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Kaleidoscope - the ZigZag Article - Part One
In its 58th issue (March, 1976) the British rock magazine ZigZag ran Part One of its three-part article on Kaleidoscope. Written by Mac Garry, with editorial input from Pete Frame (who meticulously hand-lettered the whole thing), this remains in many ways the Rosetta Stone, as far as Kaleidoscope documentation is concerned.

The more astute British rock magazines seemed to "get" Kaleidoscope in a way that their American counterparts never did. To this date the fullest attempts at getting the band story down have all appeared in British magazines. First, the ZigZag piece. A few years later, John Platt's David Lindley-oriented piece in Comstock Lode. Once more, in the 90s Phil McMullen tackled Kaleidoscope in his journal, Ptolemaic Terrascope.

It's fairly well known that the ZigZag article played loose with "the facts" here & there. ("Total bullshit" is a term bandied around in some quarters of the band.) Pete Frame cheerfully acknowledges to being party to some of the "inventions". ("I was a silly stoned hippy".) "As you will have noticed", wrote Pete in a recent e-mail "there's a lot of fiction interspersed with the fact. As I recall I transposed Solomon into the plot of Nostromo by Joseph Conrad and invented all sorts of bullshit about Bacon (as opposed to Beacon) From Mars. But it all added to the mythology." That said, this article, along with Platt's, has yet to be bettered in evoking the flavor of the scene. Certainly the two articles combine to present the fullest picture of Kaleidoscope & how the band came to be.

Not wishing to puncture this pretty balloon of a thing, I've tried to rein in my editorial intrusions as much as possible. Acquaintance with known facts has in some places impelled me to make a comment or two. Otherwise, reader, you're on your own. The spelling & punctuation of the original have been retained.

Many thanks to Pete Frame for kindly permitting the article's appearance here. Thanks also to Paolo Ghelfi for the front page scan.

SCRIBE’S FORMAL OBJECTION

Only in the interests of cramming it into the smallest possible space did I consent to write out this ghastly and interminable tripe – containing, as it does, some scurrilous allegations and allusions which are, I can assure you, without a shred of truth. Since I promised to make no alterations to the text, I have failed to correct any of the sadly-ignorant author’s mistakes but, for the benefit of the reader, I have added several footnotes in order to amplify certain matters outside his limited sphere of knowledge.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA

January 3rd, 1976

Not only was the waitress extremely desirable, but the coffee in Johnny’s was more than palatable; exactly as I like it – good and strong. Just the job after a taxing haul along freeways and highways weaving in and out of intersections designed to drive people loony. My shapes (physical and mental) were not all that could be desired anyway; paunchy balding and 28, a heart sick with love, a brain rotting out from chemical abuse, and a body so out of condition as to make a wreck like Frame positively Herculean by comparison.

He was the root of all this trouble – sending me off in search of Darrow. Since losing all the notes and cassettes of his own Darrow interview, he’d lost all reason when the subject of Kaleidoscope was so much as raised. Knowing that I planned to nurse my hurt in Los Angeles, staying in a state of drug-induced coma at the house of my good friend Sankey Phillips until my yearnings for the fair and tender Alice Bodine (and my murderous feeling towards that unscrupulous circus barkert Terry Bezant) had subsided to a bearable level, he “instructed” me to make the 30 mile trek to this god forsaken neck of America just to find Chris Darrow – a person whose music I find little more than tolerable at the best of times…. Especially that ear-rending drek he used to pump out with Kaleidoscope (1).

If Mick Houghton, famed Kaleidoscope chronicler, is reading this, I imagine my bald-faced abuse has brought a little colour to his anaemic cheeks…. He’d rush out of a “Let it Rock” creditors meeting just to catch a fleeting glimpse of Maxwell Buda…. And as for John Tobler, who recently paid no less than ₤21 for a copy of ‘Side Trips’ – well, I should think that his fury at my use of the word “drek” has brought on permanent cardiac disturbance. Not that he should worry – 21 quid is cheap when you consider that some guy was killed in a shoot – out at a warehouse in Mexico City after he’d followed up a lead about a cache of 13th Floor Elevator and Kaleidoscope albums. And I even had a friend who keeps the first 2 Kaleidoscope alb ums in a bank vault.

Anyway, here I was stranded in Claremont, with an out-of-date address (the house was tenanted by an old couple to whom the name Darrow meant nothing), an ex-directory name, and only a vague idea of how to track the fellow down…… like, I could ask the waitress, I suppose.

“Excuse me, Miss….. er …..”

“McCall, Ellen McCall” said this thing of beauty, this comely wench who, I subsequently discovered, had somehow “temporarily” ended up in Claremont after coming west to “get into the movies”. She really was a most pleasant girl – she looked slightly hammered, had a nice shading below her eyes, and you could tell that beneath her resigned smile was a sparkle just waiting to climb out. If I’d been Kubrick, I’d……

I am looking for someone, Miss McCall…. I am searching for a man named Darrow, Chris Darrow – have you any idea how……”

“That guy over there.”

I examined the fellow she was indicating and saw a lean and callow youth who patently bore not the slightest resemblance to the gentleman I was seeking.

“That most certainly is not Darrow” I countered without hesitation.

“I am aware of that”, Ellen replied, “but he can help you. His name is Perry…..hey, Perry, come here a moment”.

