Artwork above by "the nicest guy in the Rolling Stones," Ronnie Wood.
It was on a winter day in 1977 that Kent Huff was sent down to New York City to collect the original and priceless Jimi Hendrix two-inch tapes from a vault, and to return them to the Farm for mixdown. An incredible opportunity, everybody thought. A real chance for us to put ourselves on the map. Collect the tapes he did, and then, hoping to take a shortcut back to the Connecticut Turnpike and to Massachusetts, he found himself in a dilapidated section of the Bronx, well after dark, at a long red light that didn't want to change. Too late to do anything about it, Kent sees in his overhead rear-view mirror that the rear gate of the rented truck has been jimmied open, and that the stack of twelve Jimi Hendrix two-inch tapes is no longer there. He bails out of the driver's door of the truck, and sees the twelve boxes of master tapes, each in the arms of a different would-be basketball player in sneakers, each headed in a different direction and into the night. On Kent's account of things, he then pulled the van over onto the sidewalk, to let the honking horns all get by, and he meditates. He meditates projecting an image of the twelve tapes, stacked neatly in the back of the truck as they were before. And, then, still on his account of things, the tapes started to come back. The first one was brought by an eight-year-old boy in a baseball cap, the second was tossed down from a landing of a tenement fire escape just across the street, caught safely by an old woman, and repatriated into Kent's shaking hands. Then the rest came back, appearing each of them out of the dark in the careful embrace of the would-be basketball players, without comment or apology of any sort. They were all brought back, and stacked neatly in the back of the truck, just as they were before the light turned red. The last guy, apparently a man in command, gave Kent not just the box of tape, but a high-five, and then a large, hand-rolled cigarette which Kent later smoked on the Connecticut Turnpike on the way home, contemplating his strange lot in life, and this place called Long View Farm. No scientific explanation for Kent's adventure in the Bronx has ever been offered.
Editor's Note: Kent Huff, reviewing this text thirty years later, has claimed that this telling of the story is inaccurate in certain respects. Those who have heard Huff's most recent account of that day's events say that it is more fantastic still.
Kent Huff tells an interesting story about the first visit of Alan Douglas to Long View Farm. Kent, as is described elsewhere in this volume, was devoted to clean living, including marijuana, and to all Eastern religions, and to their mythologies. He read widely on these topics, and would extract from his readings the names of illustrious figures, and would apply these names at will to persons with whom we would be in contact as the operators of a rock 'n' roll recording studio. "Paja" was one such name, having been the moniker centuries earlier of a great mover and shaker in the Near East. Kent would use the name in a random manner, amusing us all, since we knew that it applied to no one in particular.
"When's Paja coming?" he asked me one day, in reference to Alan Douglas. "When's this guy Paja coming?" I replied that we expected him the very next day. The Jimi Hendrix tapes were up and running, and there were some rough mixes already "in the can." Alan was due at noon the next day to give a listen and to contribute his remarks.
And Alan Douglas did in fact arrive the next day. It was Kent who greeted him on the pea stone driveway in front of the red barn.
"Paja!" he said. "Welcome to Long View Farm, Paja. Your slightest wish is our cherished command. What may be your first remarks for us... for us to honor?"
Alan Douglas grimaced. "Listen," he said. "You don't know me and I don't know you, see? We just met. But you need to get this straight, and tell this to Markle. I had nothing to do with that Depaja affair. The money went right through, see. I never touched a penny of it. All the money went straight through. Where's the men's room?"
Editor's Note: Inquiries made later to Kent Huff's brother, Steve, who was at the time an attorney working for the entertainment law firm Pryor, Cashman & Sherman, in New York City, revealed that Alan Douglas was a party to a civil lawsuitin which a firm "Depaja," was the defendant. The lawsuit, as do most lawsuits, had to do with money.
I can remember Alan Douglas in those days. I can remember him in the control room of Studio "A", in which his tapes were being mixed. Control Room "A" was a 16-track room in those days. This was before we bought the new MCI recording console, and the 24-track machines. It was the realm of warm, fat-sounding 16-track tapes, which could make your socks roll up and down. Alan would always sit at the center of the board. To his right, typically, would be engineer Ron St. Germain; to his left, a younger man (who would at other times be working with Arlo Guthrie) Les Kahn. Alan Douglas would be looking straight ahead, right between the loudspeakers — rigid, intent, and full of concentration. At these times he would speak, but only very quietly, and having first lowered his vocal range by an octave. Here's what we would hear, in a very low and only faintly perceptible voice:
"Hendrix...mumble-grumble...eight, sub...mumble... mac shit..."
The engineers would look at one another, anxiously. There would be a long pause.
"Say again, Alan. We have to write this down." All eyes would turn towards the center of the room, and to Alan Douglas. Alan would sigh impatiently, take a deep breath, and now say in a voice we could all understand:
"Hendrix sucks after the middle eight, substitute MacLaughlin, shitcan the rest."
The heads of the two engineers would then swivel forwards, towards the front of the room, and they would each scribble notes in their steno pads, and then simultaneously swivel their chairs around 180 degrees to address the tape machine, razor blades in their hands. Then, applying a chalk mark to the magnetic tape at the precise point that a recognizable sound passed over the playback head of the tape machine, they would, one of them, cut the tape with the razor blade, spilling out inches and feet and sometimes yards of disapproved tape onto the control room floor. This was not a failsafe operation by any means, so the discarded tape would be carefully swept up, and saved, draped over the leather couch in case it had to be recovered.
It was at this point, with the shortened tape patched back together again on the tape machine, and the reels re-wound to a point somewhat before the edit, that a full hush would fall over the room. It was time now to hear the edit. You could hear a pin drop.
"Ready?" Les Kahn would ask. Alan Douglas would nod in the affirmative, and Les would hit the "Play" button on the tape machine, and the reels would start spinning. Up would come the sound, filling the room, with all eyes now on the tape racing from left to right across the transport. It's when the short piece of white plastic editing tape was seen streaming across the playback head of the tape machine that the edit would be heard. There! There it is. The edit!
"Well, what-d-ya think?" Les would ask. All eyes would then turn to Alan, who would remain silent for a second or two. He would at these times be meditating, and adjusting his voice down the octave.
"Good enough for rock 'n' roll," I heard him say more than once, presaging for me the use of this same expression by Keith Richards, who would be sitting in that same chair, many years later. "Good enough for rock 'n' roll," these two men would say.
It would be the next morning that I wouldcollide with the Long View "night guy" stumbling out of the control room, peering out and over a large rat's nest of recording tape that he had gathered up off the floor and the leather couch and was now carrying in his arms. These would be the stereo mixdown outtakes of perhaps the world's greatest rock 'n' roll guitarist, Jimi Hendrix.
"Whata-I-do with this stuff? Shitcan it?"
"Yup," I would say. "Shitcan it."
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.