Saturday, January 4, 2014

How I Acquired My First Copy Of Seventh Wave's Things To Come

In order to understand how Seventh Wave's album Things To Come first came into my hands we must travel back to 1974 when there was no medicinal or legal marijuana.  Possession of any amount was a felony and could land you in jail for months, if not years.  I was a high school senior, working part-time as a general warehouse clerk for Ohrbach's, a large department store with an emphasis on clothing and accessories that folded in 1987.  The store was located in the Del Amo Shopping Mall in Torrance, California.

One of my co-workers was an African American salesperson, Paul, who worked the retail floor in Men's Suits for an hourly wage plus a sales commission.  Paul and I became friends and took lunches together. I would occasionally drive Paul home if his car broke down (which happened almost once a week). Paul's apartment was in a "bad" part of South Central Los Angeles.  My parents and I lived in the opposite direction from the store, in an upscale neighborhood of San Pedro.

Paul and I were, even then, music addicts.  He loved soul, jazz, blues and classical.  I was hot for progressive rock, blues, and jazz.  We would each bring cassettes for the rides home and try to wow each other with obscure performances and new bands.

One Friday night we worked until closing and Paul needed a ride home. I drove him and Paul, for the first time, invited me to come in. I agreed.  He opened the apartment door, turned on the lights, put on some Pharoah Sanders and lit some incense.  He then proceeded to pull out an ounce of the dankest purple sensimilla buds I had ever seen and rolled a small cigar. He asked, "Want some?" We shared and I stayed in a stupor until well after midnight before I could safely operate my car and make my way home.

The next time I worked with Paul I asked whether he could get me some of that weed. Paul hesitated, then agreed, and told me to meet him Sunday morning at his place. 
Sunday morning I drove into South Central and knocked on Paul's door.  He was ready to go, asked me for cash (which I gave him), grabbed his wallet and house keys, and then said, "Let's go.  You drive."  Paul directed me down back streets, into the heart of Watts, where we parked in front of a small stucco house on a corner lot. 

A sprinkler was watering a brown front lawn.  Four African-American men sat on the front porch.  The front door was open, save for the screen door, and there were several people inside in the front room.   I was the only caucasian in sight, and was rather nervous about that so I stuck close to Paul.  Paul generally introduced me to the men out front. I got several evil eyes as they put their hands in their jacket pockets and nodded. Paul asked if Darwin was inside.  One of the guys nodded and said "back room."  Paul told me to "come on in," and we entered the house.  Once in the front room, Paul told me to have a seat and wait.  I sat on the sofa next to two other guys.  In the Court of the Crimson King blasted from a huge stereo system.

I was very uneasy and made chit chat commenting on the amazing music.  We began to discuss different albums and bands and one of the guys pulled a vinyl pre-release copy of Seventh Wave's Things To Come that was marked "For Promotional Use Only - Not For Sale" out of a stack of records.  He handed it to me and said, "It's not even out yet - have you heard of it?"  I hadn't and asked who they sounded like, and he replied, "They just are themselves."

As he finished his sentence a large man exited the back room loudly laughing and joking with someone behind him that I could not see.  However, as soon as he saw me he went silent and gave me a stern once over.  He then said "come on boys" and the two guys who were seated with me got up and left with him. 

I sat there alone contemplating the bizarre album cover. It looked to me as if Escher collaborated with Dali to create a transmogrification of order into nature, or nature into order, I couldn't decide which.   As King Crimson played, I became transfixed on Things To Come.

Paul bounded out of the next room, waving behind him, shot me a glance and said, "let's go NOW!"  I got up, with album in hand, and hurried out the front door. Paul shot acknowledgement glances to the front porch posse and we double timed it to the car. We got in and Paul said "Drive," and I did.  I asked Paul "What's wrong?  Did you get it?"  He said, "I got it, but I don't think I should be bringing you there.  I had to convince him you weren't the Heat."

I dropped Paul back at his house and made my way home with my purchase and five fingered record album.  I settled into my room, grabbed my headphones, dropped the needle on the album and sampled my purchase. 

The music was as fine as the stash. Keyboard and percussion driven, it is a psychedelic, stoner, progressive rock fans' wet dream.  Lush soundscapes, Yes and Genesis-like vocals, and amazing record production and engineering.  The sound bounces all over the place with incredible separation.  It is a true, lost, progressive rock classic.

Seventh Wave was formed by Ken Elliot (keyboards, vocals) and Kieran O'Connor (percussion), both of whom had been members of earlier progressive rock groups, Second Hand and Chillum.  Things To Come was produced by future Motörhead producer Neil Richmond.  The band released one other album, Psi-Fi, in 1975, but broke up after their USA tour to promote that album. O'Connor died in the 1980s. According to Wikipedia, Ken Elliot went on to write the theme tunes to ITV's lunchtime news bulletin First Report and BBC2's Out of Court.      

I took Seventh Wave's Things To Come album with me to college.  After a packed college dorm room party the album went missing.  I figure that is the way it was supposed to be.  After all, it was marked "For Promotional Use Only - Not For Sale."

- Old School 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this story. I just discovered this album today, and your thoughtful recollections made me smile.


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