Nurture the freaks and geeks.

This weekend marks the anniversary of a significant event in my young life. In August 1972 my rock group, the Band of Angels (originally known as The Berries, which I mentioned in a previous post), was performing a weekend gig at the Flying Jib, a legendary rock club in Redondo Beach, California.

The Jib was a step up in quality from the half-empty beer bars we had just played in the San Fernando Valley. (On a slow night in the Valley we would record our first set on our trusty Teac reel-to-reel tape recorder then play the tape over our PA system instead of performing live for our second set, just to see if people noticed. They didn't.)

But a Saturday night at the Jib was different and we rose to the occasion, showcasing original tunes in front of a packed audience that was enthusiastic, appreciative, and thoroughly hammered.

We were occasionally distracted during our performance by a faint odor of burning plastic behind the stage, but the nightclub staff poked around the area and assured us there was no problem. We finished the night strong, then headed-out to join the obligatory post-gig Bacchanalian revelry, looking forward to our final show the following night.

But when we awoke Sunday afternoon we got the sobering news that the Jib had burned down in the early hours of the morning—along with our equipment. Apparently an electrical fire had started behind the stage, which quickly turned into a conflagration. All that was left of my new natural-wood Ludwig drum set was charred hardware and four melted cymbals in Dali-esque forms.

The band regrouped after the fire, borrowed equipment from other bands, and survived for six more months—before finally calling it quits. We eventually collected from the Jib three years later after an expensive lawsuit and jury trial (we even got haircuts for the occasion, a truly desperate move), but the victory was bittersweet because we had all moved onto new bands by then.

Yet the story doesn't end there.

A few years back the original bass player in the band, Mark Paladino (now a successful LA record producer and studio owner), confided to me that shortly after he was fired from the band—six months before the fire—he was understandably upset and wanted to get even.

One night he performed a voodoo ritual that he learned from his Russian grandmother (a likable lady, but a closet pyromaniac). He set fire to a carefully constructed angel icon (symbolic of the Band of Angels) to signify his fervent intent to see his former band go up in smoke.

A few months later his wish came to literal fruition! Not surprisingly, Mark was distraught by the occult, telepyric forces he had apparently unleashed and never said a word about it to anyone until he finally broke his thirty-year silence. (To show my appreciation for his honesty I plan to invoice him for my drum kit.)

Sadly for Mark, this potent ritual he conducted in 1972 was both the beginning and the end of a bright and promising career in voodoo operations. (This is not to be confused with the well-accepted business practice of voodoo accounting.) As a pyrotechnic visionary, Mark went into early retirement.

One of the take-away lessons from this is that we must learn to nurture and support the creative types in our midst. In fact, as colleague Tom Peters often points out, we need to recruit more of the "freaks and geeks" for our business teams and learn from their non-traditional approaches.

I think we can all agree that, properly channeled, Mark's outside-the-box thinking, innovative problem-resolution approach, and instinctive ability to apply the principles of "creative destruction" in his organization would be welcome in any competitive business environment today

But the more specific lesson here is to remember that tried-and-true corporate imperative still taught in business schools everywhere (and still featured in most HR manuals): Explore all available options before firing disgruntled employees who possess demonic, telekinetic powers.


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24 Comments

  1. we certainly need more free-thinking types in our workforce, tho maybe not pyros. i hope mark's studio is fire-proofed.

    didn't the doors play at the flying jib?

  2. Long live the nerds, geeks, freaks, queers, and quants who run the new economy -- including those who have torched their obsolete businesses to make way for the new. Mark was ahead of his time. pj

  3. PJ: I'm with you in part. But there was a tad too much unregulated financial geekiness happening on W Street in recent years - abetted by a TOTAL abdication of leadership. Creating short term profits gets confused with creating real value - as colleague Mike Neiss often points out. http://mikeneiss.wordpress.com/

  4. Rumor has it that Hook of the Venice Canaligators burned down the clubhouse of local bikers who, by merely showing up at gigs, scared away the fan base. He didn't have the patients, or grandmotherly example, to try Mark's approach. He also didn't have to keep his little secret for long since one of the bikers saw him do it.

  5. Hey Bob, the way I heard it, Hook (aka Uncle Crusty) burned down the motorcycle gang's clubhouse after he lost a fight with a biker over a mutually desired female acquaintance. (Hook, having only one serviceable arm, was at a decided disadvantage in such disagreements.) At any rate, I'm detecting a disturbing pattern of pyrotechnic retribution played out in my former bands.

    [For readers' edification: Bob Liepman was a key member of the Berries/Band of Angels AND the Venice Canaligators - a band I mention in a previous post:
    /notes/2008/12/passion-profitability
    Bob currently performs with the talented "Bob and Wendy" out of San Luis Obispo, California. He has no recorded history of pyromania that I'm aware of.]

  6. Hi John - love the story. Creative tension is what I've heard it referred to as. We need plenty of that in business there are so many boring 'same' people.

    "(On a slow night in the Valley we would record our first set on our trusty Teac reel-to-reel tape recorder then play the tape over our PA system instead of performing live for our second set, just to see if people noticed. They didn't.)"

    Reminds me ... I had a good friend back in the early 70's who was lead singer in a local band. Mike used to tell me tales of how as the crowd got drunker and the gig approached the end he would sing swear words in place of the normal lyrics .... and no one noticed.

