Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Story Behind "Lake Shore Drive" (Part Two)

Another Forgotten Hits Exclusive ...

Here is the true and complete story behind the Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah song "Lake Shore Drive", a long-time fan favorite (and a Chicagoland Institution!!!)

Skip Haynes

The Song:
It was 1971 and we were performing at the Gate of Horn on Briar and Broadway. We closed the bar and our manager, Arthur Belkind, and I headed down to Rush street to hit the four o'clock bars. We closed Beaver's on State street then Arthur drove me to my parents on Melrose and Lake Shore Drive. I was staying there over the weekend. 
I forget why. We were in Arthur's bright orange Opel GT - the one that looked like a miniature Corvette.
We drove north on Lake Shore Drive. It was now early morning and it had been snowing all night and the Drive hadn't been plowed yet. We were just about the only car on the road. 

Arthur was supposed to exit at Belmont but he totally missed the exit. When I informed him of this fact, he slammed on the brakes. We spun out three times and luckily, ended up facing in the proper direction and continued on our way. 

We drove all the way up to Foster before we turned around because we had become involved in a conversation about how Lake Shore Drive was the coolest street in the country, mainly because you could do three doughnuts and still make it home alive, among other things.

Arthur dropped me off and said he's see me at the club the next night. I went upstairs to the apartment, which was on the top floor of the building and faced lake Michigan. I stood staring out the window in the living room at the snow coming down and Lake Shore Drive, which was fourteen stories below. 

There were quite a few cars on the Drive by then and I noticed three police cars flicking on their blue lights as they stopped motorists almost directly below the apartment. They twinkled merrily between the snow flakes. Pretty blue lights. This started me thinking about my conversation with Arthur earlier that  evening.

One thought led to another and by the time I went to sleep I had written a song. I didn't particularly think anything of it. I wrote songs all the time. It was my job. The musical inspiration for the song came from a Jerry Jeff Walker song called Mr. Bojangles and a song by America called This Is For All The Lonely People.

The next night, right before our first set, I motioned Arthur over to the stage and quietly played Lake Shore Drive (the name I had given the song) for him - it was essentially our conversation of the night before. That was the only time I ever intended to play the song.  One time for one person. Arthur loved it. I didn't. Neither did the rest of the band. If it had been up to me, the song wouldn't have gone any farther than that one performance. Arthur, however, wouldn't stop talking about it and pushed us into recording a demo.

The Demo:
The week after I had written Lake Shore Drive I was at  an old friend's house talking to him about the song. He owned a bar called the Beaumont and came to see the band frequently. I was telling him about Lake Shore Drive and how Arthur wanted us to record it but I didn't have the money at the time. He asked me to play the song for him. He had an old beat up guitar with only five strings but it was enough to get the idea across.

I finished the song and put the guitar down. I asked him what he thought. He sat there for a moment then told me to go over to the bookshelf across the room and look inside a pair of running shoes sitting on the shelf.  There was a wad of money in one of them - $1,783.00 to be exact. 

He told me to take the money and use it to record the song. I told him I didn't know when or if  we'd be able to pay it back. He told me not to worry about it - just go and record the song. Fred was a patron of the arts.

I went back and told Arthur about the money. He told me he knew a recording engineer named Stu Black who had a studio at 2120 South Michigan avenue. Arthur booked the date for the next night. It would be like old home week for Jeremiah and Aliotta, as both of them had been in the Rotary Connection and had spent a good deal of time in that building which was owned by Chess Records.

It was so cold in the studio that you could see your breath and we had to wear our coats. The band was comprised of myself, Mitch Aliotta, John Jeremiah and Mitch's brother Dean on drums. We spent several hours arranging and recording the song and walked out of the studio with a demo of Lake Shore Drive. It was much slower and more laid back than the version that became the finished record.

Arthur immediately dragged us over to Carl Sandburg Village on La Salle Street to play the demo for someone that Arthur said would invest in producing a real record.  Arthur was right, he did back the session.

One week later we were in the studio recording Lake Shore drive.

The Session:
Paragon Recording Studios was on Huron Street just east of State Street right next to the Gaslight Club. It was owned by Marty Feldman and was the best recording studio in Chicago. You had to climb three flights of stairs to get to the studio. 

Arthur had put together quite a crew for the session. We really had nothing to do with it. The producer was Scott Gibbs, who produced Blackhawks games for television. To the best of my knowledge Lake Shore Drive was the first and last record he ever produced.

Barry Mraz - one of the best recording engineers in the country at the time, engineered the session. Marty Feldman was the second engineer. Bobby Schiff was the arranger. Tom Radke was the drummer and is still the best drummer I have ever played with. Mitch Aliotta played bass and sang harmonies, John Jeremiah played piano and I played guitar and sang lead vocals.

Lake Shore Drive was one of the first songs recorded by a local band that used a string section from the Chicago symphony. Joe Golan (second chair violin for the Chicago Symphony and an amazing soloist) came in with another violin, a viola and a cello to provide string pads for the song. He created all the string arrangements. We got everyone drunk on Tequila.

The unique piano part on Lake Shore Drive was a combination of Jeremiah's hard work and talent in creating it and Marty Feldman's superb Baldwin grand piano. There is no other piano that sounded like Paragon's Baldwin. Of course we didn't have a clue at the time. If you heard that piano now, you would be able to tell it was used on Lake Shore Drive instantly.

All the people involved with that session were the best in Chicago at the time and everyone was at the top of their form.

We recorded two songs at that session. Lake Shore Drive and a song called Snow Queen. LSD and Snow Queen - couldn't tell what we were into at the time. We even ended up naming our record label Snow Queen and called our promotion company Snow Job.

