in the Cal­i­for­nia soil that would only grow stronger as the years rolled by. We said good­bye to my broth­er John; he’s five years old­er than me, but we have always been very close. He had met his future wife, Pam, by then and I could see he was very hap­py. Pam is won­der­ful and kind and very smart; she has a degree in Physics from Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty. John became a sci­en­tist and they are now retired and liv­ing in an old mar­ket town in Hert­ford­shire. They have two won­der­ful grown chil­dren, Melanie and Daniel.
Before we left, Ron Wood had put me in phone con­tact with Ste­vie Wind­wood about pos­si­bly play­ing bass on an upcom­ing “Traf­fic” tour of the USA. I had already said good­bye to Mar­tin Quit­ten­ton and John Lingwood…we’d been rehears­ing togeth­er for some time. John and I are still in touch even today…he’s a won­der­ful drum­mer.
After our flight to San Fran­cis­co, Jef­fer­son Star­ship offered me an equal partnership…it was too good an oppor­tu­ni­ty to turn down. That was pret­ty much the moment we set­tled for good in the States. Jean­nette and I were mar­ried a year lat­er, bought a house the fol­low­ing year, and had our first­born child, Dylan Sears, the year after that. Our daugh­ter, Natal­ie, arrived six years lat­er.
Soon after I joined Jef­fer­son Star­ship I went to see “Traf­fic” when they came through San Francisco…it was a great show and I popped back-stage to say hel­lo to Ste­vie. We had only spo­ken on the phone so it was nice to meet in person…what a great tal­ent he is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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