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Love Her Madly

Love Her Madly

Jim Morrison, Mary, and Me
also available: eBook
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1. Dream Girl
Florida, 1963

Alligator Alley slices through the prehistoric Everglades, a straight cut from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic. I have my thumb out in the torrid heat. Destination: Fort Lauderdale.

A battered pickup truck pulls over, with rusted, mud-caked shovels in the back. I climb into the filthy cab. The driver is wearing a dirty T-shirt and faded jeans. He’s balding, with stringy black hair slick along the sides of his head. Crooked, yellow teeth, tobacco-stained fingers, nails chewed to the quick. He reeks of stale sweat and cigarettes. He looks at me with dull eyes. I ask him how far he’s going. He mutters “Fort Lauderdale.” It’s going to be a long drive.

Hot air blasts through the windows. The baked dashboard is cracked, the windshield peppered with rock chips. The guy doesn’t talk, he broods. The asphalt surface quivers in the visible heat.

A half-hour later, there’s a major furor on the road. What the hell’s going on? Brooder slows down. Crimson-headed vultures are furiously devouring a crushed alligator that has met a semi-truck.

“Look at that!” Weirdly excited, Brooder brakes and pulls up beside the frenzied feast. Cutting the engine, he leans out his window. The vultures jerk their heads up from the festering corpse. A dozen cold, beady eyes stare at him, then plunge back into the carcass. It’s dead quiet except for the sound of their beaks frantically tearing flesh, yanking out white strands of sinew. Horrible snapping sounds. Bits of blood and flesh spattered on their faces. Jesus, the stench.

“That’s a nine-foot ‘gator, probably four hundred pounds.” He’s murmuring to himself.

The guy watches too long.

The hot air is filled with the putrid odour of death. I start gagging. Brooder stares at me while slowly reaching for the ignition, a strange look in his eyes.

Who, or what is this guy?

We drive on in an eerie silence through seemingly endless swampland. Finally, a hint of civilization appears: a faded “Alligator Wrestling” sign, a rundown trailer park, an unpainted shack — “Curly’s Beer and Liquor.” A sideways Coca Cola sign hangs by a rusted chain. I begin to relax. Soon a suburb, then another, stretching out forever on this flattest of land. Buildings appear in the distance, their office lights twinkling in the dark blue of dusk.

Fort Lauderdale.

He drops me at a gas station. With a strange, sardonic look in his eyes, he reaches out to shake my hand.

I get the key to the washroom and scrub my hands, thinking I’ll take the Greyhound back.

I show the gas attendant the address. “Not too far,” he says. “Straight down about four miles, then in three blocks.”

I hesitate to stick out my thumb, but this time my ride is a pleasant-faced woman with bleach-blond hair looking just so. The scent of hairspray. Her companion in the back seat is a nervous Chihuahua. “It’s okay, Princess, it’s okay,” she tells the dog. Princess has the shakes.

The nice lady drops me off with a happy wave.

I walk the last three blocks to a tidy white house with green shutters and black street numbers. I have arrived at the house of Mary. Trembling with anticipation, I ring the doorbell.

* * *

Clearwater, Florida

Mary Werbelow. Dream girl.

I watch her from a distance. Her luminous beauty, the sparkling, intelligent eyes, porcelain skin, and sunny smile. She glows with optimism, self-confidence, independence. Her mesmerizing face, her Bardot pout, the liquid motion of her ballet body, her swanlike neck. She is radiant. I am captivated by her, but she’s older and doesn’t know I exist.

Or … Did she just smile at me as she walked past me in the hall? Was she acknowledging me? Not likely. She has the world cupped in her perfect palm. I’m imagining things.

A few days later I see her in the school parking lot, standing by her Volkswagen, talking to some girls and guys. She’s engaged, yet somewhat aloof. She’s … different. She looks around and notices me watching her.

A week later, I hear an unfamiliar voice behind me. “Hello.” And my world changes in ways impossible to imagine.

A brief exchange, then her smile: “See you later.”

The next chat, a little longer. Later, a real conversation followed by, “Would you like to go for coffee?”

Hell, yes I would.

She picks me up in her Volkswagen and an easy friendship begins. She treats me like a younger brother. She likes me, seems to trust me and see something different in me.

“But why did you leave home?” she wants to know. “What are you doing here?”

“I saved enough money to buy a ticket from Toronto to Clearwater to spend Christmas with some family friends. They have a daughter my age, and I met all her friends over the holidays.”

Mary pays attention with her bewitching eyes.

“One of her friends said I could live in their guest cottage and go to Clearwater High with them. So I did, and here I am.” (My mother wasn’t thrilled, but told me it was my decision. A divorced single mom with four kids, she couldn’t afford to come and get me. And I knew it.)

“Don’t you miss your family?” Mary looks puzzled.

“I do miss my family and friends,” I say. “I mean, I love them very much.” But I wasn’t happy at my high school in Toronto where there had been zero tolerance for kids who were the least bit defiant, I told her.

“And you were defiant?”

“Well, yes.”

Mary laughs and claps her hands. “So, now you live in a screened-in porch?”

The guest cottage hadn’t worked out. Luckily, I’d gone with a girl to a babysitting job and hit it off with the couple. The next time I met them I told them about my situation and they offered to let me stay in their Florida room. In exchange, I did some babysitting and paid a bit of room and board. “They’re great,” I tell Mary.

