Edward LaGrossa
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The Awakening Part I
by Edward LaGrossa
Part One

Edward LaGrossaGreetings from Venice Beach, California! Where we play live music everyday to 16 million visitors a year on our famous Boardwalk. My name is Edward LaGrossa, but everyone calls me Eddie. I've been blessed with being a life-long independent musician. Growing up in Hollywood has given me the opportunity to meet many of the best-known musicians in the world.

I started playing trombone at eight years old, then moved to drums at twelve. When I luckily saw Jimi Hendrix play at Devonshire Downs in the San Fernando Valley on my 14th birthday, I was duly inspired to learn the guitar.

My mother, Rita LaGrossa, whose maiden name I took since I never met my father, was from the small town of Freedom, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburg. In 1938, before she could even legally drink, she moved to Hollywood. Like tens of thousands before and since, my mom dreamed the dream of being an actress and a singer. The most beautiful women in small towns come here with high aspirations. Once they get here, they realize they're one of many. Most don't make it, but some do.

My mom's persistence lead her to singing in front of a 32-pice band at her peek. In 1947, she got pregnant with Kristine, the oldest of my three sisters, and her career was essentially finished. Being a good Italian mother she taught her one and only son how to cook, sing, and the mystical arts of astrology and clairvoyance. She died when I turned 18, but she exhibited the survival skills I inherited to flourish as a musician my whole life. Thanks Mom. She is interred in her beloved Hollywood Hills for eternity.

I had my first supernatural experience soon after my mom died. I was laying on my bed in my stepmother's apartment in Tarzana. I started feeling the planet move in an odd way, so I sang Carol King, "I feel the earth move under my skin, I feel the sky tumbling down..." Suddenly, I found myself looking down on my body from the top of the ceiling. I said "that's not right," and was immediately transferred back to my body. I found out later that was an out-of-body experience also referred to as an "astral projection." At that moment I knew there was more to this life than what appears within our five senses. I told no one of this incident but it made me realize in this life's incarnation, I have a mission; and that is, to create music.

In 1977 after college, I started singing and playing guitar on Hollywood Boulevard for beer money. All I needed to do was know the basic chord structure and fake some lyrics and I was off and running. As a discipline, I challenged myself to learn new songs and increase my repertoire everyday. As long as I stayed on a daily ritual of playing at least three hours a day, I knew the universe would take care of me. I still feel that way and gratefully, it still does.

When playing the "Boulevard" you meet all kinds of characters, fans and players. One comes up to me and says, "You're good! You should play at that club off the Boulevard down the street." I packed up from my spot at "London Britches" (now the "Pig and the Whistle"), and walked with him the two blocks to Cherokee Avenue behind the then Pussycat Theater. We walked to the alley and a guard who was sitting in front of a door behind the building waved us in. He knew the dude.

This was the moment I became punk, at least in my heart, if not in style. I witnessed a new feeling of enthusiastic rebellion with a insouciant attitude. With just some cheap ass amps, and a funky drum set; guys with Mohawks, a haircut never before seen, were bashing about incoherently in a musty corner of a cavernous basement in the middle of the afternoon.

Previously, I was the singing drummer in a Led Zeppelin cover band in the Valley so my first punk act was to bump this drummer, who could hardly keep a beat, off his set. I go next to him and put out my hand and he hands me the sticks in mid song. I didn't miss a beat and ripped into a syncopated rhythm and we was off. This began my new hang with fresh creative anarchists musicians.

What I happened upon was "The Masque," the first punk club on the west coast. A Scot started the club by the name of Brendan Mullens. He recently passed in 2009 and was honored by the Red Hot Chili Peppers with their latest song "Brendon's Death Song." His club spawned LA punk. Not only the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but the Go-Go's, X, The Germs and many others came this way.

