My introduction to Brian Wilson, Bruce Johnston and their colorful entourage of musicians and wild characters, came at 12 midnight at Larrabee Sound in West Hollywood, CA. I had already worked a full day, probably starting at 9AM when, around 6PM, a call came in telling us that the Beach Boys needed a studio that night! The more senior staff engineers were interested in working the session but not starting at 12AM... so I was it!
Before I knew it, Studio Instrument Rentals began unloading three truckloads of equipment into Studio A. There were various drum kits, percussion kits, a grand piano, a dozen guitars, an assortment of guitar amps, basses, a calliope
and curiously, a child's toy piano. Not knowing what was in store, I didn't set up anything because there would be, as it turned out, plenty of time while the band worked on a song.
Brian was one of the first to show up and he immediately descended into a large easy chair in the corner of the control room. He lasped into a trance-like
state and assumed the lotus position for about two hours while the rest of the guys arrived. All the other band members sat patiently waiting for Brian to awaken.
All of a sudden, Brian jumped up and ran to the grand piano and started playing. Bruce Johnston yelled at me to "start recording" even though I didn't even have a sound on the piano. I don't think I had mics on the piano yet! But that was the way it was all night long...keep the red light on and record everything!
After many takes and hours of diatribe over the "talkback" from Bruce, (about
a wide range of unrelated topics), a song with the tentative title "Rooftop Harry" emerged. Brian played piano, electric bass, toy piano and a calliope that I ran through a then new device: a Countryman Phaser. A guy name Luther Coffee also played bass and then a nameless upright bass player magically showed up at the back door and played another bass track. He left afterwards without saying much of anything. Coffee insisted on playing in the studio with the studio speakers turned up all the way instead of in the control room or with headphones. Larrabee was limited to small bookshelf speakers at that time and, Luther kept yelling in a very cryptic and fast Carribean patois: "I can't hear the muthafucka." I remember four different bass parts on the song. Drummer Michael Clark of the Byrds overdubbed drums with exact instructions from Brian, augmented by the on-going socio-political speed-rap commentary of Johnston. I remember how hard is was to get sounds with Bruce holding down the talkback button and talking non-stop.
That night I saw more eccentric behavior with the Beach Boys than I had ever seen
in my life. The session went until 10AM the next morning until
Brian running out of the studio and jumping into a Nash Rambler. The song was never
completed or released to my knowledge.