On This Day…

On this day in 1975 I went to a concert with my friends. This was my very first concert and I was very excited. We went to see Santana who was on a monster tour around the world. Like many stars of the day he had chartered a plane, which was depicted in the booklet for the triple-LP Lotus, recorded live in Japan in 1974.
I knew nothing about Santana’s opening act. Then the lights went out and in the complete darkness a booming voice incanted “Earth, Wind and Fire” and when he chanted the last word two columns of fire rose from the dark stage… then the music began. Most of the band was using wireless technology (in 1975!!!) and frequently the whole band, except for the drummers, ran around the stage… exiting on one side, running behind the stage and reappearing on the other side. Never again have I seen an opening act get three encores. After the third encore all of the hall lights went on to calm down the audience.

Then Santana started playing. They were very good, of course, but we were under the Earth, Wind & Fire SPELL! Toward the end of Santana’s customarily long set, several E,W & F musicians came back onto the stage, among them the guitarist. He took a solo and after his solo we noticed a shift in Carlos’ presence. He started glowing and when he played he threw his head back and magic happened. An unforgettable evening. That evening may very well be responsible for me becoming a musician. I received Lotus as a gift and wore out those LPs! I learned several of the melodies by ear, among them, of course, Samba Pa Ti!

Fast forward to 1991: we are in the studio recording our first album for Epic Records, to be called Solo Para Ti. I wanted to record Santana’s Samba Pa Ti and talked to my product manager at Epic, Al Masocco, about how I could ask Carlos to play guitar on the song. At the time Santana was under contract at Columbia Records and both Epic and Columbia were under the umbrella of Sony Music. Introductions were made and Carlos agreed to play the solo. A few weeks later I drove to the Bay Area to record Carlos, who wanted to work in a recording studio in Sausalito that he was familiar with and with an engineer he knew. In addition to the solo on Samba Pa Ti Carlos also played on my composition Reaching Out 2 U. The latter is a truly amazing solo I have listened to countless times!

In 1996 Santana asked me to open for their US tour. Luna Negra was a quartet at the time, with Jon, of course, Carl Coletti (drums) and Ron Wagner (tablas + dumbek). We would perform for about 40′, then Santana would take to the stage to a song by Miles Davis (perhaps from the album doo-bop?) and play for half an hour. At that point the four of us would join the Santana band on stage and play several songs with them. Samba Pa Ti, of course, but also a tune called El Mar from George Benson’s White Rabbit, and a melody from the Concierto de Aranjuez. There may have been more, but that’s what I remember. We played together for a half hour, maybe. Santana’s long performances are legendary and most nights we were in our bus, driving to another city while he was still playing.

Tomorrow… a few memories from that tour.


Santana Airplane from Lotus

This is part of the sleeve of Santana’s triple LP Lotus, recorded live in Japan. I received it for christmas 1975. When we toured with Santana in 1996 I asked him to autograph it. I had it framed with two of his picks. Carlos used the red pick in Phoenix during a luna eclipse/luna negra. His guitar tech made the notation on the pick. From the stage we had a perfect view of the lunar eclipse which was happening behind the audience. , , , ,

Traveling with Earrings

I had my right ear pierced for the first time in 1978, in Taipei, Taiwan. Bought a little gold stud.

A few months later I found myself in Thailand, about to board a bus from Bangkok to Phuket Island. A lot of busses were getting hi-jacked and robbed at that time and in order to attract less attention I tried removing the stud from my right ear. I couldn’t find the lock behind the ear and tried pulling out the stud from the front. Something was resisting and it hurt, but I gave it a good tug and the stud came out. Since it seemed a little infected I did not put the stud back into the right ear.

A few months later still, I found myself in New Delhi and staying on the roof of a hotel – cheapest beds were on the roof, under a tent-like structure, maybe 10 beds under the tent… An Australian girl pierced my right ear again – by placing a potato behind my ear and jamming a needle with thread through the ear into the potato…

Are you grossed out? Should I stop?

Fast forward about six months and I am walking around Cologne with my brother. Something had been itching in my right ear-lobe for a few days… and I kept messing with my ear. I walked into a restroom and looked into the mirror. A strange shine seemed to emanate from my right ear lobe, only when the light hit it at a certain angle… I leaned forward and closer and started pulling on my ear – and removed the clasp that had been fastened on the stud in Taiwan, and which I could not find in Thailand. Apparently my ear-flesh had grown around and over the clasp while I was in Taiwan and Hongkong, and caused the resistance I experienced in Bangkok when I tried to remove the stud. The girl in New Delhi had re-pierced my ear in a higher spot – above the clasp inside my earlobe. And now the clasp had completed its journey from behind my ear through my ear to the front.

I started wearing an earring in the new, higher hole and soon the weight of that ring made the top hole unite with the bottom hole to form one rather large hole…

Anyway, in the Summer of 1979 I lived in New York and Vermont and it was cool to have an earring in the right ear. In the Fall, however, I moved to Boston. Different rules apply in Boston – I believe Keith Richards commented somewhere on this silliness also – while in New York an earring in your left ear was considered a gay-signal and an earring on the right was a thing a lot of musicians wore, it was the other way around in Boston. My solution was simple, I got a hole in my left ear as well and started wearing two earrings.

The two gold earrings I have worn since 1990 were custom-made since I couldn’t find anything I liked. I wanted simple earRINGs and the solution was to buy two wedding bands and modify them by removing a small section and adding a hinged back to each.