Hearing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan launched Sal Maida on a journey – to London in the Swinging Sixties, tenures with Roxy Music, Milk ’N’ Cookies, and Sparks and a long trek (with our very own Legs McNeil!) to the last Sex Pistols gig in San Francisco. The bassist covers these events with good humor in a new memoir.
Standing six-foot-five inches tall (in sneakers!), Sal Maida is a force to be reckoned with. Looking fashionable in his black suit and Converse high tops, it’s no surprise that this New York City born bassist aced his audition with one of the most stylish bands around – Roxy Music.
Maida’s journey is a remarkable one. Born in 1948, he spent his childhood and teenage years living in an apartment on Mott and Broome streets in New York’s Little Italy. While New York sounds like an exciting city to grow up in, it was evident that Sal had other plans. “As soon as the Beatles hit on Ed Sullivan, all I wanted to do was get to England,” recalled Maida. “It took me five years before my parents would let me go.”
In the meantime, Maida joined up with a group called The Ouija, and after running the gig circuit around New York City for a few years, decided it was time to branch out. “[I was] auditioning, trying to get in to open for somebody. It was all kind of frustrating situations like that, jumping from band to band, until I decided “Maybe I’ll get out of here and go to England, bring my bass, and try to lock down something and get serious about it.” said Maida.
I sat down with Sal to discuss his book Four Strings, Phony Proof, and 300 45s (HoZac Books), his long awaited journey to Swinging Sixties London, his tenure with Roxy Music, Milk ’N’ Cookies, and Sparks, and his long trek (with our very own Legs McNeil!) to the last Sex Pistols gig in San Francisco.
PKM: When did you first begin working on this book?
Sal Maida: Let’s see…I started working on it seriously about three years ago when I came off the road. I put myself on a nine to five schedule every day to get it done. That’s when I seriously went for it instead of scribbling here and scribbling there.
PKM: Did you start out with a certain format in mind? Did you know what time period you would be starting out with?
Sal Maida: I started in Los Angeles in 1976 when I got there with Sparks to play a New Year’s Eve show at The Forum. For some reason, I wanted to start there, and I got into my Los Angeles endeavors, which became the beginning of the book. Then I went back to the first time I went to London, so I jumped around, and was encouraged to jump around and keep the book out of sequence when I read Neil Young and Elvis Costello’s autobiographies. It just appealed to me, to have a book that wasn’t in chronological order.
I also wanted to incorporate where I grew up, all the bands I saw, the bands I played with, and the auditions. I got the idea to end the book with my favorite 45’s after reading Questlove’s book. It had records incorporated in his timeline, and I thought it was a cool idea, but the 45s are listed in the last three chapters.
PKM: You have some great shots of Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger in your book. What camera did you shoot those photos with?
Sal Maida: I’m gonna say a Polaroid. A real old school Polaroid, where you would then bring the film to a developer. I had them in binders with the old plastic over it, and the bottom stuck to a gluey kind of texture, so they really needed a lot of work. I had a couple of friends who did some great work for me. They helped retouch and restore the photographs.
PKM: Did McCartney and Jagger realize you were sneaking photos of them?
Sal Maida: I think Paul…amiable as he is, since it was just my friend and I at his house and it wasn’t a mob of people, he was chatty as could be and friendly. At one point, Linda was just tugging at him ‘cause as you could see in the photos, she’s about close to giving birth. She wanted to get to the doctor and it’s like ten o’clock in the morning, so it’s obvious they have an appointment for her, and she’s kind of tugging at him and he’s being Paul McCartney, being really friendly, signing autographs, and I’m asking him questions.
Later in the afternoon I see him again at Apple, and at that point he kind of did a double take when he saw me. He probably thought, “There’s that really tall kid from New York that was at my house this morning.” So when I got up to him, at Apple (there was a long line), I said “I’m not a stalker. I know you saw me at your house but I’m from New York and I want to get another autograph for somebody and a couple of photos.” He was really friendly and just a terrific person.
As soon as the Beatles hit on Ed Sullivan, all I wanted to do was get to England. It took me five years before my parents would let me go. I tried to go in ’68, but they were gonna lock me up…
Then I saw Jagger because the Apple Scruffs were hanging around. The Apple Scruffs were a group of girls that hung around Apple all day long every day and would wait for the Beatles to come out. They knew everyone’s business, and they befriended us.
