Chapter 16 1978 - Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

“1978 began several years of exploration for us,” I told Roger. “Our whirlwind romance and subsequent marriage left our own heads reeling, and the success of the World Reform campaign drove us to seek out a much quieter existence. It was Too Much, Too Little, Too Late: too much to do, too little time to do it, and we decided to drop out of sight before it was too late.”

After the success of the World Reform movement, I and Angela tried to settle into a newlywed pattern. They enjoyed nice quiet dinners at home and took in an occasionally movie. The problem was that he was too recognizable, and fans would constantly interrupt a tender moment asking for autographs or, perhaps thinking they were the Next Big Thing, provide a cassette of their musical output, hoping that I's influence in the industry might finally catapult them into the superstardom they thought they most richly deserved. Every once in a great while, a real talent would come along, someone like Reginald Von Happenstein, Reginald had built up a loyal local fan base and recorded a solo demo that he was shopping around. He happened upon I and Angela at a restaurant and introduced himself, making sure to be courteous and not interrupt a tender moment. Despite his efforts, the initial meeting did not go well.


“No, sir, it’s Happenstein. Von Happenstein, to be exact.”

“I know what you said, and I know what I meant. I meant, did you just come here by happenstance, or have you been stalking me?”

Sir! No, sir! I was eating my dinner when you came in, and I waited until an appropriate time before I interrupted your night out.

I’s demeanor softened and he sensed the genuine concern for privacy from the slightly younger man.

"So, what can I do for you? You must know that I no longer sign autographs. I will, though, allow a picture."

"That's very gracious of you, sir, but what I'd really like is for you is to take this recording of some of my music and listen to it at your leisure.  And if you're so inclined, perhaps give me your opinion."

"And why do you think that I, a member of the greatest group ever know and a now retired musician, would have any interest in doing that? Do you know how many requests I get in just one week for this very same thing? Hundreds, I tell you. Tapes come in from all over the world, and there's not enough time in the day to even consider a fraction of them. What makes yours any different?"

"I suppose that there isn't any particular reason why you would consider mine over any other. I was just hoping you might consider it."

"So, how would you characterize your music?  More disco? What makes it interesting?"

"To tell you the truth, I do have quite a local following here in town. My music is a bit eclectic, and can’t really be pinned down into a particular genre. But folks tell me they like it.”

“Well,” I paused in thought. “You’re persistent, and seem to be sincere, so I’ll take a listen. No guarantees, and there’s a good chance our paths won’t even cross again.”

Reginald thanked I, and went on his way.

Angela noted, “You seemed a little harsh with him, I. Remember, the fans made you who you are, and without them, you may have been nobody. It could even be possible that Reginald here might really have something to offer, so give him more that just a passing chance. Maybe there is something unique there.”

I slipped the cassette into his jacket pocket, and promptly forgot about it.

Several months later, Angela and I were walking downtown, when I spotted a poster advertising a concert by Reginald Von Happenstein at a local club. Intrigued, he noted the date and time, and decided that he might just check out this potential new talent. He also recalled that he had never even given the promised listen to the cassette that Reginald had presented him. Upon returning home, he sought it out, finding it still in the pocket of his jacket. He put it into the tape player.

The sounds that came out were mesmerizing, mystical, and magical. I had rarely experienced anything like this, including his own material. It evoked deep happiness, followed by deep sorrow, utter joy, complete terror. Never had music brought such vivid emotions. It was too much, and he had to stop the player to bring him back to earth for just a bit. He sat in silence, contemplating the sounds he had just heard, wondering how it was even humanly possible to create such a work. He turned the tape back on, but too little time had passed. He couldn’t handle the intensity of what he was hearing. He waited a full hour before resuming. Then, steeling himself, listened to the remainder through the final, critical moments. Stunned, openly weeping, he realized that his delay may have jeopardized any possibility of working with this extraordinary talent. Was it too late?

When the date of Reginald’s concert came, I was there, seated next to the stage, to hear the live renditions of songs that, through repeated listening, had already burned themselves into his mind. The same raw emotions welled up in him as upon the first listen, and at the break, he approached Reginald.

“Sir, if I may so bold as to address you that way, you’re music has touched me as no other in recent memory. I’m not sure what I can do for you, because it’s already perfect in every way.”

Reginald was stunned at I’s reaction. He knew that his offerings were unique, and though the local fans had expressed interest, no one had even approached the level of interest that I had expressed.

“How can you play this music without completely breaking down yourself?” I asked. “It takes me every effort I can make just to get through the recording in a single session. Where will you take it next?”

“I play it here for just a percentage of the door. There’s very little available for me to do anything at all with it besides bringing it to the local devotees. They are few, but fervent fans. But I can barely imagine taking to a larger audience. It touches some, but I don’t know if it has wide appeal.”

“I will make it my mission to get this out there,” I offered. “I still have a number of contacts in the industry, and this deserves exposure. Let me see what I can do.”

I began visiting his former producers, label executives, even his friend and former manager Rod Manger. To his utter dismay, little interest was found among the collective group, and I could not convince anyone that this talent was one to be explored.

“There’s too much dissonance in the music and too little melody,” Rod remarked. “I just don’t hear any potential in it. It’s never too late to find some other protege, because I don’t think Reginald Von Happenstein is happensteining.” He chuckled a little at the even littler joke.

I was persistent in his search for support, but none was coming from any avenue. Doggedly, he pursued all leads and was about to give up when he visited a small label called Eclectic Fry Records. Max Fry, the label’s owner and chief producer, dealt exclusively in records that defied the mainstream, and Reginald’s music had a similar affect on Max as it had had on I.

