Below is a transcript of an article that first appeared in the October 1973 edition of "The Rock Marketplace" by none other than the inimitable Timothy Spaz...
Timothy who, you say? Clearly from the acerbic style and point of view of the piece, this was actually written by Richard Meltzer under an alias, thereby allowing him to refer to himself in the third person...
"Moo Moo." Pearlman used to moo his problems away while scrubbing those counters at the Branch Coffee Shop during the famous summer of '66. Sandy Pearlman was fond of cows and drank a great deal of milk. Free lunch was included and that always meant a tall glass of the old white stuff. He was healthy as an ox and thus was still around in '67 for some rock'n'roll. Time for his own band!
He'd had one before called the Fount and they lasted for two gigs during the summer of '65. A bar in Farmingdale owned - ironically enough - by Sam's unc. They humped their way thru show-stoppers like 'Kansas City' and 'Can I Get A Witness' and hit the kitchen where Sam was busy cuttin' up the beef: roast beef for the whole gang so unc fired 'em and the Fount was never heard from again. Pearlman in fact performed with them that second nite, wailing his chops thru an all reet version of the Stones' 'It's Alright' on vocal and harp. Not bad, but that was it for the old bozo as far as performing was to be concerned.
Cause management was really where he was @. So he got himself a buncha locals late summer of '67 and he told 'em the whole story, the story of etc. And so the Cows were born. Andrew Winters on bass from Pearlman's daddy's drugstore (finger-pickin geetar was his speciality, but somebody hadda play bass), Donald Roeser on 6-string electric, Albert Bouchard on skins, Dutch Lanier on keyboards (he was makin' it with Hope Nigro at the time, she of David Roter bedtime fame - David was Stony Brook's original R&R hero and he once got to play opposite Nico at the Dom and those boys were, for all intents and purposes, a Stony Brook band). They didn't like being called the Cows so Sandy changed the name after a period of deep thought to the Soft White Underbelly.
That fall the boys took up residence in nearby St James cause Donald and Andrew lived nearby (Albert was from upstate Clayton and Dutch from Westchester: his parents were rich muh-fuhs and he was living the bohemian life quite by choice). John Wiesenthal was living there and so was Jeff Richards (lots of pimples and Clearasil and red hair). John had years before been the very man to teach Jackson Browne how to play guitar (a true fact) and they often surfed together in Southern Cal. John was getting kosmic about this time, so he was always telling the guys they didn't need to practice, that it would all "just come together once they started playing in public." Pearlman did not go along and chided Johnny severely on a number of occasions.
That Thanksgiving the boys got to do their first non-college type gig, the annual Blues Bag at the Cafe au Go-Go, and Wiesenthal was present on unamplified keyboard (so you wouldn't hafta hear him). The nite before he'd taken off on the wings of mesc-o-leen and was particularly off-the-wall so he got R. Meltzer - an old college buddy of his and Pearlman's - to be the 'singer' for the show. Meltzer was allowed to do anything he wanted and all he did was rip off his shirt (an Indian shirt), stick his head inside the bass drum, and yell "Piss!" in each of the three mikes set up in front of the stage. Then he pulled out the plug on Don's guitar (club schmucko Howard Solomon was screaming for them to stop by then cause they were starting to infringe upon his half-hour limit) and their first gig was over (they got paid a hearty handshake for it).
Backstage Wiesenthal befriended Richie Havens and the talk was kosmic, all about shiny lovebeads and the month of July, whole lotta horsepoop.
At this time Dutch was in the army cause he failed to physical himself out of it.
So they needed some extra meat to make their music. Jeff Latham, a college chum of Albert and Donald from somewhere upstate where they had all dropped out of (droppin' out was a big deal at the time), was employed and he brought along his skinny broad. Jeff became rhythm ax man. Meanwhile the other Jeff, Richards, was called upon to both sing and play sax (tenor).
Don's best girl at this time was Debbie Strongin, daughter of Theodore Strongin the classical review geezer for the NY Times. She was better known as "Ah, Shit, Man," cause that's all she ever said. One eve she was seen by a urinator lying on the bathroom floor in St James with her arms around the bowl. She had puked and was ecstatic about it: them kosmic heebie jeebs again! Lotta psychedelics on the periphery of the house but nobody in the band ever really did that much of it, they were just mostly plain country folk. Debbie ran off with a roadie from the Grateful Dead shortly thereafter (she was a big jazz fan).
By this time Pearlman had been working for Crawdaddy for some time, so he figgered it was high time to parlay that into some R&R $$$$. Him and Neil Louison (the cuz of Bob Somma of Fusion fame) got this deal together to hold some Crawdaddy concerts at the Village Theater on 2nd Ave. That fell thru cause the past phone bill from the guy before 'em was too much so they moved down to the Anderson Theater and planned 4 or 5 dates. First one was Country Joe, Jim Kweskin, and the Underbelly.