The Music Kulture Killers of LA (the clueless LAPD) shut it down, but it re-opened, then they shut it down again. This battle occurred with all the clubs in Hollywood during the 80's. What else is new in LA? The Music Kulture Killers strike again. They staked out clubs and pulled over who ever left the parking lots. Music fan profiling eventually killed the whole live music scene.

Whoever I was playing with from here on out, I called the band "Anarchy," in honor of the Sex Pistols; as well as the "no government" philosophy. We had the A in the circle going on way before Nirvana's video. I'd played punk parties, crash pads, squats, abandoned buildings, wherever, whatever. Though not getting paid, I loved it. Musically the biggest challenge was just to keep up with various drummers who liked to play at 220 beats-per-minute. I wrote songs like "I'm Going to Fuck Or Fight Tonight," "Drunk Belligerent Assholes," an ode to my drinking partners, and the infamous "Fist This," which got people fighting like stuntmen from Hollywood hell.

I used the name "Anarchy" until May 28, 1983, the first day of the three day US Festival in Devore, San Bernardino. I had my acoustic flung over my back while going to the front gate. Suddenly rock fans in an ocean of people yelled out, "play us a song." So I did a rock acoustic punk styled show in front of an audience as far as the eye could see. This was my largest audience to date. When they asked me the name of my band I said "Anarchy" and everyone went "ooohhh," which rhymes with coooool.

I didn't know it at the time, but I was a serious alcoholic. On top of that, I had a chip on my shoulder the size of Jupiter and Mars. This meant anything could happen to me day or night. I kept most of my contemptuous verbal vitriol for the lost ambitious people who come to Hollywood for fame and fortune. To a local, the need to "make it" itself was already a sell out.

The payment with music is in the doing. Always has been, always will be. The so-called glory of recognition comes and goes. There was always enough beer at parties and enough love to get by. You didn't have to worry about money. You just had to learn how to not want anything. Nothing mattered except music, beer, and love. Survival took care of itself.

The second supernatural event in my life took place the week Led Zeppelin sold out six shows at the LA Forum (June 21 - 27, 1977). I took an August first Leo girl to all six shows. The second night I turned 22 on the 22nd.

Two nights later on June 24, they had the day off. It was also Jeff Beck, Jimmy's rival in the Yardbird's, 33rd birthday, born in 1944. Watch those double numbers! Leo girl wanted to met Zeppelin so we went looking for them in Hollywood.

We cruised up to the Starwood and saw Rodney Bingenheimer, who I don't know from Adam. I yelled from my car, "Hey Rodney, where's Jimmy?" He said, "Well, I don't know. Their band is playing here you know?" (Bad Company was on Zeppelin's Swan Song label) Then he goes, "I did see a bunch of limos parked in front of the Rainbow."

We tear out of there and troll up to Sunset to a sight that brought goose bumps over our bodies. We saw 11; we counted them, eleven limos parked in front of the Rainbow and Roxy. I was so excited I parked my car illegally in someone's driveway a block away on Doheny and got a ticket later.

When we got there, The Rainbow's perennial host Tony was at the door and he says to me, "you better get in here, we're about to close the door." This was early evening around 7 o'clock. (To this day I joke with Tony that he didn't know who Led Zeppelin was that night. He knows now). We walked in and there were all four of them sharing one booth in the middle of the main room in all their 70's glory with a dozen woman hanging around them.

We retreated to the bar and started drinking. After a while Jimmy walked past me and I said "Hi" to him. Maybe I was being too obsequious in tone and maybe I was looking too much like him with my hair and all, but he went "echhh" like he was about to throw up. My little 22 year and two day brain went, "Oh my God, Jimmy Page is an asshole." Forgivingly, "I thought, I can be that way too." Then I realized right there: it's not the person, but the person's work that counts. I'm not going to let the fact that Jimmy Page is an asshole make me hate Led Zeppelin! But I did wonder why this man, who was on top of the world, would act so dark?

