Everywhere in the older Chinese writers he encountered praise of music as one of the primal sources of all order, morality, beauty and health. -- Hermann Hesse
Any of those of you who’ve read previous pieces in this “In Praise of ...” series
(first published in BlogCritics magazine) may note that the other musicians I've written about were, in order of appearance - Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, and Led Zeppelin. Next, in slot number six,
I chose to write about Touch.
That people will say Huh? and Who? boggles my mind, but I’ve come to accept
such things in this upside down, looking-glass world we live in.
The sixties were an unusual time. Expansion of the mind was the watchword of
the day. ‘Living large’ meant that your mental and spiritual horizons were limitless, not how much bling and Cristal you could buy. Not that anybody actually said ‘living large’ back then, but you get what I mean. The exploration of possibilities was what it was about.
People had dreams back then, not of the biggest crib but of a better world, of understanding your true self, of people getting along, of a time in some distant future all of us would be free to live as we were, when people of all genders and races could rise to whatever levels their abilities were capable of taking them, like, say... President of the United States. It was good to live through a time when people had dreams. It still is.
We used to go down to my friend Bruce’s basement bedroom and get stoned. He
had this crazy, massive speaker system for his record player, which was powered
by a guitar amplifier head going through an EQ and two speaker columns that were about four feet long and had four speakers in each. It made for a complete listening experience. We’d light up the incense to mask the smell, (though wasn’t the smell of incense enough of a clue to negate the purpose? Somehow Bruce’s mom never caught on, though.) pass a joint or two, get righteously stoned, and listen to music. We were all in the same band at the time, in Reading, Mass, called Rabbit. Me, Steve, Bruce and Gary. Gary had played in another band with one Brad Whitford, later of Aerosmith fame, but I begin to digress...
Whenever we got really really stoned on some great pot, maybe some opiated
hash, someone, usually Gary, whose eyes looked like that R. Crumb ‘Stoned Again’ character when he smoked, would suggest we play a certain album. Bruce had a pristine copy of that album. Gary would get a sly, slightly crazy smile and say,
“How about we do up some Touch?” We’d all act like characters in Wayne’s World, nodding sagely and commenting on what a good call it was, then sit back in comfortable positions, getting ready for a sonic and psychic journey.
See, listening to the Touch (eponymous titled) album was, and is, a total experience. Touch came out of the late 60s. The leader of the band was Don Gallucci, who’s previous claim to fame was that he wrote the organ riff for Louie Louie, recorded
it with the Kingsmen and played keyboards for them. Don was only 15 at the time, and couldn’t go on tour because his mom wanted him to stay in high school. MOM!!!
Don got another band, called Don and the Goodtimes, and they had a minor hit with “I Could Be So Good To You.” But the real story started when Don, who’d moved the band to LA, brought together a new line-up of musicians and they dropped acid and decided to change the name to Touch. The five musicians who were Touch are Don Gallucci (keyboards, vocals), John Bordonaro (percussion, vocals), Joey Newman (guitar, vocals), Bruce Hauser (bass, vocals), and Jeff Hawks (vocals).
Gallucci and band wrote the first Touch song, “Seventy-Five,” under the influence
of lysergic, and it’s a mind trip of a song, with its church organ beginning and muscular guitar swoops. The band members traded duties as lead singer, and guitarist Joey Newman's magnificent vocal swoops in, with its high vocal range, somewhat similar to John Anderson of Yes, though Newman's is the superior voice, in my view. “Each night, I close my eyes and see the sight, of things long past and yet to be, things that you don’t see... things that you don’t see... your eyes they just see truth, you make them lie, if you would only let them see, why not set them free?...”
It’s an eleven minute sonicpsychiclandscape designed to... well, blow your mind. Wide open. Gallucci is a keyboard virtuoso, with classical and jazz and carnival elements popping up throughout, sounding like a mad genius running fingers over the keys in frenetic magnificent velocity then switching gears on a dime to follow with a loving, delicate touch. Joey Newman’s guitar solo at the end of Seventy–Five is a beautifully structured piece of playing, classically influenced, majestic, glorious. The tightness of the band, the way Brad Hauser’s active, lead-line, separate-voice bass playing interlocked with flawless drummer John Bordonaro and the guitar
and keyboards is astounding. Perfect.