Do you remember playing with The Illusion?
Oh yeah. I used to hang out with those guys.
Do you remember a gig with Blue Cheer at all?
Where was that?
At the Fillmore West.
Oh yeah. Those days were amazing. They were LOUD, man.
Did you hang out with them at all?
No, I don't think so.
Was that part of a West Coast tour?
It was a West Coast Tour. The record just came out, and we went to the West Coast, 'cause it was breaking really big out there.
Do you remember the Charles Lloyd Quartet? You played a gig at the Capitol Theater with them.
Oh yeah! They were great. Jazz. You know what's great? You know, you go to a show today and everybody's the same style of music basically. But back then, I guess eclectic was the word. Like Vanilla Fudge would be playing, and Charles Lloyd would be playing.
And people dug both bands?
Yeah, I mean you'd have a chance to see different shades of colors every night. I think it was beautiful. You'd hear one jazz band, you'd hear one Rock band, and you'd hear one Country Rock band. There was a band called Moby Grape...
Do you remember how long the sets were back then?
They were like 50 minutes to an hour.
Was it pretty much like a set set?
Were you guys doing unaccompanied solos at that point?
No. Not the first time around. You know when that started happening? When we did a couple of tours with Cream. Carmine saw Ginger Baker doing drum solos, and he wanted to do drum solos. That's when all the solo shit started happening.
Were you guys doing the Break Song back then, or was that something that came about later?
The Break Song was how we used to end our shows.
Going back as far as '67?
Yeah. And at the time we never thought of recording it.
Did it start out a lot shorter?
I don't remember.
Did you have A basic set list, or did you change it around?
When we were on tour, we would have a basic set list. No surprises. Vinnie once in a while would surprise us. All of a sudden he'd just break into a solo that nobody was expecting. Like one night at the Hollywood Bowl he kind of surprised everybody. He went into this solo for like fifteen minutes. He freaked everybody out. He wouldn't stop. He just kept going.
There was a gig you did at the Singer Bowl, I think Janis Joplin was there?
Oh yeah, that was one of the nights he did it... Yeah, the Singer Bowl. That wasn't with Joplin was it?
Well, she was there. I heard she led you out...
No that was with Zeppelin. I remember hanging out with Robert Plant in the dressing room. A couple of them came by. They went out to jam with Jeff Beck.
Oh yeah. But there was a time with Janis Joplin, someone slipped you acid?
Uh, oh. You heard about that one?
Yeah, did it happen a lot?
No, it happened that one time. It was at the Fillmore West. I remember that... those were innocent days. I remember going into the dressing room. We were going to be on stage in about twenty minutes, and I remember the drug starting to take effect. And I remember I started feeling very strange. And, uh, I remember walking into... Steve Miller was on the show. I remember Steve Miller was in there with his drummer, and I started getting paranoid, 'cause I think we were headlining. I was like talking to them, and they were starting to talk to me, and they started looking weird, and I was like, hey, I gotta get out of here. All I know is when I got on stage I was like tripping. I was out of my mind. You know. The worst part about it was that I had no control. It was like losing my mind. And I was onstage. I don't know how I got through it.
Do you remember how the show went?
The show went over great, because everyone in the audience was on acid. They knew I was on it. They loved it. You know, it was the Haight-Ashbury days. I couldn't remember them, I couldn't remember any of the arrangements. I turned to my roadie and said "Jesus Christ". He looked like some kind of demon every time he smiled at me. I had these big Dual Showman's behind my head and they sounded really bizarre. It was really weird. I turned around to Vinnie and I just shook my head and said, "You better take over". I was just praying to get through the night. I remember... and the one point in the show we were doing People Get Ready and we used to isolate the voices. We used to have a beautiful angelic harmonic sound. It sounded like angels singing. And I saw, or at least thought I saw, this white light come out from nowhere. And it was unbelievable. And it just took me out of that trip I was in, and I regained my control after that. That was an unbelievable experience. My God. Never... Whew! Awful. I remember when the show was over I sat down, and I was in tears. It was like strange. Like I'd lost my mind. And I didn't know what happened. It was horrible.