After McCartney, I got George Harrison’s autograph, and they said “There’s a surprise. Why don’t you hang around?” We couldn’t imagine what it was, but we hung around, and the next thing we know, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor come out of Apple. It turned out that the Stones were rehearsing in the basement of Apple because the Stones and The Beatles were close, and they never timed their records to be released at the same time. They always coordinated record releases, and they were rehearsing for what would become their first U.S. tour since I think ‘66, and the first one without Brian Jones and with Mick Taylor, which wasn’t to take place until November of that year, and this was late July.
So when I spoke to Mick, I said, “What are you guys rehearsing for?” and he said “Well, we’re going on tour in America. We’re going to play Madison Square Garden.” I got a big scoop from Mick about touring with Mick Taylor. Again, Mick Jagger couldn’t be friendlier or chattier. Bill I couldn’t get to. He kind of came out and went into a car. Mick Taylor had just joined the band, and we didn’t even try to bother him. He was the new guy, an overwhelmed twenty-year-old and no one really knew who he was.
PKM: You must have been in disbelief that you got to meet your heroes.
Sal Maida: Not only that, Jagger was friendly enough to ask me what we were doing and I said “Well, We’re traveling. It’s our first time in London and then we’re going to Paris.” He goes “Have you ever been to Paris?” And I said, “No, it’s the first time.” And he said (laughs) “don’t stay near the Champs Elysees, you’ll get ripped off. The hotels are too expensive.”
PKM: Ever the businessman.
Sal Maida: Ever the businessman! Getting travel tips from Mick.
PKM: Just a bit of biographical info. for fans who haven’t read the book, where were you born, and where did you grow up?
Sal Maida: Well, I was born in Manhattan General which isn’t there anymore, around 16th street and 1st Avenue. We lived in Brooklyn for the first four, five years of my life…Bensonhurst I think. Then we moved to Mott and Broome in Little Italy when I was about five years old. I went to St. Patricks in Little Italy. Same grammar school that Martin Scorsese went to. I lived there my whole life until I started going to England and traveling and touring.
PKM: And once you got a taste of England, did you want to go back home?
Sal Maida: No. (laughs)
PKM: I don’t blame you.
Sal Maida: As soon as the Beatles hit on Ed Sullivan, all I wanted to do was get to England. It took me five years before my parents would let me go. I tried to go in ’68, but they were gonna lock me up, and then in ’69 I finally convinced them to let me go, because I was going there with a guy who was studying to be a pharmacist, which to them was a respectable occupation. That’s the only reason they finally let me go.
I decided “Maybe I’ll get out of here and go to England, bring my bass, and try to lock down something and get serious about it.”
PKM: Did anyone in your family come from a musical background?
Sal Maida: Not in my immediate family. I have a cousin on my father’s side who was apparently an amazing jazz pianist that used to play a lot upstate in the Saratoga area. He had a jazz trio. On my mother’s side I have a cousin that’s a drummer named Frank Steo, who grew up with Tony Visconti.
PKM: So somewhat of a musical background, but not-
Sal Maida: Not directly.
PKM: What was your earliest music memory?
Sal Maida: Well, when my sister and I were really young, we talked my mother into taking us to a rock & roll show in Brooklyn. I think the idea was to see Frankie Avalon…well, my sister wanted to see Frankie Avalon, and I’m pretty sure that was the first one. Either way, nothing that stoked my flame like seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan or hearing The Stones for the first time. That was the memory that exploded my world totally and made me wanna get into music and eventually play music.
PKM: What was the first band that you were in?
Sal Maida: I was attempting to be in bands when I was sixteen, seventeen. I had a band called The Ouija after a Ouija board. We did all originals, believe it or not, and we did some covers. We covered Love, some Byrds, the Beau Brummels…you know, the hip groups of the day. Then I went to another band called The Five Toes.
PKM: Not exactly the best name for a band.