A few hours later, I was feeling pretty drunk and slightly resentful, when I walked behind the wasted Jimmy slumping at the booth. I raised up my hands, like a mad magician and said to myself jokingly, "give me your powers." I already had astral projection four years earlier, so I knew about unseen powers. What I didn't expect was little lightning bolts going from his body into my fingertips!

When it happened, I immediately knew I was having a supernatural experience and I went with it. "Yea! Give me this big psychic ride universe. Give me it all." I took everything they were giving. All of it. I was so brave. All the way until there was no more, which was about 45 seconds in real time. The next day, I thought I was going to play like Jimmy Page, but no, same old me.

Later on John Bonham was holding court and in a good mood, telling jokes, and getting laughs. Suddenly, some guy asks him for an autograph. He did reluctantly. Impulsively, I asked for one too, even though I had never asked for an autograph in my life. "You? I thought you we're cool?" Shit! John Bonham thinks I'm cool and all I could come back with is, "Well, John you were handing them out." The only paper I had on me was my collage library card where he scribbled some indecipherable lines. It's was so what I disserved. I think he thought I was cool because I was laughing at his jokes. Maybe it was because I looked like Jimmy.

You would think I'd learned my lesson about autographs when I walked outside and saw Joni Mitchell alone in the parking lot. My middle sis Deb would have loved her autograph, but Joni just growled "absolutely not."

The first and last time I have or will ever asked for an autograph. Obviously she was there to see Led Zeppelin but was furious at something and just glared towards the door. Maybe it was because Jimmy was so out of it.

The next night at the show, when they did "Going to California." Robert sang the part about Joni, "Someone told be there's a girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair." Then he improvised "and I saw her last night." Indeed we did. I don't care if she's mean. I love Joni's music.

As for what that supernatural event meant for Jimmy Page's life, I've only recently checked the chronology of events for him after our incident. The next tour stop was San Francisco, where his drummer and manager Peter Grant got arrested for severely beating a Bill Graham security guard. Bill sued them and swore he'd never book them again. Then, a month to the day (7-24-77), Robert Plant lost his six-year-old son, Karac to a very rare virus infection. Led Zeppelin never came back to America again as Led Zeppelin.

As I know and understand today the ways of Karma and the Universe, Jimmy Page was given many obvious signs to change his ways, but didn't. John Bonham, the greatest rock drummer of all time, died a little over three year later at one of Jimmy Page's houses. Spiritually speaking, the cause and effect speaks for itself. This is the reason Robert Plant still won't tour with Jimmy Page as Led Zeppelin even with John's son Jason Bonham on drums.

Jimmy has since admitted he is "reaping my karma now heavily ("Hammer of the Gods" Stephen Davis p.233). I certainly didn't wish that on them. We all would have loved 40 years of Led Zeppelin. However, the ways of the Universe are sacrosanct.

Leo girl and I ended up living in Malibu on PCH the rest of the summer. 1977 was one of the greatest years of my life.

I lived at 2140 Laurel Canyon, three houses north of the canyon country store for most of the 1980's. Underneath the store, was the original site of the "Cat and The Fiddle," where famous musicians drank. Sometimes I wouldn't leave these three spots for weeks on end. Why go to the flat land of Hollywood proper? Everything's here.

The original owner was a London bass player named Kim Gardner who played with everybody in the 60's. We became friends. He would tell me all the nasty stories of famous Brit rockers and their horrid excesses. We lost him in 2001 but his British pub is still rockin on Sunset Boulevard.

Being in Laurel Canyon, I started hanging out at The Rainbow. Nightly. They had better temptations. The punkers were starting to get hostile towards longhairs. You had to be one or the other fashion wise so I stayed with my roots. Rainbow girls follow famous bands and their roadies around when they were in town touring. In those days I went to all the shows I could and always got backstage. After seeing Hendrix, you never wanted to miss another band because you never knew how long anybody would be around.

