"Light Your Windows"
Quicksilver Messenger Service
One of the most interesting run-ins with a drunk I ever had was in San Francisco. My fiancee's father insisted that, while vacationing there a few years ago, we stop into a bar called The Saloon. Built during the Civil War, The Saloon is a North Beach landmark that sits just a block up the hill from Lawrence Ferlingettis's City Lights bookstore and has the dubious distinction of being one of the only establishments to survive the 1906 earthquake. It's also a phenomenal place to catch a live blues show. That summer day, we popped in to The Saloon and happened upon an impromptu wake for a man named Chet Helms. Helms was the founder of Big Brother and the Holding Company and actually recruited Janis Joplin as singer for that outfit. Around the bar there were old hippies ready and eager to regale us with stories of the Summer of Love and all things Helms. We picked the drunkest, least coherent, and probably least honest soul in the joint – or maybe he picked us – and sat at the bar buying him drinks in exchange for the history lesson. And this is where I first learned about Quicksilver Messenger Service. Our drunk history professor was appalled to learn I thought QMS was just a film about bike messengers starring Kevin Bacon and told a long and rambling story about how, if not for the late Chet Helms, QSM would never have been introduced to the loving hippie hordes of the San Francisco scene, and how in fact it was Chet Helms who bought them their first organ when they had no money. Whether or not any of it was true, I don't know and couldn't care less. We got wasted, and raised our glasses over and over again to the legacy of a man who I'd never heard of before but whose honor was a great excuse that day for feeling good about daytime drinking. By the way, this song I haven't written about is really good.More »