20/07 18.30 ATTN: GILBERT SCOTT MARKLE FOR EYES ONLY
TO HOTEL VILLA PAMPHILI
ATTN: GILBERT SCOTT MARKLE FOR EYES ONLY. FROM RANDALL:
ROLLING STONES LOOKING EXTREMELY FAVORABLE FOR MID AUGUST THRU END SEPTEMBER FOR TOUR REHEARSAL IN STUDIO B. LOGISTICS CHIEF ALAN DUNN AND PIANO PLAYER IAN STEWART FLEW UP IN TWIN FOR OVERNIGHT VISIT SATURDAY AND LOVED FARM. THIS SHOULD HAPPEN. STILL TOP SECRET AND CONFIDENTIAL.
That's the telex message which was waiting for me in the hotel in Rome, and so I knew this thing was still real. The Rolling Stones were apparently tilting toward Long View as a likely rehearsal site for their upcoming and much heralded tour of the United States, and perhaps even of the entire world.
I had been up in Montreux, Switzerland, for a few days — attempting to hustle and be seen during the goings-on at Claude Nobb's annual jazz festival. The last time I was there was in 1976, with the band Stuff, now Paul Simon's back-up band. We had just made Stuff's first record — the orange one — and I had mixed it, and I was in Switzerland with a distinct lift to my gait. I knew we had just made a good record, and that one day Long View Farm was going to become a great recording studio. That was five years ago.
This visit now was distinctly less fun, with the exception of the time I spent with Phil Sandhaus, an A & R guy working for CBS Records in New York City. He was a touch sick and tired of the record business, and my attempts to cheer him smelled of hollowness, rote, and duty. I suppose I was a bit sick of the record business, too — despite our five years of relative success as a countryside recording studio — and could not easily conceal the fact. But we had some great beers together, Phil and I, and we went for stoned drives overlooking Lac Leman talking about our careers and how to better wire the world for sound and visual images.
"Listen to me, Phil," I said, blowing smoke in his direction. We were now sipping Cognac and coffees high up above the town of Montreux. "Here we are, talking about rock 'n' roll, and how we're through with it, and how it's messed up our lives, but this morning the phone rang from the United States, and it's Randall — who runs the record and publishing company for me, and who scouts business for the studio at Long View.
"'It's the Rolling Stones, Gil,' he tells me, 'coming to Long View for six weeks to rehearse!'
"So I ask him, 'How sure is this, Randall?'
"'Pretty sure, I think,' he shouts back.' We sent the twin for Alan Dunn.'
"'Logistics Chief, the best I can say. Also, Ian Stewart, who you'd say is the sixth member of the band. He's asking me all the right questions.'
"So, Phil," I continued, "what do you make of it? What am I supposed to think? Do I want to do this?"
Phil looked at me, and for a moment he thought I was testing him for vital functions. We'd been smoking a bit, and joking all the way up the mountainside. You could hear cowbells tinkling, far below.
"The Stones?" he asked.
"The Stones, Phil."
"So, when are you going back?" Phil was now convinced that I wasn't fooling.
I had to think. It had not yet occurred to me that I should be back in the United States, and not here in Switzerland, in an effort to make this deal happen.
"Tomorrow," I replied, making up my mind on the spot.
"And what about McCoy Tyner, and Paquito D'Riviera, and Mike Berniker's taping on Saturday night that you wanted to help with?" Phil was there in Montreux to make some tapes for CBS.
"It's your taping, Phil, not mine. You tell me how it goes. I've got to get out of Montreux anyhow. 'You can't go home again', like the book says."
Late that night, back at the hotel, when I thought Nancy and the kids would be by the phone in our house on Cape Cod, I called. "I think the Rolling Stones are coming to Long View, Nancy." I was shouting over a telephone connection which was not too good.
"That's great," she shouted back. "The kids and I are going to stay in a teepee tonight!"
"The Rolling Stones!" I said again.
"Yes," she said, "a teepee."
Then I said "The Rolling Stones" at the same time that she said "a teepee," and the transmissions cancelled each other out, with neither of us hearing what the other was saying.
That's all right. I didn't really expect Nancy to be excited about the Rolling Stones, and have had discussions like this with her, on and off the telephone, for years.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.