Bruce Palmer: Statistics Unknown
From Teenset Magazine, March 1968
The last page of the Buffalo Springfield biography, supplied to all interested parties by their record label, is a sadistic leaf stating name, age, height, etc. After the name Bruce Palmer appear the words: Statistics Unknown. While I can dig Dewey, and Richie wins my vote as sweetheart of the herd, Bruce wins my vote....
When I arrived for the Buffalo session at the dimly lit Sunset Sound Studio, a beautiful blonde girl named Lesley, was standing on her knees on the couch in the control room. Standing at the other end of the couch, Bruce was "stretching" her image by spreading his hands with the apparent resistence of her form. His hands strained vertically and horizontally and she responded by willing herself to become taller and wider. At last the horizontal pull was too great for her. She "exploded" in a furry of flailing arms and collapsed childlike and smiling back onto the couch. Bruce's eyes twinkled approval and his smile for her was long and warm.
Then Bruce turned to me, nodded his head slowly, still smiling and said hello. We decided that since Bruce would be taping his part that evening we would try to work an interview in during his breaks. Before he went into the studio, Bruce told me how he got his first guitar. "I went to a music store with my father when I was ten years old to buy a 78 rpm record," Bruce spoke slowly. "And I picked up a guitar and I fiddled and diddled and fiddled and strummed..." Bruce's voice dwindled, leaving his statement typically unfinished but no less expressive. Still smiling, he continued, "And my father liked it too. He was an orchestra leader...played violin and piano and..." Bruce's complete serenity contrasted my nervousness so clearly that he must have known that I desperately hoped he would continue so that I wouldn't have to say anything more...
"And sang through a megaphone," he smiled. Neil, who was producing the cut that they were working on that night, performed his reeling stalk in front of Bruce and me who were seated on the couch. He turned as he passed the couch and retraced his steps more slowly. "An interview with Bruce, ha! Bruce'll say, 'it's that way all over the world and laugh'" Neil made another floor crossing and went without reason, but none less decidedly, into the studio.
"It's true, isn't it?" Bruce asked/stated. The rambling producer returned once more, "This is a recording session, remember? Why don't you get in there?" "Oh yes....yes," answered Bruce softly as he rose to his feet, took a mop that had been leaning against the wall and began to sweep a spot on the floor. "Now we'll erase it and it will be just as if it never happened." Bruce put the mop back by the wall and moved soundlessly into the studio while Neil and I remained momentarily quiet, fascinated by a newly pale spot on the floor, an event that never happened.
Once again on his stool in the studio, the tape rolled and Bruce played. The dissatisfied producer repeatedly stopped the tape and erased Bruce's track as the tape rewound. After a few takes, Neil pressed a button and spoke into the mike before him in his officious producer's voice which was tinged with pride in his Friend. "Bruce, you're playing groovy stuff, but it's just another thing on top. We need something to hold it together. Don't do sevenths. Try to lead up to the D minor and take it somewhere from there."
"Over there...and there....and there..." came Bruce's low smooth voice while he made full, slow sweeping gestures in the directions that he could take his part. When Bruce returned to the control room couch once more, I asked him how he got started in rock and roll.
"In public school there were dances," he informed me. While he talked his eyes registered kindly amusement at my rather trivial questions. "Records were played because there were few groups. And I thought why not go to dances and make the music? What could be better than both at once?"
"Why did you chose to play bass?"
"Because..." Bruce stretched the word to a sigh. "I saw a bass player in a band...electric basses were pretty new then. Only about ten years old....I was playing guitar at the same time." He was speaking more slowly than usual. "At the same time...."
Bruce went to the corner of the studio and brought back a guitar tuned in a way that he invented and played a sort of arpeggio strum, oblivious to anyone else in the studio. I asked Bruce where he would like to see rock go. "Popular symphonies," he answered. "A few guitars, flutes, and voice, no lyrics."
"Is that where you think it will go?"
"Yes, when a musician is young he wants to play rock and roll. But as he becomes better he will want to play more serious music."
"Why do you play rock and roll?"
"Because it's the music in my mind. It's in the air."
"Do you think that popular symphonies will catch on with the young people?"
"Sure, it'll be natural."
"So you think rock and roll is showing good progress?"
"Yes, in The Beatles."
Bruce went quietly back into the studio and the tape began to roll again. It had been over two hours since I had arrived and I decided that I should leave because it's always an inconvenience to have any unnecessary people at a recording session. And because I like that last page of the Buffalo bio.
BRUCE PALMER: Statistics unknown.
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