For the first time since he saw Tina Turner perform, something besides the seductive power of rock ’n’ roll had wriggled its come-hither finger at Fred Cole. He had married this girl back in Portland, see, and he was deep in the throes of love; Joplin, however, was dangling from its gallows. In the drunken conversation between the lifer and the soon-to-be casualty, Cole had an epiphany. “Janis was totally unconfident about her looks, her vocals, all the rest of it,” he says. “And she was in love with Sam [Andrew from Big Brother], and it was unreciprocated. She was really hitting the Southern Comfort. She was like, ‘It’s all fucked unless you have somebody to love. Do you have somebody to love?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do. Back in Portland.’”
Her name was Kathleen Conner. She worked the door at the Crystal Ballroom, right around the corner from the Folksinger club. She had big green eyes, good taste in music, and a problem with authority. Her friends called her Toody.
The 18-year-olds were married by a justice of the peace in a small family ceremony on June 14, 1967, their union symbolized by a six-dollar gold ring. Cole’s relationship with Lord Tim would soon fizzle. The Weeds would quickly be dropped by Uni, and would eventually splinter. But the love song Cole was composing with Toody seemed like the kind of thing that was built to last.
IT’S 4:30 IN THE AFTERNOON on a Friday, and Cappy—that’s what Cole’s grandkids call him—is getting his drink on out on the back porch of the house. Except for our wicker seats, the rest of the deck is a graveyard of discarded equipment: VCRs, stereo parts, toaster ovens, a microwave. The weeds are grown high, biting flies dive-bomb exposed skin, moss hangs from everything, and off in the distance, families of beavers have turned a small creek into a swollen pond. Cole twiddles with the dials on a dusty boom box, trying to blast a burned copy of Pierced Arrows’ new album into the wilderness. He is a monkey working an abacus: even with his glasses on, he keeps pushing the wrong button. The player stops and starts, fast-forwards and reverses, then finally shuts off. Toody hovers over him, giving instructions. Nothing. She cups her hands, that band of cheap gold still managing just a dab of luster, and yells. “He doesn’t have his hearing aid in,” she says, loudly, since he can’t hear us. “I’ve learned to deal with it. I just yell. But onstage, he has to turn his monitor up louder than God.”
Cole must’ve heard something Toody said, because the music finally kicks into gear and a grizzly rocker bleeds from the speakers. Like his other dozens of releases, it sounds good. Unlike the other dozens of releases, this one might have a chance of reaching a larger audience.