Friday, April 19, 2013

Sons of Champlin -- "Cry Me a Rainbow" (1967)

Mister guitar, I want so much to have a good time
To try to forget that that girl will never be mine

(I'd love to help you out, pal.  But I'm just a guitar player -- not a miracle worker.)  

Bill Champlin started his first band when he was a student at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California in the early sixties.  (Mount Tamalpais, which is visible on clear days from San Francisco, is the highest peak in Marin County, and is the place where mountain biking really got its start.)

The drummer and bass player of Champlin's original band got drafted in 1965, and he had to put together a new group -- which he modestly called the Sons of Champlin.

The Sons of Champlin at Monterey Pop
The group performed regularly at famous San Francisco music venues like the Fillmore, Wonderland, and the Avalon Ballroom with all the usual San Francisco suspects -- the Dead, the Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Country Joe and the Fish.  But its very first concert was at the College of Marin.

Poster for 1969 Avalon Ballroom concert
Marin County, which is at the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, was a fairly quiet place in the mid-sixties, with fewer than 200,000 residents spread around its 828 square miles.  (I'm guessing that quite a few Marin County acres were devoted to the cultivation of cannabis plants back in the day.)  

Marin produced its share of rock musicians, and many other Bay Area musicians settled there.  The Grateful Dead moved to San Rafael from Haight-Ashbury in 1970, and the Dead's original bass player, Phil Lesh, runs a restaurant/music venue there called Terrapin Crossroads.

A Marin County real estate agent uses these words to describe what is now a very affluent but still somewhat wacky county:

Marin County is renowned throughout California and the nation for its scenic splendor, pristine and rugged beauty, and year-round mild weather.  Its small-town charm coupled with big-city style and sophistication contributes to make Marin anything but your average suburb. . . . [Marin is] trendy, funky, [and] home to aging hippies, artists, rock musicians, actors, directors, art, wine and jazz festivals, historic places, world-class dining, outdoor cafés and restaurants, daily farmers' markets, towering redwoods, first-class shopping, art galleries, [and] hiking and biking trails galore.

Mount Tamalpais as seen from the Berkeley Hills
To understand Marin County's residents a little better, let's look at the real estate agent who wrote those words.  She is a French native who was raised in several countries before moving to the United States 35 years, where she lived in New York and San Francisco before settling in Marin.  She has a master's in French literature from Columbia University, an M.B.A. (she was the Director of Human Resources for an international bank), and "over two decades of experience in sales, marketing, and conflict resolution."  

But she also claims to be a "seasoned, fierce negotiator" -- and given that the average price of the 53 homes sold in Marin County in a recent week was a cool $939,076, you'd better have a really fierce negotiator on your side.

Belvedere, CA house
According to Forbes magazine, the Belvedere community in Marin is one of the ten most expensive zip codes in the country.  The Belvedere MLS currently shows 19 single-family homes for sale.  Their listing prices range from $1.5 million to $19.9 million, with a median asking price of $3.8 million.

Many Belvedere houses have spectacular views of Alcatraz Island and downtown San Francisco:

Or perhaps you would prefer a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from your deck:

Real estate prices in Belvedere compare with those in other highly affluent areas of California -- for example, Beverly Hills and the tony San Mateo County enclaves (like Atherton and Hillsborough) populated by Silicon Valley plutocrats.  But I'm sure that Marin County folks see themselves as very different from the residents of those areas -- less about wealth and status symbols and plastic surgery and more about nature and organic foods and Zen Buddhism.

My impression is that any differences are more a matter of style than substance.  It seems to be just as much about the Benjamins in Marin as it is in Beverly Hills.  If you don't believe me, just drive up to Mill Valley and Corte Madera on the Redwood Highway (U.S. 101), where you will see the showrooms that belong to Sonnen Porsche, and Land Rover/Jaguar Marin, and Boardwalk Ferrari, and Maserati of San Francisco.

But let's be fair.  The Porsche Panamera S is available in a hybrid version that gets 22 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway (compared to 18 and 27 for the non-hybrid version) and has an MSRP of a mere $96,150 -- it sounds perfect for Marin County.

The gasoline-electric hybrid LaFerrari
And if you're one of the hyperaffluent few who can afford a Ferrari, that estimable automaker recently previewed its new LaFerrari hybrid -- which comes with not only a 800-hp V-12 gasoline engine but also a 163-horsepower electric motor that will cut fuel consumption by up to 40%.  (The price tag?  Well, if you have to ask, you probably can't afford one of the 499 LaFerraris that will be produced.  It's going to go for a cool one million Euros -- that's $1,310,000 in real money.)

My family spent a day in Marin during our recent San Francisco vacation.  We drove north on U.S. 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping at a roadside park to take some pictures:

Next we drove to the Marin Headlands Visitor center and took a hike around Rodeo Lagoon, which is separated from the Pacific Ocean by a narrow sandbar.  Here's a wildflower (which i've been unable to identify) that was quite common around the lagoon.  

Our walk took us to the Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit veterinary research hospital that is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill or injured seals and sea lions.  

The Center employs 45 staff and has over 800 volunteers, and it rescues and cares for about 600 marine mammals annually.  The day we visited, the Center had over 160 patients -- 79 sea lions, 58 northern elephant seals, and 26 Pacific harbor seals.

We watched Center staff prepare meals (in the form of "fish smoothies"), administer medicine to the patients (not a pleasant job), and perform an autopsy (an even less pleasant job). 

Here's a photo of the entire Marine Mammal Center facility, which is quite large:

Here's a curious harbor seal pup:

After leaving the Marine Mammal Center, we drove through Marin's most touristy town, the oh-so-precious seaside city of Sausalito.  Rather than fight the crowds, we circled Richardson Bay until we reached Tiburon, where we had lunch at a popular waterfront restaurant, Sam's Anchor Cafe:

Here's a different view of Sam's waterfront dining area:

I remember having brunch at a waterfront café one beautiful fall Sunday over 30 years ago with a law school friend and his girlfriend.  (It may have been at Sam's -- I don't recall.)  As we strolled back to our parking spot after enjoying a wonderful meal and a beautiful outdoor setting, the girlfriend saw a street-corner flower seller and asked my friend to buy her some flowers.  He demurred.

She smiled charmingly and asked him again.  Again, he declined.

She wasn't at all angry with him -- it was far too nice a day to  be angry -- but was clearly confused by his refusals.  "But you used to buy me flowers all the time," she pointed out.

'Yes, I did," he admitted.  "But that was . . . before." 

Here's "Cry Me A Rainbow," which was a local hit for the Sons of Champlin in 1967.  It's a terrific little three-minute pop song with some nice work on the Hammond B3 organ, but it's not really characteristic of the music on the group's albums, which might be described as psychedelic jazz-rock with an R&B feel:

Click here to order the song from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. My daughter, the lawyer, had some business to tend in Marin County, and she told me about visiting "That laidback California town of sunny San Rafael...", a description borrowed from Shel Silverstein's "Smokeoff". One of the interurban cars at Orange Empire used to connect the woodsy suburbs of Marin with the ferry boats to The City, but the railway passenger service was abandoned in 1941 when buses across the Golden Gate Bridge took over. The newer cars went to Pacific Electric, and one has been preserved in more or less running condition.