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The "Blue" Album


The album barely had a title.

"The Sons" or "The Sons of Champlin have changed their name to The Sons." Take your pick.

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The second album was due to be recorded in the summer of 1969, and this time Capitol didn't want to take any more chances with a band that was barely on the reservation. This album would be recorded at the Capitol building in Hollywood, under the watchful eye of John Palladino.

The album reflects some of the strains that were starting to show up in the band. The title of the album is "The Sons." Written in black type across the top of the cover is the note that: "The Sons of Champlin have changed their name to THE SONS." The logo that dominates the cover is a generic attempt at San Francisco poster art by an in-house artist. The apologetic line at the top was an attempt by Capitol to make sure potential purchasers knew that this was the Sons of Champlin, so the strategy of pointing out the name change was almost self-defeating.

By this time Jim Beem had pulled it together enough to be back playing with the band, but he was shaky, and wouldn't last much longer after the session.

The attempt to change the name stemmed from pressure from the rest of the band to reduce Bill's status as the namesake and the star. After all, if he was the lead singer and the band was named after him, he must be the star, n'est ce pas? On the first album most of the songs were Bill's, and he sang them all. The band had been formed as a cooperative venture, and Bill's emergence was starting to chafe. Other members wanted the spotlight too; Tim wrote songs and had been featured more on vocals when the band started playing, but his role had been shrinking to that of horn player and arranger.

There was another factor in the attempt at the name change. "Sons of Champlin" was a clumsy handle at best, and no one got it right on the first attempt. Sometimes it seemed that it appeared as "Sons of Chaplin" more often than it appeared right. "Sons" would have been a good name, but it was too late.

The first album had been composed of tunes the band had performed for as much as two years. Suddenly they found they had to come up with another album's worth in six months. It wasn't as easy as the first time. There is not nearly the polish on the songs that there was on the first album, because some were being written and performed for the first time in the studio. In an attempt to modify the relentless uptempo of Loosen Up Naturally, they tried a few ballads and gentle passages in some of the uptempo tunes.

On "The Sons," Terry and Geoff each got tunes, which they sang, Tim got two tunes and a lead vocal on another. Bill got three tunes. The credits were "All selections composed by The Sons," but anyone familiar with the players will quickly identify "Love of a Woman," "Boomp-Boomp Chop," and "You Can Fly" (assist from Tim) as Bill's songs, "It's Time," and "Why Do People Run From the Rain" as Tim's, "Country Girl" as Geoff, and of course Terry on "Terry's Tune."

Terry and Geoff sang their own tunes, and it was obvious why Bill was the lead singer. No amount of studio wizardry was going to give them the presence of the R&B shouter that Bill was. When it came time to perform these tunes without studio assistance, the contrast was even greater, and Country Girl was only performed a few times.

In contrast to the first album, I don't remember much about the session. I probably didn't go in every day, and most of the guys were bored with hanging out in Hollywood, especially after the basics were done and all anybody had to do was wait for his day to overdub. Al and Bill Bowen didn't even have that to look forward to.

When it came time for overdubs, there was a little bit of head tripping going on. Terry has no searing solos on the record, although he was scheduled for two. On the day he was to overdub them, he was having a hard time getting into the spirit. His solo on "It's Time," is lifeless and almost perfunctory, and the great guitar sound from the first album isn't there. He had the solo in "You Can Fly," but he walked out of the studio in frustration when it was time to do it. Producer John Palladino was used to Hollywood studio musicians who came in with no emotional baggage, did the job on the first or second take, and then left; this was new to him, and there was a lot of pressure to keep things moving. Bill went in and laid down the guitar solo track himself, even though he played organ on the song in performance.

One legacy of the album was the code knock that would open any locked dressing room door to members of the band. It came from the riff, "Why don't you open the door!" from "You Can Fly." Knockknockknockknock...knock. This lasted long after the song was dropped, and replaced the old code phrase, "Tuning the bass."

Jefferson Airplane was recording their album "Volunteers" at the same time, and they stopped over to check out the Sons' progress. Some of the Sons went over to their session, and although they generally looked down on the Airplane musically, they came back raving about how good their album sounded.

After the basics were laid down and our equipment was available to use again, we did a free concert in Griffith Park with the Airplane and The Ace of Cups. It was a typical park gig, and there were a couple of thousand hippies hanging out on the grass, doing hippie hang-out stuff. After a while the LAPD gave a demonstration of who controlled what in Griffith Park, lining up in riot gear with batons along one side of the field, perhaps two dozen officers looking for anyone smoking a joint.

Nothing was going on, certainly no riot, and there wasn't any physical confrontation between the two groups while the music went on, but the mood was not nearly as carefree as it might have been. All the bands asked the crowd not to do anything which could trigger trouble.

We had a first experience with the hard-core L.A. groupie scene. A couple of girls came to the stage and represented themselves as the Plaster Casters. Whether they were the ones with graphic models of Jimi Hendrix and other rockers' private parts was an open question, but their approach was interesting. An extremely foxy girl came up to Bill Bowen and broached the subject. He looked at her and was considering his response when Girl Number One introduced Girl Number Two, who was the actual Casting member. Girl Number Two was Coyote Ugly, and was not going to meet many rock stars without someone like Girl Number One running interference. Bowen declined immediately.

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