We were lying on the floor of the studio listening to the rough mixes (a habit we picked up when listening to Rotary Connection mixes at Chess Records) when we realized we had been having so much fun we had neglected to put an instrumental solo in the song. The song was finished so there was no going back at that point. We figured that Lake Shore Drive would have to live without a solo when Joe Golan popped up and asked if he could try something on the long tag at the end of the song. He was still buzzed on the Tequila we had so thoughtfully provided (the first and only time he became inebriated in his life) and knew the song well, having written the score for the strings. He went into the studio and ripped off the amazing violin solo at the end of Lake Shore Drive in one take.

One other thing FYI. Mitch Aliotta and I were in the studio recording our final vocals. I asked Mitch what he thought about a slight change in the lyrics of the chorus. The phrase "Slippin' on by on Lake Shore Drive" was repeated twice. I asked Mitch what he thought about replacing the words Lake Shore Drive with "LSD" on one of the phrases. This was a time when lyrics like that could result in you getting black-listed on the radio - George Carlin's famous seven words. Mitch said "LSD" and I said "Okay" and that was that. It turned out to be the right choice.

I forgot to mention that we began recording on New Years Eve of 1971 and finished the mixing on New Year's day in 1972. 

That was it as far as the recording went. Arthur arranged distribution for a single with LSD on the A side and Snow Queen on the B side with a label in New York called Bang. The single went nowhere and we forgot about it until ... 

LSD The Record:
The band was living at 2137 North Clark Street, directly across from where the St. Valentine's Day Massacre took place. We lived with Jeremiah's girlfriend Luca and two other girls. One day Chuck Rose, who was one of the owners of Rose Records on State Street, and a friend of Luca's, stopped by the house and asked us if we had enough material for an album. He told us a lot of people had been coming into his store asking if we had an album. If we had the material he would put out a record for one year. That is how the Lake Shore Drive album came about. We provided the songs and Chuck provided the label, the distribution and sold it through his stores -  for one year.

LSD on the Radio:
Arthur called us the day after the album was released and told us to meet him at WBBM-FM on McClurg Court. He was taking us to meet the program director, Allan Burns. When we arrived at the station and were ushered up to Allan's office. The first thing Allan asked us was, "Well, what do you have for me? I come to see you guys all the time."

We handed him the Lake Shore Drive single. He listened to the whole song and then the sounds of Lake Shore Drive came through the speakers. That was it. LSD was on the radio and has been there ever since. 

LSD The First Performance:
We were playing the Gate of Horn again. WBBM had just begun playing LSD two days previously. Arthur called us and told us we had to play Lake Shore Drive at the club that night because there were a huge amount of new reservations. We told him we didn't know it. We had learned it, recorded it and forgotten it in one fell swoop. As I said before, the band was not enthusiastic about the song enough to include it in our repertoire. He said learn it from the album. We said we didn't have one. He said get one.

We went to Rose Records on State street to get an album so we could learn the song. We walked in and told the kid behind the counter that we were Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah and Chuck Rose, his boss, was our partner and we would be needing a record. The kid got us one, smiled and said, "that'll be $6.50." We said, "you don't understand, your boss is our partner. the kid said, "that'll be $6.50" so we ended up having to buy our own record to learn Lake Shore Drive so we could perform it on stage for the first time. We never stopped singing it and I still have that album. I now have a great deal of respect for Lake Shore Drive and all the people who made it possible. There's lots more but that's another story.

LSD The Lyrics
(For those of you who are interested):
The story behind the lyrics of Lake Shore Drive is as follows:

The thing to do when going to clubs (Sgt. Peppers, Sitzmark, Barnaby's, Beaver's etc,) on State street and Rush Street during the late sixties and early seventies was to double (or triple) park in front of the club and go in to hit on the waitresses and listen to the first set from bands like (Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah, Aorta, Big Twist, the Illinois Speed Press, Mason Profitt, CTA etc.).

When the set was over (the club that inspired the song was Beavers on State Street), you would pile into the car, turn right on Oak Street, turn left at the Drive, shoot the loop at Foster Avenue, then back down to Oak Street, left on State Street, make an illegal U-turn on State and re-double park (with the first ticket you got still under your windshield wiper) in front of Beaver's then go back into the club.

This was the perfect amount of time to get high and be peaking just you walked in and got a drink from the waitress as the band came on for the second set. That's it.

The "Pretty blue lights" were Chicago police Mars lights.
"Concrete mountains" were all the buildings along the drive. 
"Throwing shadows just about five" refered to the fact that at about five o'clock the sun is low enough in the west so the building cast their shadows across Lake Shore Dive. Very pretty.
"Rats on up to riches" denoted driving from the south side to the north side. I was a northsider so I usually was "runnin' south on LSD" looking for a good time. 
"It starts up north on Hollywood" refers to Hollywood Blvd. at the northern terminus of LSD.
The last verse is about coming home in the morning after having a "good' time".
LSD is not a referral to the drug. It's about the initials of Lake Shore Drive. In the sixties it was really cool to live on Lake Shore Drive so you could put for example - 1200 LSD when addressing your mail. I didn't do acid.
If there is anything else please let me know and I'll be  happy to tell you anything I can. Thank you very much for letting me tell the story behind Lake Shore Drive.
Skip Haynes

No, Skip, THANK YOU, for sharing this fascinating tale with our readers!  You did a GREAT job of story-telling ... and this should help to dispel any other future rumors and/or misconceptions regarding both the band's and the song's origins.  Thanks for allowing us to be to forum to do so.  (kk)