So you didn't generally go on stage tripping?
NO! I didn't even know what to expect. I'd never done psychedelics before. I smoked a lot of weed in those days, everybody did. But that's insane to do that. I remember it was some groupie chick or something, she just said "Here, try this out, check this out. Open wide!!" Weird thing.
Do you remember Jed Ziegler, who ran the The Fudge Fan Club?
Yeah. He was a guy that used to hang out at the Action House, he was into the band when we started out. He was a friend, and I guess he wanted to become the president of the Vanilla Fudge Fan Club. Is that what he was?
I guess. Was there any kind of kit one would receive as a fan member?
They used to get letters from us, buttons. You know.
I heard there were Vanilla Fudge stickers. You were the first band to do that?
Yeah. We did that. We had buttons. "Fudge Power" it used to be called.
Were the stickers ever used on the groupies?
There were a lot of things we used on the groupies. That was one of them. [laughter]
THE BEAT GOES ON
Getting to The Beat Goes On...
Whose idea was it?
Shadow Morton. The lord giveth and the lord taketh away. [laughter] You know what I mean? [more laughter]
So what exactly was the idea?
Originally, we had the idea to do a chronological project of music and time, through history. That's what it was supposed to be. When did it start, in the revolutionary days? Supposedly it started out out like a couple of centuries ago, how time and music grew together up to the present. That's what the concept was supposed to be. The Beat Goes On... The beat always goes on, there's always music. The concept was great, but it just came off very pretentious. It was horrific. It's like a skeleton in your closet. It was like so what, you made a bad move, you made a bomb.
What about the speeches?
Don't ask me.
Did you really have a lot to do with the studio stuff at that time, or you'd just go in and do your part?
Yeah. That's all it was. The best thing about that record was I think the Moonlight Sonata. I thought that part was cool.
Did you ever play anything from The Beat Goes On live?
We used to do Moonlight Sonata. It used to go over nice. Real good sound on that. Oh wow. I got a royalty check here for Vanilla Fudge, as we're speaking. Can you believe that? 25 years later. What the hell? Now I can buy another can of racquetballs.
Were you guys doing originals at this point?
Yeah, that's when we started trying to write. On Renaissance. I started getting into songwriting. I got into it.
So there wasn't any original material until Renaissance?
I think so, yeah.
WRITING FOR RENAISSANCE
Who was Carl DeAngelis?
Carl DeAngelis was this hippie freak dude. Just loved the band. He used to follow us all over the place. He was the guy who wrote The Vanilla Fudge Symphony. He was just a freak.
Did you ever have any plans to set the Symphony to music?
Not that I recall. He just knew us from hanging around the band, he got in to see us backstage. Partying with us I guess. He came up with that little ditty we put on there.
The song The Sky Cried. Was that written with Tim?
No. I wrote that by myself.
Do you remember if it was written in the studio or at home?
I wrote that on the piano. And then we rehearsed it at the studio.
Did you write the other parts, of would other members come up with their own parts.
Well I wrote the song, and then they started rehearsing it, and then they proceeded to overplay everything like they did everything else.
Paradise was a collaboration between you and Carmine?
Yeah. I think we collaborated on that. I think I wrote the lyrics.
Do you remember how that collaboration worked?
I don't recall. I think we were at the Action House, and I was sitting at the organ, and we were just jamming heads. We just came up with it that way.
Did you write the songs in jams or at home?
Some songs I used to write by myself. And some of the stuff, we'd just have a jam and it would come out that way. There was a song called.... Oh man I don't know, you asked me about the material coming out on the new album. There are a couple of tunes. There was one song we jammed on, it was a pretty heavy track. A song you never heard. It's gonna be on this album. (The Rhino Psychedelic Sundae album)
What is the song The Spell that Comes After about?