Sal Maida: Talk about two horrible names for bands! The Ouija and The Five Toes. They were more like garage bands. They were cool, man! They looked cool. I actually left The Ouija for them because…I don’t know who hooked me up with them, but I went down and saw them play. They had the long hair, Cuban heels and flowered shirts, and they were playing the Stones. All raunchy garage rock & roll. I said, “I’ve gotta jump ship into this band.”
PKM: Into the toes.
Sal Maida: (laughs) Become the fifth toe. So that’s what I did. Really nothing of note until I went to England. Just bangin’ around in New York, playing in different clubs.
PKM: Which clubs did you play?
Sal Maida: I’m trying to think. Well, prior to the whole CBGB / Max’s scene, there were just kind of New York rock clubs, none of which were memorable. There was a club called The Rolling Stone in Midtown that I played. I did play The Scene club, but that was an audition-type situation. I played the Cafe Au Go Go on Bleecker Street, again, auditioning, trying to get in to open for somebody. It was all kind of frustrating situations like that, jumping from band to band, until I decided “Maybe I’ll get out of here and go to England, bring my bass, and try to lock down something and get serious about it.”
PKM: So you were tired of the New York scene.
Sal Maida: Well, I had it in my mind that I had to go to England, which was an easy thing to convince myself. I probably could have eventually made something happen here, but I just thought, “I have to go over there, test the waters, see what’s going on, try it, bring my bass. Instead of staying for two weeks, like a holiday situation, stay for an extended period of time and give it a show.” So that became an obsession.
PKM: You mention in your book that you would frequent the Night Owl Cafe and The Cafe Au Go Go. Which bands sounded the best live?
Sal Maida: Wow. I mean, at the Night Owl I saw a band called The Magicians and another band called The Middle Class. The Magicians have a song on the Nuggets box called “Invitation to Cry”. Two songwriters (from The Magicians) eventually went on to write “Happy Together” and a bunch of other hits. They were fantastic. They were folk rock, but the singer was kind of a doo-wop singer. It was an odd combination, but it worked. They were brilliant. The Middle Class were hooked up with Carole King. Their bass player eventually married Carole King. Charles Larkey. He played on Tapestry and I think their singer was on the first Steely Dan record as well. They were a terrific band, and very obscure. On a club level, I would say those two bands were really impressive.
PKM: I was surprised when you mentioned that The Lovin’ Spoonful were not a good live band.
Sal Maida: They were awful. It pains me to say that because I’m in a Lovin’ Spoonful tribute band, as you know. The sound was bad, they played sloppy, the harmonies were ragged…they just weren’t good. It was just one of those things. I wish I could say that that wasn’t the case, because I’m a Lovin’ Spoonful fanatic, they’re one of my favorite bands. As I said, we now have a Lovin Spoonful’ tribute band that I started with Tom Clark about three years ago. That’s how much I love them. Another band that was horrible live (that I loved) were The Byrds. I saw them twice and both times they were horrible. I saw them with Gene Clark and then I saw them without Gene Clark, and they were even worse the second time. But they had a reputation for not being a good live band.
PKM: You mention in your book that you saw the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. That must have been amazing! What did you think of them?
Sal Maida: I did! They were absolutely hilarious. Musically, they were more complicated than I thought. I didn’t think they would be able to pull off a lot of the recorded productions that they had at that point, but they managed to do it all and be hilarious and be visually entertaining. Viv [Stanshall] was hysterical. Roger Ruskin Spear, Legs Larry, all of them, they were amazing. I think they opened for The Kinks and Spirit. That’s the show I saw. Vivian had the big glasses and the whole bit. It was amazing. I think Roger Ruskin Spear had the exploding guitar on “Trouser Press”. It was great.
PKM: What songs did they play?
Sal Maida: I remember “Trouser Press”, “Humanoid Boogie”, “Canyons of Your Mind”, Viv did, and “Urban Spaceman”.
PKM: Going back to your trip to England. Apart from seeing Macca and Mick, what did you do when you were over there? Did you look for work?
Sal Maida: No, not at all. First time I went was a full out vacation for two weeks. I checked out Carnaby Street, stayed at a bed and breakfast (when it was affordable). I managed to talk my way into The Speakeasy and I saw every band imaginable: The Hollies, Caravan, Free, Blossom Toes, Taste, The Idle Race with Jeff Lynne at the Royal Albert Hall playing with The Nice, Keith Emerson. Every night we’d go to The Marquee or The Speakeasy or travel half an hour to Friar’s Club in Aylesbury, buy records in the day time, and shop for a lot of the singles that are mentioned in my book.