I can tell you right now I never shot hair spray on my head, or painted my face, or got a mowhawk, or even a tattoo. I am not a trendyte, or a fashion fascist. I'm a musician. Trends come and go, who cares? Long hair gives me enough attention in the real world. But I must say, it was very cool to watch with envious pride my hometown musicians do so well in those years. Van Halen, Motley Crue, Poison, Ratt, Gun and Roses, and across town the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I spent most of the 80's improving my ear by learning songs off the radio. The object was to learn the song before it ended and the next one began. I got better and better at this daily musical grill. I also started in earnest to learn how to write songs. Over the years I played with various people that came and went whose names I have forgotten over time. Names I forget, but astrological signs I do not. After all, there are only 12 of those.

The third and most startling supernatural event took place in the summer of 1986 in Hollywood. I started hanging out with this Capricorn bass player who told me he played with a band called "Checkered Flag." I never saw or heard them but we jammed and he was good. That summer, word got that you could party all night long outside some group's studio on Gardner, just off Sunset, now behind the Guitar Center.

After 2am in Hollywood, you had to go to a private resident if you wanted to keep partying and keep away from the Kulture Killers. I started hanging out at this parking lot after hours whenever I needed to. All night long it was full of people. We made it our own. The band was never there, so we just hung. Cool.

One night in late August, Capricorn and I just left Johnny Rotten's (Lydon) house in the Marina. I was friends with his little brother Martin. Johnny was in London. I was getting buggy with Capricorn because he was all boringly impressed I knew Johnny, which I didn't at the time. When we showed up at the Gardner parking lot, the studio door was open for the first time. He struts right in there and tells the guitar player we were at Johnny Rotten's house and that I'm a good guitar player. Now he comes back and tells me guitar dude wants to see me.

Great! In Hollywood every guitar player is extremely competitive, more than in any other piece of real estate. Now I've got to do a "battle of the bands" with this Hollywood guitar stud when I've been up for God knows how many days, if you know what I mean. But, I felt obligated since we've been hanging out in his parking lot all summer.

I walk in this really small place that stinks because it was the band's crash pad loft as well. Instantly I see they had major equipment: Marshalls, a Les Paul, a Telecaster, a Fender Precision bass, full drums, and a beautiful acoustic Gibson Hummingbird. Somebody liked them.

I slowly walk around this guy's lounge chair and revealingly, I'm looking at a dude that looks like Cousin Itt from the "Addams Family," with long dark, curly hair, covering his whole face. It was ridiculous and hilarious but I was amused so kept my cool. "Yea?" .

"They tell me you're a good guitar player," he asked.

"I'm all right," hanging back to see what he's got.

"You know any Cooper?" His hair strands shoot out from this mouth as he spits his expected competitive Hollywood challenge.

Now, I'm extremely familiar with Alice Cooper from his obscure Frank Zappa days in the early 70's. I even went to see Alice at the Hollywood Bowl in 1973 and I ran into the son of the man who signed him, Michael Rosenblatt, a high school friend of mine, who later became { the man who discovered Madonna}. Knowing all this and being about ten years older than this cocky dog who probably only knows the sober-golf playing Hollywood Square Alice whining that "Only Woman Bleed," I'm about to unleash the punk rock Italian verbosity boil on him... when a Voice out of nowhere says: "PLAY FOR HIM!" Commandingly!

That so freaked me out, I sobered up instantly and grabbed the Hummingbird and blurted out, "Lines form on my face and hands" the opening lines from "I'm 18" Alice Cooper's first hit. Suddenly, Cousin Itt starts parting his hair like the Red Sea, as he intently watches my fingers. I come from the Hendrix school of guitar playing where you can show anybody, anything, anytime on the guitar because they can't be, well... Eddie LaGrossa. So unlike some of these more competitive guitar players that turn their back on an audience, so other guitar players can't see what they're doing, I will show a guitarist anything they want to know.

