I’m a roadie for 2 days a year (which is about all I can stand) as a volunteer for the Sausalito Arts Festival. I work the stage crew, which in general is hauling equipment, food and ice for the performers, and being additional security for the gates to the backstage areas. (BTW, the performers’ dressing room area is right next to the garbage — so much for glamour.) This year, though, my job was to sell merchandise, which is about as good a gig as you could want, because you sit at the right front corner of the stage, and can climb up backstage or walk in the protected area in front of the stage to take photos. Yeah, you do have to hear all the music and then people shove money in your face for CDs and t-shirts (btw, there’s a lot more money to be made in the shirts than the music, which really says something). Hard job, huh? Plus they fed us.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the “Summer of Love”, so that was the theme for the music this year, and Jefferson Starship was there, along with Quicksilver Messenger Service, It’s a Beautiful Day (now known as David LaFlamme and friends), the only living keyboardist from the Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage and Marshall Tucker Band. It was a lot of fun to hear the great music (the guitar work is wonderful) and see lots of 60-somethings shaking it (I had a front row seat to that, too).
Anyway, the merchandise job went like this. The band’s manager (or someone) would bring you whatever they were selling, and tell you how much it cost. You wrote down the prices, took inventory, taped the t-shirts up to a high fence so people could see them, sold the merchandise, took inventory again, and settled up the money, taking the festival’s cut. It’s amazing how disorganized most of these folks are: no price list, no count of the merchandise to begin, no information about the CDs, no bank (you do need change, unless everything you’re selling is priced at $20). Jefferson Starship didn’t even bring me all the inventory, and lost sales because I was out of sizes that they had but hadn’t bothered to bring me, or even mention they had.
When David LaFlamme (I don’t know if you remember his song, “White Bird”, but it’s one of my favorites) came out to settle up (and btw, he was the only organized one), he was singing ”Everybody’s Talkin’”, the theme from the movie, “Midnight Cowboy”:
“Everybody's talkin' at me
Can't hear a word they're sayin'
Only the echoes of my mind
People stoppin', starin'
I can't see their faces
Only the shadows of their eyes
Goin' where the sun keeps shinin'
In the pouring rain
Goin' where the weather suits my clothes
Banking off a northeast wind
Sailin' on a summer's breeze
Skipping over the ocean
Like a stone”
LaFlamme told me that when he was a young man, he wanted to be Fred Neil, the author of that song. He said, I didn’t want to be like him, I wanted to be him. Then he said that Neil was the guy Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs looked up to, as well. He told me that at some point, Neil bought a sailboat, and took off for parts unknown, never to be professionally heard from again.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I was always puzzled by what that song had to do with a male prostitute in New York City. Good song, good movie, but to me, they didn’t go together. Okay, the weather in NYC sucks a lot, and in the movie, the main characters are in a pretty desperate situation, alienated from much of society, so a little escapism could be expected — but that song is about sailing! And there is definitely no sailing in the movie.
And about a day later it hit me — Fred Neil was putting his dream out there, in a way that probably hundreds of millions of people heard hundreds or thousands of times (it was a top 40 hit). Perhaps that song made him the money that bought him the sailboat that made his dream come true. Maybe all those minds focused on his dream, even a little, made it come true.
Imagine all those minds focused, even a little, on your dream.