October 02, 2012

The Aerovons - Resurrection (1969)

Welcome to the second day of the week-long journey with The Aerovons' lead man, Tom Hartman. If you thought yesterday's post was awesome, wait until you read today's story. And you may want to grab a seat; this one is a nice, long read!

Recorded in 1969, today's song below Tom's story was a shining example of just how much The Beatles had influenced this group. Borrowing their melody from The Fab Four's "Across the Universe," seventeen year old Tom had only heard "Across the Universe" once (before it's actual release) a week prior to writing this song. It wasn't clear to him at the time just how much he had borrowed from that strong impression. The song appears as the second track to the group's album, Resurrection.

A Special Edition post with Tom Hartman from The Aerovons!
Part 2 of 5

Yesterday's post was wonderful. How lucky it must have felt to meet half of The Who! Let's get right into the second story from Tom.
Meeting Paul
(or, "The Amazing Autograph Fiasco")

My band, The Aerovons, had gone to England after Capitol Records referred us to A&R man Roy Featherstone at EMI in London. After getting signed, we remained in London for a week or so with my mother continuing to work out the details with the record company. We had enjoyed going out and taking cabs at night to well known clubs, or “discos” as they were then known, and getting a heavy dose of the London music scene. It was a wonderful and exciting time with the speakers in the various clubs belting out great records we had not heard in the States. And each club was filled with wild characters in all manner of dress.

At one point, Roy asked us if we were getting out, seeing things, and enjoying ourselves. We mentioned that, yes, we had been, and named some of the clubs we had been to. ”Have you been to Speakeasy?” he asked. “No, we tried,” I said, “But it's private membership so we couldn't get in.”

“Oh we'll get you in. When would you like to go? Thursday okay?”

We all said “Great!” and looked forward to another adventure.

“There are a lot of well-known artists who go there. That's why they keep it private,” Roy offered.

So a couple of nights later, we called a taxi. Around ten or eleven we arrived at a simple stairway off of a typical city street, leading down to a room where you found yourself at something like a ticket booth. We told the man there the name of our group and said EMI was supposed to have left our names for admittance.

“Oh, I see. Yes, you're fine,” said the attendant. He asked us to sign in and, while doing so, I said something like, “We've heard a lot of well known people come here. Anyone we know here tonight?”

“Well Diana Ross was here awhile ago. And Michael Caine.”

We all mumbled our appropriate approval of this, when he then added “And Paul's in there somewhere.”


“Uh ....yes” he said, as if surprised he could have meant anyone else. Well, at that point you can imagine what a group of Beatles fans were all whispering to each other as we walked in.

Speakeasy was a rather small club, divided into two sections. The main area had a small stage where local (and well known) acts would play, which was surrounded by tables where everyone sat and had drinks. But along the side of the room was a long glass divider and a door into a more elegant dining area. It was hard to see anything as it was quite dark, lit with only candles, as I recall, or some kind of small lights at each table, both in the main area and the dining area behind the glass. You really couldn't make out faces very well.

My mother, Mike, Bob (my longtime friend and rhythm guitarist who didn't make the trip for the recording of our album), Nolan (our then bass player), and myself took a seat at a table in the main club. My mom was an unusual character. While it may seem odd that she accompanied us, if you knew us, it really wasn't at all. Though she handled the business and was single-handedly responsible for getting us signed to EMI, she was also almost “one of the gang.” Local fans of our group in St. Louis would come to our band practices and, instead of sitting downstairs and watching us, they'd disappear after a while and we'd find them all upstairs talking to “Mrs. H.” She was popular with the kids and was just as excited about everything as we were.

So there we sat, our eyes trying to make images out in the darkness of the club, while songs like “Tin Soldier” by The Small Faces blasted out of the club’s sound system. We must have sat there for a good half hour with each minute that passed bringing us a little closer to resignation.

“He probably left already,” or, “We must have missed him,” were familiar remarks.

But low and behold, I suddenly heard Bob say, “Hey, that's him!” as he motioned toward the glass door which opened into the dining room. I looked over and there he was, Paul in a tuxedo (or something close to it; he was quite well dressed), leaving the dining room and walking away from us down a path that led-

“That goes to the bathrooms!” Mike said. “Yeah, let's get up and wait for when he comes back out again!” said someone else. We were all nervous wrecks. He had been about twenty feet from us and was now gone from sight. It was up to us to determine what happened next.

“C'mon,” various members of the group said, and everyone stood up and more or less started ambling over to the glass door that led to the dining room. “He'll have to come back in this way!” somebody reasoned.

“What are we going to say?” I remember asking. Before you know it, guess who was coming back, walking right toward us? “There he is!” one of the guys said. “Go, go!”

I felt several hands push me ever so slightly, as if I had been nominated to be the “Most Embarrassed Person in the World.” I took a couple of steps forward just as Paul reached for the door to return into the dining room.

“Uh, hi Paul, excuse me, we're a group from the United States and we're going to be recording at EMI and just wondered if you had a second to-”

“Oh, the U.S., great!” said Paul.

We collectively almost died. Paul let go of the doorknob and leaned back against the glass wall.

“What part of the States are you from?”

We all moved closer, including the cowards in back of me who were now vying for “Best Place to Stand Closest to Paul.”

