Drummer Michael Stuart-Ware (The Sons Of Adam & Love) talks about the Rock n’ Roll and Acid Culture

"The rock and roll world is full of distractions. What I learned was to just focus on the music and forget the other crap. It’s all about the music."

Michael Stuart-Ware: Rock n' Roll Carousel

Michael Stuart-Ware was drummer for the band The Sons Of Adam. Joined in group, Love, in 1966 and played drums on albums “Da Capo” and “Forever Changes”. He’s the author of Love: Love Behind the Scenes on the Pegasus Carousel With the Legendary Rock Group. Love was one of the legendary bands of the late 1960s US West Coast scene, and their masterpiece "Forever Changes" still regularly appears in critics' polls. The Sons of Adam, originally from Maryland, but primarily active in California, in the 1960s. The band is notable for its membership including Randy Holden, later of The Other Half and Blue Cheer, and Michael Stuart. Previously known as the Fender IV when they began in Baltimore in 1962, the band then moved to Southern California and became a frequent attraction at clubs on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.

The Sons of Adam were provided with their new name by record producer Kim Fowley. The band's musical direction shifted dramatically with the British Invasion and Beatlemania. The popularity of surf music waned, and their style changed to vocal-based R&B and rock songs. They made a brief appearance playing in a nightclub scene in the 1965 movie, The Slender Thread starring Anne Bancroft. Love’s first album, released in March 1966. In August 1966 the single "7 and 7 Is," notable for the exceptional guitar work of Johnny Echols and proto-punk styled drumming by Pfisterer, became their highest-charting single at No. 33 in the Billboard Hot 100. Two more members were added around this time, Tjay Cantrelli (John Barbieri) on woodwinds and Michael Stuart on drums. Pfisterer, never a confident drummer, switched to harpsichord. Their musical reputation largely rests on the next two albums, Da Capo (1966) and Forever Changes (1967). The band recorded the album Forever Changes in only 64 hours, though many professional session players were utilized, including some who replaced the actual band members in some songs. More recently the album has received recognition as one of the greatest rock albums of all time, appearing on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and being added to the National Recording Registry. In 2009, a reformed version of Love, featuring Johnny Echols, members of Baby Lemonade, and Probyn Gregory of the Wondermints toured the US and Canada. Echols, joined by Baby Lemonade, continues to tour as "Love Revisited," and Michael Stuart was listed as a member of this act for a time in 2009.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Michael Stuart-Ware Archive / All rights reserved

What do you learn about yourself from the Rock n’ Roll and what does Acid Culture mean to you?

The rock and roll world is full of distractions. What I learned was to just focus on the music and forget the other crap. It’s all about the music.

Acid culture was a big part of the scene in the late-sixties but was acid ever a productive factor in the creative process? I’m thinking not. It was just a psychedelic drug, which seemed to be, for the most part, a deterrent to creativity. Just take acid to have a blast for a few hours but be careful of the comedown. It can cause the imagination to run wild. I mean wild. Down the street. There it goes. It’s gone now.

How do you describe Michael Stuart-Ware sound and what characterize your music philosophy?

I have a background in classical and jazz, but I’m a big fan of the blues sound of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown, Muddy Waters, Robin Trower and Johnny Winter.

So my philosophy is most probably an amalgamation of them all. I appreciate my background in classical and jazz but for pure enjoyment I’m primarily a blues freak.

Why did you think that Love music continues to generate such a devoted following?

In the spring of ’66, when I was playing drums with The Sons of Adam, I would occasionally drop into Bido Lito’s to catch one of Love’s sets. I always dug their material. It had a distinctive raw energy … songs like, “My Flash On You”, and “You I’ll Be Following”, tunes occasionally punctuated by a contrasting interlude like “Message To Pretty” or Bryan’s “Softly To Me.” So when I joined up, naturally that’s what I was expecting to play. But then Arthur showed me the songs that were to be on Da Capo and I was surprised to discover the album was geared to have a kind of “jazz rock” flavor. Then, about a year later, when Forever Changes came along, I realized we were going to an even more sophisticated sound…almost orchestral in nature. Arthur was moving it, all right…acid/folk rock, to jazz rock, to symphonic rock…bing, bang, boom. At the time I kind of thought it might be hard for the average fan to digest such quick transitions, and it probably was (that’s probably one of the reasons the albums didn’t sell that well at the time), but in retrospect, I guess it served us well. I always thought Arthur either consciously or subconsciously wrote music for future generations, so … like they say over at Hudsucker Industries, “the future is now.”

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?

The day I met the lady that was to become my wife, was the most important meeting I’ve experienced by far. Her brother, Bobby Covic (a fellow drummer) introduced us. But eleven years prior… when I met Randy Holden, the lead guitarist in The Sons of Adam who subsequently offered me an opportunity to became a part of a truly professional band … that was important, as well. Then when I met Arthur, that was important. All three meetings were important, in that all three changed the course of my life. I mean I met a lot of influential people when I was playing music back in the sixties, like film and TV actors who frequented the clubs we played in L.A., and fellow musicians in bands that were successful during the same period… bands with whom we shared the same bill or played the same venue, like Big Brother and Jefferson Airplane and Bo Diddly and Roland Kirk and countless others.  But I wouldn’t classify those meetings as “important.” We just exchanged ideas and more or less chated.