PKM: Coming from Little Italy, what did you think of the food in England?
Sal Maida: Horrible. Absolutely horrible. But, here’s the good thing – The Speakeasy had great food. Luckily.
PKM: Great food? Did they serve pub grub?
Sal Maida: No, they had an Italian chef! They had a guy named Luigi who was hilarious. You see, at The Speakeasy, you’d go in and the bar was on the left and then you’d walk straight on and the restaurant was enclosed. So you’d walk up a slight hump in the ground, open the door, and it was soundproofed and enclosed. As I said, the chef’s name was Luigi, he was Italian, so he was running the place. He made great spaghetti bolognaise, chicken Kiev, and dessert was bananas and whipped cream. I think I had that every night for two weeks straight.
PKM: Leave it to you to find the Italian guy.
Sal Maida: Exactly. I’m not one for blood pudding and all that kinda stuff. I remember someone invited me for tea, and I thought it was literally tea, but in England tea means lunch. We had eggs and beans with spaghetti, all kinda scrunched on top of one another. And I was like “Oh, I thought this was tea, so I ate before I came.” I made some kind of lame excuse so I wouldn’t have to it eat it. I didn’t even make the attempt.
PKM: You mentioned that you saw The Hollies play a prom when you were in England. What was the story behind that? How did you get in?
Sal Maida: Well, oddly enough, they’re playing a private prom, but it’s advertised in Melody Maker, so my friend and I see the ad, and we figure out how to get to this venue. We travel on the train for an hour, and we get there and realize we can’t get in. It’s a private prom. So why are you advertising it in Melody Maker as a public gig?! To this day, I will never understand that.
Anyway, we’re in this situation now and we’re there, but opening the show is a band called The Edgar Broughton Band. The contrast would be like Jimi Hendrix and The Monkees or The Who and Herman’s Hermits. The Hollies are The Hollies, you know, straight up, brilliant pop group, and The Edgar Broughton Band…they’re really hairy, sort of Captain Beefheart-like, political lyrics, abrasive, that kinda thing. Anyway, we see The Edgar Broughton Band and we say to them “Listen, we traveled all this way to see this gig and we can’t get in. We’re from New York.” The Edgar Broughton guys say, “Grab an amp and come in with us as roadies.”
Every night we’d go to The Marquee or The Speakeasy or travel half an hour to Friar’s Club in Aylesbury, buy records in the day time, and shop for a lot of the singles that are mentioned in my book.
PKM: That’s so cool!
Sal Maida: That’s what we did. (laughs) So The Edgar Broughton Band saved our hides, and we got in and saw the show.
PKM: That’s so weird that they would advertise in Melody Maker, though. Maybe they thought some famous musicians might look at it and show up.
Sal Maida: Either that or somewhere in fine print it said ‘Private Prom’ on the bottom and we just didn’t see it.
PKM: P.S. No Yanks allowed.
Sal Maida: (laughs) Yeah. You two guys from New York, stay at home.
PKM: You mentioned that you’re a big Anglophile. Did you first meet the members of Roxy Music in London, and what year did you meet them?
Sal Maida: I did a session with Paul Thompson, the drummer, in 1971 before he was in Roxy Music. I met someone and they gave me a number of a guy in Denmark Street, and he was a producer. He said to me, “I’m doing a session in a couple of days and it’s with a band called Smokestack Crumble from Newcastle, but they need a bass player on the session.” So I said “Okay”. I went in, and we’re cutting the track and I have the headphones on. I remember distinctly thinking to myself “Man, that drummer is great.” I exchanged numbers with him. I can’t say that I kept in touch with him because I went back to New York. I’m not really gonna call some drummer that I met on a session in Newcastle where he lived. Then when I was working in a record store in London, he came into the store, just coincidentally. I said “Hey Paul, we did that session a couple of years ago. I see you’re in Roxy now. You guys looking for a bass player?” I was really direct. He said, “Not really. The guy that played on the record, Johnny Gustafson is going on the road with us.” So I said “Okay, damn.”