Real fuxxin' bomb it was too (Underbelly bomb). Jeff Richards was wearing this red flannel bathrobe with stars on it. They were not so hotte. 200 bucks is what they got. They were supposed to get 300 but this creepo named Tony who got gunned down a few months later was the real moneybags behind the event and he docked 'em 100 for practicing too late one night. Nite of the show Dutch showed up from the army to check it out but he did not play.
This was early '68 and he was out of Fort Dix pretty soon after an overdose of darvon for his bad back that they wouldn't let him out for at his physical. Jeff Latham quit pretty soon after and joined the air force.
Bout this time was when they decided they needed a singer. They played a Beethoven's birthday party at Stony Brook and all sorts of guys tried out singin' with 'em, including Larry Silvestri (a shorty) and Les Braunstein (an asshole from summer stock who once wrote a hit for Peter, Paul & Mary or maybe it was just on an album or something, "I'm in Love with a Big Blue Frog"). Les had a van too and that's what they needed so he became their singer. This was not a singer's band, just a bunch of musicians who took long jams and they didn't want any of this singer shit but they finally had to settle cause none of them wanted to do it.
Couple weeks after the Anderson they were supposed to back up Jackson Browne at the same place but it never happened because Tim Buckley's manager (he was on the bill too with Steve Noonan opening first) cancelled out cause he figured it for a real turkey. To this day Jackson will not talk to Pearlman on account of this fxxk-up.
By this summer Wiesenthal had acided himself west (somewhere along the line Albert had got drafted and he took some acid when he went down and Wiesenthal stayed up with him telling him all about how important it was to save the world and so Albert went in with that line and they just sent him home so next time he hadda queer his way out of armed service) and Richards had graduated so all that was left was the basic band members so they moved to Great Neck. Got one of them decaying mansion type places where F.Scott Fitzgerald mighta lived, bad pipes and bad wires and caved in ceilings for 300 a month or 4. Les got there first when they moved in so him and his sweety Kippy (she used to cook a good pork butt) grabbed the biggest room, the only one that had its own bathroom (real sneaky fxxkers and everybody hated 'em for it on top of hating 'em already).
Also round this time they were beginning to do their own material with lyrics by Pearlman and Meltzer and music mostly by Bouchard and Lanier (one song also by Winters, a longie called "Green" that later became the legendary "St Cecilia"). Stuff with titles like "Mothra", "Sittin' on the Buddha's Knee", "Bonomo's Turkish Taffy", "Bark in the Sun", "John L. Sullivan's Readymade", et cetera. By midsummer they were real solid and playing Group Image Dances at the Hotel Diplomat.
One such nite they were opposite Wind in the Willows (Capitol recording stars) and Jac Holzman was down to check 'em out for Elektra. The old buzzard was on THC and he thought he was witnessing the new Morrison, that's what he thought Braunstein was! Braunstein wasn't allowed to do shit except on their finale he was allowed to do a long monologue about poking your own eyes out (schmucky-wucky) and that's what Holzman liked. The place wasn't air-conditioned and Holzman said, "I want this group".
So they signed with Elektra (Mercury had turned 'em down already and they had done a demo with Al Kooper at which Al was embarrassed to be a fellow yid of Braunstein cause that's how bad Braunstein was: bad) and at the signing there was supposed to be champagne but all he had for 'em was asti spumante that tasted like vomit. They finally go into the studio to cut an elpee and their producer is a yid-boy name of Peter Siegel whose later claim to fame was he produced Spirit in Flesh those morons from hippie heaven Vermont. Two hours in the studio and they already know that it's gonna be a disaster with Braunstein. One nite he brings in 2,000 bucks for some throw-away horn pooperoo. Nother time they're cookin' away into this jam on "Buddha's Knee" when suddenly he fxxks it up with some bells and gongs he sneaked into the booth and they crack up and it's ruined. There wasn't one track that he didn't ruin, after a while it was like Pete Siegel telling him to try it again with his hands over his mouth or through a megaphone or stuff like that. An unsalvageable disaster so they decided to get down to it and concentrate on their live act and get back onto 2nd Ave which by now meant the Fillmore.
They played the Fillmore July 4th opposite Jeff Beck and Jethro Tull (this was '69 already) but two-three weeks before that they unveiled their new lead singer Eric 'Manny' Bloom. Manny had been the Rock King of the Finger Lakes (his actual title) when he went to Hobart along with Eric Anderson and all sorts of other heavies and now he was down to dealing certain illicits and that's how the band was first introduced to him, thru his illicits. It was Thanksgiving '68 at the Electric Circus where they were playing with Graffiti and that nite they decided to dress up like hicks and slick their hairs back and so happened that Manny had also gone to school with Les so there's the connection. Les brings Manny down and he supplies 'em with illicits and so happens he has a van too so right away he's living in Great Neck as a roadie.