  7. JP: to be technically accurate, it would be "creative destruction" if the band members at the time (as opposed to an ex-member) destroyed our band - and did so deliberately, to create something new. That was not the case with us - at least not consciously. But I'm a "CD" believer. Shiva - the God of Destruction (and Transformation) - must be appropriately honored in the world of commerce.

    Trevor, I remember that time well. Nowadays you can't do that because the expletives are the normal lyrics.

  8. Beth, we played psycho-pyro-rock. Actually, we did a mix of covers - basic rock (a la Rolling Stones, Neil Young), some R&B (a la Sly) - and originals (which featured our multi-instrumentalist Bob - see his comment on this thread - who played electric piano, electric mando-cello, and cello). I was a drummer in those days and had JUST purchased a natural walnut drum kit - which, it turns out, made excellent kindling for the nightclub fire. That was the last drum set I ever owned.

  9. You got the "WOW" response from me with this one John! Kinda reads like a trashy novel. The funny thing is that with all the layoffs currently taking place (including ours) I know that angry feeling too well. I have wanted to do a little voodoo ritual of my own. Unfortuneately I don't have the great skill your friend had. And that little voice in my head chimes in with the old epithet, "Don't stoop to that level".

    My level natured husband recently swore at a building as we drove through D.C. and asked me to join him in "spitting" at it. Yup, his old company was based there!

    Do these creative beings rock the boat when they stay? Hmmmm

  10. The problem, of course, is that these "creative beings" are frequently enculturated to NOT rock the boat in their teams and organizations. As Nissan International's Jerry Hirshberg once said, "The prioritization of creativity requires the accommodation of dissent from the prevailing view...But it requires a tolerance for some real and often threatening discomfort." Too many organizations (and their managers) don't have the skills to deal effectively with dissent.

  11. Hi John- I played the Flying Jib club many times with a group called Brother Chaos featuring John "Juke" Logan from 1970 to 1972. Yes, I was the drummer- I played a Slingerland Red sparkle kit circa 1960 - Those were the days- drank a lot of beer, smoked a lot of .... and .....a lot of beautiful women!!!
    We worked all over LA- We also opened the new Flying Jib club in Ketchum Idaho- 6 nights a week for three months- One of the best times of my life - I'm still playing with a couple of bands- Although I've quit drinking & smoking....still got a beautiful girl...
    You still playing?

  12. Hey Tony, great to hear from you. Brother Chaos sounds familiar. But I don't think I ever heard you guys. (Didn't know a new Jib opened in Idaho. Same owner?) I'd be curious to hear what other clubs you played. We probably played a lot of the same ones.

    I'm not playing drums at the moment, but I play a lot of guitar & piano, mostly writing songs. Most of my time is spent finishing up a book (based on the same theme as this blog). I had an all wood Ludwig set that went up in smoke that night in 1972. Ever seen what a fire does to cymbals? They melt into grotesque shapes. I salvaged all the hardware though.

    Sorry we burned down a club you played a lot! :-)

  13. Good hearing from you, John. The second Flying Jib club opened in 1970 in Ketchum Odaho/Sun Valley-same owner. We played the whole winter/6 nites a week- I played a lot at The Golden Bear-Huntington Beach, Bag of Nails-Pasadena, Gazzarri's-on the Strip, The Icehouse-in the Valley, and Jack's Sugar Shack-Hollywood. I played quite a bit at The Corral- the manager's name was "Topanga Dick" We opened for Iron Butterfly there. That place burned down too!I worked with Lacy J. Dalton, Nick Gravenitus, James Harmon, The Drifters and Billy Preston-just to name a few- In 2005 I did a gig at the Hard Rock Cafe, Universal Studios/Hollywood, as part of a tour with The Jennifer Bair Band. Just to name a few places in LA that I can remember today....lol.

    Do you have pics of the fire/your kit? Let me know when the book comes out- I'm in San Francisco, will come to your book signing gig-even buy a book!!!
    I've got a studio here-if you ever want to jam whilst here. My girlfriend is a pro-vocalist/songwriter and an author as well- Here's her website-check out the About Us page for more about my background and hers. It all helps in the book marketing business!!!
    Cheers,
    Tony

  14. Hey Tony, didn't see this comment till now. Gazzarri's, eh? We were the house band there off and on in 1970 and 1971. Made $30/night when we started (for the whole band!) but we were getting a whopping $60/night by 1972. But I'd go back in a second if I could. Played some of those other clubs too. I remember the Corral of course and Topanga Dick. Man I loved Billy Preston.

    Don't think I have any pix of that burned-up drum set.

    I checked Jennifer's page. Good stuff. I'm an old TM'er too.

    I think the owner of the Jib was Gordon MacRae (no relation to the actor). We sued his ass off for the fire. Collected about five grand as I remember (which was real money then).

    Check out a post I did about my band at Gazzarri's: http://businesslessonsfromrock.com/notes/2008/10/you-need-to-be-willing-to-kill-chickens

  15. Hi -

    This is an odd forum for this, but my mother in law has been desperately seeking someone she met at the Flying Jib in 1971. Do you happen to know anyone who worked there or maybe someone who might know someone? I certainly appreciate it! My email is mindbuck at ymail.com (yes, ymail)

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