Anyway, a couple of days later, everything changed. He came back into the record store and said “Johnny can’t go on the road. We’re auditioning people. Come to the audition.” I went three times to Air Studios before I finally auditioned. I went once, they were mixing and they were kind of drunk, I went another time, and I don’t know what got in the way. Finally, the third time, I went in and the audition was just Paul and I playing together, while the whole band and Chris Thomas, the producer, looked in on us.
PKM: That must have been awkward.
Sal Maida: It was awkward and nerve wracking. But I got the gig and they said “Go to the office tomorrow, work out everything with management, and get some clothes. So I was in. In the meantime, I had no idea about anything, totally green. I knew the idea is to ‘glam down a little bit’ as they told me, but glamming down a bit…I still wanna look sharp and striking. So I’m on my own to find clothes. I’m on my own to figure out how much to ask in salary. I don’t know anything about per diems. I don’t know anything about anything, basically. I had never done anything anywhere near that level let alone…probably the biggest band in England at that point? So I’m improvising and I’m working it out as I go. I wind up going to Granny Takes a Trip, and I meet this guy Gene Krell who happens to be from Brooklyn, and he says “I’ll make you something. I’ll make you an outfit.” So he made me the outfit that I wore on tour (Maida points to the front cover of his book) He made me that with the choker.
PKM: That’s a groovy jacket. Is it black with a bit of silver lamé?
Sal Maida: Exactly. I already had the velvet trousers and the boots, so he just made me the jacket and the choker to go with it. After that, I was just figuring things out as I went along.
PKM: You said that you were working in a record store. What year did you move to London?
Sal Maida: I seriously moved in the Summer of ’73. By September of ’73, I had the gig.
PKM: Was it an Edith Grove situation, or did you have better digs than that?
Sal Maida: Well that’s another odd story. At first, I was living in bed and breakfasts, and then in the record store I worked with a guy who was looking for someone to move in ‘cause a tenant had moved out. The guy that moved out was Rik Kenton who was Roxy’s second bass player. Is that weird? So Rik kind of moved out of Roxy Music and that flat, and I moved in. That living situation was much improved, even though it wasn’t my place, it was a gorgeous flat in Victoria, around the corner from Buckingham Palace. Very posh.
PKM: Did you see much of Brian Eno when you were auditioning for Roxy?
Sal Maida: No, I worked with Brian on a separate project. Robert Calvert of Hawkwind was doing a solo album and I was doing a record with a band called Milk ‘N’ Cookies. Rhett Davies was the engineer and he said “I’m doing a record with Eno across the hall. Why don’t you come and play bass on it?” And I said “Great.” So they invited me to play on his album. It was, I believe, Eno’s first production after he left Roxy.
PKM: What is your favorite Roxy studio album?
Sal Maida: I’d have to say, For Your Pleasure.
PKM: Why did your tenure with Roxy Music come to an end?
Sal Maida: Well, I was contracted to tour Europe and then America, and that was up. I was also having Visa problems. Not that they kicked me out of England, but I was having a really hard time getting back in. While I was back in New York I got offered the job with Milk ‘N’ Cookies, and those three factors led me to the point where it was pretty much done. Roxy had the policy of a floating bass player, and they kept changing them every tour or every album. He (Bryan Ferry) got into it and liked it after a while.PKM: Not a lot of bands were doing that back then.
Sal Maida: I had never seen anything like it. In their career, they might have had thirteen bass players, which I’m happy to be one of.
PKM: You mentioned in the book that you ended up playing on Big Beat with Sparks. How did that come about?
Sal Maida: Well, my career arc is kinda crazy. I went from Roxy, to a totally unknown New York band called Milk ‘N’ Cookies, and Milk ‘N’ Cookies had the same manager and the same producer as Sparks. I was becoming frustrated with the Milk ‘N’ Cookies situation, so it was just a natural evolution. Sparks were doing a record in New York and it was supposed to be with Mick Ronson initially. Ron and Russell, Mick Ronson, Me, and this guys Hilly Michaels. We started doing pre-production and Ronson dropped out. I brought in a guy named Jeff Salen from a New York band called the Tuff Darts. So that’s who wound up recording this record, Big Beat. We record it in Manhattan in Midtown with Rupert Holmes producing, and that’s kind of how that happened.