A crowd started gathering from outside into the studio but I was so intent on this man's focus they became a faint background. He was locked onto my fingers and I gladly showed him the changes, "I've got to get out of this place," not a moment was out of place. It seemed like time stopped. When I was done, gratefully everyone clapped and I thought, good, I could get back to my thing, but no. He goes "play something you like." Finally showing respect.

Truly I felt like I was dying. I had been up for a long, long time. The last few years had been a treacherous haul. These days ended up being my last times doing cocaine. I had enough. OK, she's stronger than I am. I surrender. I ended up isolating when high, even from my woman. Strange. I haven't done coke since that summer to this day. That drug truly sucks.

Now a song popped into my head right out of thin air, one that I hadn't played since the Hollywood Boulevard days. So I slurred "Mama take this badge from me," the beginning of "Knocking On Heaven's Door" then an obscure song by Bob Dylan, from a movie he did in the early 70's. They loved it.

Cousin Itt, of course was Slash of Gun's and Roses, a year before their debut "Appetite For Destruction" was released. The Gardner studio was described by bass player Duff McKagan as the place "where the whole thing came together," for the band ("It's So Easy: And Other Lies, p. 91). Apparently Slash liked my version so much they started playing "Knocking On Heavens Door," in their live shows. A year later they recorded it, much to Dylan's surprise I assume.

Fortunately for history, the chords I showed Slash were incomplete. I didn't know at the time that Dylan alternated the A minor with C major in the verses. Thusly, one can hear that the original live Gun's and Roses version is the way I showed it to Slash. They just played the G, D, Amin, progression the whole song. How ironic.

I soon went back to the studio in the daytime for once and they were there with some of the guys from LA Guns. I told them I wanted to give them a word to use in a song. It's a cool word that rhymes with many other words. I got this word from Henry Miller, my favorite writer at the time. The word is "serpentine" and it means snake-like.

I was going to use it on my song "Serpentine Spine," but I never developed it. I didn't think of the rhyme "scream" for serpentine though. I offered it in front of a bunch of guys and it was sure used in "Welcome To The Jungle," but how that came about, I don't know. I'm proud they used it. Hopefully, so is Henry.

Then, a few months later in November (1986), I was at the Whisky Au Go-Go seeing a band named Doc Tari with guitarist Mark Schulz. He played with the drummer when they were in John Lydon's previous incarnation of Public Image Limited or PiL, Johnny's band after the Sex Pistols. Mark was co-writer with Johnny on PiL's 1986 "Album" release with Steve Vai on guitar. Johnny let them go and this was the drummer's new band.

Maybe Johnny fired the drummer because he set his drums up backwards? I didn't think it worked but he was a great drummer. The guitar player was an unknown Jennifer Batten before she hooked up with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck.

We got there really early in the afternoon and no one was there but me, Mark, the band. As we're setting up this guy's drums facing the stage wall, the door of the Whisky squeaks open, sending a bright light across the dance floor. A man and a woman walk in which nobody could see for several seconds.

Soon we realize its John Lydon and his German wife, Nora Forster. She owns Stern Magazine, the Time magazine of Germany. He's coming in to see his old band mates. Everyone's happy to see them and when I get introduced, I say in my nasty exaggerated cockney, "ow arh uuu Johnny?" He says "that was the worst imitation I've ever heard in my life." I say accent less in mock horror "I know, I'm from Hollywood and we can only imitate real culture." He laughs and we have a good start.

Nora sits down on the only chair in the middle of the floor and Johnny's crouching down next to her. Now somehow this picture seemed wrong. Here's King Punk bowing down, to her, and looking wimpy. So I grabbed a chair in the back and gave it to Johnny. He was really grateful and after a few minutes he invited me to the bar for some "bevies."

PiL recently did a show at the Palladium and they played Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. We were having a loose conversation and after a few beers I say to Johnny,

"I was a little surprised to hear you playing Zeppelin the other night."

"Why's that?"

