Over Hill, Over Dale, As We Hit the Dusty Trail (a Robin Dale and SRC reverie)



SRC cover of SRC’s first album on Capitol

Got a nice note from lead singer Scott Richardson of the legendary SRC band recently, confirming that Robin Dale was indeed the bass player for a couple years in his group and that he was still living in Asia (where I’d met him) and that Robin was still occasionally in touch with Scott. SRC was a legendary psychedelic '60s Detroit band contemporaneous with the MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, and Ted Nugent's Amboy Dukes, but with a mysterious gothic sound all their own owing a lot to doom-laden keyboard passages, classical flourishes, and searing, brain-frying fuzzed-out guitar penetration courtesy of unsung Midwestern guitar hero Gary Quackenbush. After some indie singles (including a decent version of Cream's version of Skip James's "I'm So Glad"), SRC were signed nationally to Capitol in the late '60s, with their first album released in Nov.'69 sporting their apocalyptic minor-keyed single "Black Sheep," which once heard is not easily forgotten (exemplifying as it does the Dark Side of acid ). Fast forward a few years later when I was living in Taipei in the mid-'70s. I had put together yer basic jam band there with Jewish blues harp master Hank Frisch, Swedish rhythm guitarist and singer Jesper Gadelius (a big blonde Aryan galoot who spoke flawless Japanese, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Swedish and English), and a Taiwanese rhythm section of Peter Ing on bass and Aldo Tseng on drums. During the summer of 1975 during one of our jams in the club we loved to hang out at, the Scarecrow, I met Robin Dale, and invited him to come back the next night with his bass guitar. He did, and after a couple of beers we got down to it and jammed our brains out to our mutual satisfaction. He got a nice fat bottom on his Fender Precision bass. Afterwards he revealed to me he had played in this way-ahead-of-their-time proto-punk outfit from Detroit. Who I'd seen lip-synch to their single "Black Sheep" on regional syndicated tv show Upbeat while in high school (about the only place you could ever see The Yardbirds with Jimmy Page on American tv. Not to mention the energetic and campy Jeff Kutash and the Upbeat Dancers). Robin told me about his years working with SRC (which stood for Scott Richards Case -- go figure, as the guy's name is Scott Richardson, but anyway) and the Quackenbush Brothers -- Gary Quackenbush (who sadly bit it in 2015) and keyboard madman older brother Glenn. Best Robin Dale moment in Taiwan though was dropping acid with him a year or so later to watch the obligatory 4th of July fireworks display after the barbecue blow-out held on the pitch in back of the Taipei American School on Bicentennial Night 1976. Things started getting really interesting and "rilllyyy intense" (cue Valley Girl voice) quickly as the acid kicked in, and the shimmering sparkle of the feux d'artifice did not disappoint. Robin had a big black and silver chrome Harley chopper (his main mode of conveyance in the hills outside downtown Taipei) and offered me a ride back to the apartment I was sharing downtown with my strapping Swedish bandmate, who was away visiting his ancestral home at that particular moment. I must say, I had the ride of my life hanging onto Robin's waist for dear life while tripping my brains out as he barreled down the hills and onto the highway straightaways, taking hair-pin turn after breathtaking hair-pin turn whizzing us through the deserted streets of Taipei, image after after-image searing my retinas like so many starburst flares lighting up a battlefield. Finally we were home at the luxury high rise I was crashing in (Jesper came from serious Swedish money, and I'd lucked out to get my own bedroom in his huge apartment complex). I hopped off Robin's chopper shakily, and shook hands with Mr. Dale -- then took the lift to the top floor apartment. The LSD was still coming on strong, I couldn't sleep obviously, half-digested chunks of cheap hotdogs and burgers were a'churning in my stomach after such a ride. Finally my body had had enough of this internal turbulence, and after puking my guts out (great colours on acid) I settled down in bed to read Aleister Crowley's Diary of a Drug Fiend, which I'd copped in Hong Kong at the famous English book store Swindon's (a fantastic store, which sadly closed a year ago -- and a phenomenal novel, well recommended. You can understand why Jimmy Page bought Crowley's Boleskine house in Scotland after reading him some Crowley, this and Crowley's other novel Moonchild). I read and read Diary of a Drug Fiend all night until sunrise -- when, coming down slowly, finally, I dozed off till around 1 pm…and then I was up and at 'em again. Memories are made of this (kids, don't try this at home!).

Robin Dale circa 1967

PS. Upon arriving in NYC spring '77 with my Singaporean bride Ling Ling, after beating a hasty retreat from Taipei (long story, but a good 'un -- another time), I paid a visit to Bleecker Bob's Records, which at that point was situated next to Capezio's on MacDougal right off 8th Street. The runty little pit-bull (né Bob Plotnik) carried all sorts of English import albums and singles, early Punk artifacts, and choice rare albums in his world famous store. I'd known Bob (who was always good for a gratuitous insult) since the Glam-orous '70s hey day. I'd been taking the train down from New Haven and going in there for hot product since my days as a DJ and Music Director of Yale's radio station WYBC. In fact, I bought Roxy Music's first album on import the day it hit Bob’s store, took it back to New Haven, and previewed the whole thing that very night on my long running radio program "The Sounds from England (and Other Delicacies)". Several years on, Bob was kibitzing as always behind the front-of-store counter looking none the worse for wear…we exchanged pleasantries (Bob: "Where YOU been?" Me: "The Far East!") and then I asked Bob whether he had a copy of SRC’s first album. He pointed me to a bin full of albums in the back of the store marked "Detroit Rock"... but there was somebody in front of me currently thumbing through that bin. I waited patiently -- and suddenly this person turned around and made full eye contact with me and it was PATTI SMITH!! Who I’d only previously seen in the pages of Rock Scene magazine, a copy of which I'd copped from the PX at the US Army base in Taipei the summer before. I also recognized Patti from the cover of her Horses album on Arista, which I'd picked up stateside on a visit home. (In fact the AFNT -- the Armed Forces Network, a private radio channel pumped exclusively to US military bases, had played "Land" off Patti's debut album one night in Taipei shortly after it came out with all its attendant publicity hoopla -- and when the long meandering track finished, the snarky DJ said: "Okay Patti -- back to the asylum!") Now here was fucking Patti Smith standing in front of me giving me a deep soulful stare (if not the, uh, proverbial TV Eye), right in front to the back of my skull. Sort of "who IS this weird, intense looking guy…and why is he interested in Detroit Rock??" Said Detroit Rock was kind of Patti's bailiwick apparently, as evidenced by her marrying Fred "Sonic" Smith from the MC5 some years later. In any case, I found the SRC album in the bin, picked it up and saw Robin Dale's mug on the back cover photo (so he wasn't bullshitting me after all)…purchased the album (for 25 bucks! a lot of bread in those days) wrapped in a plastic sleeve...took it back to the apartment Ling and I were subletting on Bleecker Street...slapped it on the old turntable--


Still doesn't.   

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