I went in and the audition was just Paul (Thompson) and I playing together, while the whole band and Chris Thomas, the producer, looked in on us.
PKM: You said that Mick Ronson bailed on the project. Did he give you a reason?
Sal Maida: You know, to this day I don’t one hundred percent know. I’m theorizing that maybe wanted to concentrate on his solo career, or he wanted to produce the record. I never got to the bottom of it. All I know was one day he just didn’t want to do it, and Ron and Russell were thinking about going back to Los Angeles and pulling the plug on the idea of recording it in New York, and I talked him out of it. I said, “I’ll get you a guy” and I got Jeff Salen and it worked out, he was great.
PKM: Tell me about your tenure in Sparks. You guys headlined The Patti Smith Group on the Radio Ethiopia Tour? How did that go down?
Sal Maida: That was when I first met Lenny [Kaye]. (Laughs) Mostly, it was great, except for Detroit where The Patti Smith Group headlined and we opened for them. We got booed and got beer bottles thrown at us. Those were the days when they allowed you to drink a glass of beer at a venue, and when you were finished drinkin’ if you didn’t like the band, you start tossing it. They hated us so much that on the last song they tossed a beer bottle presumably at Russell, and it missed him by about ten feet. It went straight over his head, right at the drummer Hilly Michaels, and hit Hilly right in the head.
Sal Maida: Now it’s the last song, and Hilly is bleeding but he finishes the song. He goes upstairs to the dressing room and he’s flat on his back…they’re calling the paramedics and everything and Patti Smith comes running up. I’ll never forget this. She comes running up and she says “Hilly, Hilly, are you okay? Everything’s gonna be okay. My boyfriend is in Blue Öyster Cult and he gets hit with beer bottles every night.” She was really sweet about that.
PKM: What is your standard gear that you take along with you on tour?
Sal Maida: I usually use an Ampeg SVT. That’s usually what everyone has, but I’m not picky at all. I have my Jerry Jones Longhorn bass which I love and take with me everywhere.
PKM: Are you fussy about strings and picks?
Sal Maida: Yes, very fussy about picks. They have to be large and heavy. Strings, I like them old and worn in. I’m not crazy about new strings unless I have to change ‘em, or obviously if they break, which they never do. They’re just too twangy, and I don’t like twangy.
PKM: Who are your musical influences as far as bassists go?
Sal Maida: McCartney number one, Chris Hillman from The Byrds is a close second. After that it can go from New York session guys like Chuck Rainey and Jerry Jemmott to Jah Wobble from PIL, who I love. Then I could swing back to Pete Quaife from The Kinks. I’m all over the place. James Jamerson from all the Motown records, Carol Kaye from The Wrecking Crew who played on the Beach Boys albums. I like really accomplished session bassists who were part of a creative era, and I love guys in bands like Barry Adamson from Magazine or Colin Moulding from XTC, Paul Samwell-Smith from the Yardbirds. I could dig a punk guy like Mike Watt or I could love the most accomplished studio guy as well. As long as they’re in a creative situation and what they’re doing is appealing to my ear.
PKM: By the mid-Seventies, you said you were hanging at CBGB and Max’s. While you weren’t playing ‘punk’ music with Milk N Cookies, but you said you befriended groups like Blondie, The Ramones, Talking Heads. How did the live gig circuit differ from that of the late sixties?
Sal Maida: Well, we were all pretty friendly with one another initially. The Ramones, Blondie…I didn’t really get to know the members of Television. Richard Lloyd a little bit. The Dolls, especially Johnny, we were friendly with. Then lesser known bands like The Mumps, The Marbles, bands like that. From The Talking Heads, we got to know Chris and Tina very well. We opened for almost everyone back then, and there was a camaraderie at first. Then everyone started to get signed and it started to scatter and people stopped playing at CB’s and Max’s as much as they did initially. But it was a great scene. For all the great music that there was in the Sixties, I don’t ever remember the New York scene the way that it was with the CBGB Max’s scene. Like, I don’t ever remember the Velvet Underground, as far as I know, hanging out with four other bands in New York and having that camaraderie.