"Well, you don't seem like the Zeppelin type," I say cagily.

In his classic exaggerated sarcasm/sincerity he sneers, "I lovvvve LLLeeeeedd Zepppelllinnn!"

"You love Led Zeppelin??? You killed Led Zeppelin." (This is in reference to Johnny saying Led Zeppelin were "dinosaurs" when the Pistols first hit it big in 1976) We both just howled laughing as the only two lunatics drinking in a relatively empty Whisky Au Go-Go. Johnny is one of the most intelligent and lovingly combative people I ever met, let alone a celebrity.

Johnny and I are the same age. Both of us are readers, writers, and drinkers. We talked freely and easily from subject to subject. On his hatred of the drug war he has said "let us as human beings determine our own journey in life." He also felt the "imminence of a nuclear holocaust," which is punk philosophy to its core.

After a while they start letting people in the Whisky. I began noticing a semi-circle of his fans forming respectfully around us. Young punk rockers with their safety pins earrings, matted lumps of lime green hair, and nuclear ripped shirt and matching pants; glaring at him in awe. I knew he was an Aquarius, the fame freak sign, so I wanted to ask about his celebrity.

"What do you think of fame?"

"Oh it's easy."


"Yea, I just do what I want to do with who ever. Watch this," he says mischievously.

He turns his bar stool around to face the semi-circle of fans and nonchalantly waves over this one real radical looking punker.

Nervously he goes, "Oh Hi, Johnny, I'm such a big fan of yours. I always.....

Suddenly Johnny barks out "Well, what is it you want then?" This guy falls on his knees and pleads for him to sign something. He looks back and gives me a look, "see, it's easy." After about 10 minutes of signing and playing King Punk, he goes "now all of you get out of here," and they go and are glad for it.

I told him I was very impressed, which I was. We kept drinking and talking and I notice Mark giving me a look like, "what are you and Johnny going on about?" Believe me I was thinking I could be Johnny's guitar player but Mark was such a good player and he fired him.

After the show we all ended up backstage upstairs back when it was just one big room. It was packed. I've gone over this many times in my head over the years. I had two lovelies on the line and ended up going with them and not saying good-bye to Johnny. I've already been to his basement studio in his house with Martin and Mark so I could have said "should I come by some time?" As I'm sure he would have agreed but instead the wind sent me outdoors and into the night.

Maybe, I could have given him a little Zeppelin and he would have given me... who knows? humor? intelligence? punk politics? at the very least. Such was not the case. I never followed through but I also never really regretted it either.

Last year (2011) I woke up and was aware I had a dream about Johnny and his little brother Martin. I knew what the dream meant. I took off for Johnny's house even though I haven't been there in 25 years. As I did years before, I scream out "Martin," and he answers just like in the old days, "what?," in his deep Irish cockney.

When he comes out he says "how did you know I was here? Johnny lives here full time now." He told me he lives and works in El Segundo and introduces me to his beautiful daughter. He was talking about his life and going on and on and not letting me say anything edgewise. Finally, I ask Martin if I can talk with Johnny, who was in the house. I told him we know each other from Doc Tari. He snarls "that was a long time ago." The ever-protective Taurus of his "big brover," didn't think I measured and refused to let me in. I never did tell Martin about my dream.

By the middle of 1988 I was finding life in Los Angeles stagnant. I wanted out of the Hollywood glam scene. A recent Virgo lover talked me into going with her to New York City where she claimed, "real musicians play." Where else would a Hollywood boy go? We took off by pick-up and once we got there I immediately got a job handing out flyers for a few hours a day at $50. Just enough to survive as a musician.

On June 6th, 1989 I recorded eight songs live from the first punk club in America, CBGB's. The album "Cutz Both Ways" is available now on this site.


Edward LaGrossa

Contact: EdwardLaGrossa@gmail.com

Edward LaGrossa

© Copyright 2012 Edward LaGrossa. All Rights Reserved.