1972 was a strange trip. I was sixteen and seventeen years old.
- The Volkswagen Beetle is a top seller.
- Radical activist Angela Davis is released from Jail. (The Rolling Stones wrote "Sweet Black Angel" in her honor.)
- "Bloody Sunday" the British Army kills 14 civilians in Northern Ireland.
- Average income was $11k.
- Savoy Brown releases "Hellbound Train".
- Pink Floyd comes to Portland's Memorial Coliseum. Ticket Price: $4.50.
- Gas: 55 cents a gallon, cigarettes: 35 cents a pack.
- "Deliverance" hits the theaters.
It was an interesting year. The Doobie Brothers, Alice Cooper, and the girl next door all contributed to one of my great awakenings. I had much on my plate back then: first job and first time experimenting with drugs out of the safe "weed" network.
I was not a child of the streets; I came from a basic working class home. However, North Portland was a different culture altogether. It was a diverse mix of the angry, the angrier, the weird, the weirder,and mellow folks who populated the neighborhood. It was an education--the wrong kind of education--and it was real.
1972 was a major turning point in my life. "Acid" became a new thing though I only did it a couple of times. I quickly learned that psychedelics were the most "trippy" of all and had earned their reputation as having serious hallucinogenic properties. My first acid trips began with 3 varieties of acid that were circling the area at the time: "Window Pane", "Purple Haze", and "White Lightning." I couldn't tell you the differences between any of them as they all were a literal "trip." However, "Window Pane" was the strongest. "White Lightning" was a close runner-up, but it didn't last as long. White Lightning had an unusual effect on me: it made me the strongest, and most fearless individual in the world. "Window Pane" went all-night-long for about 8-10 hours. The Window Pane that came to us was in the form of a clear plastic strip that dissolved, hence the name "Window Pane." Acid, no matter what grade, usually cost around $2-5 a tab.
8 - 4:30 Full Time
In the summer, I worked my first job. It was with a company called "Allied Plating." It lasted all of one day. I was to clean metal alarm covers with a solvent solution all day. The solution was cut with sulfuric acid and they never told me. My hands got burned really bad, blistered like crazy, and after filing a workers comp claim, my job had come to an end.
Troubles at home and troubles in school led me to associations with friends vastly outside of my age group. These guys were respectable, but they shared one distinguishing commodity: they were all in their early to mid 20's when I was 16. This was in the fall and winter; by summer, I would turn 17. I was a bit more mature for my age then, very introspective and inquiring about new things. The guys I hung with actually thought I was older. When I had my 17th birthday, they were stunned. At first I thought it was all an act on their part, trying to beef up my confidence, but I came to find out that they literally thought I was about 19 or 20.
Then came my problems in school. The summer of 1972 stole whatever remained of my childhood. I was suffering from extreme separation issues; I couldn't relate to the classroom, or people my age anymore. I received my first D grades in art which eventually turned into F's. I was getting D's and F's in everything except for English.
I had a literal hottie for an English teacher
She was only 24. To say that she was smokin' is like saying Texas has a few acres. She dressed and styled herself like a "plain jane", and most of the guys probably didn't give her a second thought, but I saw much deeper into her. My eyes could lift the "Jane" veil and see the beauty beneath. We had to keep a daily journal, and turn it in at the end of class. I was writing love letters to her in the form of poetic prose comprised of several rock group lyrics. Prog Rock wasn't as mainstream as it should have been then, and the best bands were still relatively unknown by the general music-listening public. Among these lyric sets included portions from "Epitaph" by King Crimson, "Heart of the Sunrise" by Yes, and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" by Pink Floyd. Each morning when I got my journal back, there would be a giant "Very good!" circled in red pen. It wasn't until I borrowed more King Crimson lyrics from "I Talk to the Wind" that I got a note saying: "Is this original?". I had to confess "no." I finally wrote one last romantic piece which was a bit more personally directed, using the lyrics from "Love" by John Lennon. On my journal page the next day was a pen note from her that read: "...you need to focus more on your journal thoughts ( blah-blah-blah)...not write so personal...(blah-blah-blah)...and write more original material."
