The Automatic Pilot story - part 4
by Karl Brown

Too Queer, Too Acoustic, Too Weird
Our ties to the organized gay performing arts drew industry attention, but we did not fit the market.

Tony kept wanting to move the band to a more commercial sound, and had been advised to ax the bass player and drummer. Steve and John sensed this and announced their upcoming resignation. Given that we could no longer agree what we wanted to do, I was sure it was over. But Selby put a notice on the bulletin board of a local headshop known as the Jimi Hendrix Electric Church, and summoned us to the studio to meet bass guitarist and Dave Moseley and Jeremy Rexford, a rock drummer. They were good players and learned our songs quickly. Neither of them was gay. It didn't take them long to figure out what we were about. They liked our music and wanted to play with us. While they were coming up to speed, Steve and John did a few more gigs with us, including our first of many at the Valencia Rose, an new gay performance space run by Ron Lanza and Donald Montwill. (John later released a solo album Drum Song, and Steve still plays with City Swing.)

We played several shows with our new players at the On Broadway, Valencia Rose (with comedian Jane Dornacker who later died in a helicopter crash working as a New York traffic reporter) and even the Chute II Bar in Reno, our only time out of SF. We lost a chance to play for the God Damn Independents social club when they learned we weren't all gay. Then we went to Out There, a budget studio expertly run by Cookie Marenco who has since made a big name for herself as an engineer. She had a great piano; she also had a Prophet 5 synthesizer, popular among new wave bands. We used both, and made fine recordings of four songs which we planned to put out on an ep (extended play record). We even asserted so in a press release. But Tony thought is sounded too low budget, fine performance aside, and we could do better. Tony bought a used Prophet 5 cheap (he was a master at garage sales). He made me pose with it for a publicity photo. However, it turned out to be a piece of junk, having undergone unauthorized modification and Tony had to return it.. Tony kept insisting that we had to stop doing our queer songs, get a guitar player, and write more commercial songs. John Selby wanted us to be a "good times" band rather than an art band, and got us to do cover songs like the Beatles' Come Together. Ironically, Selby also led us in the jazz standards Song for my Father by Horace Silver, and Miles Davis' All Blues. Matthew wanted to be a rock and roll star, but he also loved the weird stuff. Dave and Jeremy just wanted to be paid. By the time it was clear we couldn't go on, our act had grown to a full two-set show, including Selby's poems and other diversions. Our penultimate show was at Club 181 on Eddy St in the Tenderloin, where ten years later a dead body was found stuffed into the ceiling. It was estimated it had been there about ten years. We did one more show at Valencia Rose, but never performed live together again.

next history page:
Tony Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is

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