1975. Quick­sil­ver Mes­sen­ger Ser­vice. “Sol­id Sil­ver”. Capi­tol Records.

I made a guest piano appear­ance on three tracks for this Quick­sil­ver album. It was good to play with my old friend and Cop­per­head band-mate John Cipol­li­na again. David Freiberg and I were mem­bers of Jef­fer­son Star­ship at the time. Anoth­er old friend, Nicky Hop­kins, also played some won­der­ful piano on a cou­ple of tracks on this quick­sil­ver, “Sol­id Sil­ver” album.
The album was record­ed at Colum­bia Record­ing Stu­dios on Fol­som Street in San Fran­cis­co in June and August of 1975. It was released on Capi­tol Records.
The young San Fran­cis­co music scene dur­ing the late six­ties and ear­ly sev­en­ties was steeped in a sort of pseu­do wild west out­law per­sona that crept into many musi­cians dress style and way of think­ing. Even the music. Before I left “Stone­ground” in Mill Val­ley to go back and record “Every Pic­ture Tells a Sto­ry” with Rod Stew­art, John, who I had just met, and I used to pop down to Mick­ey Hart of the “Grate­ful Dead’s” ranch in Nova­to and shoot off many rounds from John’s exten­sive col­lec­tion of antique wild west guns. We car­ried on the tra­di­tion after I returned from Eng­land with the “Long John Baldry Blues Band” to join John in a band that end­ed up being called “Cop­per­head”. We were often joined by Nick Graven­ites, and once Bob Dylan’s road man­ag­er and won­der­ful musi­cian in his own right, Bob­by Newarth, whom Nick was pro­duc­ing and I was play­ing piano on his album. Mick­ey had Cym­bals, drum heads and soda cans hang­ing from trees at a bend in his creek and we’d just stand there blast­ing away like mad…then Jerylin would cook us up a won­der­ful meal. Before I met John I used to go to a field down the end of Ten­nessee Val­ley Road in Mill Val­ley and shoot tin cans with black pow­der repli­cas of antique per­cus­sion cap rifles and Colt 45’s. I was only 22 years old at the time.
John even put me up in his antique gun room at his house on King Street in Mill Val­ley until I found a place of my own and brought my girl­friend Lucy Daniel over from England.
Dino Valen­ti was a pret­ty intense and extro­vert char­ac­ter, and we once got into it over an ex-girl­friend of his called Colleen…it was towards the end of my time with Cop­per­head in late 1971 ear­ly 72. Lucy and I had bro­ken up and she was back in Eng­land. Colleen and I had been in a whirl­wind, pas­sion­ate affair for a few days when she called me in tears one night at a San Fran­cis­co stu­dio I was record­ing in to tell me Dino had called to say he was on his way over to her house in Mill Val­ley to beat her up and blow my head off. He for some rea­son felt he owned his ex-girl­friends and word had it that he would often try to enforce this through violence.
She was a very beau­ti­ful woman with long blonde hair hang­ing down past her slim waist. My sil­ly chival­rous instincts kicked in, I dropped my bass in the mid­dle of record­ing, told the band what was hap­pen­ing and sped over the Gold­en Gate Bridge in my old beat up Ron Polte Ply­mouth V8 to Marin. We sat on the sofa in her house while I tried my best to com­fort her; Dino had appar­ent­ly hit her before. I was ful­ly expect­ing him to come barg­ing in the door bran­dish­ing a pis­tol or a sawn off shot­gun at any moment. But he nev­er showed up and we slid into oth­er more pleas­ant activ­i­ties some­what inten­si­fied by the sharp edge of danger.
I was pret­ty head­strong in those days and I liked to get things over with once and for all and bring things to a head…I didn’t want to stew over it for days.
The next day John loaned me a lit­tle Sat­ur­day night spe­cial 22 cal­iber auto­mat­ic he had and we went to a par­ty at attor­ney Toulouse’s house in Mill Val­ley where I knew Dino would be…just to see what would hap­pen and get things over with one way or anoth­er. Believe me I had no inten­tion of start­ing any­thing, but I didn’t want to be unarmed if he forced my hand.
When I look back on it today I can’t believe how idi­ot­ic, young and fool­ish I was…standing there in a house full of coked out peo­ple, Dino just across the room from me…my hand rest­ing on a loaded semi-auto­mat­ic pis­tol in my right jack­et pock­et, and wait­ing with nar­rowed eyes to see if he would make a move.
Must have had some­thing to do with my scrap­py south Lon­don post-WW2 Brom­ley upbring­ing I suppose…I was very lucky some­thing ter­ri­ble didn’t happen.
Well, to cut a long sto­ry short…in true 1970’s Marin Coun­ty fash­ion Dino and I end­ed up in the bath­room with a cou­ple of oth­er guys snort­ing coke…and that was that. Colleen and I car­ried on see­ing each oth­er on and off for a while.
The last time I saw Dino was when I bumped into him in Denny’s din­er one day and he asked me to play on a solo record he was get­ting togeth­er. I said I would. He lat­er died of a brain tumor and I often won­der if his errat­ic behav­ior which put so many peo­ple off, includ­ing Nicky Hop­kins and John Cipol­li­na, not to men­tion his vio­lence with women was part­ly due to some sort of phys­i­cal pres­sure on the brain.
I was told he used to like to prey on attrac­tive young women and con­trol and intim­i­date them as long as he could…he appar­ent­ly had start­ed a rela­tion­ship with Colleen when she was only six­teen. I remem­ber hear­ing he had punched one of the Cham­bers Broth­ers in the face for some stu­pid reason…so he wasn’t all talk I sup­pose. And this is the man who wrote “Get Togeth­er”, one of the most clas­sic peace and love songs ever written.
One of the sto­ries goes, and there are a few, was that Dino was once stuck in a Mex­i­can jail­house and he sold the song to make bail…giving up all writ­ers and pub­lish­ing rights. Some say that Jesse Col­in Young wrote it.
Who knows…all I know is that it is a won­der­ful song that I have played many times with dif­fer­ent people…my favorite being with blues­man Nick Graven­ites. Dino was actu­al­ly a very tal­ent­ed vocal­ist, song­writer, front man, and col­or­ful char­ac­ter who used to cruise around Marin with his fel­low Quick­sil­vian Gary Dun­can on their shiny chrome Harleys. His son Joli Valen­ti has now picked up the baton and has turned into a won­der­ful vocalist.
Crazy times.