I think it was a song that Shadow brought to us. He brought this weird song and it kind of fit with the format on Renaissance. Season Of The Witch was supposed to be on the first album. It was like in the can from the first recording, which to this day I think is one of the better things that we ever did. I think it was a great mood that we put together on that. You know? I really think that was pretty wild. Even today I really like that. Season Of The Witch was one of our best recordings. It really freaked people out though. Especially in those days. It had this eerie feeling, like you were in hell, like you were in a graveyard. I was blown away listening to that thing.
Some of the vocals sound like they were recorded at regular speed and then slowed down. Did you ever do this?
No, that was the way we recorded it.
What did you play live from Renaissance?
Season Of The Witch I don't really recall...Paradise I think we did Paradise on a TV show a couple of times.
UNLEASHING LED ZEPPELIN ON AMERICA
How did the Zeppelin tours get set up?
We were in the same stable.
Was it a real tour, or did you just cross paths at a bunch of gigs?
No, it was a tour. We toured all over the Southwest, the Northwest, Canada.
The first gig I think was in Spokane, Washington [actually Denver, CO. -ed]. You were on a bill with the MC5 as well. Do you remember them?
I remember them, but I don't remember playing with them. Did we play with them?
I think so...
I remember jamming with Zeppelin one night, this was after it was all over. I think in the late '70's. I was driving around with my wife Patty we were driving around Malibu and I see this guy, and I said man, that's John Paul Jones, we used to be friends. So I get out of the car and I said "Hey! Jonesey!" He came over and gave me a hug, introduced me to his roadie, and he said "This is Mark Stein. He was with the Fudge, we used to tour together". And then he said "Come on in the house". So we get to the beach house and there's Robert Plant, Grant, their manager. It was nice. They were real happy to see me. They were real warm. Then they said "Why don't you come down to SIR tonight. Nobody knows we're gonna be in there. Just come down and hang out". I said "great". So I went down one night, it was just me there with them and just maybe two people. We were just hanging out, having some drinks, there was some keyboards in there, I was just jamming with them that night. It's amazing, the next day, I get up and I get all these phone calls that "I JAMMED WITH ZEPPELIN!!!". I couldn't believe it. There wasn't even anybody there. It's just weird how these things get out. But that was cool. I'll take it.
Getting back to the Singer Bowl gig (Beck, Zep, TYA). There was some talk between Jeff Beck and Tim and Carmine about forming a band together at this point.
Yeah, right. I wasn't told about it. It's like somebody having an affair with the wife, you're the last one to know? That was me. I never even knew about it, I found out later.
At that gig, did you see the whole show?
No. I do remember specifically being in the dressing room with Bonham and Richard Cole, and Robert Plant, and there was this publicist that came walking down the alley who had nothing to do but write bad things about all the bands, and when they spotted him... there was a bunch of orange crates there, you know like little half-pint orange crates. And when he came by, they stoned him. Zeppelin stoned him.
With orange juice crates. Then he took off like a bat out of hell. He used to write nothing but bulls---. He'd put everybody down. They really got him.
Do you remember the Coke commercials?
I just remember that Vinnie was sick one night and Jeff Beck was in town and our manager got Jeff Beck to play guitar on the Coke commercials. They [Carmine, Tim, & Jeff] were supposed to put a band together after the Fudge broke up. And then he got in an accident and screwed up his arm. So then they went and did the next best thing, they went and put Cactus together. And then they got together with Beck after Cactus was over. That was short-lived too.
Were there any other festivals you played?
Yeah, the Miami Pop Festival. That was the night that Johnny Winter and Janis Joplin jumped up on the stage with us. Janis gave me her Southern Comfort, and said "Here, take a swig of this and let's jam!", and then Johnny, he jumped up and started jamming the blues. It was cool. Janis was singing her balls off, I was pumping Hammond and singing with her, Johnny was playing guitar.
Were you friends with her?
Nah, I was just acquainted with her. She was so... She was always out in the zone.
How did things fall through with Shadow?
I don't know. It just wasn't happening any more. I guess we figured we could just produce ourselves. Give that a shot. That was Near The Beginning, right?