A Letter from Dirk

Hello Everybody,

At right are some upcoming California gigs and a thing I wrote for a theatrical production in Italy I figured could be something some of you might like to read.

BILLBOARD ON THE MOON ('Meet Me at the Crux’)
Back in the early 70’s I played what they called The Steak and Lobster Circuit in the northern California south bay area. Juice Newton came out of that scene. I was living with eight or ten friends in an old Victorian house that had been divided up into apartments on 10th Street in San Jose, California. People would’ve called it a Hippy Pad, I guess. The Doobie Brothers lived around the block from us on 13th street and the already burnt out Skip Spence of Moby Grape fame lived around the block on Reed Street. The kind of music we played was wildly popular back then and there were lots of gigs to be had by good guitar player/singers. We learned how to play by listening to records and figuring out how to do what we were hearing through hours of listening and trying.

I was the only performer on that circuit who played almost all-original music. Most of the others were playing John Denver and Neil Diamond and “Horse with No Name” kinda’ stuff. Some would slip in an original or three over the course of the night but I was fascinated and passionate about the mysterious activity of making songs and I played what I wrote. The only covers I did were old country blues songs. Other acts would ask me how I managed to work without doing cover tunes and I never knew the answer to that myself. In retrospect, I suspect it was because of the depth of the songs I was writing and the sexiness of the blues stuff. Back then we were in what they were calling “the social revolution” and it was fashionable to think or at least to appear that you were thinking. Artists in all the various arts were doing daring and experimental work. A lot of it was self-indulgent crap but some of it was pretty darn amazing. It was a period of incredible creativity and the public, in general, was actually digging it! Everybody was trying to push the envelope. It was the era of “the sexual revolution” too and sex was pretty safe and drugs were good!

We used to play three or four sets on the weeknights and five sets on the weekends. Five sets was a lot of playing and singing but we were young and it rarely felt like too much playing. In fact, there was a period where my buddy, lead guitarist Jim deCocq, and I would play five sets at The Wine Cellar in Los Gatos Saturday nights then drive an hour and a half to Stockton where we played an after hours gig with a pick up band we called “Un-Cola” from 2am ‘til the sun came up. We called the band “Un-Cola” because the band that played before us was called “Cola”.

One of my favorite gigs was Andy Caps in Mountain View. One night I was stranded at that club because my pea-green Volkswagen van had died in the parking lot. I was on my fourth set and needed a ride home to the barn I lived above in Los Gatos. I announced my predicament to the audience and immediately got a subtle sign from a cocktail waitress I kinda’ knew that she would be available to give me a lift.

After the set I had a final beer and gathered my equipment together and we took off for Los Gatos. She fired up a joint to share. Who knew what was in store for me when we got to my place? Nothing I could ever have imagined… because as soon as we turned on to Winchester Boulevard in Campbell she stopped in front of The Winchester Mystery House and she ordered me to get out. It was close to 3 am and the road was deserted. At first I thought she was joking. Even as I watched her car speed off down the road I expected her to turn back and pick me up again. She didn’t. So there I was outside the front gates of The Winchester Mystery House with my guitar and shoulder bag, my dark brown felt fedora with a feather in the band and cowboy boots.

I didn’t know how long a walk it would be but I knew it would be miles. There was nothing to do but start walking, so that’s what I did. I looked down the street and was struck by the ugliness of it. It was all concrete sidewalks and asphalt roads and ugly, closed stores and traffic lights changing green, yellow, red with nobody there to obey them. I passed a Jack in the Box. I noticed a melody was playing deep in my head as if I was being provided with a soundtrack for this current scene in my strange life. I was no longer stoned from the weed I’d smoked nor buzzed from all the beers. I started feeling really tired and had been looking for a good place to drop and rest for a long time. There was no place to rest. At one point I thought I was heading towards a little corner of lawn at a gas station but when I got there I saw it was only more cement but painted green. I passed another Jack in the Box. Finally I came to a bank. In front of it was a little rectangular strip of actual green grass and I gratefully sat down. The traffic lights up and to my right were the only things that moved… red, green, yellow, red. I slipped into a stuporous kind of reverie. I lost myself in the colors and slow cadence of the changing lights. Click red; pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, click green; pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, click yellow; pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, click red and I was deep somewhere beneath the illusion of time until… phttttttttt tittittittittit ch ch ch ch ch phtttttttt and a shocking wet, cold splattered on my hat and over my shoulders. The automatic sprinkler system had kicked in. I jumped to my feet and unceremoniously recommenced my trek towards my bed in Los Gatos.

Before long I noticed that the soundtrack I had in my head now had words with it. Something about a billboard on the moon and steel pipes and rain bird sprinklers and traffic lights changing. I focused on the melody and the lyrics and opened myself for more to come and words poured in like water. After the song had sung itself to the end I spent the last mile of my walk singing it over to myself, partly because it was such a beautiful song and practically so I could catch it and prevent it from flying away. When finally, feet throbbing, I trudged up the stairs to my little apartment it was all I could do to force myself to transcribe all those lyrics on to the paper in my binder.

When I woke up the next day my first thought was of the beautiful song, the steel pipes singing and the billboard on the moon. I almost panicked when it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually recorded the melody! I realized I’d fallen asleep right after I’d finished writing out the last verse. I’d lost songs like in this way before. With big fear, fear that filled my entire body, I asked my mind to remember. I forced myself to calm down, to relax and to empty my mind. There. There it was. The melody was still there! I pulled my guitar out of its case and moved to the card table I was using as a work desk. I could play the song immediately with hardly a missed note or chord! I clicked on the cassette recorder and, reading the words from the binder, sang “Billboard on the Moon” for the first time.

In 1978 “Billboard on the Moon” came out on “MEET ME at the CRUX” on Elektra records. Today it is probably my least unfamous song.

For years when I’d get a request for that song and I’d tell the story behind it, I would wonder to myself “Why DID that girl do that mean thing to me… order me out of her car and leave me stranded in front of The Winchester Mystery House miles from my home?

Recently the answer came to me. I’d somehow forgotten all about it! She had once invited me to dinner at her apartment. Afterwards we’d smoked a joint and started kissing. At some point during this activity I started feeling very disconnected and strange. I ended up telling her that I was feeling disconnected and strange and got the hell out of there quick.

They say that The Winchester Mystery House is haunted.

Love,

Dirk

 

 


– the band will play all these shows –

Saturday, May 29, 2 pm
TOPANGA DAYS FESTIVAL
1440 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Topanga, CA 90290
Dirk Hamilton Band plays at 2 pm
(with Teresa James, Canned Heat,
Maria McKee and more) info@topangadays.com
topangadays.com
or call 310-455-1980

Saturday, June 5, NOON - 6 pm
THE WALDO MUSIC FEST
Dirk Hamilton Band plays at 4 pm
(with David Halford, The Water Bros
and Snap Jackson)
waldoconservancy.org

(It’s an annual benefit done in memory
of the best friend I’ll ever have. It’s a fun dig presented by and attended by exceptionally good folks.
Please come if you can)

Saturday June 12, 8:30 pm
THE BLACKWATER CAFÉ
912 Yosemite Street
Stockton, CA
blackwatercafestockton.com
209-943-6938

Sunday, June 13
PRIVATE HOUSE CONCERT
in Pleasant Hill, CA

 
 
 
 

 




 
 


 
 

For more information: dirkhamilton.com

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