I was able to establish that this chap Perry had had some involvement, on an artistic level, with Darrow.

“I used to be in a band called Maxfield Parrish…. He produced an album for us”. This I took with a pinch of salt, for nowhere was it mentioned in the notes Frame had prepared for me, and I was completely unaware of its existence myself (2) I omitted to tell the bloke that I was disinclined to believe his story, but it became clear that he did indeed know something of Darrow, who, I soon, discovered, was some kind of celebrity in these parts.

[ed – the passage above is one of the lovely “inventions” which are sprinkled throughout the ZigZag article. While there was never a diner in Claremont named Johnny’s, there is one to be found in the Maxfield Parrish song “Ellie McCall.” The character Ellie is a waitress there. More information on the dreadfully obscure Maxfield Parrish can be found here.]

(His fame, however, did have limits. My natural love for womankind prevents me from being too scathing about the dim-witted baggage working the till in Frank’s Health Foods, where I’d made my first enquiry. She had heard of neither Darrow nor Kaleidoscope – and nor had Mr. Johnston (who I assumed was Frank), though he was able to boast that Claremont was universally known as the “citrus warehouse of the world” because the town’s main industry was packing and shipping oranges grown in the surrounding orchards flanking the San Gabriel Mountains).

Darrow, it transpired, had moved away from Claremont some months before and was now living near the ocean, out in Newport Beach – but, by some strange and simple twist of fate, he was coming to Claremont to rehearse “his new band” on Monday, 2 days away – and Perry (whose name, I found out, was in fact Perrin Muir) kindly offered to put me up until such time as my interview was completed.

So, over the next two days, not only did I spend further hours in the company of Ms. McCall (late of Madison, Ohio), but I was able to take in some of the flavour of the locale.

Perry filled me in on Claremont: “All sorts of rock people came from this area…. Chris lived here until recently, as you know, and David Lindley, who’s married to Chris’ sister, still lives here – and did you know that Zappa started out from here? He’s from Ontario, just east of here…. In fact Darrow was a school with his brother Bob Zappa. John Stewart is from Pomona, just along the road, Ed Beardsley the sleeve designer, Dick Barber, Zappa’s long time road manager, Vic Mortenson too…. They’re all local people.

“Vic Mortenson?” I asked.

“He was Captain Beefheart’s very first drummer; Beefheart and Zappa used to hand out a lot together at their studio in Kookamonga [ed – or, as it’s otherwise known, Cucamonga.].

One lives and one learns.

ENTER FENRUS EPP!

January 4th, 1976

I was sitting in Johnny’s having a spot of midday breakfast when Perry, grinning furiously, walked in with a stout accomplice.

“This is Robert Armstrong” he said, “….. though you may know him as Chester Crill ….. or maybe, Fenrus Epp”.[ed – while the comics artist Robert Armstrong was associated with Chester, he & Chet were not the same person!]

Epp obviously noticed that my lower jaw had collapsed and that my face had now assumed the gape of a village idiot.

Could this ordinary human I saw before me be the same weird and wonderful Fenrus Epp, otherwise known as Maxwell Buda, Chester Crill or Connie Crill? The man whose musical genius had caused aspirant imitators to cut their wrists? How many pseudonyms does he have, I wondered? Can he be real? (For, astonishing as it may sound, I had actually heard of imposters: Mick Houghton was approached by an obvious Welshperson who swore blind that he was Fenrus Epp, and last spring, Frame was entirely duped by a bogus Max Buda who spend 6 days at Yeoman Cottage draining his hospitality and supplies).

“In that case, what is your real name?” I blurted, going a trifle puce around the jowels but determined to tear off the shroud of mystery which has enveloped the man this past nine years.

“That is something I am not prepared to disclose to an ill-kempt wretch such as yourself”, he replied with counterfeit indignation, “…… you look like Orson Welles on a bad day”.

“I’ve been ill” I stammered – at which point his cavalier smile burst into a huge guffaw….. and I noticed the gold star inlaid in the enamel of his front tooth – and I knew that he was indeed the bona-fide, certified Epp. Within the ZigZag file (containing press clippings, Frame’s jottings, and other info), which I’d had the foresight to bring along and peruse at length before hitching down to Claremont, was a clipping from the September 1968 issue of Hullaballoo Magazine which made great play of the famous Epp tooth.

This rotund little eccentric turned out to be extremely friendly and jovial, though at this stage he was prepared to reveal little about his days in Kaleidoscope and the exact nature of his present activities – though I was able to establish that current rumous of a re-formed Kaleidoscope are not entirely without foundation.

“Wait till Chris comes…. He’ll tell you all about it” he promised, with a twinkle glinting through his specs, disturbing the soporific tranquility of what I (mistakenly) assumed to be his usual expression.


(1) This ridiculous statement can only reveal, to the perspicacious reader, the alarming extent of Garry’s aforementioned brain damage.

(2) There is indeed a Maxfield Parrish album, recorded on the local Curnon [ed: Cur Non] label (CNL 721), in 1972 [ed: though released in 1972, it was actually recorded in 1969. It’s been recently re-released on CD by Taxim Records.]. The group (“children of the Byrds” was the way Darrow described the) was augmented by John Ware, John London, Bernie Leadon and David Lindley, among others [ed – Chester Crill contributed as well.]

Next: DARROW ARRIVES

front page of original article