Fall, 1982: By now, the relatively new practice of radio stations playing new albums in their entirety, uninterrupted, was pretty much in full swing. Listeners could now preview all the latest albums and tape the ones they wanted for free. That was great for the listeners, but not so good for some of the bands. Record sales took a nosedive.
Knowledgeable music industry people agree
that Southern Rock is dead and Heavy Metal is the new King. The consensus
among our management and the Atco team seems to be that the band is
stale and could use some new blood to help freshen up the material
and "modernize" the band's image.
We record the "Siogo" album in
Ann Arbor, telling the record company that "siogo" was an
Indian word meaning "closeness" or "togetherness".
Actually, our road crew had
coined the word during previous tours, an acronym taken from a sign they
had put in the front lounge of their tour bus. The sign said something
like this: "If you are reading this, you must be a slut, since,
otherwise, this sign would have been taken down before you got here.
Suck It Or Get Out!". (I never said we weren't sexist pigs!)
Early 1983: As part of the "modernization" scheme, I suppose, the management asks if I would be willing to have my hair cut, substantially, by a hairdresser they recommended, and I do so.
As well as the new musical influences Ken
added, he also brought in new fashion ideas. Soon, for the most part,
Rick stopped wearing his trademark hat, boots, and duster, and more
often wore the same kind of tight, wide vertical striped
yellow-and-black or pink-and-black pants and Capezio dance shoes that
Ken wore. I have to admit that I also tried wearing weird shirts with
all the zippers and buckles and crap, but I felt pretty stupid about it.
In Los Angeles, we tape our first two production videos, " Teenage Idol" and "Send Me an Angel". MTV gives us a little airplay, but not much and not for long.
Summer, 1983: Mid-tour, in Los Angeles,
manager Al Nalli calls us to his hotel room for a meeting. Album sales
are not good, our next album may be our last, and we had better get to
work on the material for it NOW. After some discussion about some of us
not being able to write on the road, the meeting adjourned.
Kansas City, Kansas: We're touring with
Molly Hatchet when, with no warning, Hatchet's singer Danny Joe Brown,
and guitarists Steve Holland and Duane Roland, fly home one night after
a show, right in the middle of the tour. Only lead guitarist Dave Hlubek,
drummer B.B. Borden and bassist Riff West show up in Kansas City the
Fall, 1983: The band is off the road, and Rick, Jakson and Ken are in Ann Arbor working on new material. Nalli tells me that the guys don't want me involved because they think my playing style is "not modern enough" to keep up with the band's new style (I understand that Greg was also excluded from some of these writing sessions).
In November, we all meet in Atlanta to
record Vertical Smiles with former Yes engineer Eddie Offord. This is
the first time we had gone into the studio without having the entire
band at the pre-production stage, and, the way things were going, it was
obvious to me that I was no longer considered part of the team.
From day to day, different individuals
within the band would also become "the problem". One day,
there would be a band meeting about "what the hell is wrong with
Jakson (or Charlie)". The next day, we would have a meeting about
"what the hell is wrong with Greg (or Ken, or Rick)", and so
on, day after day. Nalli called it "the Dead Man's Sweat",
something that happens when a band is on a downhill slide and everyone
tries to place the blame on someone other than himself.
Early Jan., 1984: Vertical Smiles is completed, without my having played on it, and is submitted to Atco. The record company is not satisfied with the album, and wants it re-done.
On a short (7-date) tour between rehearsals, I confront the entire band about all of Nalli's statements to me, and they all confirm their feelings about me being the main problem. Since the record company had just rejected the new album, which I hadn't played on, I tell Nalli and the rest of the band that the next time I hear them blame me for all the band's failures, I will quit the band. The last show of the run, and my last show with the band, as it turns out, is on Jan.7th, at a club called 'Roadies' in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Several days later, in a conversation with Nalli after a writing session in Gainesville, I asked if the guys still really wanted me to leave, and he replied "yes".
Jan.26th, 1984: At home in Gainesville, Florida, and miserable at the thought of going to another rehearsal, I decide to give the rest of the band what they say they want. At 2:30 in the afternoon, I call manager Al Nalli and tell him that "I want out". I go out of my way not to cause the band any problems when I leave, accepting the settlement they offer and disappearing quietly and quickly from the limelight.
From my point of view, this was the end of the original Blackfoot.