Art Forcade was a short stout man who always wore cuffed dress slacks, a short-sleeved white-buttoned shirt, suspenders and a tie.
His partially baldhead sported long comb-over strands of black and grey locks that seemed plastered to his scalp from brill-cream. His large round face, balanced by his thick horned-rim Woody Allen style glasses topped off his smile and appearance of someone from a different era, separate from the San Francisco Bay Area rock scene of sixties. From my vantage point, Art Forcade seemed to be 80 years old but in reality he was maybe in his fifties when he was my drum teacher in 1966.
I was of the generation who grew up with the Beatles.
Like everyone else, I first saw them on the Ed Sullivan Show and bought Meet the Beatles that same week. I followed them with every subsequent album, their movies A Hard Day’s Night and HELP! and witnessed their aural and visual evolution through the folksy Rubber Soul and right into their pre-psychedelic offering of Revolver in the summer of 1966. I had gone from being really into running track & field and playing baseball as a first baseman in little league to loving the Beatles and pop music. Everything changed for me. I traded a baseball glove for a musical instrument.
Most of my friends had picked up a guitar or drums during those early Beatles years, but it took a bit of time before I was able to escape from my accordion lessons. Playing songs like O Marie, Lady of Spain and Funiculì, Funiculà, the accordion was an instrument that my parents had arranged for me to take up as my grandmother had been a big Lawrence Welk fan and offered to pay for the lessons. In late 1965 I switched to the drums; a much cooler and louder instrument. As an eleven year old, I found beat music so much cooler than polkas and Italian standards.
In the spring of 1966 I began taking drum lessons at the Westlake Music Center.
It was one of those typical music stores of the era that had everything. Guitars lined one side of the walls with bins of sheet music and books below. Amplifiers and drums were in the back and a long set of bins in the center were full of record albums. Along the right side of the store were glass display cases full of guitar strings, straps, cables, picks, drumsticks, harmonicas, microphones and many other music related accessories.
At the end of the wall of guitars was a door that led into an L-shaped hallway containing eight teaching and rehearsal studios. Entering the hallway you’d hear the muffled sounds of guitars, pianos, brass and woodwind instruments along with slamming of drums.
Art Forcade taught in the first room on the left where he had a small jazz set covered with towels to dampen the sound. He was nothing like the cool long haired rock and roll guitar teacher from across the hall. He was old school. Really old school. He taught classic drumming in between his life of playing casuals in small jazz and pop combos at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and smokey bars.
All the basic rudiments were taught to me every Monday at 7PM. I would sit in that tiny room learning my flamadiddles, parradidles and triplets on the snare while holding the sticks in classic jazz style (not two fisted rock style like Ringo Starr). He gradually added the kick drum, high-hat and ride cymbals to my lessons but I practiced at home on one single snare drum, hoping my parents would eventually buy me a cymbal and then a full set for my Bar Mitzvah the following year.
Things started changing for me personally.
I was very interested in girls but was too shy with them to do anything about it. I combed my short hair down in front and started wearing gold corduroy pants and paisley shirts. I created vignettes in my room that I photographed with my camera while blasting records by the Beatles, Byrds, Monkees, Rolling Stones, Loving Spoonful, the Kinks and Bob Dylan, who I finally understood the previous summer when Like A Rolling Stone was released.
Garage band singles were also high on my list of favorites in 1966. It was like punk music before punk. Loud, bold and brash and so very exciting. Songs like Hey Joe by the Leaves, Psychotic Reaction by the Count Five, Time Won’t Let Me by the Outsiders, Dirty Water by the Standells, Wild Thing by the Troggs, 96 Tears by ? and the Mysterians and Talk Talk by the Music Machine played on my Magnavox record player all year long.
While I was taking drum lessons, I had learned to play a few chords on the guitar but I still felt that drums was the instrument for me. I played them in the school band and orchestra, beating on a bass drum and trading off on hitting the timpani with fellow drummer and new friend Larry Weinberg. Larry and I would stand in the back of music class, cracking jokes, making rude noises and adding to our resume of music class clowns as the teacher would be working with a violinist or trumpet player. Weinberg and I were becoming fast and furious friends.
The doorbell rang around 5:30PM early Monday evening.
It was my friend Dany Walker who I would soon start a band with. We had met the previous year after I moved into the neighborhood and had shared an interest in music and especially the Beatles and the Monkees, who were all over the TV and radio that summer. Dany was a Davy Jones clone, short, good looking and charming. A kid who was chased by all the girls, something so far from my personal experience.
Dany had come over with two tickets to see the Beatles that very night at Candlestick Park. His dad was the well-known San Francisco criminal attorney, George Walker who would later handle cases regarding the Rolling Stones Altamont Festival and drug and gun charges against the great music photographer Jim Marshall. Dany’s father was supposed to take him to the show but had to cancel out at the last minute so he walked over to my house and offered me one of the tickets…. if my parents would drive us to the show at the Stick.
Almost fifty years later I can remember that moment so vividly.
It has become one of those instances that you repeat over and over again in your head, thinking what you could have said or done differently to change the outcome.
While Dany stood at the doorway, my mother walked over to see who it was. She knew Dany, as he was one of the gang who came over regularly to play records in my room. He repeated the offer for the Beatles tickets and asked if she could drive us. My mother looked at Dany and then me and glanced at the clock, which showed it to be half past five. “You have a drum lesson tonight at 7. If we don’t cancel within 24 hours, we have to pay for the lesson”.
“You have a drum lesson tonight at 7. If we don’t cancel within 24 hours, we have to pay for the lesson”. You will never see the Beatles ever. NEVER! EVER!!
So on that early Monday evening, Dany left my house with both tickets in his hand and missed the show. I don’t recall arguing, pushing or pleading with my mother to go to the concert that night and to this day I have no idea why. “You have to go to your drum lesson tonight, you can go see the Beatles next year.” Next year! The following week I quit playing the drums and bought a guitar. Drumming was dead to me.
That night on Monday, August 29, 1966 (50 years ago) the Beatles played Candlestick Park in San Francisco. It was their last live concert ever. They never toured again.
I never saw the Beatles as they never performed live again in concert.
They never came back next year, instead choosing to make Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I no longer play the drums. Candlestick Park was torn down in 2015. My mother passed away in 1989. Art Forcade passed away in 1998. My good friends Larry and Dany are also no longer with us.
On August 14, 2014, 48 years after the Beatles ended their touring days at Candlestick Park, Paul McCartney returned to close down the place soon before it was demolished. Paul was the final act at the Stick. I went to that show with some of my friends as a fitting end to the ballpark and coming full circle after that Monday night almost fifty years earlier. Not quite the Beatles, but an incredible simulation….