Smokin' hot English teacher notwithstanding, I dropped out of high school early in my junior year. I did get my GED which is a good thing, but the structure of school was no longer working for me. I'd already lived a lot on my own, worked a job, and lived a life belonging to an adult. I no longer felt a connection with school.
1972 was party time central.
In the fall and winter in our apartment complex I met a guy who became one of my strongest friends. He had an old refrigerator turned into a beer tap. The tap was welded onto the front, and the keg fit inside the fridge. Whenever you wanted a cold beer, all you had to do was walk over and draw one. He was in the Marine reserves, so his hair was always cut short. I remember that once a month he had to report for a weekend. He taught me everything about motocross, converting foreign cars into race cars, and riding dirt bikes up impossibly steep mountain inclines. He had an old Peugeot with a Lotus Elan engine in it. This old comical "beater" looking car just like "Columbo" drove, could wipe out most cars on the road! This car was super fast. I learned so much from my friend.
One misadventure preceded, and followed another. Washington Park was the place to hang out if you were a "head." With a tremendous view of the entire city--including Mt. Hood--the park had an almost otherworldly feel to it. Washington Park was stonerville, U.S.A. Every variety of human permeated this place, but the dominant population were stoners. The winding road which led to it was great on a motorcycle-especially if you were stoned--leaning into curves at extreme angles.
The greatest of my older friends though was a guy who rode a motorcycle. We were inseparable. He was more like an older brother than a guy. He did watch out for me even though he was a corrupting influence. We were two stoner partners and our outrageousness knew no bounds. To this day I think of him fondly, and have even tried finding him through facebook, but no result.
My Favorite Albums in 1972
Music was so incredible in 1972, and many bands were coming into their prime. "Hellbound Train" by Savoy Brown was fantastic. It was the most foot-stomping blues/boogie/rock LP I'd heard yet. "Who's Next" by The Who had broken new territory as far as I was concerned as each song seemed like an individual hit single. "Fragile" by Yes was my first foray into Yesland--and Deanland--thanks to magnificent cover artist Roger Dean who, single-handedly, became the only album cover artist to become as important as the band he was painting for. The African group Osibisa also featured Roger Dean covers, and the music was great. Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Trilogy" was good, but it wasn't nearly as strong as some of their earlier works. A great get-down album would have to be "A Nod is as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse" by The Faces. The hit "Stay With Me" is timeless, and they also did a fun cover of "Memphis". I was finally able to afford "The Concert for Bangladesh" by George Harrison & Friends and the record was highly influential to me for discovering more diverse acts. This was my introduction to the great Leon Russell.
Uriah Heep's "Demons and Wizards" was pretty hot, as was the new wild release from Mr. Bizarro himself, Alice Cooper. The LP "School's Out" came wrapped in a pair of paper panties. The album itself was rock solid featuring one of the most fun tunes of all "Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets", which was a take off from "West Side Story". Black Sabbath seemed to be merging on mediocrity, especially with the release of "Vol. 4". Then, along came Deep Purple to pull the rug out from under the world with their incredibly fantastic release of "Machine Head" . This album was hotter than hell, and each song seemed to be a hit of its own. The Dutch band Focus were a heavy metal flash in the pan, but the song "Hocus Pocus" was a rock classic.
"Eat a Peach" by The Allman Brothers Band was wonderful featuring the epic 2-sided 1-song jam called "Mountain Jam", a rock variation of Donovan's "First There is a Mountain." Every stoner in our area had in his or her collection, Harry Nilsson's "Son of Schmilsson". This album was one of the most-played records of all in my neighborhood. It was right up there with The Doors! A young, crazy Irish guitarist named Rory Gallagher lit up my world with a dynamite live 3-man act. The album was called simply "Live in Europe". Rory was amazing. Pink Floyd continued to amaze with "Obscured by Clouds", though it didn't register as strong on my radar. Texas masters Bloodrock gave us their double-live set modestly called "Bloodrock Live". The album still impresses people today.