Dino Remembers: Chip Tahoe and the Semi-Tones

[As you may be aware, Dino Manonne is a man of many adventures and exploits, peaks and nadirs, (near) successes and catastrophic failures, all of which make him a vast mountain range of experience.  From time to time, he sits down and types some of them out for us: Dino Remembers– Jesse]

DINO! DINO! DINO!

DINO! DINO! DINO!

A Total Fucking Waste of My Time: Chip Tahoe nearly Rips off Columbia Records

So it was about 1980/1981.  Some time around there.  Everyone in Hollywood was coked out of their fucking minds, Travolta had just come out with that awful mechanical bull movie and so suddenly looking like a gay cowboy was IN.  And like “IN” like a fucking BOMB, you feel me?  Like, I remember going out with Steve Leach* to some stupid club where all the kids looked like they were Space Cadets one week, then the next they were all Rhinestone Cowboys.  But in all honesty, this could’ve been months later since I was just as coked up as anyone else.

But anyway, cowboys, country boys, South south south, all that.  Who the hell knows why?  But for a while it was all disco cowboys, at least among the set I was hanging out with (again, my set was into some pretty heavy shit back in the day, so who knows for sure).  But the Band had done okay, I was trying to get into more of a production role as well as perform, so I was hanging around Clive Davis as much as I could, who at that time was giving some consideration to these sort of Urban Cowboy types, maybe make a record or something.

Just so happened that there was a bar where we’d hangout.  Nothing special, but drinks were cheap and they didn’t really care what you did so long as you didn’t mess with the wrong types.  One of the bartenders was this guy, Chip.  He wasn’t just doing the whole “Hip Funky Country” shit, he WAS that, from Oklahoma or Arizona or some bullshit like that.

He was alright, and let’s just say he was a ‘facilitator’ for certain ‘things’ that we needed to ‘procure’, and those ‘things’ were ‘prime quality’ and generally ‘free’.  So we go out there, Steve and me, shoot the shit about Clive thinking about putting out a funky cowboy record, and Chip overhears and says he moonlights as a singer, open mic nites and all that.  Now, I sorta owe this guy a favor or two since I rarely paid for anything at this bar, and he seemed like he meant it when he told us how good he was, so I figure what the hell.  Let’s tell Clive.

So first of all, Clive doesn’t know who I am, because I’ve been ‘hanging around’ but I haven’t said much, so he’s a little skeptical when I come right up to him and tell him I found a guy who’s a Funky Cowboy.  But it’s 1980, we’re all fucked up ALL the time, so some crazed  keyboardist from some minor band in a minor subsidiary of your company coming up to you and shouting at you about some guy called Chip Tahoe who’s a funky Cowboy and has more snow than Santa isn’t that far out from your usual daily experiences.  And it doesn’t sound like a terrible fucking idea either.  “Sure, why not?” he says.

ALSO just so happens that Kenny Rogers is hanging around, for reasons I don’t know.  He’s just come out with “Gambler”, or whatever the fuck it was, so he’s living it up, partying with everybody in LA (that son of a bitch can PARTY, let me tell you).  Now Chip was clearly not quite what he told us he was, because this song he’s sure is going to be a hit sounds an AWFUL lot like “Gambler”.  But Kenny is THERE partying with us, and he says he doesn’t care how similar it sounds.  “Hell” he says, “You boys can use my fucking band if you want!”.

So we get set up, everything’s good to go (minus obviously that we’re fucked up) and….

Yeah, I know, a fucking DISASTER.  And that’s the BEST FUCKING TAKE AND THE ONLY FUCKING SONG WE COULD EVEN RECORD.  Couldn’t release it, and I’m surprised I didn’t burn my copy.  But the thing is, we STILL bring this piece of shit to Clive because we figure we put some effort into it so maybe there’s still something we can work out.  Noooooo fucking way.  Because Clive might indulge, but he didn’t let it turn into the fucking shit show everyone else did.

So that about ends any dreams I have of becoming a producer.  Chip gets pissed and thinks I sabotaged him, so one day at this fucking bar he pulls a knife on us and chases us out.  Steve starts to “worry about your decision making recently” which more or less sets the stage for when I eventually was kicked out of the band.  So I guess the lesson is audition someone before you try to convince your boss to let you produce their record…..

By Dino

*Dino was keyboardist and back up singer for Crystal Grass from 1976-1981, a group led by singer/songwriter Steve Leach.

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