Quotes and info taken from the book 'The Doors': by Tobler & DoeThe Formation of The Butts Band" After Ray left Robby and I decided that as we'd come over to start something new we might as well do it anyway and so for the next four months we lived in England and jammed with diferent people and eventually sorted something out"
John Densmore."It wasn't very easy. You'd call up people and say 'Come down and jam' but they'd know it really was an audition and the pressure would creep in"
The auditions for John and Robbys new band spanned the Xmas and New Year period 1972/73 and the fates played a fine sense of irony as the first member recruited was a singer. (Tobler & Doe are confusing the search for a Doors singer here as The Doors did not disband until March 1973..we know from the newspapers that Howard Werth had been recruited as a new Doors singer in February 1973 but the band split when Ray went back to LA.....TWSP)"Jess Roden was the first. We'd been through a few singers but Jess seemed right He sang Robbys melodies well and he had some of his own material."
It was through Roden that the final pair of recruits were acquired."Jess brought Philip and Roy with him. Phillip's a really excellent bass player....we went through a lot of bass players. Didn't even start a song. He played for about ten seconds and Robby and I looked at each other and said 'this is it' "
Chen was a well known bassist with a track record dating back to 1966 and Jimmy James & The Vagabonds, Jeff Beck and Donovan."Roy Davies was in a band called Gonzalez which had fifteen or twenty members...like they had two or three drummers, bass players whatever and when one of them can't make it one of the others stand in. Just a local band of really good players"
Roy Davies had to ward off competition for the keyboard slot from Mick 'Blue' Weaver but as John observed at the time."I don't think Mick was to be in the band and he knew it too...but he did a couple of sessions with us all the same."(Weaver is featured playing keyboards on 3 tracks on the debut album....TWSP)The Genesis of The Butts Band.
For several months in early 1973, The Butts Band (perhaps named after an area of countryside just outside of Brighton Sussex), began recording thier debut album for Blue Thumb Records.I remember reading an article in 1974 where Jess Roden explained that the name came from (possible a former band he was in) a description of a band who were going nowhere and playing crap gigs in pubs...hence the tattered speaker on the album cover.
This was not the original intent as the band had hoped to sign for Elektra."We were in the process of signing The Butts Band to Elektra because of Jac Holzman. As The Doors we had a fairly good releationship with him over the years and he was sort of a father figure. But he decided to retire and we were out on the street. The original idea was to be on Elektra in the States and Island in the UK but with Jac pulling out the rug and going things changed quite a bit. Then we remembered Bob Krasnow at Blue Thumb. He had been in the backgound all along and liked the band and was really enthusiastic. It wasn't money really ...he was just very commited"
The upshot being that the album was released on Blue Thumb and distributed by Island.
Sesions were underway at Olympic Studios in London when the entire band upped and left to complete the project in Kingston Jamaica.
Whether part of the plan or spur of the moment has never been explained clearly John in a prss release came closest:"We chose Jamaica because of the Reggae music which surrounds you in that country. You hear reggae blasting from every corner and every open door and its a diferent exciting rythm.
Our music might not BE reggae but the influence is there and its a great help in shaping our direction"
As a solid reason for doing a London/Jamaica split it was a statement that left a little to be desired especially after the albums release John annouced a swift rethink.....We're not really that reggae influenced. Thats been blown out of all proportion. It's just that Phil was born there....I think we are moving towards white soul than a reggae thing.....and I don't think it sounds like The Doors either. While we were making the album I could not really be objective but now I don't think it sounds like The Doors beyond that the drummer and guitarist are from The Doors. Robby and I have been influenced by different stuff now and I think its going to go further away. It feels good to do something new... to be 'done' with The Doors.....it was great believe me but its fresh now and exciting to have to start all over and scuffle around."
The singer not unnaturally offered a different slant on things."The first thing we did was to rehearse for a few weeks and then go and record an album which struck me as a bad idea. Not having played live or anything. Elektra was initially interested and Jac Holzman said he'd definitely sign the band. But he copped out and handed the matter over to David Geffen who didn't like us and therfore didn't sign us. So that was three months of the bands life wasted and it brought the English contingent down no end. We thought 'No way is this going to work'. Then they came up with the idea of us all living in America to try to consolidate things and I decided I wasn't gonna live in the US. No way!"
Jess RodenButts Band: The Album
The debut album entitled with breathtaking originality 'The Butts Band' certainly wasn't The Doors and it wasn't true reggae either. Nor truth to tell was it anything really new as far as the music scene of 1974 was concerned and in the years of rock 1974 to 1975 were probably the most musically stagnant since 1959. Therefore by association whilst pleasant enough to the ear The Butts Band debut did not exactly set the world alight. Of the two sides the one recorded in Jamaica is the more lively with the opening track 'Won't be Alone Anymore' contriving to sound decidedly Monkeeish whilst setting the general tenor of the album....excellent guitar (as ever) from Robby though more to the fore than had been previously the case, precise drumming from John and workmanlike vocals from Jess Roden more than compensating for the shortcomings on the final pair of Doors albums.