She looks at me quizzically. “How old are you?”


I am smitten. She has no idea how dazzled I am by her.

She graduates and will attend St. Petersburg Junior College in the fall. At the end of school in June I tell the school secretary that I’ll be back in September to begin grade twelve.

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From Down in the Delta to the Birth of The Band and Beyond
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Anthem: Rush in the ’70s


Like Geezer Butler in Black Sabbath, to reiterate, Geddy indeed began on guitar. Alex, however, missed this part of Lee’s evolution.


“I didn’t know Ged when he played guitar. So the transition was already completed by the time we started jamming together and playing. Because that’s what we did after school. We’d plug into his amp and play. There was one guitar and one bass. So I’m not really sure about that transition. I’m sure he was interested in guitar like everybody was interested in guitar. But once we actually started playing and learning instruments, that was his chosen one. Just think John Rutsey in that early days—the drums became his thing but I don’t know if in his heart he wanted to be a drummer. I think he wanted to be a guitarist as well. But everybody had their job that they sort of gravitated to.”


Says Geddy, “I was nominated to be the bass player when the first band I was in, the bass player couldn’t be in our band. I think his parent’s prohibited him or something, and we had no bass player so they said, ‘You play bass’ and I said okay, and that was how simple it was. That happens to a lot of bass players. Everyone wants to be a guitar player, but I was happy to be bass player. Bass player is like being a major league catcher. It’s the quickest way to the majors. Nobody wants to be a bass player. It’s a great instrument, it really is, awesome way to spend your time. I had teachers you know; I’m just carrying on the tradition of Jack Bruce, Jack Cassidy, Chris Squire, a fine tradition of noisy bass players that refuse to stay in the background. So I feel that’s my sacred duty, to carry on what they started.”


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Ted Templeman


What gave me pause about “Jump” was my instinctive sense of what defined the Van Halen sound. When I produce an artist, I get a feel for what will likely work -- and not work -- on an album, especially when you’ve done five with them.


To me, Van Halen wasn’t a pop group. Yes, they’d done “Dance the Night Away” and “Pretty Woman,” but that was as far afield from their raucous, primitive nature that I wanted them to go. “Jump” was way too pop to my ears. I wanted them to stay edgy and raw.


As I tried to explain to Ed and the guys, it wasn’t that I was “anti-keyboards.” Remember, I was completely fucking knocked out when Ed played me the piano riff for “Cradle” at Sunset Sound. Ed had played keyboards on “Dancing in the Street.” I know it sounds like an odd comparison, but the “Jump” riff didn’t sound like Ed’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love” riff. That’s the stomping, powerful sound that I thought they should have kept pursuing. Even though Diver Down served its purposes, it was too pop for me. I liked the Fair Warning stuff better. I thought these guys should stay right in that pocket, and not go pop. To me, Van Halen doing “Jump” seemed analogous to Keith Richards pushing for the Stones to record something sappy like “You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” by Herman’s Hermits right after they’d done “Brown Sugar.”


The other point I tried to get across that day was about Ed’s guitar playing. I think Ed recalls this debate as Dave and I wanting to keep him locked into “guitar hero” mode for the sake of his image. I can’t speak for Dave, but that wasn’t where I was coming from. His image had nothing to do with my view. Here’s the thing. Ed’s a guitar genius. No one has ever played or ever will play the way that he did on electric guitar. You immediately knew it was him playing something, and he had profound things to say on the instrument. Guys tried to copy him, and none of them came close. He was like Charlie Parker or Errol Garner. Ed’s right in there with jazz guys like that; they are generational talents. But, to me, any competent keyboardist could have played that keyboard riff. You can’t say the same about anything he plays on guitar.


But Ed, to his credit, told me I was wrong about “Jump” not working for Van Halen. He said, “Ted, I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music and playing keyboards and this is what I came up with. I really like it.” He didn’t say it, but I also knew that Donn had been encouraging him to stretch out musically, to follow his muse, and write on keyboards.


I could see Ed had a big personal investment in the song, and had worked hard on it. So I said, “Okay, fine. It’s a start. That doesn’t really float my boat, but let’s see where we can go with it.” Again, this was Ed’s taste versus mine. He wanted to work on it, so I was game. What I didn’t say was: Let’s not do the song.


I left, went home, and went to bed. Then around three in the morning, the phone rang. I let it go to the answering machine, but the volume on it was up, so I could hear the message after the beep.


“Hey Ted!”


Ed and Al.


“Wake up! We’re still here. We’ve got something great for you to hear.”


They held the phone up. I could hear “Jump” playing.


They sounded jazzed, so I called right back. Ed said he’d come and get me at my place in Century City. 


If I'm not mistaken, Ed did in fact pick me up and took me up there to hear it.      


It turned out that Dave and Mike had gone home too, but Ed, Alex, and Donn had stayed up all night. They’d recorded basic tracks for three songs from 1984: “Jump,” “I’ll Wait,” and “Drop Dead Legs.”


Donn rolled tape on the newest version of “Jump.” He played it a few times. As I listened, it really put the hooks into me. He and Al had the riff and groove nailed down tight. It killed me. The keyboard parts Ed had down -- it wasn’t a complete song yet -- were very close to what ended up on 1984.


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