Time goes by and they know Les blows dead bears so they hear these tapes of Manny from when he was RKFL and it sounds all reet so one night they audition Manny while Les is sleeping and it's all over for Les. They woulda got rid of Les a lot earlier only they never talked to him so it was hard to talk to him when they finally got down to it. Anyway Manny was their first real singer and their first real gig together was a deb party in Westport Connecticut. Manny did the "Uncle Willy" and brought the house down (house included classy debs and their escorts in madras tuxedos). Other band was Lester Lanin.
So they finally play the Fillmore and they had real dyn-o-mite shit by now but the crowd ignored them cause it was the 4th and these other two big-mutha bands were on the bill and they got this shitty review from Lucien Truscott of WestPoint in the Voice so Pearlman decided fxxk he better change their name or their ass is grass (in fact, they lost a gig at the Circus cause the Circus guy read the review). So months and months go by of Pearlman thinkin' up a new name for 'em. They went through a million tentative name changes that included Bad Bullet, Pit Dog, the Santos Sisters, the Underbelly (without the Soft White), 1-2-3 Black Light (Eric's suggestion), the Knife-Wielding Scumbags (Andy's name), the Nappies (Pearlman's girlfriend Joan's), Africa, and many, many more. Finally they settled on Oaxaca (pronounced wah-hah-kuh). They went out west to record in LA and they went as Oaxaca.
By this time Albert's personal honey Helen was doing a lot of heavy dealing, operating out of the liquor store where she worked. This was beginning to scare the pants off everybody in the house. When the boys left for California, Helen had a 6-day drug-&-pud orgy with this fellow dealer Monte who used to look like John Mayall and Donald's future bride Sandi Nasci (sometimes pronounced nazi cause she was regarded as an oft-times piece-o-shit by such folks as Andrew etc). The 3 of 'em really got it on and in the course of their action the place ran out of heat and the pipes froze. Water leaked all over the place and shorted everything out and moulded up the whole house. When the boys got back from the Coast they were greeted by all that plus psychedelic art on all the walls (the neighbours hated them).
This sort of shit caused Winters to decide he'd had enough and sooner or later he quit and went home to ma. For a week, while he was gone they replaced him with this guy named Trivers who was another Hobart person and who played bass for the legendary Archies (a true fact). But Winters came back.
Meanwhile the album was finished, produced mostly by Jay Lee but by the end of it they were sick of him. Jay used to claim he wrote "Happy Together" and then when they looked on the label and it wasn't him he'd say he only produced it or arranged it or something. Also said he produced Fever Tree but they never saw any verification. Only sure thing was that his father wrote "C'est si bon". He was big on echo and such crap, they used it on a couple of cuts and it turned out to be an actually great album, on a par with anything ever to come out of either LA or SF, one of the landmark American albums (many people who've heard the tapes agree, f'rinstance Greg Shaw and Gary Kenton).
Summer of '70 comes on and it's time to release the album. By this time they've changed their name to Stalk Forrest Group (hype was that Stalk & Forrest were two former dead members of the group) and a single is out under that name on Elektra (EKM-45693), "What is Quicksand?"/"Arthur Comics". Lyrics both by Meltzer and music by Lanier and Bouchard respectively. Only 200 copies were pressed.
Album's supposed to come out but first Pearlman has to decide on the sequence of cuts and he's a slowpoke so by the end of summer Holzman decides he's had enough shenanigans with all these bogus recording sessions and personnel changes (he was particularly incensed when they dropped "the new Morrison") and name changes and everything so he sez shove it, brother. No more Elektra for them and the album is still in their vaults.
So the boys sit down and think it over and for about a week they decide it's all over and they want out. Winters finally quits for good. So they pick themselves up and dust themselves off and get Albert's bruh Joe to play bass and the the serious biz starts again: new name is needed once again. Fewer names were considered this time including the Underbelly and also Hot bearded Clam. They settle on Blue Oyster Cult (Sandy Pearl-man & The Blue Oyster Cult) & the rest is history.
Looking back the worst show they ever had was at Steve Paul's The Scene where they played opposite NRBQ when they were first on Columbia (NRBQ not BOC), they were Soft White Underbelly then and Braunstein was the culprit. He brought along a big bag of root beer lollipops and threw 'em around the audience when it came time for his big narrative at the end ("I want you all to be on a good trip so here's some root beer lollipops"). They never got asked back and he was to blame. Recently he's been showing up again and hitting 'em for a place to stay (his PP&M royalties have worn out and he's looking to get produced by David Peel). When any one member of the band knows he's in town they have a 'Braunstein alert' about answering phones, doorbells etc. Wiesenthal and Winters are in Greece with Wiesenthal's wife who was once his guitar student. Richards is painting houses in Playa del Rey (Calif). Helen is an artist in NYC. Their sound man is this guy George who used to beat up acidheads at Stony Brook and is now a hippo himself. Albert has been married (a divorcee with a young brat) and now lives as a bachelor with Eric (they don't call him Manny no more). Dutch is living with Chattanooga poet Patti Smith one block from Dylan's Greenwich Village residence. They're very popular in the state of Florida.
Timothy Spaz (reprinted from The Rock Marketplace)