'Baja Bus' gives the impression of being a Full Circle leftover whilst Jess Rodens 'Sweet Danger' exudes a decidely latter day CSN&Y air with which Roy Davies mingles a few organ lines lifted directly from 'Riders On The Storm'.
'Pop A Top'....well the best thing about it is Robbys bottleneck...otherwise its something of a wasted track.
The London side never really escapes from a laid back groove and in fact until the final track it tends to plod.
The closer 'Kansas City' the old Leiber/Stoller classic is something of a curio for its not a live track though it purports to be. True it was recorded in one take at Olympic Studio but the crowd response was dubbed over at a later date.
A move Jess Roden took a dim view of."I think they took the applause off an old Doors album or something and I wasn't too pleased with that."
For the production Bruce Botnick returned to the fold but it was a somewhat roundabout affair with the Olympic session being engineered by Keith Harwood the band then taking the tapes to Dynamic Studio in Jamaica where Botnick engineered the later sessions. Then everyone flew to LA where the album was mixed in Hollywood Sound Studio."The English session took three weeks then three weeks in jamaica and on to LA for mixing. So the whole thing took two months and it was pretty much a continuous period."
John Densmore.The Fall Of The Butts Band.
In fact in Britain The Butts Band appeared only once supporting The Kinks (Actually the band played one date supporting Sparks at Hull as well as a couple of small scale gigs in the summer of 1974. TWSP.)
at the London Palladium. In the US the band played some small clubs in Dallas, Philedelphia and New York but the practicallity of a working band with two home bases 6000 miles apart was non existent.
The English contingent had returned home to the UK and when John and Robby travelled over there it was evident that the band could not stay together."The trouble was that we really were not together as a group. People were talking about solo albums and it takes years to establish the foundation...its a commitment like being married. Four or five people have to say 'OK its us against the world. We're gonna do it for three years or so and then if nothings happened we can think about solo projects'......Thats what got ME fed up. The lack of commitment."
Robby was more diplomatic in his reflections on the break up of the first Butts Band."We'd found some of the best musicians in Europe but since John and I lived in LA it truned out to be impossible to hold a band with two home bases together."
Jess Roden offered this final thought on his time in the Butts Band."There was no ex-Door hype and Robby and John were both lovely people with a genuine yearning to go back and start it all again without Jim Morrison. But for some reason they didn't have the energy. We didn't have a lot in common and what I found was Jim had been such a powerful character for so long that they didn't have any real strength to pursue a musical concept of thier own.....so we hardly did anything...a few clubs in the States...a nice scene but nothing special. We could have done it in the UK or the USA but it wasn't getting anywhere. They didn't have to do IT again...not with The Butts Band anyway."
John and Robby then returned to Los Angeles and began checking out possible members for a new Butts Band. By November the second incarnation was ready. Sharing the drum stool with John was Mike Zorkowitz with Carl 'Slick' Rucker a veterean of the R&B circuit on bass guitar. Alexandra Richman took over the keyboard duties and backed up the vocals provided by Mike Stull.
Stull had been involved with The Doors three years earlier when his band The Wackers had opened for the Morrison-less Doors at Carnegie Hall New York. Completing the line up was conga player Bobbi Hall who had been on the Full Circle sessions.
The resultant album 'Hear & Now' that was released in early 1975 was remarkably similar to the first in that it broke no new ground and further showed Robbys ever excellent guitar. In fact it was only Robbys guitar breaks that saved some of the tracks from total mediocrity.
Just two cuts caught the ear. The opener 'Get Up Stand Up' (a Bob Marley song) because of its incongruity and 'Caught In The Middle' for its Morrisonesque midsong rap. Otherwise the tracks were perfectly suited to the cocktail lounge circuit and the album caused as little commotion in the music world as the second Butts Band line up.
Though possessed of a more stable geographical base there was still apparently a lack of commitment. Thus following Hear & Now's release the future of The Butts Band seemed uncertain.
It wasn't too long into 1976 when the Butts Band folded completely and the experience apparently decided John that the world of rock could get along without him quite nicely where he proceeded to head off in a totally different direction...that of acting."I'm not bitter its just that music has disillusioned me....but its hard to find the right people and make something as special as we had in The Doors. Anyway I went and saw my father in a play. He used to act when he was my age and then about forty years later he goes back on the boards. It was like seeing a completely different person on stage. Somebody I didn't know at all and I thought...Hey thats interesting."
The Doors: by Tobler & Doe