“Sales on my label are small, but the taste of the music buyers is impeccable,” Max stated. “While Reginald will never be a superstar, I think I can guarantee a significant return from the fiercely loyal aficionados. The key is a wide distribution to the markets where his type of music will really be appreciated. That’s our expertise here at Eclectic Fry, and it would boost sales even more with your endorsement. That could potentially increase the audience by association to your own set of fans.”

I weighed the options. One one hand, he believed in Reginald, and wanted to see him succeed. On the other, he did not want to get dragged back into the music business again. He was retired, and living comfortably enough. It was a dilemma, but his support and respect for Reginald led him to lend his full support and name to the project. Max worked up the contract, and I presented it the Reginald that evening.

Reginald was overwhelmed at the prospect. “I can’t believe that our chance meeting at that restaurant would have resulted in something this big in my life. I believed in myself, even when few others did. But you did, and you have proven yourself once again as a valuable friend, too much for me to even contemplate. Anything I do for you in return would prove to be too little, and now it’s too late to get this contract back to Max Fry this evening, but first thing tomorrow, this new adventure begins!”

Reginald’s demo tape was rough, by commercial recording standards, but it laid the ground for setting up his first professional recording session at Eclectic Fry Records. Max had outfitted the studio with as many of the instruments that he could identify in the recording. There were three synthesizers, an electric guitar, two twelve strings guitars, one electric, one acoustic, a hammond organ, complete with Leslie speakers, a full drum kit and enough percussion instruments to keep an entire elementary classroom enchanted during their music lessons. But the coup d’état was the arrival of I’s original bass guitar, supplied by I himself.

“That instrument has more stories than you would care to hear,” remarked I to Reginald. “And some of them are better off unheard.” He silently reflected for a few moments. “But it’s yours to play and use as you see fit”.

Reginald lifted up the revered instrument and placed the strap behind his neck. The history that the instrument carried seemed to give it more weight than its size would betray, yet it was only an illusion. When he picked the first few notes, the golden sound was released, and notes could be nearly seen floating in the air before them. I recognized the strains for “Ethereal Rafting Upon the Solar Sphere,” one of his favorites from Reginald’s demo, and he urged Max to begin recording right away. There was magic happening right before them, and everything had to be captured. By the time the first bass track for the six minute piece had been captured in full, Reginald, I and Max all were all drenched in sweat, an involuntary reaction to the energy being released by just that single instrument.

Building upon that initial take, a drum track was added. The complex rhythms were like no other, combining efforts that Starr, Moon, Watts and even Jones could only have hoped to discover in their careers. When the guitars were plugged in, and the effects adjusted, the energy and complexity of the piece only increased exponentially. Reginald finished the final solo and collapsed to his knees, spent from the exertion. Max and I sat in silence, mouths agape, as they tried to comprehend the experience they had just witnessed.

Gaining back a portion of their senses, I rushed into the recurring booth and assisted Reginald back to his feet. Dazed, Reginald accepted the guidance to a chair, and sipped upon a glass of water brought in by Max.

“Are you OK? Can you continue?” asked Max.

Reginald took a bigger gulp, and savored the refreshment. “I’ll be fine. I’m not sure what came over me. When I recorded the demos, and even in my live performances, this has never happened, but I don’t think that I’ve ever created such a performance as this before either. There is truly magic in these walls, because I don’t think it all came from me.”

“We need to take a break, because I don’t think you can continue today. I know I can’t,” Max indicated. “Let’s take it up again tomorrow.”

The next day, everyone was refreshed and they continued with the interrupted sessions from the day before. Reginald added the synths and some percussion, and although the final product was exquisite, the experience of the previous day was not duplicated.

“I’s not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved,” I quipped. “I supposed relief in getting through the session is the most welcome. I’m not sure I could bear the constant affront of raw emotions for too long a time.”

The sessions continued throughout the week, and while none of them hit the intensity of that initial day, there were moments throughout that recalled the feelings each had experienced. In some cases, the individual tracks were laid down to no apparent physical effect, but it was the overall combination of tracks after being mixed that proved that the whole was so much better that the individual parts. In some cases, Max’s own direction added a new element that did not appear in the original demos. Such was the case with the session for “Plaintive Meanderings.”

Max suggested that I and Reginald perform together, rather than record separate tracks, and went further to explain that I’s presence on the recording would add an additional note of legitimacy to the entire project. Reginald and I agreed.

Reginald sat down at one of the synths, and started developing an atmospheric layer. I joined in with the bass, playing in the upper register of the instrument. Max adjusted the filters, until the bass itself was barely recognizable and Reginald’s synth lines seemed to come out of every corner of the room. They could not be directly located, no matter what vantage point was taken. It was a totally immersive experience, and the two musicians began feeding off of each other. I’s own fingers played over the fretboard without effort, in a manner he had never before done, and Reginald began inserting colors, that although only visible in the mind, were so realistic that one would swear afterwards they they had made an actual visual appearance. When Max began feeding the earlier part of the session directly into the live mix, it created a unique whole that brought both musicians to tears. By the time is was all over, twenty-seven minutes and thirty-four seconds of “meanderings” had been recorded. The track became the whole of side two of Reginald’s first studio release.

Despite I’s support, mentoring and direct involvement in the whole process, the resulting record “Reflections on the Meaning of Space and Time” did not sell well, and failed to make the charts. But I knew that given time, it would be discovered someday, and that the world would know that the musician Reginald Von Happenstein was a force that could not be ignored. Reginald continued for years with his small cult following, but never found the mainstream success that his talent certainly deserved.