I asked, “Paul, I was wondering if you remembered how you guys got the guitar sound in 'Nowhere Man'?”

“Ah yeah, well I think that was a Grestch, and they just put a lot of top on it (meaning treble) on the record.”

Personally, I used a Grestch and knew that there was no way in the world it was a Grestch on the record. But I wasn't about to say anything! Paul made pleasant small talk and asked how we liked it “over here,” etc. We could really hardly believe it was all happening, as you might suppose. All of a sudden, our then-bass player, Nolan, reached over my shoulder with one of our band's business cards and handed it to Paul.

“Paul I know this is a lot to ask, but could you sign this?” Nolan asked.

(Feigning great pain), “Oh yeah....it's a lot to ask,” and laughed. “Got a pen?”

Somehow, someone came up with a pen. On our cards, it said “The Aerovons. Smashing British Sound”

Paul looked at the card and smiled, “Ah...smashing British sound, eh?” and we all laughed. He handed the card back to Nolan and said, “Can I have one?” referring to our cards. Someone gave Paul another card and he pocketed it.

We spoke for a few more minutes, about what I cannot remember. I was frankly so in awe that I was beside myself. It was like standing in front of royalty. He was so well dressed and so pleasant. Everything you would hope meeting an idol would be like.

Finally, we thanked him profusely, he wished us much luck, and he shot back through the glass door into the dining room. We walked on air back to our table and took a seat. Mom was so happy for us. We all were just giddy, when mom said something like, “Well that will really be something to add to our scrapbook!” meaning the autograph.

“Hey, no way! That's my autograph. I'm not giving that to anyone. I was the one who asked for it!” Nolan remarked. Like the air coming out of a hundred birthday balloons, we all grew silent, as we realized the truth: there were many Aerovons, but only one autograph of Paul's.

I was particularly angry, as I felt like Nolan wouldn't even have been here to get the opportunity to get the autograph had it not been for my mother getting us signed and obtaining the financial backing to fly us all over there. But I did understand how Nolan felt, as I would have most likely been of the same sentiment. Everyone was a bit bummed, so I finally reached over and asked for three more Aerovons’ band cards. I grabbed them and said, “Okay, I'll just tell him what happened and see what he does. All he can do is say ‘no’.”

We waited and waited, until finally, after about a half an hour, the door opened and Paul came out, accompanied by Jane Asher, also dressed to the hilt, in a beautiful long gown. This must have been one of their last outings, as shortly thereafter Paul and Jane split. I recognized her immediately as I had always thought Asher was the perfect British beauty.

I walked quickly up to him fueled, no doubt, by frustration over Nolan's stance, and said, “Excuse me again, Paul. I'm so sorry, but as soon as we sat down, our bass player got a little possessive with the one autograph you gave us and-”

“Okay, it's alright, you've got a pen?”

I handed Paul the additional band cards and a pen. He bent down so he could write on one knee, quickly scratching his name on the additional cards. Jane just stood, patiently gazing around the room, as if this happened all the time.

“I'm really sorry and I can't thank you enough. No one's going to believe us when we get home.”

“Ah, but now you've got this!” he said as he smiled and handed back the cards. I didn't know what to say so I just smiled back. He stood up, turned, and then was gone.

Decades later, I spoke with Nolan and asked him if he still had the autograph. “Oh no, I gave that away to someone who really appreciated it,” he said.

Takes all kinds, I guess.

My autograph hangs on my wall to this day. I just glanced over to it as I wrote this. It's framed and simply says “Paul McCartney.” On the frame it says “Speakeasy, 1968.” The other members still have theirs as well, save for Nolan.

This entire occurrence gave me a look at Paul the human being. He really understood the predicament I was in and took the time to save a dream for us. I will always respect him for his kindness and patience that night. After all, it was our one and only chance to ever meet a Beatle.

Or so we thought....

Tom Hartman

(To be continued…”Meeting George”)
"Paul McCartney"
"Speakeasy Club • London • 1968"

A big 'thank you' to Tom for not only sharing this story, but for all of the work he put into not leaving out a single detail. It really makes the story come alive when nothing is left out. We owe Tom a great deal for his generosity!

Update: Continue with Part 3 of 5.

album art

The Aerovons - Resurrection (1969)

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Sunday drives and Ferris wheels
Something that was something real
Now Sunday’s really Monday in disguise

Floating down a stream of smiles
You take some time to stop a while
Resurrecting every thought and mile

And I reach out for you
In the sun of our love
We’re gonna bring it back
We’re gonna bring it back

Paper cups and love affairs
Gliding through the open air
Gently hiding off from every care

Ocean skies with rainbow kites
Go soaring on from mind to mind
Tomorrow and tomorrow alter time

And I reach out for you
In the sun of our love
We’re gonna bring it back
We’re gonna bring it back

We’re gonna bring it back
We’re gonna bring it back

I like what I see today
‘til every runs the other way
And no one hears a word they seem to say

Floating down a stream of smiles
Now take some time to stop a while
Resurrecting every thought and mile

And I reach out for you
In the sun of our love
We’re gonna bring it back
We’re gonna bring it back

We’re gonna bring it back
We’re gonna bring it back

And I reach out for you
And I reach out for you
Reach out for you…

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