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.