"I have a background in classical and jazz, but I’m a big fan of the blues sound of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown, Muddy, Robin Trower and Johnny Winter. So my philosophy is most probably an amalgamation of them all. I appreciate my background in classical and jazz but for pure enjoyment I’m primarily a blues freak." (Love: Kenny, Arthur, Michael, Bryan & Johnny)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio which you’d like to share with us?

Well, in the summer of ’67, when we were putting the Forever Changes album together, Bryan took to wearing a white suit with open collar shirt and white suede buck shoes, so Arthur started calling him “Colonel Sanders” and “The Good Humor Man,” because those guys wore white suits too. Arthur was always was giving Bryan a hard time about his lyrics, as well, because he thought they were too happy, and were therefore an affront to our image and an embarrassment to our reputation. He would occasionally ask Bryan, “Man, why are you always writing songs about happy shit, like ‘orange sugar chocolate and lovely things’ and ‘orange skies’? That’s not us.” So then, to really drive the point home in a very public way, Arthur sat down and wrote, “The Good Humor Man, He Sees Everything Like This,” and he put a bunch of exaggerations of what he thought were happy shit-type lyrics in it, you know… to make fun; but I don’t think it worked, because most people who listen to the song about hummingbirds humming and “little girls wearing pigtails in the morning…” and “merry-go-rounds going round” just think it’s a beautiful little song with happy lyrics…which it is. So why is this memory important? Because it demonstrates the character of the interpersonal relationship that Bryan and Arthur shared after Bryan won the battle for the affections of the beautiful Stephanie Buffington. You know…Stephanie, of “Stephanie Knows Who”? That Stephanie. Stephanie knew who, all right…it was Bryan.  And that sealed our destiny.

What were the reasons that made your generation to be the center of Psychedelic Folk/Rock experiments?

Probably the emergence of self-realization and social awareness through music and drugs, and a strong desire on the part of the world’s hip populace to make things right while having a good time along the way. Or similar...

"Music is a self-sustaining entity…an irresistible force that perpetually evolves in its many forms to satisfy the needs of society. Thinking in terms of changing what it is would presumptuously defy the parameters of one’s imagination." (The Sons of Adam: Jac, Randy, Mike, Michael, ca. 1966)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

In the sixties, you could be driving along and turn on the regular old AM radio and hear music by the truly great English blues-oriented power groups…groups like Jeff Beck and The Yardbirds, Eric Burdon and The Animals, Van Morrison and Them, Manfred Mann…the list goes on and on. I kinda miss that, because those bands were bad ass. I didn’t even mind the commercials after every song.

Hopes and fears for the future of music? Never did I hear a truer definition of something that “is what it is” than its application to whatever music happens to be popular at any given time. That’s like asking what kind of saddle I would put on a wild horse. The answer is “none.” I don’t have any fears or hopes for the future of music whatsoever. It is what it is. That’s the beauty of it.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I wouldn’t change a thing. Music is a self-sustaining entity…an irresistible force that perpetually evolves in its many forms to satisfy the needs of society. Thinking in terms of changing what it is would presumptuously defy the parameters of one’s imagination.

What is the best advice ever given you?

Best advice? My dad once told me, “Don’t try to bullshit a bullshitter.” You know…like I guess maybe at the time I was trying to get something past him and he busted my trip. It was good advice, so since then I’ve tried not to get myself into a position of having to bullshit anybody because you never know if the other guy is a bullshitter also, because then it won’t work.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Rock n’ Roll with Blues and continue to Folk and Psychedelic music?

I’m just a musician, and not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert on the roots that bind the different classifications of music together, so this question is really way out of my field of expertise. But since it’s one of the questions I’ll try to answer it. In the beginning there was The Blues.  Then, people wanted to groove and dance so they added a beat, and thus was born Rhythm and Blues. Rhythm and Blues is the foundation of Rock and RollRhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll were perfected by the early guys like Little Richard and Elvis and then further refined, with a very slight country twist, (but not enough to ruin it), by the Everly Brothers. Then, along came The British Invasion, which brought all the great rocking blues groups, you know…the ones previously mentioned who were playing on my car’s AM radio (but also including The Beatles and The Stones, as well) onto the scene. Then, when The Byrds entered the picture, playing the music of Bob Dylan, the psychedelic era of Folk Rock was born. They all blend together most exquisitely to form the basis of the best of the music generated by the counter-culture of the sixties.  I realize that’s probably an all-too-brief over-simplification but you asked, and unfortunately it’s the best I can do under the circumstances, because like I said, I’m not an expert.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?

If you mean what in general has made me laugh, the paranoiac political ravings of the leaders in the Republican Party here in America are pretty humorous. They compete well with the hysterics of television’s America’s Funniest Home Videos, which is real funny as well

Listening to good music is always an emotional experience that puts me into another world. The blazing majesty of Johnny Winters’ opening solo in “Be Careful With A Fool”… the chilling timbre of Muddy Waters’ voice in the studio version of “Mannish Boy”…music is a conduit for the emotional inner-being to pass through. 

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

In that case, I’ll travel back in time to the early sixties and I’ll drop in to “The Brave New World” on one of those nights when Conka didn’t make it, and Arthur was pleading “Is there a drummer in the house?”. Then I could have played on the group’s first album. I love those songs.

(Photo: Michael & Love, backstage at The Hullabaloo, Los Angeles, 1967 / Photo by Earl Leaf)

 

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