Saturday, October 8, 2011
The story I haven’t written springs from the Three Dog Night version of the Laura Nyro song, “Eli’s Coming.” The band first did the song on a live album taped at the Forum in Inglewood, California, where the Lakers used to play. That vinyl wonder was released in 1969 but that’s not when I first heard it. They re-did it in the studio for their Golden Bisquits LP which was released in 1971. I think I was at a party after a football game somewhere deep in the San Fernando Valley and the song started up on the record player. I was already a fan of their stuff what with “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “One is a Lonely Number” and “Shambala” being pretty cool tunes. The songs had those vaunted Top 40 hooks but seemed to hint at something else as well.
Anyway whatever I was doing, which would mean back then I was no doubt trying to impress some girl with my defensive tackling prowess on the gridiron, the lyrics hammered me.
“Girl, Eli’s comin,’ hide your heart…Eli’s comin,’ better walk…walk but you’ll never get away.” It’s love song of dread that ends with “no-no, no-no, no-no.” Like Eli wasn’t going to harm her physically but more he was going to put his spell on her and down that dark path the two would go. From then till now, that song has stayed with me. I’ve tried a couple of times to write a story jumping off from those lyrics.
The most I did was about a hundred pages of a novel wherein an ex-cop named Eli Brenner, out of jail for a robbery he committed, attempts to retrieve the eight hundred grand he stole and secreted away. There’s another crooked cop on his butt as well as a Hollywood producer and his gorgeous assistant hounding him to make his story into a movie. There’s also a female prison guard into S&M who’s his somewhat unstable paramour. Naturally things are not quite that they seem. Yet I couldn’t finish the book, the heart of it eluding me.
Still how fitting in a noir sense that we know from the respective tell-all books of keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon and lead singer Chuck Negron, they battled booze and drugs as the band became one of the hottest acts in the late sixties into the mid-seventies. Check out this excerpt from Negron’s book, Three Dog Nightmare: The Chuck Negron Story:
“I shoved drugs into my system like a little kid eating candy. And in the end, it took away everything: my money, my fame, my wives, my children, and my self-respect. I traded a Mediterranean-style villa in the Hollywood Hills for a corner of an abandoned building where I slept on a filthy mattress I found in a vacant lot.”
I know, the drug thing is a cliché note when considering the rise and fall of a rock band. But there’s something there, that verisimilitude lurking behind their songs. One of these I’m going to get the best of Eli’s Coming...or it me.