Sal Maida is One of the Coolest 70s Rock Stars You’ve Never Heard Of
An excerpt from the Roxy Music and SPARKS bassist's book tells of early David Bowie shows and getting blanked by the Stones .
He may not have a Wikipedia page but as a member of the groundbreaking Roxy Music and Sparks, to his work in New York power pop band Milk 'n Cookies, Sal Maida is one of the most interesting figures of the 70s rock and glam scenes.
With his long mane of hair and blue Rickenbacker bass, the tall and lanky Maida, always seemed to be in the right place at the right time and over the years ended up playing and partied with some of the biggest names in music. Maida's new memoir Four Strings, Phony Proof, and 300 45s traces his musical journey from growing up in New York City's Little Italy to working with Bryan Ferry in Roxy Music to his studio work with the Runaways. The book includes photographs (including Maida meeting Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Mick Jagger in 1969) on his first of many trips to the UK in the late 1960s, as well as many bands he witnessed in their embryonic states just as the monumental shift in music was taking place at the end of the psychedelic era.
Read an excerpt from the book below that tells of early David Bowie shows and getting blanked by the Rolling Stones.
In the summer of 1970, I went back to the UK for about a month's visit. During this time, I saw David Bowie for the first time. He was a last minute addition on a bill at The Roundhouse. The Roundhouse is a former railway engine shed in Chalk Farm section of London. They'd have great concerts there, mostly all-nighters except on Sundays when it would run from 3:30 PM to 11:30 PM. At this point, the headline act finished their set, and everyone was filing out of the Roundhouse after having spent the day there. Sunday at The Roundhouse was a full day of activities, DJs, bands, films, and generally a great all day hang. By now it's 11:30 PM, time to go home. But then all of a sudden, this guy with corkscrew hair starts playing with just an acoustic guitar, dressed in a silver space suit. The crowd literally turned around and went back into the room to see this riveting performer. He played only a few songs, including "Space Oddity."
I also saw David Bowie and Mick Ronson at The Country Club in Hampstead in 1971, where they did acoustic versions of songs from Man Who Sold the World and previewed a couple of new songs from the unreleased Hunky Dory. Bowie had the Lauren Bacall look featured on the Hunky Dory cover. Both he and Ronson were playing acoustic 12 strings. The audience was very small for that show. A few guys hangin' at the bar, and the cast of Andy Warhol's Pork.
By 1971, I was back in London and decided to take being a musician more seriously. I brought my bass over to London for the first time (a Hofner) and started auditioning for bands. I shared a flat with another bass player who had something going with former Blodwyn Pig saxophonist, Jack Lancaster and former Tyrannosaurus Rex percussionist, Steve Peregrin Took. I walk into the living room one night and Steve Took has my portable record player out and is playing my copy of the just released In The Land of Grey and Pink album by Caravan. Sounds harmless, except that Steve is really stoned and is scratching my brand new record by skipping around from track to track. So when I confront Steve to "stop destroying my fucking record" he says to everyone in the room, "Oh wow man, this guy is really uptight!"
That's when my inner Mulberry St. came out and I went all Joe Pesci on the guy and said "Uptight? How about if I hit you over the fuckin' head with that record player?!!" Next thing I know, he gets up to leave, walks out of the building and is so loaded, that he falls down 10 flights of stairs! When we go to check on him to see if he's ok, he gets up and walks away, as if this happened all the time. Groovy times baby!
So there I am at the NME Xmas party, Dec. 1973 at The Speakeasy. It's a double date, myself and Pennie Smith (the photographer famous for The Clash's London Calling album cover) and Nick Kent and Chrissie Hynde. All of a sudden, Chris Squire walks into the party, with not just the jacket that was supposedly "made specifically for me," but a whole suit made from the same material! Now, you have to understand the reason I'm playing a Rickenbacker 4001 is totally because of Mr. Chris Squire. So I say to Nick Kent, "Do you know Chris?" He says "Yes," and I say "You have to introduce me to him!"
So the introduction is made and I am chatting to Mr. Squire about Rick basses and our respective bands, Yes and Roxy Music. He says his girlfriend is good mates with Eno's girlfriend. Finally, I couldn't help myself and I tell him that I've been wearing that exact jacket on the Roxy tour. He says "That explains it." I say "Explains what?"
He says "Well the other night, I was coming out of the Quadrophenia premiere when a young girl comes up to me and asks for my autograph, saying excitedly "Aren't you the bass player in Roxy Music?"
In Dusseldorf, the band Can came to the Roxy Music show and we hang out with them afterward. Really cool guys and great tour guides of Dusseldorf nightlife. Then in Munich, the promoter is practically coming out of his skin with excitement. He's telling us that he hooked us up at the Hilton for a two night stay and that the Stones are camped out there, auditioning guitar players and recording Black And Blue. He's saying, excitedly, "My two favorite bands in the world, Roxy Music and The Stones, in the same hotel!"
More excited than the promoter was yours truly, the kid from Mott and Broome is gonna PARTY with The Stones!!! I'm talking about THE ROLLING STONES, the band I grew up with, watched on Ed Sullivan, the band that made me want to play an instrument! I unfortunately seemed to be a cult of one, as the bands never really did gel in a social way.
One night, we were having dinner in the Hilton restaurant/bar and on the other side of the room are Mick, Keith and Anita, Ron Wood, Bill Wyman, and Billy Preston also having dinner. I'm thinking, "Okay this is it, the meeting I've waited my whole life for, my rock 'n roll fantasy situation!" Jagger was holding court, exuding charisma and boundless energy, Keith and Anita seemed totally junked out, Anita had cuts and bruises on her legs. The rest of the crew was listening attentively to what Mick had to say, except for Keith and Anita who were nodding out.
But alas, both bands did a helluva job of ignoring one another. The next day, I'm in my room, getting ready to go to sound check, when Billy Preston's song "Outta Space" comes on the radio. I crank it up on the hotel stereo system really loud. Next thing I know the doorbell is ringing and I figure it's either a neighbor or a staff member asking me to turn it down. So I open the door and standing in my doorway is Charlie Watts! I'm in shock and bewildered as to why he rang my bell, until I figure out that he must have thought it was Billy Preston's room.
Sure enough, when I say hello, he says "Hello, is Billy here?"
'Four Strings, Phony Proof, and 300 45s' is available in September through Hozac Books.