PKM: So it was more of a “Finish your set and head out” train of thought.
Sal Maida: Yeah. The Velvets were playing The Dom and The Electric Circus, The Spoonful came out of the Night Owl Scene, Blues Magoos came out of the Night Owl Scene, Blues Project played the Cafe Au Go Go in the Village…but I don’t ever remember hearing that The Velvet Underground, The Rascals, The Blues Project, The Blues Magoos, and the Lovin’ Spoonful ever hung out.
At CBGB’s, everyone was friendly with one another. It didn’t last long, but it was a cool scene for about a year.
PKM: Speaking of the punk scene, you wrote in your book about heading to the last Sex Pistols gig in San Francisco with Legs [McNeil], I think you said Belinda Carlisle, and your pals from Milk ‘N’ Cookies. That must have been an interesting trip.
Sal Maida: It was Belinda Carlisle…there might have been another future Go-Go in there. Legs, me, Mike, Luke who was in the LA version of Milk ‘N’ Cookies and Justin, the singer. Who else was in there? A guy named Brett Smiley. He unfortunately passed away a few years ago. Brett Smiley was kind of a Bowie-esque character who got a big record deal in the mid-Seventies and was dubbed ‘the prettiest star’. I mean, he was on The Russell Harty Show, and he made a record with Andrew Loog Oldham. He had a big deal going, and it all just crashed down on him…and he was young. So he was on the excursion, and I think his sister. Oh, Gary Stuart and Bill Inglot who went on to create the Rhino Records empire, all the reissues. Bill Inglot was the reissue engineer and Gary Stuart was one of the executives that started Rhino Records. It was a pretty illustrious group.
PKM: So you guys were all packed into a van together?
Sal Maida: We were all packed into a van. I can’t remember whose van it was. But we all drove from LA, we made the excursion to see specifically what turned out to be the Sex Pistols’ last show ever.
PKM: Was it apparent to you that it was going to be the last show? Could you see the deterioration within the band?
Sal Maida: I was a big fan of the records. When they came out, Sid was absolutely useless on the bass. It wasn’t even plugged in, so he was just…he was wielding the bass almost like a weapon, you know, a punk stance, and he cut a punk figure. So that part was covered, but it was really the other three guys that were doing all the heavy lifting. Those other three guys were absolutely dynamic. Fabulous. I mean, Jones and Cook, the drummer and the guitar player, Brilliant. Johnny Rotten is probably one of the best front men I’ve ever seen. He was charismatic, he was hilarious, and he was scary. He was everything you would hope for and more. I mean, he was getting hit with everything under the sun, and he just let it bounce off him, and he didn’t flinch. He was gettin’ spit on, gettin’ hit in the head with shit, and he was so intense delivering those songs. It was great. So, that part was great. At the end he kinda seemed to hint that this was gonna be it. He said “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” And that was it, apparently. They scattered. They were done.
They hated us so much that on the last song they tossed a beer bottle presumably at Russell, and it missed him by about ten feet. It went straight over his head, right at the drummer Hilly Michaels, and hit Hilly right in the head.
PKM: Do you have plans to release a new book?
Sal Maida: I am working on a second book. I wouldn’t say it’s completely different, but it’s with another writer. It’s a collaboration.
PKM: Is it autobiographical?
Sal Maida: No, not at all.
PKM: What do you have planned in the upcoming months? Are you going to be on tour?
Sal Maida: I just toured in September and October with a band called The Brandos. We also played in Germany and Holland for five and a half weeks. Other than that, I play in A Spoonful of Lovin’ and I still play in Milk ‘N’ Cookies. I play with a guy named Ed Rogers, I play with Annie Golden who’s in Orange is the New Black. Yeah, I’m in like six or seven different bands. It keeps me busy. I have a radio show…we’re on hiatus right now, but you can still hear re-streams every Monday from 2 to 4. As a matter of fact, I’m re-streaming a summer show I did last year that’s really good. It’s called Spin Cycle and it’s on Little Water Radio every Monday from 2-4. Littlewaterradio.org
PKM: For fans who have yet to read your book, where can they purchase it?
Sal Maida: It’s available on Amazon. You can also purchase it through HoZac, the publisher, or you can just PM me on Facebook and buy it directly from me.